From what I understand, my father, Warren Harding and Sarge were neighbors when they moved to Rantoul.. They became best friends. After my father was killed in Korea, Sarge and his family and my mom would get together often. I don’t remember he early years well however I have many fond memories of the old schoolhouse, bomb shelter, tree house and the many projects that were always going on out in Fisher.
I started to work for Sarge in his bicycle shop when I was about 12 years old…$10 for 30 hours…sure beat delivering papers. This started the journey with Sarge and the Vetters that has lasted a life time. The hardest part of sharing these memories is sorting out which ones to share, because, there are so many.
I worked for Sarge through high school and the summer before I went to college. After 2 years of Southern Illinois University in Industrial Design I thought that I was going to be drafted. To my surprise I flunked the draft physical and decided to go into business for myself. I talked to Sarge and he suggested that since I knew the bicycle business and Champaign needed a bicycle shop I should look into it. After relaying to Sarge all of the problems encountered in trying to start a shop in Champaign, we ended up going into a partnership.
We bought a piece of property just outside the Champaign city limits to build a shop. Basically Sarge and I built the entire 130 by 60 foot shop with very little outside help. We hauled odd lengths and odd color lots of sheet metal from Morton Building in Morton Illinois for the exterior. We helped tear down a barracks on Chanute Air Force Base for the lumber. We also took down windmills for the steel for the 60 foot 2 sided sign on top of the warehouse. I learned how to dicker and scrounge for material. I learned how to cut ice covered tin with a hand snips in the northern winter. I learned how to finish concrete in the dark by truck lights. I also learned how to plumb, wire electrical circuits and mix mortar among the many life skills from Sarge.
A few years after we finished Champaign Cycle Company, Sarge told me that he and Doris decided to retire and wanted me to buy out his part of the business. He sold me his half of the business for the amount they had invested in it.. I didn’t really realize at the time that he and Mrs. V. were just helping me get started on my own.
Sarge was like a father to me. I think he knew that my father would have done the same for his children if things had been different. Sarge has always been part of my life. He visited us in Virginia several times. He loved Carols home cooking and loved to sing along when Carol would play songs of his era on the piano.
I could go on and on. I really miss Sarge. I am sorry for our great loss.