SARASOTA – A day is fast approaching that a Suncoast man has been avoiding for a long time. At the end of this month, 90-year-old motorcycle technician Kenny Clark will retire.
Most people retire at 65. For Kenny Clark, that was 25 years ago. And he has been working at one job all these years. When he started at Hap's Cycle Sales, Harry Truman was president, and gas cost 17 cents a gallon.
For 64 years, Clark has roared into Hap's Cycle Sales every day to work on motorcycles. "I still like what I'm doing, I enjoy working here with all the guys here….they’re great people to work with."
He arrived on his motorcycle from Illinois in 1949 and soon went to work at Hap Poneleit's new motorcycle repair shop. "He started paying me at $12 a week, which was enough for my room and board."
Hap’s son Robert, now GM at Hap's Cycle Sales, says motorcycles weren't real big in Sarasota back then. "In 1948 in Sarasota County there was one motorcycle registered, and in Manatee County there was two motorcycles registered."
But Hap and Kenny could make the engines purr. "He and my father together had motorcycle magic. They had technical skills beyond the other guys locally."
Kenny became a star in the motorcycle world. "He was a famous race rider when he was younger, then got into building race motors, and that was his forte, to build those engines real fast."
He and Hap built the fastest racing motorcycles around. "We actually dominated back in the old days. Uncle Kenny built a Harley Davidson motorcycle out of our dealership that had the name of ‘Old 97’, and that machine never lost a race," says Poneleit.
And when motorcycles went high-tech, they didn't leave Kenny behind. He was right on top of it. “It's a constant learning process every day."
Kenny's son works alongside his dad. He's learned a lot from him. "The responsibility of a working type person, being to work on time, trying to do the right things in life, as far as making good decisions," says Ken Lee Clark.
Kenny has a lot to pass on to all of us. “The main thing is stick with it. Times sometimes get hard, you think about throwing in the towel. But if you just put that out of your mind and come to work and do your job, everything will turn out all right."
So why is Kenny retiring? He says he has a bucket list, things he's always wanted to do, and he wants to do those things while he still can. But he says he'll still be a frequent visitor at Hap’s, and he'll still be around to help out if they need him.
His last day will be March 29th.