A milestone year

Doodle Bug Club of America plans 35th reunion

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship Members of the Doodle Bug Club of America are gearing up for its 35th annual reunion next week. Organizers include, from the left, Don Nokes, Gerald Huisman, Jerry Wells, Vern Ratcliff, Cory Jorgensen and Jim Juon, brought their Doodle Bug scooters to Wilson Brewer Park as they get ready for other enthusiasts to arrive in Webster City for the reunion.

They gather every September to share their enthusiasm for a little red scooter and celebrate by spending time swapping stories, catching up with old friends and going for rides.

The Doodle Bug Club of America will once again host its annual reunion for enthusiasts of the iconic red scooters once built in Webster City. The group will gather Sept. 15 through 18 in Webster City and will headquarter at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds.

“From all of the calls we’ve been getting, this is going to be a big reunion,” said Jerry Wells, one of the local organizers. “Everybody is looking for a lot of fun and someplace to get out and just ride.”

The Doodle Bug motor scooter was built from 1946 to 1948 by the Beam Manufacturing Company in Webster City. They were sold through the Gambles Stores. The small inexpensive scooters were sold for as little as $69.95, according to the Doodle Bug Club of America’s website. As many as 40,000 units were manufactured in the two-year time production run. The little red scooters are now prized by collectors and club members believe there may be as few as 1,000 in existence today.

The specially-made Webster City product marks the 75th anniversary of its production this year and the club members said that’s a great reason to celebrate.

Jim Juon sits atop his Lighting Bug — a scooter that features an electric motor. Juon is one of the organizers of the Doodle Bug reunion planned for Sept. 15-18 in Webster City.

This year also marks a milestone for the club — 2021 is the 35th year for the annual reunion.

The organization boasts members from more than 35 states across the country. Throughout the reunion, members catch up, reminisce on their childhood memories of the scooter, and most importantly, take their prized possessions for rides around the community.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 club organizers decided the best thing to do would be to cancel the event for the safety of all involved. So on Aug. 10, the group announced that there

would be no reunion in 2020. But that didn’t stop some diehard Doodle Bug fans from traveling to Webster City. Doodle Bug owners set up campers and tents at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds for an unofficial gathering. Scooter enthusiasts pulled into the fairgrounds from Nebraska, Minnesota and even California. A total of 40 people from 7 states attended the unofficial reunion.

“The first reunion was held in 1987,” according to Vern Ratcliff. “And it would have never started if it wasn’t for the Kendall Young Library having a drawer full of information about industries and businesses.”

Jerry Wells and Vern Ratcliff talk about the Doodle Bug Club of America’s first reunion held in 1987. There were five scooters on display at that event. Since then, the reunion has continued to grow and attendees from more than 35 states are expected to descend upon Webster City next week.

In that drawer, he found the names of three people who had researched the Doodle Bug and had left their names and phone numbers. Ratcliff reached out to Bill Moore of Mason City. The two compared notes and research. After much discussion, they organized the Doodle Bug Club of America.

At the first reunion, there were just five scooters on display, according to Ratcliff. But that number has continued to grow each year.

The organizers have a full slate of activities planned for the attendees including visits to local restaurants, tours of the area parks and attractions and of course, rides around town.

“Wednesday afternoon we’re going to go out to Briggs Woods Trail,” said Gerald Huisman, another local organizer. “Thursday we have an option of touring Seneca Foundry or going for a ride. Friday, we have a coffee at the Wilson Brewer Park and that afternoon, we’ll ride to the airport.”

On Friday night, the attendees and the public are invited to a Pork Burger Meal at the fairgrounds, prepared by the Webster City FFA. The meal includes a pork burger, baked beans, potato salad and beverage for $5. The meal will be served from 5 to 7 p.m.

Jerry Wells and Gerald Huisman’s scooters feature customized license plates that they say reflect their enthusiasm for the iconic scooter. Well’s plate says “14Again,” while Huisman’s plate proclaims it is a “Fun Bug.”

“That’s open to the public and all proceeds go to the FFA,” Huisman said.

Huisman and Wells also encouraged the public to come out and visit with the Doodle Bug owners during the weekend to learn more about the scooters.


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