San Diego Scootering History

A Kate Sessions afternoon in the late 80′s.

From The Che Underground:

(Answers/Manual Scan/I Spy bassist Tony Suarez talks scooters with some help from the Cyndie Jaynes Collectionof photos.)

Scooters — Vespas and Lambrettas in particular — were primary transport for many mods and punk kids even before the appearance of the Who movie “Quadrophenia” in late 1979. They were cheap and plentiful. You had three places to buy them (Vespa at the Beaches, Vespa of San Diego, Moped Mama). They showed up in the Reader Classifieds on the cheap.

Bart Mendoza relates that there were a few mods already in circulation by 1979. Dean Curtis, Kristine and James Harrell, Dennis Borlek, and Steve Medico were early adopters, and the movie just added to the interest.

These photos of San Diego mods and scooterists at Ski Beach in Mission Bay date from around 1984:

From left: Bo Courtney, Keona, Dusty Sims, Gary Reyes, unidentified.

Both Kevin Ring and Bart Mendoza of Manual Scan rode scooters as their only source of transportation. I even remember Bart transporting a small amp on his Vespa! (Just once, though, as I was a reluctant roadie and bass player during my tenure.)

Dave Anderson (drummer for 15 bands) bought a Vespa 90 in 1983 while we were still at Madison. Lunch time was spent going to the Anderson house and raiding the family snacks. I remember hanging out at Dave’s in the spring of 1983 and goofing off with Bert Huerta and Darren Grealishafter school when they’d ride down from Mira Mesa.

I met many of the scooter guys I had seen atHeadquarters, Presidio Park and Ski Beach, and when I played in Manual Scan from 1983-’84. It was a easy and cheap transportation option and while they weren’t as practical for many of the musicians on the scene. For the rest of those who did hang out, they were part of the deal. You didn’t need a scooter to hang out, it just helped get you there.

From left: Steve Griggs; Dave Dubiner; Sofie (now a prosecutor for the San Diego county courts); Dusty Sims in the background.

My chance to own one came from Secret Society Scooter Club member Mike Rice, when I needed wheels to go to State in the fall of 1984. I bought a 1962 Vespa GS Mark 1. Four motors, two paint jobs and 24 years later I still own the scooter.

By the time many of the events of that we chronicle here on the blog (1983-’87), scootering had changed significantly. More kids bought their P200s new. The Mod thing had blown up and gone … well, mainstream. Vespa USA had forsaken the American market due to more restrictive laws banning two-stroke engines in California. Vespa of San Diego closed, and Fabio Ballarin, one of their mechanics, had branched out and serviced bikes on his own (first with Vince Mross in a garage off of Fairmont Ave and later at 2525 University Ave).

Fabio was the key ingredient in keeping Vespas alive through the ’80s and ’90s as he had started a mail order business (Vespa Super Shop) and more importantly he started to import some of the first speed equipment upgrades that were available to the UK and Italian markets. You could get a Polini pipe or Mallossi cylinder kit or Disc Brake kit for your P200.

Under the arch at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park.

Vince Mross, brother of Che blogger Sean McMullen, serviced Lambrettas from all over the US and was the main source for all things Lambretta for years, running his mailorder and repair shop in Rolando (just west of La Mesa) up until its sale a year and a half ago. He was instrumental in updating the electrics, and performance for Lambrettas. Even to go as far as setting a racing season in the ’90s.

Several of us (including contributor Barney Firks) joined scooter clubs. Secret Society Scooter club started in September of 1983 and met at Presidio Park on Sunday nights. The club organized rides to many of the shows that were mentioned and featured in the flyers section. We held a few of our own at Adams Avenue Theater, Club 2581 and JP’s and helped Bart sponsor and run his new sounds of the 6t’s calvalcade of bands at whatever location would have us. Sundays were sacred and a time to leave the girlfriends at home.

Our man Steve Dietz on his bike showing a clear distain for the posted ” do not block gas pumps ” , by blocking said pumps with a smile on his face . This picture was taken at the first annual Nightstalkers Christmas toy drive.

Ski Beach was also the hangout for many a bored teenager/scooterist in the summers of 1984-1988. You could hang out in the day for the scooter ride to what ever event. But if it was a slow weekend, you hung out at night and perhaps, rumbled with the dirtheads/lifted truck/East County folk (see Dave Rinck’s account). But I’ll leave that for another entry.

– Tony Suarez

  1. I owned a 1980 P200 and hung out with the SD Mod’s and Secret society. What a great article.

  2. anthony says:

    I remember it well. It was best time of my life. San Diego was awesome: The weather, the scooter scene.

    I went to my first rally at JP’s. I did not have a scoot at that time, and it blew my mind. It was the first time I got exposed to the full scene — unforgettable. I met people from Vista, Los Angeles, Orange County who rode down on scoots. It just got me more into it.

    At that time I was 16 or 17. Now im 45. I still love the music. Unfortunately, scooter politcs has made some into enemies. There were some who were nobodys back then and think they’re somebodys now. But they’re too late. The time was then — an awesome time that can’t be relived.

    But I enjoyed all the really cool friendships that came out of it, and I liked the adventure. Those scooters took us to places and just opened a whole new world to us. But the funny thing is, they always broke down — ha ha ha ha. That was part of the deal. But when they were running right, it was ecstasy. The girls used to scream at us like we wre rock stars. I mean people really tripped out on us. It was really cool.

  3. Ron Masters says:

    I’m still in touch with Dusty Sims. We met in late 1983 when we were burglar alarm installers. I used to hang out with him and Mark Stolinovich at that english pub down town. Can’t remember the name? Went to a few shows with Secret Society Scooter club on the back of Dusty’s silver gray P200. One night I was taking a leak before a Bad Manors show and bumped into Buster Bloodvessel shaving his head in the sink. Good times.

  4. Arthur hayburn says:

    Hi I live in dundee Scotland I own a 1964series 2 winter model lambretta I am in a scooter club here called the a 92 vespa club u can c us on u tube I was a mod way back in the seventies never left me now I am 57 back into it I will b in San Diego between16th to 20th January 2016 would b good to meet up with some one from club

  5. Jason Fletcher says:

    I just saw a sweet lambretta in lakeside yesterday and the rider had a sec-soc jacket on. My now wife and and l used to go to rallies w both clubs. We still have our running p-200e and wondered if you guys were still around. My scoot was hunter green w “skaguy” as the plate. I remember the toy drive. I think there was a gal who broke her clutch cable. At the time, I was the only one old enough to buy booze and amyl nitrate. Fun times!

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