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Snowbum's BMW Motorcycle Repair & Information Website

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Copyright 2024, R. Fleischer

These are scans of some of Snowbum's photos.

 I rode this motorcycle nearly everyplace. The uncomfortable rear pad seat was called a puss-pad back then. Not politically correct these days!  I got the methanol for the bike (after I converted it to use 100% alcohol) from my employer, Hughes Aircraft (El Segundo plant), because they would throw it out after they used it in glass manometers; they were happy that I took it, as it saved them paying for the removal/disposal. Now and then I'd pick the methanol up in my car, the trunk of which had a large tank mounted for the methanol. I mostly rode my BSA bike to work, and I would refueled the bike from their used tank drum. I had them mark the tank in huge letters:  METHANOL ONLY.  I put a sign on it, saying it was reserved for me, and not to take any.  The warehouse guys were very good about never mixing other solvents into that 55 gallon drum.   The bike would not start easily on pure alcohol, so I had a tiny auxilliary tank that had very high test gasoline in it.  The bike also had a compound-activated compression release and an ignition control, otherwise the bike could occasionally toss me off during starting attempts.  I may still have creases in my calf from trying to kickstart that monster.

 Eartha, 1952.  She had a number of photos taken in that outfit, or similar
to it. I was 15, she was 24.  We met at a private place for L.A. area musicians, who jammed at the "Malibu Cottage", located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My uncle, a trumpeter with the Stan Kenton band, occasionally took me there.  I was already playing piano at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. I was under-age for working or being in that bar/club.  At a somewhat later date, Eartha & I spent the weekend together right after she, for the second time, performed on the mini-stage at the Malibu Cottage.   My parents went nuts when they found out about me and her, but I was on my own, a legally Emancipated Juvenile. Look up her ORIGINAL recording of "Santa Baby".  That was recorded the next year and became famous.    Eartha had problems in her life, perhaps most of them because she was black, if quite light-skinned. I had black friends, never made any difference to me. Of course, I did not face her problems, because I was not black.

 Later, she sang, to me, C'est Si Bon...(in English, 'It's so good') at the Cottage...
 ....ah, memories!
 Eartha died on a Christmas day, in the late eighties, of cancer.

 This is a link to my bio on this site:
 Below is a snip I took from it, to maybe explain a few things.

 Beginning when I was about 13, I made friends with a 'Negro man', who, I thought, had a wonderful philosophy on life, many experiences, & who lived with his family in a house out front of his family business, a salvage/junkyard, that happened to be full of VERY interesting things ...both mechanical & electrical.  He had a stunningly pretty athletic daughter, who I had met while surfing. He was a Jack-Of-All-Trades, a man to learn from. I learned.  I truly loved his entire family.  I ate lunch with them on many Saturdays.  My crush on his daughter ended when she found someone much more interesting than me, who was probably about 20, and a school jock. I was considerably younger; kind of shy & scrawny. After that experience, I joined an old-fashioned REAL gym, became the gym guys 'pet', & started to bulk-up considerably.   I first met Eartha just before this time period. I was also friends with two couples of mixed-race.

 One of my R60/2 bikes.  Heinrich-equipped, hand-formed aluminum fairing
 items.  I think this photo was taken at the BMW factory distributorship
 picnic in 1963.  I don't remember the details on the second photo ...wasn't

 NO ONE, not even my WIFE at the time, standing next to me in this photo, ...recognized me in that costume & makeup. ...all loaned to me by a costume rental company in Los Angeles who owed me a few favors.  Jackie, who I'd put through nursing school, wanted a big nursing career & not at Tahoe, so we divorced.   I remarried years later.  Penny, my present and forever wife, still can't believe this photo is of me!  

I seldom went to costume parties, but I did that Halloween; two of them.  I wanted to "Make an Entrance" & completely disguised myself.  I even disguised my voice (I practiced my made-up voice quite a bit).  My face had body putty on it to change my features.  My entire body had that brown movie studio type makeup on it.  No part was missed that might have showed,  including inside my ears.  Luckily it came off with the proper (& slightly difficult) cleaning.

At both of the two parties I did not speak English, but had my made-up-not-real-language.   I went around to people with a large dried turkey leg bone,  suitably decorated with some flowers & rattlesnake skin; made all sorts of weird incantations, noises, shaking that bone, & speaking made-up gibberish.  I wasn't recognized, & no one even knew how I got invited ...they were talking behind my back openly, assuming I did not understand English.  I had a hilariously good time & nearly broke up with laughter quite often.

The photo was taken well over fifty years ago.  I understand there have been comments made by someone in 2023,  who, my words here, strongly thinks my using 'blackface' (it is sienna brown btw) is not politically correct and the photo should be removed from this website, I guess particularly since the Vintage Club essentially sponsors my website.  All these years I never realized there were such folks who would think my costume so Not Politically Correct, race-wise.  I am, of course, dressed as a Grand Vizer; or, Medicine Man, use whatever words you with a South American indigenous Indian tribe.   Apparently this person thinks that the photo of me and my wife are racially demeaning...or; maybe he thinks I was costumed-up as a KKK member;....I'm not sure.

Comments invited.
You can also search Google, etc., for:  Hobbit House, Culver City, California.
This place, and the next-door cottage, are sometimes called The Hobbit House.  I lived here for a few years. I helped maintain this building, and I helped BUILD, in a small way, the cottage next door.  More photos are on the page you are looking at, further down!  If you have any particular questions, you may contact me at:

Yes, that's my Porsche RS550-1500, same as what James Dean had, but this one was mine.  That's my first wife, Jonni in it, outside the house (well, apartment) we lived in.  I have a lot of photos of the inside of our apartment, and some of the house next door that I worked on with the builder of our place.

 I raced sports cars, now and then, when I was in Los Angeles, & not
traveling for the Gov't.  I raced Morgan's for Rene Pellandini Motors; and
raced my own Porsche Spyder a FEW times.  More photos of my 550RS-1500 are below. I'll explain the unusual 'Hobbit House' below too.

 I purchased the 550RS1500 from Vasek Polak Porsche in Southern
California, on 08-29-1963, for $3750.  The original owner was Willett
 Brown, President of CBS.  It was probably 'too much' for him. At 634 miles,
 it went to George Duvall, who installed a machined flywheel & a 2L Carrera
 clutch.  I then obtained the car & did a lot more, including my own design
 of exhaust system (the original stock car had an open system & was
 EXTREMELY loud).  I installed the quasi-legal windshield & a lot of
 changes to the ignition, fuel system, carburetors, & a few other things. My
 changes bumped the horsepower and torque, increased the reliability, &
 improved the handling.  As sold originally it was not easy to drive,
 particularly when on the racetrack, as all early Porsche's, including this
 race model, had a tendency to spin out, almost uncontrollably past a
 certain point.  Mine had some trick stuff I designed & installed, & was more
 stable.  I was competitive & primarily raced against my main rival Phil Hill at
 various tracks, and we often were on the podium.  I drove this car to work
 when I worked at Stoddart Aircraft Radio Co! The body was soft aluminum,
 & I hated to have folks lean on its doors. Below photo is me & 1st wife

 In the photo above, that is Snowbum's Porsche RS550-1500, & first wife,
 Mary Ellen.  All who knew her called her Jonni.  She still lives at Lake
Tahoe.   This car is all-aluminum, very light, and can be nasty in tight twisties, tending to swap ends.
also, search for Hobbit House, Culver City, California

 This is where we lived.  All outside patio work was done in a crude manner
 ON PURPOSE.  Just inside the gate was a fish pond.

 My 1929 Ford Model A Sport Coupe, rather modified. Stock Kelsey-Hayes
 16" wheels, Model C engine that I worked-over. Very reliable.  We drove it nearly everyplace.  I drove it many times to San Francisco, from my home in Los Angeles.

I cut some of the third leg off the Steinway, so it fit into the window area. 
The woodwork, including furniture in this house, was made by my
landlord, Lawrence Joseph, using old-fashioned hand tools, such as
spoke-shaves, which he taught me to use.  I helped Joseph work on the
cottage next door, and he taught me how to do modifications in the above
apartment we rented from him. 

Few know that at one time I was headed for for a career as a concert pianist, and I have had a piano since my early teens. Look carefully at the windows here, the joiner-type-woodwork in particular.  Every wood pane separator was tapered, etc.

 My wife and I, in the living room of the largest of the apartments that
 Joseph built.  We lived there for about 3 years in the sixties.

 Jonni (Mary Ellen) clowning with the Danish smoking pipe.  Note the
 furniture, all of which Lawrence Joseph hand-built.  In this photo, the drapes behind Jonni are covering the multi-paned main living room windows. 
 Approximately where she is sitting is where I later installed the Steinway
 piano, with its 'tail' into the sitting area behind her.

 For those who have read my very lengthy Bio, my old roommate DJ Sadler is on the left with the striped collar, the guy with the dark glasses is Marion Allen; who was also an old college-era school roommate.  My wife, Jonni, is at rear on the right. One early evening, there was a turkey in the oven, and,  ...well.....  my next door neighbors (they lived in the somewhat smaller apartment in the same building, upstairs like ours was) were Paula Prentiss, the actress; & her husband, Director Dick Benjamin.  I had a serious fight with them that evening. The turkey fat caught fire in our oven.  At about the same time, Paula's sister, visiting next door, had a serious migraine attack, & started kicking on our door, to tell us to turn down the music, which was NOT loud.  The building was all wood, and not their next-door apartment likely carried well the music. She disappeared & Dick showed up at the door, with Paula behind him. While Jonni fought the turkey fire, I was dealing with Dick who insisted on poking me with his finger.  It intensified. No matter that the music was turned WAY down.  He threatened me, perhaps thinking that because he was taller, I would just back-off.  He finally made a serious mistake in his poking/yelling; I took care of him properly.  They never bothered us again.   At the time, Paula was screaming at Dick to get back inside their apartment because "He's insane & going to kill you if you don't".

 The above door with the large wood knob on the right side, is our bedroom
 door.  Door itself was much more rounded than the photo seems to show.

 The ceiling was WAY up there!

 These two photos show the same general area, with the first one being later. Note the lift-up flap for access to my turntable & HiFi.  I made these
 modifications, with the approval & supervision/tutelage of Joseph.  Note
 that the term Hobbit House was never used, AFAIK, when we lived here.

 Lawrence Joseph supposedly purchased this next-door-to-our-building
 cottage in 1960.  Other accounts say it was just after WWII ...just a small
 nothing-special house, next door to where we lived in the 'Hobbit House'
 he built, see all the other photos, above and below.  I helped him, in a small
 way, in transforming this frame house.   I did interior work.   I got what I
 wanted: plenty of 'instruction' in how to work with wood. I did not have
 anything to do with the brick & stonework.  Joseph avoided Building
 Inspector problems, by doing a roof, then the yard (somewhat). Then he
 magically transformed EVERYthing inside the house, later he finished the

 Lawrence Joseph similarly "remodeled" several houses in the west side of
 Los Angeles, most of them are hidden behind trees & only a neighbor or
 two can see what he "transformed". I knew where one existed, and toured
 it, and became friends with the owner, who still wishes to be very private.
 All Joseph's buildings have heavy influence from sailing ships, especially
 inside. Joseph worked with metal, wood, masonry, etc. Just after the end of WWII, he and his wife, Martha, purchased the lot for the "apartment" building he constructed, ground-up>>> which became two apartments & a bachelors one room apartment ...and they later purchased the lot to right, with the modest frame house that you see Joseph working on. I initially moved into the front building (yes, there are front and rear buildings at the Hobbit  House property, which is really TWO side-by-side properties) into the bachelor apartment.  After we met and married, Jonni & I moved into the largest apartment in the early sixties.  It is the one with all those small paned windows, the piano, us all at the dinner table, etc. See some of the below photos of what the next-door frame house & lot became.   Here the photos were taken during construction. Joseph's father was a carpenter, & Joseph grew up helping him.  Joseph wanted to be an illustrator & attended Otis Art Institute. He then worked for several BOAT-BUILDERS, & in the furniture business. For 28 years he was the mock-up & tooling mechanic for Lockheed. Joseph's inspiration were the illustrations of Howard Pyle.  What may amaze present day carpenters, is that Joseph did NOT use modern power tools, although he had a couple of electric drills.  He used very old-fashioned hand tools, many of these tools are in museums now.   I am very proud to have worked on both of the properties, if in a small way.   VERY fond memories of my years living there.

 When we lived next door, the above photo could not be taken because that
 area outside the front door entrance had not yet been done. This photo
 was taken later & is a copy from a magazine, & shows the magazine paper
 creases near the top.

 NOTE the curved, pitched, REAL WOOD floor.  In this 'Next door to us Cottage', he did not put ship-type round pegs in the floor (flat to the surface), as he had in our apartment. EVERY piece of furniture in the rooms were made by him with old-fashioned tools.  Note that lovely side-cabinet with the curved ends. Note the wagon wheel at the ceiling ended up like a holder for wine glasses, as used in a bar.

 Close friend of ours, Danny Benson

 Time for a few flying lessons for Jonni.  I seem to, somehow, have quite a
 few hours in this old Cherokee 140, for some reason  :-) .   I eventually
 obtained quite a few flight certificates while I still lived in the greater L.A. area.  Some were: Commercial Pilot, Advanced Instructor-Airplanes-Seaplanes-Instruments.  I have single engine & multi-engine Commercial Pilots Certifications, I'm instrument-rated, & also am type-rated in a few large commercial aircraft.

 Jonni & I eventually moved out of the Dunn Drive hobbit-house.  We purchased a
 home on Neosho Ave., in Mar Vista, CA. This was close to my job at
 Winklemann's BMW Motorcycles
. The garage was vastly deeper than you
 can see from this photo.  Here is the 29 Ford Model A Sport Coupe;  the 58
 Porsche Speedster (the last one off the production line & with a factory
 specially-equipped engine, chassis, etc.).   The garage also has an early
 BMW bike of mine, a Honda, EIGHT Vincent's, two BMW bikes, and an outrageously huge workshop, 110/220 single and 3 phase electric service.   On the right side,
 not visible here, is an attached second building, basically a HUGE rumpus
 room, with pool table, wet bar, etc.

 Me and my 1958 Porsche Speedster.  The Porsche CAME with those REAL
 Mercedes-type knock-off wheels, right from the factory.  I was told that this
 was probably the very last Speedster that the factory ever made.  I did have
 huge mutton-chops back then. Still have that vest-shirt. This photo was
 taken at a friend's house, in a remote area of California. They were growers
 of prime California Weed.



 How one of my R75/5 bikes looked the day I moved to Lake Tahoe.  Missing from the photo are two suitcases I had just removed, that had been strapped to the seat rear.  Raccoons opened the classic Bates leather saddlebags & ate my peanut butter cookies when I camped over- night at a small lake off Hy 4 in the Sierra's on my way to Tahoe.  The $$$ leather bag on top of the trunk was hand-made, sold under the
 Christoon name, to such as Neiman Marcus, etc.  I worked part time there for awhile, to satisfy my curiosity about working with thick leather.

 Want to know about my "sleeper" R75/5?

 The photo is of just one of several R75/5 bikes I've owned.   This one I
 purchased brand-new from the BMW dealership where I worked.  It came
 with that full Avon fairing. I added Bates leather bags & a trunk.  A SWB
 model is known for instability with front fork fairings, my fairing was
 frame-mounted.  With trunk & bags, it could still be a handful; I kept the
 speed down. This is very poor loading I show here.  I went back to Los Angeles not long after this, purchased my parents 57 Dodge Dart, & used it, with a huge trailer behind it, to move the rest of my stuff to Tahoe, in TWO round trips. That old slant-6 engine in the Dodge did well, even the automatic transmission held up to the heavy hauling, although top speed on the steepest grades, in 1st gear, was barely 12 mph.

 Here I'm at a friend's hog ranch in California, about to be chasing greased
 pigs on horseback.  At one time I owned a stallion, rode him from where I
 kept him in Tecate, Baja California, to the end of Baja.  I hobbled the horse
 one night a few days into the trip, & and slept too closely nearby.  During
 the night, the damned horse peed a few gallons on me. I was 2+ days from
 the nearest place to get a bath. Horse urine stinks, feels like acid eating
 your skin after drying some, & my wool horse blanket did not smell nice
 either.  The Mexicans had a 'name' for me, when close enough for them to
 smell me. That trip was ~1100 miles. Quite an adventure. I learned a little
 about horses & not much about horsemanship.

 Our Malamutes. The top photo is of Thytu, brother to Pani, the 95# female
 all-white Malamute in the 2nd photo. Pani became my hiking partner,
 particularly when I backpacked the Sierra's. The personalities of the
 two dogs could not have been more different. Thytu was just what his face
 looks like here. Pani was playful, not serious unless another dog came to
 our yard or near me. I raised Pani from a small pup.

 Winter Fun near Lake Tahoe

 I was a member of the Baja Bush Pilots.  Photo shows my 1957 C-182. 
This flooded bit of dirt, with scattered old tires and trash, was and likely still is listed as an  "airport".   I've landed my plane a few times there.  The highway, in the foreground, is a lot better for a landing strip, but is illegal to use for that!


 Cessna 305 "Bird Dog".  I flew this for the C.A.P.  on search missions.
 I was one of only two pilot's authorized to fly it; as they are tricky to land,
 particularly if windy, and are a handful if flying quite slow in the windy
 narrow mountain pass areas.  The Civil Air Patrol eventually 'retired' all of
 them due to numerous accidents.  I liked the airplane, with its 60 flaps,
 decent engine and good rudder control.


 FUN...FUN...FUN....Blue Angels 'treating' a suited-up-4-flying Tahoe-ite to a
 'demo flight'.  I shall leave you to guess who is being escorted/helped into
 the cockpit!

 There is a fun story involved  ...good for around the campfire with a few brewskies sometime.   Having a bit of fun with a Blue Angel pilot; and schnookering him into letting me 'try' the controls.  His only comment was:  "You've flown these before, I see".   We did acrobatics on the way back to base.


 A fine day for a flight in a borrowed Pitts ....and always some aerobatics. 

 I love aerobatics, but Penny would freak-out if I did so now... (& if she

 Piper Apache, full Geronimo conversion.  Somewhat enlarged tail because
 it has the high-power helicopter engines with extensions, and a special
 type of enhanced-extraction exhaust system, etc.  I taught twin-engine
 students in this rented aircraft (belonged to two doctors who never
 seemed to fly it) for some time.

 How it all began for Snowbum...well, sort-a!

 I'd had or used other types of very early computers, including mechanical
 relays types, but this IBM PC was my first really useful computer.
 I cut a big hole in the wall of my 'office' in my home at Lake Tahoe.  I made
 wood shelving and made a keyboard shelf that slides out on drawer

 It is an original IBM brand "PC". I'd purchased a tiny warehouse of them from a local school (in Kyburz, Calif.) that had changed to Apple's.  I repaired many of these old IBM computers and sold quite a few of them to local motels (with the tractor printers they had come with!). The remaining ones I repaired and donated to schools in Mexico (Baja California). The computer in the photo was one I fixed up for myself. It had a 20 Mb hard drive which was the biggest available then. 20Mb for a home computer, or even a business, was simply huge back then.  The monitor screen displayed green text (no photos, icons, images, etc.).

 The computer ran DOS, Microsoft's original Disc Operating System.  I
 designed & made a dial-up modem; & a math processor board for it.  It used
 real 5-1/4 inch floppy discs.  I eventually installed a second floppy drive.

 Computers were quite new, at least for the Public, and I wrote programs
 and did processing for several businesses.

 Up until November 2019 I still sat at exactly the same place, but with a 24"
 high resolution monitor and a big tower computer on the floor, and lots
 more hardware, and with vastly larger memory ....and faster everything.   For a photo of the 'original' computer, go to the following link, and scan down to item #5:


Copyright 2024, R. Fleischer

Photo Gallery #6

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Last check/edit: Monday, April 08, 2024