“In times of tyranny and injustice when the law oppresses the people, the outlaw takes his place in history.”
- Robin Hood -
Carl, a 52 year charter member, who has held every officer position including president, relates the founding of the THEMADONES MC in Minnesota.
In 1951, while working for an auto dealership that used Harley Servi-car’s (factory made trikes) to run parts, Carl did some wheeling & dealing and traded a 1936, three-window Ford Coupe for a 1947 Indian motorcycle.Not to be outdone, two of Carl’s friends soon purchased bikes and the three were off riding.
From 1952 to 1954 Carl was in the Army and his riding was put on hold, but when he returned he rejoined his friends and they all began riding again. The men were young, married and tight on money, so they often partied in original member, Andy’s, garage. As is true with bikers today, the group rapidly attracted other riders. Because money was so tight, one of the founding members thought if the group formed a club, they could charge dues, pool their money, and always have enough to party.
In May 1958, the first constitution was drafted and approved. The THEMADONES MC are the longest continuous motorcycle club in Minnesota, having had active members ever since. The THEMADONES logo and current name began when charter member, Mickey, discovered “The Mad One” character in a magazine. The group immediately saw the opportunity for a play on words, utilizing the contraction of all three words and adopting, “THEMADONE “(pronounced Theme – a – don) as its name.
In its first year, the club determined if it could get sponsorship from a local bar, it would be able to get jackets or shirts as well as have a meeting place and plenty of beer. The first meetings were held Saturday mornings at Dick and Marie’s bar located at 26th and 25tth in South Minneapolis. In exchange for the group agreeing to meet exclusively at their bar, the owners bought each member a jacket. In order to generate additional funds, the club often held parties as well. Members were charged 50 cents admission and everyone else paid $1-2. When the first jackets came back from the embroidery shop, the club was shocked to discover they had inadvertently added an ”s” to the name, forming “Themadones”. The club liked it well enough and decided to keep it.
What is currently the heart patch, today worn over the member’s heart, was originally a shoulder patch on these first jackets. In successive years, the club moved its meetings to several different bars and gained sponsorship from many. The Rendezvous Bar (now the Cardinal) came after Dick and Maries, followed by the 2424 Club on Riverside Avenue, the 3001 Club on East Lake Street, Chatterbox Bar on 23rd Avenue & E 35th Street, the Old Sugar Bowl, which was eventually renamed by Slug, located on 25th between 26th & 27th Avenues and finally the American Legion in Golden Valley. The club briefly rented a house off James and Broadway, but eventually went back to the Legion. The current club house, located in North Minneapolis, has been in use since 1990.In mid-1959, the club concluded they wanted to ride on Saturday’s and moved their meetings to Tuesday nights.
Originally, the club did not meet during the winter months, but eventually decided to meet year-round.Early motorcycle clubs, of the 50’s, traditionally wore well pressed uniforms and rode stock motorcycles. During the late 60’s, clubs transitioned, from these neat and tidy uniforms to wearing their club insignia (colors) on cutoff vests (cuts). This occurred at the same time as the birth of the custom chopper era. Somewhere in the mid-70’s, some rebellious members of the THEMADONES began to desire the same thing. Initially they accomplished this by cutting the sleeves off their club jackets and wearing them as vests. Shortly thereafter the club adopted the 3-piece back patch including the coveted full state (Minnesota) bottom rocker.
Membership and Prospecting: In its early days, the THEMADONES did not require new members to prospect. A guy could hang around and if the group liked him, he would be voted in. By the end of the first year, there were approximately 40 members. Eventually, the club felt it was necessary to establish membership standards and a code of conduct to ensure future members would be of a high caliber. Thus a prospecting period was established. The club also felt that prospecting was essential once they owned land and a new member would be eligible to be part owner of the property.
Since inception, the THEMADONES, like many motorcycle clubs, have attracted men who have served in our country’s military. During the 1970’s several returning Viet Nam vets, prospected and became members. This trend remains true of its members today. While the club briefly had a chapter in Billings, Montana, the only current chapter resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In its history, there have been over 600 members of the THEMADONES MC.
The THEMADONES MC prides itself on its ability to ride fast and in tight formation. For us, this means members riding side by side one another, assembled in two parallel lines, wheel to wheel, with each member aligning himself with the bike in front of him. While the Duo Glide (first H-D motorcycle frame with rear suspension) came out in 1958, most men in the club rode hard tails (motorcycles having no rear suspension) and would often ride to Mankato, Red Wing or Rochester for hill climbs or other racing events. For many years, members of the club would travel to Sturgis, South Dakota where they’d stay at the infamous City Park. The men did not think about hard or soft tails, they just wanted to ride.The club originally did not have a requirement for bike type or size, but soon learned that the 250cc bikes could not withstand long distance or highway travel without breaking down. This led to the club amending its constitution in 1961 requiring engine sizes of 750cc’s or higher.
When the club wasn’t attending hill climbs or attending annual runs to Sturgis or the Wisconsin Dells, they often partied in Sunrise, Minnesota. The club later purchased 40 acres of land in Harris, Minnesota. There were many years of partying, fellowship and fond memories associated with this property, prior to its sale several years ago.
THEMADONES and the Law:
Despite the Hollister events and the subsequent Life Magazine article (which portrayed extremely negative imagery of bikers), the THEMADONES rarely had issues with the law. In fact, the club was at one time a paid parade escort service. Often, the general public would get very quiet when the club entered a bar, but by the time they left, they were welcomed back just about 100% of the time. The club occasionally ran into discrimination issues when an establishment would make it impossible for club members to drink by requiring three forms of identification. This was intended to discourage the club’s patronage.
In 1968, the club was heavily involved in opposition to a helmet law that was on the verge of passing in Minnesota. As a result, the club hired a top Minneapolis law firm to represent Minnesota bikers against the proposed legislation. The group rallied in Mankato along with several other clubs to raise funds and promote issue awareness.
THEMADONES and Club Relations:
All of the early clubs rode together, attended the same events, and were generally amicable towards one another. As the longest continuous running MC in Minnesota, the THEMADONES have greatly enjoyed such inter-club relations. In addition, the club was formed to provide greater fellowship between motorcyclists and the general public.