Part I (Prelude)
My first exposure to Motocross was in 1969. I was 13 years old. My Dad (Wally Wallenberg) owned a TV shop and traded an 8 track tape player for a Honda 50cc bike. He immediately rekindled a love affair with motorcycles that he had had back in the 40's before he was in WWII. It didn't take long to outgrow the Honda so he upgraded to a used 1966 Suzuki X-6 Hustler. My Dad's buddy Carroll Erskine was a TV shop customer of his and it turned out he also had a Honda 50 and soon after they became riding buddies. Not long after my Dad got the Suzuki, Carroll bought a Honda 305 to try and keep pace with my Dad. We spent the summer going to watch the flat track races at Santa Fe Speedway southwest of Chicago in a suburb called Hinsdale. There we got to see all the great local riders from that era like Bart Markel, Roger Reiman and Neil Keen. Santa Fe also hosted a National and we got to see the National champs like Dick Mann and Mert Lawill. Once a month was TT night and there (aside from the movie The Great Escape) was my first exposure to watching a motorcycle jump, Oh I loved to watch that! I mowed lawns and earned the $75 price for my own Honda 50 as well. I rode that bike everyday in our tiny yard in the city pretending I was racing at Santa Fe.
Sometime in October, Carroll heard about a motorcycle race being held in Wisconsin. It was a nice fall day so my Dad said "Let's take the bikes" So with me on the back we took off for Wilmot Wisconsin about 60 miles from our hometown of Evanston, IL. We got to the property that was on the flyer and no one was there! We could see some banners around the course and my Dad in his typical go for it attitude said to Carroll " Let's go ride the track!" So on they went, taking laps on their street bikes.I was too small to ride so I watched. The smiles were wide as they went lap afetr lap until a farmer shows up and says "What are you doing here, this is private property?" My Dad says "Well no one was here so we thought it was OK to ride" The farmer replied..."Not unless you pay me $2.00 each" My Dad and Carroll gladly gave him the cash and we found out from him that the race had been cancelled and moved to another track. We also were told that we could come back anytime as long as we paid the fee. Well the seeds were sown...next week we loaded up 3 Honda 50's into my Dad's TV repair van and rode all day. I got to ride as well and It was the funnest thing we had ever done! We didn't know we were on a "motocross" track as we still hadn't actually seen a motocross race.
That would all change as my Dad saw a flyer in a bike shop announcing a Moto-X race at Elkhorn,Wisconsin. Turns out it wasn't just "a" race, it was a full on Inter-Am with all the stars from Sweden and Europe racing.
My Dad's parents came over from Sweden on the boat and entered the USA at Ellis Island in the early 1920's. When my Dad was 5 he spent about 6 months in Sweden and picked up the language. My grandmother (against my grandfather's wishes) kept up the Swedish lessons on the side.Now 40 years later although he did not know the technical jargon he still impressed the Swedish riders enough that we were welcomed right away by the Husqvarna riders like Torsten Hallman, Bengt Aberg, Carl Berggren and Arne Kring. It was at Elkhorn that my life long love for the sport took hold. As I said earlier I had been to flat track and TT races at Illinois' Santa Fe speedway and enjoyed it, but seeing Motocross... especially the jumps blew me away. The bug hit my Dad and I hard. We now knew what Motocross was all about and realized it was time to get a little more serious!
That winter my Dad started looking at bikes and over the course of 1970 He first had a Ducati 160 converted to dirt, an Ossa 250, and finally an orange tank CZ that he bought brand new from Geneva Cycle Center in Geneva, Illinois. I had the Honda 50, then I got to ride the Ducati for the summer of 1970. It was a pile but it had 16" wheels so I could touch the ground. Plus we did not really know better and after all we put knobbies on it so it must be OK!
In the fall of 1970 I saved up $400 for a real Motocross bike! A used 1969 Sachs that was on sale at Antioch Cycle Center a Suzuki, Maico, Montesa shop in Northern Illinois.It was a trade-in from a local rider named Mike Tiskus. Mike was a sign painter by trade and had custom painted his oval plastic number plates with number 13 on them. In those days plastic numbers were not available...we made our numbers with black electrical tape on cookie trays! When I asked about changing the number due to the "13" curse. My dad refused to take off those perfectly painted plates so that's where the number 13 that has been with me my whole career came from. After practicing for a few weekends at Wilmot and Elkhorn I made my racing debut on the Sachs at Motosports Park in Byron, Illinois in November 1970 at the last race of the year. I was so small that I could not touch the ground so my Dad held my bike up on the line. Joe Vincer the promoter told my Dad after the first moto that he was very concerned about me being a hazard to the other riders and maybe I should wait until I grew a little more! Well I stayed out there for the next 2 motos and survived, I even passed a few guys! I was too small for any of the traditional school sports as I was only 4' 11" as a freshman but on a bike it was just me against the track just like everybody else.
I was determined to succeed. I shoveled snow all winter and sold the Sachs to earn enough money to buy a brand new bike. After looking at Bultacos and Hodakas and Pentons, we settled on a brand new 1971 100cc DKW bought for $790 from Goettel Motors in McHenry, IL. My first goal as everybody's is.. is to win a trophy. I won my first trophy at Elkhorn on May 25th 1971. 7th place. I still have the trophy today. Elkhorn hosted a summer 250cc Inter-Am and we met a young Swedish superstar named Torleif Hansen who was lightning fast and had the reputation as the Cassius Clay of Motocross due to his great gift of gab. Torleif took a liking to my Dad and our family and even stayed at our house between races. I was on cloud nine as I got to stare at this superstar hanging out in our house all week long. We got to ride together at Elkhorn and he showed us some great lines around the track. As the summer progressed I started making the top 10 and even earned a few more trophies. I was now 5' 1" and 90 lbs. When the fall 500cc Inter-Am came to town, once again Torleif came to stay. We had heard rumours of a 125cc Husky in development and my Dad asked Torleif what he knew about the bike. Torleif whispered " Don't tell anyone I said this, because I am a Husky factory rider, but there is another bike from Sweden called a Monark that would be much better for Scott" That one brief comment from Torleif literally changed our lives!
My Dad remembered this conversation and over the winter started researching about this bike called a Monark.My dad saw a Motorcycle Buyer's guide on the newsstand and learned that the Monark was part of the name Monark Crescent Bilag or MCB.The magazine listed the importer as Rockford Motors. Only 90 miles away from Chicago! Rockford Motors imported the Bridgestone Motorcycle and also imported the MCB enduro bike from Sweden. We got stuck in traffic driving there and got there just as they were closed for the day. My dad banged on the windows and an employee came to the door. We weren't allowed in but while there we found out that there were no more MCB's left and that Rockford Motors no longer carried them. After more inquiries it was discovered that a new importer in Burbank, CA had taken over the brand now called Monark. His name was John Olsson and his company was called Inter-Trends.
Part II How do we get a Monark?