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Harley-Davidson Family Memories: Digging up a dynasty’s past

By Felicia Morgan

Written by Jean Davidson and Jon Davidson Oeflein
$35, includes tax and shipping
www.jeandavidson.com

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If you’re born into a family as famous as the Davidson side of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company dynasty, it stands to reason that you’d have plenty of stories to share with the world. In the case of Jean Davidson and her son Jon Davidson Oeflein, you can bet it could consume your life. Consequently, when the pair decided to team up for their first book together, you can imagine they had their hands full. Jean says the collaboration almost killed her.

“It’s been a long journey mostly because he’s young,” Jean told THUNDER PRESS as we sat with the pair early this year. “I’m 76 years old and I wanted to get it sent to the publisher. He wasn’t motivated like I was.” Jon smiles and shrugs. As her sixth book, this wasn’t Jean’s first rodeo.

“Mom’s a ‘get it done’ kind of gal,” Jon shares. “I’m a detail kind of guy. I take things a little slower.” As the Davidson family historian, Jean loves the stories and enjoys sitting with the elders of the family to hear their tales. Patience is something she’s developed after a lifetime of teaching special needs children, but she’s also known as one who is a stickler for deadlines. For Jon, he’s the guy who needs the dates and facts of a matter. Together, they make a great team and have produced a book any history buff would be happy to have. As a biker who’s owned a Harley since her 20’s, I’m thrilled to own this firsthand telling of what life growing up as a Davidson was like.

The 168-page album-styled hardcover includes over 250 photos to illustrate the memories of an iconic family of motorcycling. From the beginnings of a young motorcycle company to the start of new families, they have it all. There’s even a copy of Gordon Davidson’s lifetime membership card to the American Motorcycle Association dated in 1942. Jean says they hit up relatives for images and memories. “Basically, we begged,” Jon laughs. “Poring over family albums wasn’t even the hard part. It was getting the dates and figuring out the engine sizes on bikes and those kinds of facts that were tough. Mom loved getting to spend time with relatives and friends for stories. It was really good for her.”

“Yes, it was a wonderful journey,” his mother chimes in. “Getting to visit with Arthur Harley Davidson was fantastic. He was the son of the last living founder, Arthur Davidson Sr.; it was nice to visit with him before he died three years ago. I could run out to his house and tell a story and he would give his blessing to the folklore and validate the stories. He was actually there; his dad was Arthur, and so he was a great resource.”

The inside cover page has a Davidson family tree, while the inside back page covers the Harley side of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Jon’s personal dedication was to his father, while his mother’s dedication was to the Harley-Davidson motorcycle fans. The book is laid out with a “he said, she said” format that adds another dimension to its entertainment. We enjoyed the juxtaposition of younger observations against the elder perspectives. The last chapter, “On the Lighter Side,” includes assorted photos of family friends like Arizona dealership owner Buddy Stubbs and his parents, dated 1941.

We were surprised to see the book read “Printed in China.” “We wanted to keep the cost down to a modest level,” Jon explains. “That was the only way we could do so.” We do agree; $35 is a very reasonable price for this very special collection of memories from America’s first family in motorcycling.

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