Once Mike Schmit attended a Cushman scooter convention, he was hooked.
Schmit had read about such events in a magazine, and that was enough to spark some interest. Now he’s a member of the Cushman Club of America, and he’s been attending conventions for 20 years.
“It’s like coming to a family reunion,” Schmit said. “I know people from all over many states that I’ve got acquainted with so I just enjoy it.”
Schmit is one of hundreds of visitors who have hit Paris with a wave of the 20th century machines this week as the Cushman Club of America hosts its National Cushman Scooter Convention at Love Civic Center.
Club members kicked off their nearly weeklong event Monday with a parade and group picture in Paris’ Historic Downtown Plaza. There, Lamar County Chamber of Commerce President Paul Allen welcomed the club and thanked its members for choosing Paris for the meet.
“To have a national convention for so many different people from so many different places, it’s great for our city,” Allen said. “And it’s going to have an impact because these folks are going to be shopping here. They’re going to be eating here. And it’s just good.”
The club has not gone unnoticed as members take to their scooters to tour the town. Commenting on The Paris News Facebook page, Linda Ellis said she noticed the club after “about eight to 10 came buzzing by our house on West Washington Street.” Betsy Mae Cottonwood also wrote that she “saw some whiz by earlier.”
“Pretty nifty contraptions,” she wrote.
Cushman scooters got their start in 1903 in Lincoln, Nebraska, by Everett and Clinton Cushman, according to the Nebraska State Historical Society. The company began production of its four-stroke Husky engine in 1922, and it began making Auto-Glide scooters in 1936. Colin Shattuck, author of “Scooters: Red Eyes, Whitewalls and Blue Smoke,” tells the story of how Cushman scooters became a favorite mode of transportation before and after World War II, and of the military’s use of Cushmans, which included the Model 53 that was designed to be dropped by parachute with airborne troops.
Cushman scooter models also include the Eagle, produced for about 16 years, the “turtle back” Model 50 and 60, and the Highlander. Ladies of the convention who rode Highlanders, known as the Highlander Honeys, were scheduled to parade from the Love Civic Center on Monday to Magels Restaurant with police escort.
Selling scooters and scooter parts to fellow enthusiasts, vendors were set up throughout the Love Civic Center’s parking lot.
The atmosphere of fellowship is what keeps Schmit coming back for more, even after two decades of scootering about.