Scooters And One Wheels

After 73 years, the Duluth man reunites with the scooter from childhood

The youngest of five: “I was at the end of the feeding chain. … I have to drive everyone else’s things, but the scooter was mine, ”he said.

After almost 73 years, the Duluth man was reunited with his old wheel set.

“It’s amazing … to get this toy back into my hands.”

If you don’t know Wheat, he spent nearly eight years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam. There is a statue of him at Duluth International Airport. December 16 is David Wheat Day in Duluth.

But before he was a local boy, Wheat rode his scooter up the alley over First Street and down the corner toward Fourth Avenue East. He lived there with his grandparents, parents and siblings for three years before they moved into their home.

Wheat can’t remember why, but he replaced the scooter handle with a piece of wood in the shape of a boat hull. That would be the key factor for the return of the scooter later.

David Wheat’s childhood scooter has not been ridden in decades because of a flat rear tire. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Fifty years ago Harry Pearson was a contractor for Wheat’s father. He said, ‘You want it? You have a little boy ”and I said,“ Yes, ”Pearson recalled.

His son Scott was 5 years old at the time, but he never rode a scooter. The rear tire has a hole.

Pearson knew the bike was flat and impassable, but he took it anyway. “I have a knack for antiques,” he said.

The color of the scooter was worn near the pedal, so Pearson’s wife painted over the red with blue. It was eventually exhibited in the Pearson Common Room, among antique furniture and wall hangings.

When he was downsizing, Pearson sold the scooter on a property sale and the buyer contacted Ken Stromquist, who is friends with Wheat.

“I remember when I was a boy I lost my little car and have been wondering where it is ever since,” said Stromquist. He has known wheat for almost 30 years and it was important to him to check whether the scooter once belonged to him.

Wheat received a text message and a photo of the scooter.

“I said, ‘Well, Ken, does that thing have a wooden boat handle?’ And he came back with a text and a big “It’s yours” he said.

David Wheat identified his childhood scooter by its wooden, boat-shaped handlebars. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

As for the pay, Wheat paid for a couple of beers for himself and Stromquist at Pickwick.

Pearson has never met Wheat, but they spoke when he called to thank Pearson for sticking to the scooter all these years. “I was hoping that one day he would get it back,” he said.

Wheat plans to paint the scooter its original red with white trim, fix the tire, and replace the handle with a piece of tubing that is threaded on both ends. Because this scooter is on the move.

“I have some grandchildren in Washington, DC, and we’re going to give it to them. They can play with it instead of their laptops, ”he said with a chuckle.

A family photo from 1947 shows a five-year-old David Wheat driving his scooter down Third Avenue East between Second and First Streets. (Courtesy photo by David Wheat)

David Wheat poses with the scooter he owned as a child just a few feet from where he was photographed with the vehicle in 1947. Wheat was recently reunited with the scooter. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

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