LUMBERTON — Ed Allen was a local character synonymous with his beat-up bicycle.
A Facebook group dedicated to Allen, who died in 1991, has become a forum for people to swap stories about the cyclist. His hobbies included directing traffic at night and regaling truck drivers with tall tales about hunting over his CB radio.
In the 1970s, it wasn’t uncommon for residents to see Allen, who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, peddling across Lumberton with a shotgun strapped to his back and a pipe dangling from his mouth. His trademark bike will be on display at the Robeson County History Museum as part of “Bicycles of Yesteryear,” a new exhibit that will run from Sept. 6 to Oct. 31.
“It will be a nostalgic experience,” said Richard Monroe, the museum’s president. “But there’s also a learning tool here. We’re going going to have posters on the wall describing the various models and parts.”
While organizing the exhibit, Monroe realized just how little bicycles have changed since the first model appeared in 1885. They still move by a concert of peddles, chain and two wheels.
“The mechanics are basically the same, although modern bicycles are more sophisticated,” he said.
Many of the bicycles featured in the exhibit are culled from the private collection of the late M.F. Ivey Jr., who ran an antique store in Fairmont. His wife, Myrna Ivey, will loan the museum 17 bikes that belonged to her husband.
Perhaps the strangest piece in the exhibit is a battery-powered bicycle built by Chrysler during the early 1980s to test the logistics of a battery-powered car.
On Oct. 1, the annual Cycle NC Mountains to the Coast Ride is expected to bring 1,000 cyclists to Robeson County for an overnight stop. The museum plans to welcome the visitors with an expanded exhibit through a partnership with Hawley Bike World.
The Fayetteville business will bring in an array of vintage and modern bicycles to enhance the museum’s collection. The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. during the event.
In addition to bicycles, the exhibit will feature tricycles, scooters, and wagons.
“Bicycles of Yesteryear” will replace “Brides of the Past,” an exhibit that featured vintage wedding dresses and more than 300 photographs of blushing brides given to the museum by the old Gillespie Studio in Lumberton. It’s going to be a tough act to follow, according to Monroe.
“That was one of our most popular exhibits,” he said. “While ‘Brides’ mostly appealed to women, I think the men are going to be more interested in the bicycles. One of the things we strive to do at this museum is have exhibits that satisfy all tastes.”
Founded in 1987 by Jack and Helen Sharpe, the museum boasts an array of cultural artifacts from across Robeson County.
The Robeson County History Museum is located at 101 S. Elm St. in Lumberton. Its hours are 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. For information, call 910-738-7979 or visit robesoncountyhistory.org.
Reporter Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at [email protected]