I had admired and written about Dot Robinson well before I was invited to join the Motor Maids, but I wasn’t familiar with her father’s work until very recently. Dot was the daughter of James Goulding, founder of the Goulding Sidecar Mfg. Co. The business opened in Australia where he’d lived since age 4, and later was moved to the U.S. where it continued to turn out sidecars until 1956.
ames Goulding was born 25 Jan., 1885 in Carlisle, England, and died 1 September, 1967. He is buried in Roselawn Cemetery in Saginaw, Michigan. He married Mary Olive Ratford in 1910, and the couple had three children: Claude b. 3-26-1915 and died 10-6-2009; Dorothy “Dot” b. in Australia on 22 April, 1922 and died 8 Oct., 1999; and Edna.
James Goulding started making side cars in 1910, and patent books contain numerous patents granted to him for the improvement of the sidecar through the years. [Please see separate blog post for summary of the 1923 patent].
1,303,791 – Patented – 13 MAY 1919, For “Side Car Attachment To Motor Bicycles.”
1,372,418 – Patented – 22 MAR 1921, For “Side Car Attachment To Motor Driven Cycles.”
1,468,201 – Patented – 18 SEP 1923, For “Side Car Chassis.”
The sidecars were introduced in the U.S. in 1920 and advertisements for them are found in the early cycling magazines. “Get a Goulding Sidecar and have company when you go motorcycling. Remarkably easy to handle. “ The address was 306 Mackinaw, Saginaw, MI. Perhaps the best advertisement for the sidecars was loading his pregnant wife into one and driving her to the hospital when Dot was born.
James Goulding eventually owned a motorcycle dealership which was purchased by his daughter, Dot, and her husband, Earl Robinson. Arthur Davidson of Harley Davidson encouraged the couple to make the purchase and during the difficult days of the Depression loaned them $3,000. to get started.
Earl began riding in 1928 and started to work for James Goulding in the same year. Earl was managing the dealership by the following year. In 1931, Earl married the boss’s daughter, Dot, and in 1932 bought his father-in-law’s business.
In 1935, he set a record for the fastest time from New York to Los Angeles in 77 hours and 55 minutes, and only days later he and Dot set another record for speed with a sidecar, returning to New York in 89 hours and 58 minutes. He continued to operate the shop in Saginaw until 1936 while competing extensively. He won so many races he was called, “one of the best all-round riders on the North American continent”. Together he and Dot were thought of as, “one of the most famous husband-wife teams in motorcycling history”.
By the time Earl retired from racing he’d claimed hundreds of trophies, all taken while riding Harley Davidsons.
In 1936, Earl opened the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Co. in Detroit with a partner whom he bought out 10 years later in 1946. Dot worked as a motorcycle courier for a defense contractor during part of WWII and then the Robinsons operated the Detroit dealership until 1972 when they retired to Florida. Earl’s accomplishments were outlined in the Nov. 1996 issue of The American Motorcyclist following his death.
Dot was no stranger to record setting either, having ridden in 30 500-mile endurance runs (with and without the sidecar) as well as countless other events. She was the first woman to compete in the Jack Pine Motorcycle Run. In 1936, she was the leader of a three-person team that won the sidecar division of the 500-mile trek through the wilderness of Michigan. She was the co-founder of the Motor Maids, chartered in 1940, and served as President for some 25 years.
Given the couple owned a Harley Davidson dealership, understandably Dot rode Harleys throughout her career, some 35 of them. In the 1950’s she started wearing pink riding attire, and even some of her bikes were pink. According to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum she shunned the usual black leathers because she wasn’t comfortable with the way bikers were portrayed in the movies.
The revolutionary new Harley Davidson dealership in Detroit was in a prime location, easily and quickly accessible from anywhere in the city, advertised as a fireproof building to encourage owners to leave their machines in their capable hands for repairs, and received high praise for show and convenience. Both hot coffee and tea were offered to customers, “at all times”.
From the picturesque flowers blooming in the most appropriate places; from the most modern glass-topped offices to the eye-appealing display of both new and used machines, and the showing of about every imaginable sort of accessory attached to framed-in display boards; the showroom of this new place of business is undoubtedly one which must be seen to be appreciated.
The couple were said to be very deserving, “of everything they have; which they have earned through much privation and endless hours of strenuous labor”. Both Dot and Earl were continually mentioned in the world of motorcycling for winning countless awards and accolades over the years for races and endurance events. Dot was known for doing so in a ladylike fashion and in a manner she felt brought positive attention to the business and to the Motor Maids. She estimated that during her lifetime she had ridden some million and a half miles.
Earl passed away at the age of 88. Dot was 87 when she died of heart failure. She rode her motorcycle up until age 85 when she had a knee replacement and back problems that prevented her from riding. Her service was held at the Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Orlando where she’d been a member.
The Goulding descendants continue the motorcycle tradition. Claude Goulding’s son has written a book about his grandfather’s exploits with manufacturing the sidecars and the family’s motorcycling history, and Dot Goulding Robinson’s daughter, Betty Fauls, also a Motor Maid, has been riding for an amazing 57 years. In addition to her own 2003 HD Softail with a Hannigan Classic Sidecar, she also has her mom’s bike, a pink 1994 Harley Ultra Classic.
Betty certainly follows in her mother’s footsteps in being a good will ambassador for Motor Maids and encouraging lady riders, but she’s also broken some stereotypes of her own.
She and husband, Herbert, renewed their wedding vows after 52 years of marriage, at Orlando Harley Davidson where they were joined by couples traveling from as far away as England, Scotland, and Canada in an attempt to set a new Guinness world record for the most couples participating in such an event.
Amazingly, at the age of 78 she was power lifting weights for competition in an Orlando gym! Ladies – those are some mighty big shoes to fill! Ride safe, vrumblesramblingbikerblog.wordpress.com
Sources: American Motorcyclist. May 1955. Obituaries. Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum website. http://motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?RacerID=78 The Motor Maids website. www.motormaids.org. Articles from the Orlando Sentinel and other Florida newspapers. For more photos please see http://www.gouldingsidecars.com/Home.html The American Motorcyclist. Nov. 1996.