Santa Paula Parade Spirit - Unbelievable !
Photos and Words, by Joel Anderson
Sept. 2008 #6: The Unbelievable Bike Club got it's start when passers-by would stop and stare at Hector Alamillo's custom made "unbelievable" bike in his store window. "Wow they would say I've never seen anything like that. It's unbelievable!" Anthony Alamillo, Hector's son, had come home one day and said "Dad you ought to get into selling bicycles" and so the idea for a business building and selling bicycles was born into the Alamillo family.
It didn't take long for Hector to put the idea into action, grabbing up the phone and ordering bike parts. "I said I'm going to start a little bike club and get a group of kids together and teach them how to work with their hands and use their imagination," said Hector. Hector had never forgotten his Jr. High School metal shop teacher who had made it his mission in life to supply recycled bikes to kids who either didn't have a parent to take interest in them or couldn't afford a bike. His name was John D. Devine and he taught history and metal shop teacher at Isabel School in Santa Paula. He would make teams of 4 or 5 kids and then teach them how to build bikes. They would earn their grades as soon as the bikes were completed. For the kids that didn't have a bike John would say "why don't you have a bike?" He'd tell the kids who didn't have a bike to go and pick one out and then he would admonish them to take good care of it.
In this inherited tradition, Hector Alamillo has made building bikes more than just a business as he has watched fathers and sons, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters come closer together as they share the experience of building and owning bikes.
"We had one boy, Michael, who would come in here and tell me how much he wanted a bike. After Christmas he brought in all his Christmas money and put a deposit down on a bike. I think he wanted to buy it all by himself to show his dad that he could do it. The bike came and I built it and put it in the window for him...it sat there for weeks. One day his father came in and I asked him if he knew his son had ordered a bike. His father said, 'You know I didn't know what he wanted for Christmas so if that’s what he wants I will buy it for him.'
"I have seen kids save up their money. The parents are impressed by how much these kids want something. Even their behavior gets pretty good... I think they feel a little closer with their mom or dad -- they bought something that they really wanted. It shows a little responsibility that they are taking care of their stuff. It builds a good relationship between mother and daughter or father and son, or uncle and nephew... Bikes are just part of growing up. Bikes have always been in my life. Some of the kids who have talent can go into airbrushing, some go on to be mechanics... it's a part, it's a beginning.... I want them to learn responsibility, taking care of things… learn to be social rather than territorial."
Hector and his family are full of plans for the little bike club, now boasting some 25 members.... From car shows, to parades, to dances and barbecues, Hector is constantly trying to find a way to get the whole families together in wholesome activities. At the moment, Hector is organizing a bike ride down the Ojai Trail with the destination being a big get together at the beach where he will have all the essentials waiting for an Unbelievable Bike Club picnic. Teaching the kids responsibility he is organizing the club into officers; president, secretary, treasurer, so that the kids are not just learning to make Unbelievable bikes, but they are learning skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Like John Devine, Hector Alamillo is "making a difference" in his community.
Photos and Text by Joel Anderson