From: The Antique Motorcycle, Winter 2001, p.26
Often, while working on an old bike in my shop, I’ll wonder what hands came before mine to bring this beast to life. Were they the hands of a passionate owner whose soul lived for the ride, or were they the hands of someone who saw the bike as nothing more than a utilitarian transport vehicle? What roads could these old treads have known?
I like to think that if a bike made it through all these years there must be a passion involved, not just dumb luck. Some people can dismiss that feeling for the machine and look at it as nothing more than what it is, a motorcycle. Others know that their machine has a life and personality of its own and they become the passionate owners who cherish the bikes until it is our turn to own them. This is the story of one such owner, his passion, and his Crocker.
While doing some research on Crocker motorcycles, I came across the name of Jack Lilly. The article stated that he was an owner of a Crocker twin in 1939 and that he remembered the serial number as 39-61-103. I was lucky enough to be able to find Jack Lilly and inform him about the current status of his motorcycle. To say that he was happy would be an understatement. He eagerly shared the history of the motorcycle as he knew it and sent me some photographs from that time. I also learned in later conversations with Jack that he actually owned three Crockers, the ’39, a white ’41 twin in 1955 and a ’34 speedway bike in 1951.
Jack came to admire Crockers around 1937 when he first saw one with the “shooting star” paint scheme on a small tank Crocker in Beerup’s dealership window in Los Angeles. Beerup was a Crocker motorcycle dealer from about 1936 through 1939. George Beerup billed himself as “The World’s Largest Motorcycle Dealer.” At 6’4” and over 350 pounds it’s easy to see why.
Jack Lilly came in one day and saw a fellow by the name of George Manker polishing up his very new Crocker twin and got to talking to him about how he wanted to get one for himself. Manker professed that he was somewhat over his head with the payments on his Crocker and offered to let Jack pick up the note on the bike. They went to the front of the shop to talk to George Beerup about signing over the papers to Jack. Beerup wasn’t too happy about the arrangement that Jack and George Manker had worked out without any investment on Jack’s part, so he demanded a forty dollar reassignment fee.
Jack explained that he didn’t have the cash but he had an old 1933 Rudge race bike he could trade Beerup for the forty dollars instead. Beerup wanted no part of the offer and was still demanding the cash. Things looked to be at a standstill when a stocky guy by the name of “Wino” Willie Forkner, who was in the showroom listening in on the conversation, came over and offered to buy the Rudge for the forty dollars that Beerup was demanding. Jack sold “Wino” the Rudge, paid Beerup the cash, the papers were signed and Jack rode off on the Crocker.
Jack rode the Crocker with
the likes of “Wino” Manker, and occasionally with Elmo Looper of
the “13 Rebels” motorcycle club along with many others.
Having fun with the Crocker was 22 year-old Jack’s main concern at the time and he did what he could to find it. He took the Crocker out to Rosamond Dry Lake in 1940 and clocked 105.1 mph, not bad with a stock bike when Indians and Harley’s were only just getting into the 90’s.
Jack even went so far as to give the law a bit of a hard time. Like the time in Huntington Park when he was riding home on his Crocker with his buddy Orville who was riding a Harley. They noticed a pair of motorcycle cops sitting at a red light with just enough room between them for a motorcycle to get through. Orville recognized the two officers as his father and uncle and decided it was time to show them how to ride a motorcycle.
Jack and Orville held back a little until the light turned green and then they both blasted right between the two officers scaring the wits out of them with their open pipes. Sirens blaring and lights flashing they finally caught up with them at Orville’s house where his dad saw the humor in the situation, but not his uncle. It took a long time before the three of them were able to convince him not to give the two young men a ticket.
“Old Lady Favinger” was another person who couldn’t seem to appreciate the beauty of a Crocker. She was Jack’s mother’s landlady who lived next door. She insisted Jack stop riding that “infernal machine”, or any motorcycle anywhere near her house. Jack found it embarrassing that he had to push his Crocker way down the street before he could start it.
Jack’s story becomes even more interesting with the understanding of who some of these people were. “Wino” Willie Forkner, George Manker and Jack Lilly were all founding members of a motorcycle club that eventually became known as the “Boozefighters”. The Boozefighters was the club that turned Hollister, California upside down (at least in the press) in 1947. The Hollister event was eventually turned into the 1954 movie class “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. Lee Marvin’s character was based on “Wino” Willie Forkner and the “Black Rebels” motorcycle gang was based on the “Boozefighters” motorcycle club.
Elmo Looper was the Crocker enthusiast who is credited with saving the remains of what was left of Al Crocker’s stock of parts. Al offered the parts to Jack and his buddy Edward, “Red Dawg” Dakhlgren in 1946 for the sum total of $400 when the two of them went to see Al about purchasing another Crocker V-twin after the war. That was more money than they could muster and Elmo Looper eventually purchased the parts himself.
Jack Lilly’s Crocker number 39-61-103 was eventually acquired by H.J. Norman in the early 1970’s in Texas as a complete motorcycle missing only the headlight, taillight, exhaust system and the distributor. Daniel Statnekov purchased the bike in 1985 or ’86 as a literal basket case and restored to its present state and by sheer coincidence painted it the “Boozefighters” colours of green and white. A reunion between Jack and the “Old #103” took place at Lake Whitney near Fort Worth, Texas on November 2, 2001.
If anyone can fill in the blanks of Crocker # 103’s missing history from 1941 through 1970, or any other Crocker history, stories or photo’s, please email us at
email@example.com with the details.
Special thanks to Jim Quattlebaum (“History”) of the “Boozefighters” for his assistance.