Cycle Shop 112 S. Main
COURTESY OF DANNY LARSON (1942-2011)
Paul "Red" Drennon (1924-2007) in front of his motorcycle
shop at 112 South Main, 1960s.
FOOTPRINT OF 112 SOUTH MAIN - NOW
THE LIBRARY PARKING LOT
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
loved him well and he will live forever in our hearts and
OF JEFF WONG
Native and Noted Western Author Ralph
Beer Remembers Red
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.
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.
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.
Wings Running Robber, 1962
ON IMAGE TO OPEN FULL-SIZE PDF FILE
Not the Wrong Way, Red's Way.
OF JEFF WONG
Skydiving - Red's Sense of Humor
THE BILLINGS GAZETTE, MARCH 10 1974
COLUMN BY ADDISON BRAGG
distinction, we well realize, may be questionable. But any time
we can get Montana in the news, it's worth a try.
though the story involves nothing more earthshaking than the
first sky streak.
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
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
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.
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."
landed close, he recalls, to a line of several dozen
picked up that chute and carried it in front of me. looking
for my pickup car," he said.
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.
remembers the man he passed by who said, "that was a nice
jump, son." said Howery.