Love affair with Triumph motorcycle
Oliver Simmons thinks there’s something special about a Triumph motorcycle.
“They make this deep sound,” said the 72-year-old.
“If you get, say, six of them going up Knapton Hill, it sounds like jet planes coming in.
“You can get a lot of speed out of them but you have to be very careful. They are heavy bikes. You can’t just throw them down like regular bikes. If you do, they will take you down with them and leave you there. You have to be on your wits when you are riding them.”
Mr Simmons fell in love with the motorcycle in the 1950s when his father Captain Cecil Simmons owned one. By the time he bought one himself he was 21 and married with children.
“I moved my family to California for a few years,” said Mr Simmons.
“I gave my Triumph away to someone, and he eventually sold it to someone else.”
Being a purist, Mr Simmons was horrified to later learn that the motorcycle’s next owner put gooseneck handlebars on it, and cut the front bumper.
“After that I always said if I got another one I wouldn’t give it to anyone,” Mr Simmons said.
Someone found him his second Triumph at the bottom of a rubble pile in 1985.
The 1950s era Triumph was a rusty pile of junk at that point, but Mr Simmons lovingly restored it.
“I always loved to tinker,” he said.
It took him a year to fix it up so he could ride it.
“I had to get used to it and find out who had them and try to learn as much about them as I could,” he said.
“I also had an owner’s manual to work with.”
Mr Simmons did eventually get the bike up and running again, and still loves working on it.
“It’s my pride and joy,” he said.
In recent years it has been in pieces again as he has struggled to find one replacement part and then another.
“I’m working on it right now,” he said.
“I’m waiting on a part to come in. When I do I’ll be back on the road with it. ”
Mr Simmons grew up on Spice Hill, Warwick the youngest of ten children.
“My father also had three other children, so really there were 13 of us,” he said.
When he was 14 he spent a summer working with his father on the Kitson & Company cruise boats.
“I was a deck hand taking the tourists out on all-day cruises,” he said.
“I really learnt a lot that summer. One day my father said, ‘You really look like you know what you’re doing — do you want to go back to school in September or keeping working on the boats?’,” Mr Simmons chose to keep working for Kitson.
“I spent 12 years on the water,” he said.
“I learnt a lot about people. We were dealing with tourists every day.
“It is still in me. I am very particular about who I go out on a boat with, because there are a lot of obstacles out there.”
In later years he worked on the docks as a machine operator.
“I worked for them for 20 years — it was a challenging job, but it was very nice,” he said.
“You had to be very careful. Operating the machines you are 80 per cent blind. You have the container in front of you and you can’t see much else.”
As good as he is with machines, he had a hard time with computers.
“It took me a few months to get the computer down,” he said.
“Even with mobile phones I am just hello and goodbye.”
Mr Simmons retired from the docks in 2008, but isn’t ready to take a back seat in life just yet.
Although he has to be in the mood to work on his Triumph, he always has a lot of other projects going on.
Mr Simmons said his family keeps him busy. He has four sons — Andre, Tony, Royal Gazette photographer Blaire, and Jamel — along with 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson.
And when he’s not caring for his older sister, Dorothy, he loves vegetable gardening. Right now he’s growing broccoli, carrots, onions and other things.
The one thing he doesn’t much care for is pumpkin.
“I made the mistake of throwing some pumpkin seeds out in the back yard,” he said.
“Suddenly the pumpkins sprouted up and took over everything.
They killed everything in their path. They climbed up the telephone pole. They went crazy. I had to kill that plant, so no more pumpkins.”
He readily admits he’s a man of strong opinions. He expresses some of them as a regular caller on the Sports Zone radio programme hosted by Mark “Burger” Jennings.
“I always loved sports,” he said.
“In my younger days I played football with the Southampton Rangers.”
What he loves about the show are the sports trivia questions. To prepare he has all his sports books laid out in his living room so he can make a quick reference.
“I also write down all the questions they ask and the answers, because sometimes they repeat them,” he confessed with a laugh.
The prize is mostly bragging rights, but once in a while he wins a T-shirt.
“I hear some people my age saying they don’t have something to do,” he said.
“I can always find something to do.”