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The Deeley Family’s Role In Our Love Affair With The Motorcycle

Team-Photo-in-Calgary

by Stevie Wilson | Unless you’re an avid rider or collector, Vancouver’s homegrown connection to the world of motorcycles might come as a surprise. Our city’s storied past with the two-wheeled transport has been a point of pride for many riders over the years, and it’s largely thanks to three generations of one industrious local family: the Deeleys.

In 1914, British ex-pat Fred Deeley Sr. opened a small bicycle store at 1075 Granville Street under the quant moniker, “Fred Deeley – The Cycle Man”. Two years later he began to import motorcycles from the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA), and in 1917 he brought in the brand that the family is so well-known for today: Harley-Davidson. Following the success of this shop, he expanded the motorcycle business into a separate venture in 1925 and his son, Fred Deeley Jr., took over operations (in 1922, Fred Deeley Jr. was instrumental in founding the Lions Gate Motorcycle Club). By 1929, both shops were located along West Broadway, and business boomed.

Trevor-&-Vera-Deeley

In 1950 the shop moved to its iconic spot at 606 East Broadway, where it enjoyed 46 years of business before relocating to Boundary Road. Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, Fred Jr.’s son, Trevor Deeley, garnered his own popularity as a sponsored flat-track racer for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Racing across Canada and at legendary spots like Daytona Beach, the Vancouver-born “Trev” was the first Canadian to be awarded an expert plate – his ubiquitous #22 – by the American Motorcycle Association. His love of riding complemented his enthusiasm for the evolving bike technologies of the time, so it came as no surprise when he was hired to be the General Manager for his father’s company in 1953.

Trev also served as a trainer for the newly established Vancouver Police Drill Team in 1954, and took part in their popular acrobatic and riding displays as a special civilian Constable. By this time, the Deeley name could be found all over the city; the Stanley Park Traffic School originally featured miniature pedal cars sponsored by Fred Deeley Ltd.

The company became the sole distributor of Harley-Davidson products in Canada in 1973 following Trev’s departure from an executive position at Yamaha, and subsequently evolved into Fred Deeley Imports—an homage to Trev’s father and grandfather. Trev was eager to cultivate relationships with their new network of dealerships, and two years later he, his business partner Don James, and their wives famously set out on a cross-Canada ride to visit each location.

Throughout his career as a racer and retailer Trev also collected motorcycles, many of which are now on display at the Deeley Exhibition inside their large flagship store at 1875 Boundary. The collection, which also shares a little of Trev’s own racing history, is open to the public and well worth a look. From vintage models to Hollywood icons (my personal favorite is the 1978 Triumph Bonneville), it’s an impressive showcase of evolving design and tastes—and it’s only a fragment of the huge collection.

Apart from his status as a legendary racer, Trev and his wife Joyce are remembered as local philanthropists, particularly for their generous contributions to the BC Cancer Foundation and their Daring To Believe campaign. Following his passing in 2002, a large portion of his estate was used to fund the Trev & Joyce Deeley Research Centre at the BC Cancer Agency.

While the allure of motorcycles in Vancouver proper has waxed and waned over the last several decades (condos don’t have garages), GM Darwin Osarchuk confidently notes that those who want to hit the open road still find a way. From re-vamped old-school Harley designs to impressive state of the art touring models, there’s still a huge market for something that was once seen as a passing trend. They’re a proud bunch of enthusiasts over at Trev Deeley Motorcycles; after all, as Osarchuk observes, “What other ‘fad’ has lasted over 100 years?”

Special thanks to Sean Wilkinson, Darwin Osarchuck, and Sam Villanueva at Trev Deeley Motorcycles. Calgary photos courtesy of Greg Williamson.

  • VPD Stunt Riders at the Beatty Street Grounds, 1937 (CVA 99-4501)
    VPD Stunt Riders at the Beatty Street Grounds, 1937 (CVA 99-4501)
  • Trunk From Stanley Park Traffic School Vehicle
    Trunk From Stanley Park Traffic School Vehicle
  • Trevor & Vera Deeley
    Trevor & Vera Deeley
  • Trev Deeley
    Trev Deeley
  • Trev Deeley in Calgary
    Trev Deeley in Calgary
  • Trev Deeley Award
    Trev Deeley Award
  • Traffic School Sponsored by Fred Deeley Ltd, 1961 (VPL 85769PP)
    Traffic School Sponsored by Fred Deeley Ltd, 1961 (VPL 85769PP)
  • Fred Deeley Motorcycle Club, 1924 (VPL 48510)
    Fred Deeley Motorcycle Club, 1924 (VPL 48510)
  • Traffic School in Stanley Park, 1961 (VPL 85769O)
    Traffic School in Stanley Park, 1961 (VPL 85769O)
  • Tiny Harley Replica
    Tiny Harley Replica
  • Team Photo in Calgary
    Team Photo in Calgary
  • Serious Gear
    Serious Gear
  • Pedal Car Races at Stanley Park (n.d.)
    Pedal Car Races at Stanley Park (n.d.)
  • Mechanic (n.d.)
    Mechanic (n.d.)
  • Harley-Davidson Nostalgia
    Harley-Davidson Nostalgia
  • Front Entrance
    Front Entrance
  • Fred Deeley Staff at 915 West Broadway Location (1948)
    Fred Deeley Staff at 915 West Broadway Location (1948)
  • Fred Deeley Sr., 1957  (VPL 60164)
    Fred Deeley Sr., 1957 (VPL 60164)
  • Fred Deeley Ltd
    Fred Deeley Ltd
  • Fred Deeley Ltd. Celebrates the Grey Cup (n.d.)
    Fred Deeley Ltd. Celebrates the Grey Cup (n.d.)
  • Fred Deeley _The Cycle Man_ at 418 West Broadway (1926)
  • Detail
    Detail
  • Deeley Mechanic (n.d.)
    Deeley Mechanic (n.d.)
  • Deeley Awards & Paraphernalia
    Deeley Awards & Paraphernalia
  • Classics Harley-Davidson Detail
    Classics Harley-Davidson Detail
  • 1978 Triumph Bonneville - Really Cool
    1978 Triumph Bonneville - Really Cool
  • 1929 Harley-Davidson DL
    1929 Harley-Davidson DL

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