From the November 1936 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine
Laughing, likeable Leslie “Red” Parkhurst from a photo taken when he was a member of the H
Racing men often remark that a speedster performs in proportion to his experience. Well, if experience has anything to do with it, I should have been a knockout. My “career” started in 1909, at old Tuilleries in Denver. From then until 1911 there were a lot of hard knocks. For a living I worked for the Mead Auto Cycle Company, which firm distributed Excelsiors in the Denver territory. At every opportunity I was out racing.
By 1912 I had managed to gain enough of that stuff called ‘’experience” so that every once in a while I found myself out in front. I turned pro. At about tha time, among the professionals, there were a number of fellows racing under the names of: Arthur Mitchell, Charlie Balke, Eddie Hasha, Red Armstrong and Joe Wolter, etc. And if you know your motorcycle racing history, you have heard that they were also out in front quite a bit. Thus, when I turned pro I learned more about that thing called motorcycle racing.
In 1912 I drifted to Dallas and was on hand for the opening of the Dallas Motordrome. In 1913 I went to Milwaukee with a bunch of Denver Motordrome riders, and I happened to be the first rider to try out the then new 4-lap drome there. When the Milwaukee season ended Glen Stokes and I went to St. Louis to finish the season in that state.
Parkhurst driving and Fred Ludlow as passenger, making a record for 61 inch eight valve an
When 1914 rolled around it was back to the Milwaukee Drome again. While there Harley-Davidson came out with a racing motor and I tried it out for them on the Drome. It was fast enough, and I seemed to handle it to suit them, so they hired me to ride it in the Dodge City 300-mile on July 4th. That made me the first racer riding for the Harley-Davidson factory. In the beginning it was just a one-man team.
We shipped five machines to Dodge City and picked up some more riders on the ground. We got Ray Weishaar, Walt Higley (at present a well-known aviator in Denver), and others whom I do not recall by name right now. The motors were very fast but Harley-Davidson being just started in the racing game, we had our trouble. I had one of the fastest jobs on the track, but only lasted thirteen laps, or twenty-six miles. Forty-five riders started, and I was in second place when I went out. We learned a lot at that race.
Going back to Milwaukee, I built a short frame dirt track machine, and on August 2, 1914, won all the closed port events on the mile dirt track in Milwaukee with it. I was still the only rider on the Harley-Davidson racing “team.” Later in 1914 Alvie Stratton was taken on as a team mate for me, and we cleaned up all over the country on mile dirt tracks.
In 1915 we added more new men to the team and started winning long races on speedways and on two-mile board tracks. During that year one of the biggest events was the Venice Road Race. We went there all primed. The team consisted of Roy Artley, Otto Walker, Joe Wolter and myself. It was a wild ride. Don Johns, noted for pouring it on, decided to ride a conservative race. It was one of the few times in his career when he determined to place through conservative riding. His reward was to break a chain which became entangled in the rear wheel, and that in turn collapsed. Don went flying through the air, and was lucky to escape with minor injuries. He was on the Excelsior team. H.W. Brant, riding Thor, had a piston break and then they took him to the hospital.
Otto Walker and I rode pretty much together in that event, employing some close team work. Here’s an excerpt from a paper at the time:
“Walker and Parkhurst maintained a safe lead over their nearest rivals at all stages of the race and were seldom separated from each other more than a few feet. Dashing by the stands neck and neck, lap after lap the two appeared more like bitter rivals than team mates.”
But it was in the cards for Walker to win and for me to take second. Walker turned in a time of 4:24:17 1/5, which meant just over 69 miles per hour-a new record.