C.R.C.A – The Early Days

Joe Caldwell amassed many trophies and medals from his beloved bicycle racing.

Growing up, I remember seeing a large bronze statue of a man with wings on his heels, attached to the newel post on the stairway, in my grandparent’s house. It was the Greek god Mercury (also know as Hermes). That was probably one of the largest trophies Joe ever won. I don’t remember what it was for- what I wouldn’t give to have that trophy. Don’t know whatever happened to it.

My brother has Poppy’s old racing bike. He recently mailed me some of the old gears from the bike – which were really heavy in those days! I hope to turn them into some kind of artsy remembrance.

One of Joe’s small bronze trophies is a trinket dish, in the Art Nouveau style.A naked lady, with  flowing hair, arched around an ocean wave that is the dish.  It has CRCA, and the dates 1899-24 stamped on it.It is one of my favorites.

I did a little research on CRCA, which I always thought was Cycling Road Club of America. In reality, it is Century Road Club of America,started in 1895, and in 1898, split off into Century Road Club Association, the name the club still has today.

A familiar name popped up, in reading the CRCA history – Lou Maltese. As soon as I read it, a bell went off in my head – I remember my grandfather mentioning, more than once over the years, the name of a friend, Lou Maltese. Somewhere in the old photos, I know there is one of Lou. I will have to search. Lou was very involved in the bike club, so much so, that a race wouldn’t start without him!

My grandfather aspired to race in the Olympics. World War I interrupted the Olympics until 1920, when they were hosted in Belgium. Joe was in the war, in France, where he lost his hearing. I can only assume that is why he never pursued the Olympic path after that.

He never did lose his love for biking tho’, but as far as I know, after marriage, never raced again.

Joe was born in 1894, lived ’til the day before Thanksgiving of 1967.

This photo above shows Joe Caldwell, age 25, as Roller Champion 1919-1920. If you look closely at the photo, the bike is set on rollers, the rider “races” in a stationary position (kind of  a precursor to today’s spinning classes!). The big black timing clock is behind him. I don’t know what his time was, wish I did!!!

These racing bikes had ( and probably still do have) little wire cages( I am sure there is a technical term for them!) to slip your feet in while pedaling.  The bike had the ability to go backward and forward- Joe could stay on that bike, upright, not moving, by just controlling the pedals. He could also ride it backwards! I remember being very impressed with that as a child, and kind of mad that my little blue bike with the big fat tires couldn’t do the same!!!


This Joe (rear) and his brother Walter on a tandem! I wonder if this was a race – or just for fun!


There is a book on the history of bike racing – “Hearts of Lions: The Story of American Bicycle Racing” written in 1988 by Peter Nye.  May have to look for that book!!! Wouldn’t be funny if I found the Caldwell brothers mentioned in there!!


A Look Back in Time

This is a story that is long overdue– in my opinion.

Many of the relatives and people who could add insight to this his-story, are also long gone. So, before the memories are totally forever lost in the past, Joseph and his story will be remembered here.

Having become an amateur genealogist (a tip of the hat to Ancestry dot com! for moving me along in the process), and seeing “new” old photos from our family’s past, I decided to put together this tribute to my grandfather, Joseph Sylvester Caldwell.

My brother, Bill, will be helping with this, with the photos he has collected over the years,  his wit and own memories .

Joe Caldwell was my “Poppy“- who, sadly, left us, when I was 15, over 43 years ago. He has another granddaughter, Anita, born a few years after Joe passed away.

A quiet, and unassuming man, I am not sure how he would feel about this public tribute- but I hope he would like it, and the spirit in which it is written. In this way, Joe will be kept alive, altho’ he has remained alive and vivid in my mind, for the past 43 years.

Please keep checking back – as we unearth, post, and share our memories, of a quiet man, who loved his family, his racing bike, and his country home in Rhinebeck, NY