MARION — Larry Hoffman will never forget his first bicycle.
The year was 1948. A trip to Hebron, Neb., led to the purchase of a 1943 U.S. Army bicycle.
“My dad bought it in a junkyard after World War II,” Hoffman says.
While the U.S. Army had used bicycles before World War II, they weren’t standardized for procurement before 1942. Often used by messengers on military bases and camps, there was a surplus of military bicycles when the war ended in 1945.
The same can’t be said today.
“A bike like this is very, very, very, very rare,” says Keith Post, owner of Uncle Stan’s Military Surplus in Marion.
Hoffman rode the bike as a child — even painting it red so the bike looked more like his and less like Uncle Sam’s. When Hoffman moved to Iowa as an adult, the bike came, too, but was put in storage for 35 years or so.
Hoffman sold the bicycle, which was made by Columbia, to Post last year.
At first, Post wasn’t interested.
“He didn’t want a red bike,” Hoffman says with a laugh.
A deal was made, though, and the bike became Post’s. He sent it to Alan Berger of Bergerwerke Bicycle in Antigo, Wis., for an overhaul.
Berger, who has extensive knowledge of military vehicles and more than 25 years of experience in bicycle mechanics and maintenance, regularly supplies restored vintage bicycles to public and private entities, including the movie “The Monuments Men,” starring George Clooney and Matt Damon.
According to the Bergerwerke Bicycle’s website, Bergerwerke Bicycles G519 will be seen in the film, which is scheduled for release in December.
“I knew he was the one who could bring the bike back,” Post says.
Time, patience and more than $800 led to a thorough restoration.
“Everything is original, right down to the wooden pedals,” Post says.
Still, Post wasn’t prepared for how excited Berger would be about the project.
“Al wanted to buy it,” Post says. “He made several offers.”
Post says he promised to take him up on it if he comes across another World War II bicycle.
“I have a standing offer of $2,400, which is significantly less than what I paid Larry,” Post says.
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” Hoffman says with a laugh.
Joking aside, the two men have a similar look of awe as they study the bicycle, now on display at Uncle Stan’s.
“When Keith called to say it was here, it gave me goose bumps,” Hoffman says. “It’s something that’s been with me all my life.”“We’re pretty proud of it,” Post says. “People just love to come in and see it.”