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Myles Raymond
Myles Raymond
Glasgow, Scotland
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As I was packing up all my Brit bike tools today, I started thinking about my life and work back in 1971 when most of those tools were purchased. And one person in particular, Rudolph "Kemp" Hanes, kept coming to mind. Kemp was about 55 when I met him. A quiet man that worked on the corner motorcycle lift.

In May of 2004 I wrote this article for the GABMA newsletter about Kemp. I'm going to post it here for everyone to enjoy. Every word is true, there were 4 other witnesses. You can take it any way you want.


My Friend, Kemp Hanes

Back in 1971 while working at Atlanta M/C Sales, I had this strobe-timing lamp that required you to hook the sense line directly onto the plug wire. A spring connected to the spark plug top, and then the spring went up into the plug cap. Then you clipped a lead from the strobe lamp onto the spring. It was a poorly designed system and I was always getting zapped with the exposed high voltage. I hated using it, but it was all I had.

Well, I worked with this 50-something master Triumph mechanic named Kemp Hanes. Now Kemp kept pretty much to himself and probably never said more than 25 words a day. One day as I tuned a TR6, the spring fell off the spark plug and Kemp was amused that I stopped the bike to reconnect the lead. When it happened again and he quietly walked over and reconnected the plug wire without a perceptible sign of being shocked. He absolutely showed no sign of discomfort at having spark plug voltage run through his hands.

Having been shocked several times by coils and magnetos, I was amazed that anyone could stand the feel of high voltage and said so. Several of the other mechanics came over to see. That was all it took; Kemp knew just how to play up to an audience. He grabbed the plug wire from the running bike in his left hand, and then touched the top of the spark plug with his right. The bike idled along smoothly. One of the other mechanics complained that it wasn’t really running though his arms, so he touched his finger to the cylinder head, and it stopped running on that cylinder. We were all awe-struck as we watched him disconnect and reconnect his right hand to the spark plug with the same result. The crowd of mechanics all bent in close to get a better view. We could not believe what we were seeing. Kemp then pulled his finger away from the spark plug about 1/4 inch and let the bright yellow arc visibly jump from his finger tip to the top of the plug. You could hear the arc; it made an unmistakable crisp snapping sound to emphasize its power. I know my eyes were as big as saucers at the sight and sound of this. I was ready to rank this guy right up there with Superman!

That’s when one of the youngest guys, an uppity Suzuki mechanic, who was eyeballing the arc in close, made a remark about how the power of the spark was being diminished some how. Some doubting Thomas comment about how the electricity wasn’t full voltage because Kemp’s torso was in the circuit. Kemp never missed a beat. He simply reached over and grabbed the boy’s ear lobe. I never in my life saw someone take to dancing so fast. The young man looked like one of those marionettes on the end of wooden sticks you see at the craft shows. Hands, arms and legs all headed in 14 different directions at once. And such howling and whooping as you never heard before! Kemp let him dance for a good while to allow a full measure of time in which to gauge the level of that "diminished voltage". Finally the bike refused to idle on 1 cylinder any longer and quit. Not one second too soon for the young mechanic, but enough for the smiling Kemp Hanes to have made his point.

Kemp quietly walked back over to his corner and resumed his work. No more comments about diminished voltage were ever heard from the Suzuki corner. And on that day I first realized Kemp and I were going to be great friends.


Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!

RF Whatley
NE Georgia, USA
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I had a friend like that who believe it or not ended up being an auto electrician.
It is all about the conductivity of the top layer of your skincomparred to the resistance of the path through the skin
so the power flows over the skin not through it.
Al's big party trick was to start pulling the plug leads of his SV V8 one at a time then throw a massive series of sparks between the radiator and a part unique to the male anatomy around the same height.
He had a funny sense of humour & I learned very early on to stand well back when he was performing.
And yes a large quantity of beer was usually consumed before hand .

And FWIW 12V is just lower than the specific resistance of dry human skin which is why the automotive industry standardized on a 12 V electrical system


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RF, Good story, and I can understand the state of mind. I expect the process you are going through, moving out a large volume of “Metal Memories” has to be faced, but with a significant pull back to times gone by. Bittersweet.
I’m having quite a bit of melancholy myself recently as I push forward with a reality I’d easily forego. I have Tools made in a small basement shop by an old genuine article. Not shiny or factory, but answered the need I had. He’s gone, and I hate to have his efforts go unappreciated. It’s a strange sentimental feeling of loyalty to the man, and I expect he’d dismiss the emotion with a wave himself. Your tools, are metal remnants of past experiences. You know you can’t pass the feeling along with them, but it’s the best you can do to keep them useful as intended.


Down to 1 BSA, 2 Triumphs, 1 '56 Chevy
1 '65 XLCH, Hernia Gift, on the way to Japan!
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The Triumph shop I worked at was smack-dab in downtown Atlanta. "Hot-lanta". "In the shadow of the Capitol dome" it said on the business cards.

Kemp had 3 or 4 shop rules, but the most important was this... when the time-temp bank sign across the street showed 93°, it was time to knock off and go get a 6-pack. The showroom was air conditioned, but the shop wasn't. All we had was some big pedestal fans to move the hot air around. So when it was 93° on the sign, it was 93° in the shop... too hot to turn a wrench.

The shop was an converted car wash. One of those with the long hall outfitted with glass windows so you could watch your car being washed. Except now the customers could see the mechanics work on their bikes. So we had to hide the beer by wrapping the bottles in shop rags. Let me tell you, beer tastes even better when it's wrapped in a red shop rag !! And there we'd sit on our rolling mechanics stools, all in a circle like we were doing something really important, and discretely drink beer until 5PM.

The owner had sworn-off alcohol, so Kemp had another rule. We couldn't put the empty cans in the garbage without being discovered. So we'd toss the empties up onto the roof. It was a low slung, flat roofed building and was an easy toss. No one ever went up on the roof, and we thought that was the safest place. One afternoon some heavy rain showed up with gusty wind. Ten plus customers and sales staff were all looking out the front showroom windows marveling at the rain, when all of a sudden an avalanche of beer cans can pouring off the roof ! "No, sir. Absolutely not. We don't know anything about beer cans on the roof."

At 5PM we had to roll all the motorcycles from the "corral" back into the shop to lock up. Everybody helped. That was easy work. The hard part was getting 50 motorcycles back out in the morning. There was no space to turn them around, so in the AM we had to push them out in reverse. After 7 years of daily practice, I could roll a bike backwards faster and better than going forward. The skills you learn !

Kemp had another rule: Absolutely No Music. One day a new mechanic showed up and put his radio on a music station. We told him, "that's got to be turned OFF when Kemp gets here." He didn't believe us. Kemp came in, opened up his tool box. We didn't say anything, we simply knew to watch. Kemp took out a pair of diagonal cutters and without saying a word walked over to the radio. In a shower of sparks, he cut the power cord right flush with the back of the radio. He never said a thing, simply turned and walked back to his work area. That turned the radio OFF.

It was the best of times.


Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!

RF Whatley
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RF, it was the likes of your friend that used to make the motor trade what it was. Most of those guys were on their way out when I started serving my time. I used to pick up cars from local garages around Portsmouth and Southsea ( England's South Coast ) and take them back to our workshop for MOT tests. I'm not a loud sort of person so I would wait quietly for the old mechanics to finish what they were doing. I learnt a great deal from watching and occasionally someone would call me over and point something out or explain what they were doing. They were good guys and always happy to teach someone who wanted to learn.


And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth'

An interesting point given recent events.


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