The feeling of freedom: Naples love affair with Harley-Davidson by Lois Bolin, Ph.D., Old Naples Historian
Once upon a time, the purpose of marketing was simple: create customers. Today, that purpose is more to create repeat customers by building relationships through brand identification, that special association that gives a customer a certain feeling to go along with an image.
For more than 111 years, the folks at Harley-Davidson have known they don’t sell motorcycles. They’ve always known that motorcycles were just one part of an equation, a co-authored feeling of freedom of the open road and an image of belonging to a special kind of family. The brand’s roots began in 1901, when William S. Harley, at age 21, drew plans for a small engine (7.07 cubic inches) made for a regular bicycle frame. He and his childhood friend Arthur Davidson launched a prototype contraption in 1903, but they were unable to defeat even Milwaukee’s smallest hills without pedaling.
Their second-generation machine had a 24.74-cubic-inch engine that took the boys from the motorized-bicycle era to the first modern motorcycle, with a little help from a neighbor and outboard motor pioneer, Ole Evinrude. On September 8, 1904, Harley-Davidson motorcycle made history with its inaugural entry in a Milwaukee motorcycle race held at the State Fair Park, placing a very honorable fourth. Even with America’s love affair with the Harley-Davidson, the brand has had its share of ups and downs. But thanks to the Harley-Davidson police and fleet division, which came along before the commercially produced “Hogs,” policemen were cruising the streets to keep America safe and the H-D brand alive and well, even in Collier County.
Harleys On Patrol
Barron Gift Collier established the Southwest Mounted Police, now known as Collier County Sheriff ’s Office deputies, in 1928, after the completion of the Tamiami Trail. This just so happened to
coincide with another milestone: the first Collier County jail. Assigned to stations five to 10 miles apart, six Southwest Mounted Police officers constituted the beginning of an elite division. Their assignment was a delicate balance between a “welcome wagon and paddy wagon,” as they were to patrol the newly opened bumpy limestone highway, “assisting motorists, spreading goodwill, enforcing traffic laws, catching poachers and intercepting moonshine.”
The officers’ Harley-Davidson motorcycles no doubt let them enjoy the freedom of the road (as well as the breeze, which must have been a welcome feeling as it penetrated their wool uniforms). In 2009, Thomas Smith, a retired captain of the CCSO said, “For years, the members of the Southwest Mounted Police were thought to be one of Barron Gift Collier’s private police forces.” In 1990, however, documents were discovered confirming that, even though the officers started their careers as “Collier’s men,” within a few weeks of the Trail’s opening, then-Collier County Sheriff
W.R. Maynard approached the county’s new commissioners with a plan to deputize the officers and remove the possibility of conflict of interest between the sheriff ’s office and Mr. Collier. Even after they were deputized, however, the law-enforcement men on motorcycles continued to go by the name of their private assignment — the Southwest Mounted Police. In 1991, those who had died along the Tamiami Trail were added to the CCSO Memorial and to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Deputy W.D. Richardson of the Paolita Station (the last station before the Dade County line) was killed in the line of duty on December 14, 1928, when his Harley-Davidson struck a bridge.
Deputy William Irwin of the Monroe Station was only 60 days into his career when he was killed in the line of duty on January 20, 1929, when a motorcar struck his motorcycle in heavy fog.
On any given day, you can see Harleys in action in Naples. From our current mounted officers to Patriot Guard Riders to local community steward such as easy riders, Mike Randall, Fallen
Officers Foundation or County Commissioner Rick LoCastro –who all understand the feeling that a Harley-Davidson provides: the feeling of freedom.
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