KEEPING TRADITIONS ALIVE
Well, unless someone finds the holy grail and unearths a box of Yellow Jacket MC Gardena history, exactly who started it and when it started, will likely remain a mystery.
What we can say with some certainty is that the Yellow Jackets Motorcycle Club - Gardena, was around in the early 1940's.
Now we know people need things in black and white (or yellow) but we have some quotes to give us a rough timeline.
YJMC alumni, Bob McMillen said in a interview with Felicia Morgan - "My Yellow Jackets came out of Gardena. The guys in our branch claim we were YJs before (Wino) Willie but nobody knows what the year of our origin really is."
Here’s Boozefighter / Yellow Jacket - Jim Cameron - "Back then a bunch of us hung out at a bar in South L.A., called the All American. Several clubs met there: the 13 Rebels, the Yellow Jackets, anyway, Willie was talking to some other guy about what to name the club, and there was an old drunk listening in. This old drunk pipes up "Why don't you call yourselves the 'Boozefighters'. Willie thought that was funny as hell, so that was the name.” - Classic Bike in 1998 - Mark E. Gardiner interviewer.
In the book, The Original Wild Ones, Chapter 12 - The Tale Of The Mysterious Lost Boozefighters’ Stories - "Jim" wrote - “I guess the oldest of the motorcycle clubs still in operation at that time was the 13 Rebels, a group founded by movie stunt men back in the 1920s. The Yellow Jackets and Orange County M/C also predate the Boozefighters. Sister organizations were the Rams, Checkers, the North Hollywood Crotch Cannibals (great fucking name!) and the Gallopin’ Gooses M/C and Hells Angels were a bunch of young cats in San Bernardino. How time changes things.”
Firmly part of the emerging, post war SO-CAL motorcycle scene, The Yellow Jackets MC were definitely one of the pioneers.
A race banner from the Yellow Jackets MC - Gardena California
Dated 2/29/1948 - this member should be from the Gardena Yellow Jackets.
From the stories that have been passed down, those guys back then raced anywhere, anytime and against anyone. If there was a cash purse or a case of beer to be won, the race was on! Hell, even bragging rights got them going.
Note in the pic, the Yellow Jacket member is without a logo. It is known that there was more than one Yellow Jacket's club out there during the same time period. History is pretty muddy when there's no records. Was this the LA chapter or a different group altogether?
The Yellow Jackets MC was there too. Lots was written about that event so there's no reason to get into it here, but little did they know it was the birthplace of the modern motorcycle club.
In Terry the Tramps book - The Life and Dangerous Times of a One Percenter, former YJMC member, Bob McMillen is quoted as saying "We weren't protesting. We were just having a good time and didn't like rules. Guys who wanted to compete, tried to follow the rules but the rebel notion was spreading like locusts over a field of produce". Bob was talking about the AMA Gypsy Tour and the Hollister “riot” back on July 4,1947. The AMA had a lot of rules that folks at the time didn’t like so some of the racers pushed back.
To the uninformed, there was no actual rioting. There was a lot of drinking and whooping it up but as far as people rioting, it was overblown bullshit manufactured by the media who after the war, had little to write about. Staged pics and news articles. Sort of like what the media does today.
Born in 1933, "Mack" was a Yellow Jacket (Gardena) back in the late 1940's and left around 1951. At the ripe old age of 16, he used to hang out at the Crash Inn bar where other clubs used to go and partake in all kinds of mischief. (Pictured above on his 1936 Harley VL on what is now the campus of Harbor College near Wilmington, CA)
Mack used to work for Douglas Aircraft building planes at a young age. He was a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary unit of the US Air Force which provided recon, disaster relief, and aided in search and rescue missions. Mack was also a motorcycle shop owner in Wilmington and even built his own plane! He crashed that.
His Grandson, Bubba told us he was an amazing machinist that even worked at the high security - Lawrence Livermore National Labs in Livermore, California. For a time, Bob was an oil man too. He owned the company that manufactured the oil used in Bates Motor Oil. Bates is known today for their leathers and boots. All this while the father of five! Very interesting man and jack of all trades indeed. Sadly, Bob left us in November 2016.
The revered Wino Willie Folkner was a Yellow Jacket. As his tattoo shows, he was a 13 Rebel, a Boozefighter, and a Yellow Jacket. To clarify a misconception, he didn't start the YJMC but is purported to have started the LA chapter to race under as the Boozefighters weren't AMA sanctioned at that time. The world lost Wino on July 25th, 1997.
Sucks that this one is blurry but it came from some film from the era.
Man, what a great time to be alive.
Betcha it wasn't a AMA sanctioned race!
Entering the 1950's, many of the clubs of that time either fell dormant or went away completely. The Yellow Jackets MC Gardena was one of these clubs.
Exactly when did they fold? We don't know but considering there's nothing showing any sort of activity, we think it's a solid bet by 1952 or 1953, they were gone.
The racers started getting married, having families and getting regular jobs. Maybe their 52/20 ran out and they finally just needed to get back to a normal life. See, veterans returning from military service received $20 a week their first year back. The racing and partying days just slowly ended for many.
Fact is, as far as the Yellow Jackets MC Gardena is concerned, for nearly sixty years, they were pretty much forgotten by all except for those that raced, wore the colors and the occasional motorcycle history buff.