Red's Cycle Shop • 112 S. Main
Paul "Red" Drennon


Paul "Red" Drennon (1924-2007) in front of his motorcycle shop at 112 South Main, 1960s.


Unusual for this website, the focus of this feature is on the man who owned the business, rather than on the business itself. By all accounts, Red Drennon was a bona fide "man's man", and became a hero and role model for many Helena boys during the 1960s.

Red's obituary, condensed from the Helena Independent Record:

Paul "Red" Drennon was born in Otis, Colo., on Oct. 26, 1924, to Roy S. and Ida Lee Drennon. The family returned to the old homestead on the bluff in Hastain, Mo., during the Depression and Paul attended eighth grade at Walnut Grove School. He graduated from Warsaw High School in 1941.

After school, he went to CC Camp and then joined the Navy with his brothers, Wanace and Wayne. After the war, he traveled the country and finally settled in Helena, where he has lived these many years.

Paul was well known for his zest for life and his adventurous spirit. In his early years, he was a motorcycle enthusiast and opened Red's Cycle Shop on Last Chance Gulch, which he owned for several years.

He was also an avid hunter and outdoorsman and worked as a wilderness mountain guide for many seasons, packing hunters in and out of his beloved Montana mountains.

He was an accomplished pilot, owned many different aircraft and had a passion for parachuting and Super Cubs. He loved to trail ride with his horses and mules and took full advantage of the long winter months on skis and snowmobiles.

He was good natured, kind hearted, a true gentleman and would go out of his way to help a friend. With no regrets, Red was a man who led as full a life as any man could hope for. He was a role model for many youth, friends and family. He left this world in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2007, at Veterans Administration Medical Center at Fort Harrison.

We loved him well and he will live forever in our hearts and memories.

Red Drennon, 1950s


Helena Native and Noted Western Author Ralph Beer Remembers Red

One bright Saturday in January, 1966, I walked, for the first time, through the front door of Red's Cycle Shop, which stood between the Wing Shing Grocery and the Central Bar on the south end of Last Chance Gulch. I'd been looking for a grown-up motorcycle to replace my Mustang "trail scooter," and had not been impressed with the dealers I'd met. Red's front door opened into a small, sunlit showroom where several Hondas of various sizes stood beneath posters of exotic motorcycles like BSA, Triumph, AJS, and Greeves. A curious black road bike, whose pistons hung out from its sides horizontally, gave the room a certain elan, like, say, a Porche Dealership. Yet resting against the back wall, a dusty scrambler stood on savage knobby tires.

A little bell above the door rang when the door opened and closed, but otherwise the place was absolutely quiet. I looked at each motorcycle in the room without touching them. After a few minutes a rangy fella looked in from the hall that led back to the "office" and shop. I told him I was looking for a real motorcycle that I could ride to school and work, yet cowtrail in the woods on weekends. Red sat down facing backwards on a bike with a certain jaunty grace, and for a few minutes we talked motorcycles. I knew almost nothing, he knew a lot. There was no sales pitch whatsoever. It didn't take long for me to see that I was talking with a man of a certain vigor who possessed the intelligence, charisma, and physical abilities found in some professional athletes. I was a Senior in High School and green, but Drennon spoke to me like I was a grown man with good sense. Before I left his shop that Saturday, I bought a new Honda 305 Scrambler. A perfect choice. Even better, I discovered a man I'd admire and respect for the next forty years.

Red Drennon was a fixture in that tough part of town, admired and trusted by his neighbors. The Wong kids loved him, especially after he put a stop to an attempted robbery in the Wing Shing Grocery. Charley Wong, who owned the store, often said that Red was his best friend. And there was the little girl who had nowhere to practice her trombone after school, so Red let her practice in the shop's showroom. At Red's shop, it was possible to meet an interesting collection of capable men, men like Mike Wetherell and Charley Dickert, Willy Price and Hoagy Charmichle, a ski instructor during the winter and Red's mechanic in the summers; there were machinists like Danny Larson and dry wall hangers like Bucky Clark, older guys who served as inspirations for us youngsters. They worked hard during the week, then got a little silly, raced dirt bikes and drank some beer on the weekends. Red was the hub of that wheel. Who could have asked for more?

People traveled from as far away as Iowa and Missouri to attend Red's Memorial Celebration at the Helena Regional Airport in 2007. A slide show featuring Red's various adventures played in one corner of the large room as two or three hundred people shared a potluck spread. I stood toward the back with Mike Wetherell, and the men I named in the paragraph above came by in ones and twos, some grey now, some a little bent. They told stories about Red, one right after the other. Someone described how Red had once bulldogged a pronghorn antelope from a motorcycle. It hurt Red more that the antelope. Someone mentioned the time Red was way ahead during the famous Paul Bunyan Endurance Race when his bike crapped out. Charley Dickert had said, "You're the dealer, take my bike." Red went on to win the whole thing on a borrowed bike, and he had the "Greeves Does It Again" posters with his name on them, in the shop, to prove it.

There was an open mike after dinner, so folks had a chance to go up front and talk about our friend. The best of these, for me, came from a burly man who told us how, when he was a boy, Red had dated his sister. The kid had looked up to Red, idolized him. When Red broke up with the girl, he took time to stop by to talk to the boy. Red said that just because he wasn't going out with the sister any more, didn't mean he and the kid couldn't still be friends. The man telling the story had trouble getting the words out because he broke into tears several times. There, right there in that grown man, it was easy to see how much Red's simple gesture had meant to the kid, and how the man still carried Red's kindness with him like a jewel.

Model Cities bought up and tore down the old buildings on South Main, including the one that housed Red's Cycle Shop. Red went on to other business pursuits, including many years as a wilderness guide, pilot, and sky diving instructor. As the town grew, Red prospered. He bought the Green Meadow Ranch and kept his string of horses and mules there. And even in his seventies he always had a dirt bike ready to go.

Red had a certain local fame, it's true, and I've heard it said more than once that he was our Clint Eastwood. Sure, he was good-looking and filled with cowboy grace; he was charming and adventuresome; there was a certain potency in his presence, and a boyishness, too.I don't have words to describe the rare combination of his qualities, that made him so special, other than to say his name. He was Red Drennon. In so many ways that count, he was what lasted for us over the years, long after the motorcycles we bought from him wore out.


Red Wings Running Robber, 1962



Not the Wrong Way, Red's Way.



Red Drennon, 1980s


Nude Skydiving - Red's Sense of Humor

The distinction, we well realize, may be questionable. But any time we can get Montana in the news, it's worth a try.

Even though the story involves nothing more earthshaking than the first sky streak.

Ed Howery, who grew up in Anaconda, is a construction worker by trade who learned to use a parachute as an airborne infantryman in the Army, is the first to admit he never thought he'd he a pioneer in what has in the last month became the latest campus rage.

"It just seemed like a good idea al the time." said the skydiver whose log book of 450 jumps includes what he thinks might be the first case of streaking — from a plane to the

It was June 30,1968, Howery recalls. He'd gone lo the airport in Helena to make a jump and, since it had been raining, the conversation with the pilot, Paul Drennon. got around to how a parachutist could avoid getting soaked during a wet weather descent.

"When he told me I could have the jump free if I'd do it in the nude, I took him up on it," said Howery. The bearded Howery admitled he wasn't entirely without clothing.

"I wore socks and jump boots," he said. And, he added, a main and a reserve chute.

The jump, made from 2.500 feet over the Helena fairgrounds, had an audience Howery wasn't expecting.

"I was on my way down." he said, "and all of a sudden I hear bugles and people yelling — and they were running horses around the race track."

He landed — close, he recalls, to a line of several dozen parked cars.

"I picked up that chute and carried it in front of me. looking for my pickup car," he said.

The crowd — or those members of it who saw him — accepted the state's (and possibly the nation's) history-making jump without batting an eye.

He remembers the man he passed by who said, "that was a nice jump, son." said Howery.