Stanley Engdahl was one of the best dirt motorcycle racers in the country, and he didn?t back down from a challenge, like a broken bone. The man had grit.
?He broke every bone in his body, is what he told me,? said Scott Johnson, president of the board of directors at the Kansas Motor?cycle Museum in Marquette. Marquette is a town about 685 residents just west of Lindsborg on Kansas Highway 4.
One time, Engdahl broke his leg during a race.
?He said he just rode through the pain until he was done,? Johnson said. ?I guess he was tough.?
Most men would quit racing after breaking several bones, but ?Stan the Man? didn?t; he raced until he couldn?t ride anymore, Johnson said, which was at the age of 64 in 1993 when he had complications with his hips.
Engdahl?s racing career spanned 60 years, from the 1940s to the 1990s.
?During that time, Stan won more than 600 trophies, including five National Scramble Championships, and 16 Kansas State Championships,? according to kansasmotorcyclemuseum.org. ?Every trophy and championship Engdahl has won was accomplished on a Harley Davidson K model motorcycle.?
Stan constructed a motorcycle shop at the back of his TV and radio repair business, where he did ?all of his own mechanical work and modifications on his cycles. His motorcycle shop was filled with spare parts and special testing equipment, several of which were designed by Engdahl himself,? the website stated.
The dirt track first saw Engdahl competing in 1946.
?I went to my first dirt track motorcycle race in Topeka that year,? Engdahl is quoted as saying on the website. ?I thought it looked like a lot of fun, and I thought I could race cycles too. I laid out a dirt track on my dad?s field in the winter, and then another one throughout my dad?s orchard in the summer, so I had a place to practice. As I look back now, it?s a wonder I didn?t get killed running through the trees.?
His first scrambles win was in 1948 at Kanopolis Lake in Kansas.
The Kansas Motorcycle Museum opened in 2003, and Engdahl and his wife, LaVona, were a big part of that. They donated about 1,400 hours each year as tour guides and curators. After Engdahl?s death Nov. 12, 2007, when he was fire chief, LaVona continued at the museum seven days a week, Johnson said. Engdahl died of a massive heart attack after supervising a small house fire. LaVona died on Jan. 1 of this year.
?It started as a small museum to somewhat honor Stan Engdahl,? Johnson said of the late motorcycle racer and former Marquette resident.
At first the museum, which had been Engdahl?s TV and radio repair shop, only had Engdahl?s motorcycles on display. Engdahl?s trophies are on display at the museum, covering a long wall.
?He ran a TV shop by day, and on the weekends, he was a motorcycle racer,? Johnson said.
The number of bikes at the museum grew.
?That first year, Stan had people from all over who wanted to display bikes,? Johnson said, including a Salina man who brought a truckload.
The floor and roof of the original museum have been rebuilt, and in 2005, the room on the north was added. Then a year later, a third addition was started in the back. Initially, there was a shop back there, which had to be torn down, Johnson said, and they totally started from scratch. The museum comprises about 4,500 square feet, and the construction work was done by volunteers from all over.
?There?s a lot of people you can give credit to for getting this completed,? Johnson said, adding local residents did most of the finish work.
Motorcycle clubs and Masons helped, as well as others.
In addition to volunteers doing construction, they also run the place. Curators and the five-member board all are volunteers. The museum is independently operated as a non-profit.
Most of the bikes on display, which is about 80 total, are on loan. Some of the bikes are rare with only four or five existing in the world.
It has been said one of the motorcycles there was Elvis Presley?s bike, but this information is second hand, Johnson said. It is purported Presley rode the bike in the movie ?Viva Las Vegas.? They really don?t know if it?s Presley?s bike or not, although one man, who said he worked on the set of the movie, said it was Presley?s bike. However, the man who owns the bike doesn?t promote it as being Presley?s former bike.
The bike, a 1957 Harley Panhead, is decked out in fringe, many lights and a Corvette insignia. It is reported Presley liked Corvettes, and it?s curious a Harley would have a Corvette insignia. However, someone could have reproduced the bike.
?It would be very challenging to find out if Elvis did own that motorcycle,? Johnson said.
The ?Presley? bike isn?t the only motorcycle there. Other bikes range from the early 1900s to the 1970s. Many were manufactured, while others are homemade. There?s even some bicycles. Motorcycles are rotated to keep displays fresh.
?Most of the Indians and Harleys are from the early teens to the ?50s,? Johnson said.
At one point, Indian motorcycle production was halted, as the company went out of business; they were bought and sold several times, Johnson said. Now Indian motorcycles are being manufactured again.
Some of the motorcycles look old while others are shiny, appearing like they just came off the assembly line.
?In the Midwest, you won?t see many (museums) with this kind of collection,? Johnson said.
The museum, it seems, is a great place to get educated about early motorcycles.
?There?s stuff in here I?ve never seen before until somebody brought it in,? said Johnson, a former motorcycle rider.
In addition to bikes from the United States, there?s some from England and Russia.
Bikes aren?t the only things that come to the museum from other countries; patrons also have come from afar, said Darell Naegele, a volunteer. He said some have come from Sweden, Australia, Saudi Arabia, France and England, as well as the United States. On average, the museum has from 10,000-12,000 visitors a year.
The museum is near two interstates ? Interstate 70 and Interstate 135, Johnson said.
?We?re on the map,? he said. ?We get a lot of travelers through here.?
by Wendy Nugent