Mile High Mayhem
The History of the Scooter and the Denver Scooter Club
By Vernon Appleton | Photos By Scoot.net
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Scooters!! Love them or hate them - they are everywhere. You see them at nearly every stoplight and on practically every street corner. New ones and old ones - puttering around the streets leaving their blue smoke. Denver has had its share of scooter clubs throughout the years, and every year Denver brings scooter clubs from around the country to party down at the Mile High Mayhem. The Mile High Mayhem is like a bar crawl on two motorized wheels, traveling through the city, up to the mountains and back again. Full of games, antics, and a variety of costumes, it’s really a scooter celebration flooding the streets of Denver with the buzz from those two-stroke engines!
Matt Mega C is a scooter aficionado and lay historian of the Scooter. He has helped put on the Mile High Mayhem event, and been a key figure in Denver’s local scooter culture since it’s beginning. Mega C took a break from his busy schedule to sit down with Truly Rejected and share his knowledge of the Scooter’s origins, the history of scooter culture in Denver, as well as some of his own experiences. The history of the scooter starts out in Italy, just after the Second World War. Prior to WW2, the Italian people often worked locally in their hometowns, but after the war, factories began opening up on the outskirts of town. This posed a problem for people who needed the work but didn’t have a way to get there. The Italian economy had been crippled from the war, which also left disastrous road conditions. A revitalization of the automobile was not yet possible. Piaggio was an Italian aeronautics company who originally made bombers and other warplanes during the first two world wars. After WW2, the company found itself with a bombed out factory and a country in shambles. Piaggio stepped in with the goal to create a form of cheap transportation that would cater to the masses. They repurposed the motors from their old plane’s landing gears and put them into a frame, giving birth to the Italian Scooter, which they called, “The wasp” (Vespa in Italian - after the founder, Enrico Piaggio saw the first design and claimed that it looked like a wasp.) Vespas were the ideal solution for Italy, they were lightweight and easy to operate. Vespas held an advantage over motorcycles because unlike the motorcycle, you switch gears (and break) on a Vespa with your hands. This makes the Vespa more convenient for traveling in town.
As with most things fashionable in Italy, the novelty of the scooter soon spread to the rest of the world, and found a particular niche with England’s youth. In England, a dichotomy developed amongst the youth; to be popular, a young man was either into scooters or motorcycles. The scooter crowds became known as Teddy Boys (and later Mods,) and they were known for their stylish dress. The engine and back wheels on a scooter are covered (with a cowl) which is good if you’re wearing a suit. The cowl keeps the scooter from burning or singeing your clothes. Mods also wore parkas to stay warm and dry. Those who chose the motorcycle over the scooter were known as Greasers or Rockers. Rockers wore leather jackets - so the dirt, oil and gas from the motorcycle was not a problem. It was expected that a Greaser’s pants and jacket would get dirty.
In British pop culture music also became a distinctive point for the divergent sides of this dichotomy. The Mods started listening to Soul and Caribbean music. Then a splintering occurred within the Mod culture in the later part of the 1960’s. The Mods fought the Rockers and this culminated in big riots in Brighton. The Mods that fought the rockers became known as the Boot Boys, while those that got into the drug and party culture became known as Hippies. The Boot Boys that hung around the docks listening to reggae became Skin Heads; and there were racist and non-racist Skin Heads. This was when the Oyé and Ska music cultures began to develop. The band THE JAM, headed by Paul Weller (the “Modfather”) came out of this time period as the quintessential Mod or Boot Boy band. In the late 70’s and early 80’s when the Mod Music culture was going strong, Punk Music was just starting to find it’s voice. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that the Mod Music scene began dying in America.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a resurgence in the scooter scene. Denver’s first scooter club formed - calling itself the Fun and Games, which is now in Boulder (it was organized by Dustin Gable, a friend of Mega C’s.) Other scooter clubs originating around the same time are; The Pub Scouts, Blue Smoke Scooter Club and Ace. Matt Mega C helped form The Bottle Rockets Scooter Club in 1999, serving as VP the first year, and President the second. One thing that all of these Denver clubs have in common, is that their members party together, and ride scooters together. Those in the scooter crowd have the reputation of being drinkers, as well as being notoriously cheap!