Patroon Mounted Guards

Motorcycle unit organized for civilian defense

From the January 1942 Issue of Motorcyclist magazine

Throughout the land motorcycle clubs are in various stages of organization for an active part in national defense. Some clubs have been trained and united with Red Cross activities for a couple of years. Such units are ready for immediate call and service in emergencies.

Other clubs have been allied with Emergency Relief Associations under Sheriff’s or Police Departments and are likewise ready for immediate call.

Many other clubs are now going through the first steps of organization. These clubs are often working on their own so that if an emergency does arise they will have something to lay on the Mayor’s doorstep the morning that trouble starts.

In other sections so many requests are coming to the fraternity from state guards, Red Cross, and police departments that riders are confused an d hard put to meet the demands.

It seems that the moment the first bomb lit in Hawaii a lot of officials and sections of the public sat up and took notice almost as if the explosion had been on their own city limits. And, as minds were taken from business and applied to war problems a lot of thought suddenly turned to motorcycles. This, of course, is as it should be. Trained riders and equipment are available in large numbers for whatever necessities spring up. And even as motorcycles have received new recognition, so will the members of a fraternity that has always been just around the corner ready to lend a helping hand.

When the big earthquake hit Long Beach, California, a few years ago, motorcyclists showed up from nowhere and jumped right in with their equipment to help police, the Red Cross and what have you. The boys stayed with it, working wheel to wheel with police until the first big job had been done and things were under control. Then the motorcyclists filtered back to their jobs.

That sort of thing is fine and has been duplicated in many communities all over the country. But in our present emergency, with war actually existing, it is desirable that something a little more concrete than just our regular grapevine be instituted.

__This month we are describing the organization of the motorcycle unit in the Patroon Mounted Guards, of Albany, N.Y. It is one of the finest units in America and its practice may be helpful to clubs in other communities that may care to follow its example.

The Patroon Mounted Guards started with a cavalry unit of 45 men, including officers. Major Alfred I. Schimpf, an old National Guard officer and Captain Herman P. Greene, an old Cavalry man, attributed much to the organization of the group.

The Cavalry troop was the start. When they presented it to Col. W.H. Donner, of the 1st Regiment New York Guards, he in turn presented it to the Adjutant General of New York. The Adjutant General decided they were not interested as New York was organizing a State Guard.

Undaunted, the men of the Patroon Mounted Guards looked ahead at some of the things which they thought might happen and went right ahead with their plans. They were careful in their selection of uniforms as they did not want to have any confusion or confliction with the uniforms of the State Guard.

With the horse troop organized, Captain Thomas Austin decided that a motorcycle division would have a definite place in their outfit. Knowing of the Capitol District M.C. through the various hillclimbs and races the club had promoted, Captain Austin arranged an interview with Slim Nelson, the Albany Indian motorcycle dealer.

When Slim Nelson noted the names of judges, doctors, the Chief of Police and other notables he decided the venture was legitimate and immediately took steps to help bring the club into the organization. Club members voted 100% to join. Slim Nelson was appointed a captain to cooperate with Captain Austin.

Mayor Hoogkamp of Albany gave the club privilege to use the city’s baseball park one night a week for drill purposes.

Captain Austin with several years of experience, and Slim Nelson soon had the boys shaping up and everyone was surprised to see crowds of 1000 to 1500 people showing up on drill nights to watch the boys train.

As the unit progressed drilling was extended to include road work, riding in darkness, and riding rough courses. Tom Paradise and Brownie Betar, both hillclimbers of long experience were elected as instructors to coach the boys on the rough riding area.

Before long riders within a radius of approximately 25 miles became interested in the activities of the motorcycle unit and enlisted.

Localities wishing to organize similar to the Patroon Mounted Guards may secure information from Slim Nelson by addressing him -Captain Slim Nelson, c/o Patroon Mounted Guard Headquarters, Ten Eyck Hotel, Albany, N.Y.

In military fashion Lieutenants, Sergeants and Corporals were picked from the ranks, consideration being given to length of experience and merit.

No funds were solicited or received from the state for any of the expenses of the outfit. Every man pays an initiation fee and monthly dues, just as in the average motorcycle club. The motorcycle unit conceived the idea of sponsoring a race to raise money for uniforms. The suggestion was given to the advisory board of the Guards and was approved.

Using his long experience in promoting, Slim Nelson got behind the race meet that was held at the Altmont track, ten miles out of Albany. Motorcycle champions and stars gave perfect cooperation. The result was a meet which was a credit to motorcycling, a credit to the Patroon Mounted Guards, and which paved the way to uniforms. Much credit for the success of the races goes to Harold E. Smith, owner of radio stations WABY and WOKO, who ran many announcements about the race during the 24 hours of each day that his stations are on the air. The races were broadcast over short wave, and many dignitaries, including James A. Wright Dwight Moody and Steve DuPont were interviewed.

The motorcycle unit of the Guards gave a drill during intermission that astonished the huge gathering and drew a mighty ovation. The unit now has a membership of 54 and is still growing.

Once a week a meeting is held and many influential and outstanding speakers address the group, giving helpful ideas for the further improvement of the Guards.

When Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant to Mayor La Guardia of the Civilian Defense Board, visited Albany and saw the work the Guards had accomplished she was so impressed that she took word back to Washington regarding this Civilian Defense Unit.

With the horse and motorcycle troops organized it was decided to add an ambulance unit. Under Captain J. Kenyon, who is known as an outstanding Red Cross instructor, the ambulance corps of 35 men was organized.

A next step was a radio outfit and there again Harold E. Smith did an important part. He supplied most of the 15 trained technical radio men. They have their own truck with two-way equipment.

Next in the way of addition was an aviation unit and to date there are seven planes enlisted. This group is under the direction and leadership of Captain Lee Yorke of the Albany Aircraft Company.

Everyone who joins the Patroon Mounted Guards must pass a physical examination. Application for enrollment requires the individual be familiar with the Constitution of the Guard. He then promises complete obedience to all the laws and by-laws. Failure to obey those regulations, or conduct which would be questioned in the regular Army, calls for a court martial and this is conducted in a strict military manner.

The applicant agrees to submit to physical examination and swears that to the best of his knowledge he has no ailment which would interfere with the performance of his duties with the Guard.

He also signs a release of any liability from the Guards for any injury he may sustain in his performance of duty.

The Guard also works within certain age limits, investigates matters of dependents, etc.

Slim Nelson carried his own work a step further. Since his shop handles bicycles as well as motorcycles, he organized a group of boys who are now in uniform and able to serve as message carriers and to perform other military duties.

Motorcycle Corps of the Patroon Mounted Guard organized as a Civilian Defense Unit in Albany, N.Y. The corps is drilled and fully equipped to help in any emergency which might arise in Albany or the surrounding territory.
Serg’t Spoore dressed in the winter uniform of the motorcycle corps of the Patroon Mounted Guards
Slim Nelson supplemented the motorcycle unit with a corps of bicyclists which is likewise uniformed and drilled.