The History of Iowa State Patrol Motorcycle Unit
Iowa Highway Safety Patrol patrolled roads for the first time July 28, 1935. The uniform for the summer was khaki jodhpur breeches and blouses, knee-high black boots, black ties, black gun belts and khaki visored caps. Patrolman carried a Colt 38 Special with a four inch barrel. For winter, the men were issued wool, olive drab uniforms and heavy overcoats. Patrolmen were paid $100.00 per month. The Patrol started patrolling for the first time with 50 officers and three supervisors, 37 cars and 12 motorcycles. Officers worked from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. AM radio receivers were used and the radio station transmitter was in Des Moines with the hours of operation from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m.
Motorcycles were ridden until the late fall, when men switched to cars until early spring. Occasionally, a motorcycle officer was forced by severe weather to seek shelter in a farmer's barn and either wait out the storm or call - if the farm had a telephone - for a patrol car to come a nd pick him up so he could finish his shift.
The Motorcycle were in used on a regular basis since World War II, but in 1979 the Patrol purchased two Kawasaki motorcycles for the summer months.
Patrolman Traverse Grimm is ready for Motorcycle Duty
James Machholz climbs onto his motorcycle as George Clifford looks on. Machholz recalled, "We had those Bosch [radio] recievers on the handlebars. So, when you had an accident, that's where your head went. We didn't have any helmets. There was a big grasshopper plaque in 1936 - it was tough riding through those. After riding all summer, your face was brown/black except where your sunglasses were. You looked like an owl."
Motorcycles were two-cylinder Indian Model 74's, assigned mostly to single men. Wayne Ulm recalled, "Those motorcycles had trouble chasing cars down gravel roads. The tires threw stones up in your face." Lymane Case added, "I was on a gravel road once and never went back - it just about shook me to pieces. I'll never forget riding in the rain on that thing - it was just like sleet hitting you in the face.
From left to right: Troopers Steven Heckenbach, Joseph Meola, Michael Gilbert, Robert Alles, and Gary Hoskin.
Today, one of the 1935 Motors is on display in the Iowa State Patrol Headquarters Lobby.