I got a brand-new bike August, 1968. I was 13 years old.

The bike I had been riding was a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of spare parts, which came from the Benner Boys bicycle shop on Rawson Avenue in Camden. It had a back fender on front and was a strange brown color. It was a rugged bike but odd looking, especially in 1968 when Schwinn Sting-Ray bikes were all the rage.

A new feature on the Sting-Ray was a giant stick shift mounted on the cross bar to go with the racing slick rear tire. Schwinn was following the muscle car/drag race trend in the auto world. The gear shift appeared on a version of the Sting-Ray called the Fast Back, which also had a slimmer frame and thinner tires.

I had seen all the new Schwinn bikes around town. I liked the heavy frame and big racing slicks on the standard Sting-Ray, but wanted the stick shift that came on the Fast Back. Somewhere I saw both come together; it was the Schwinn 5 Speed Sting-Ray.

This bike was rare.

There were none around Rockland. I do not know how it came to pass, but my father located one at Martha’s Gift & Toy Shop in North Plymouth, Mass. There it was in a beautiful color called CAMPUS GREEN. I still have the receipt for $74.11, tax included.

When I brought it home, there was nothing like it in Rockland. The whole time I rode it as a kid, there never was.

There were other variations of the Sting-Ray, but not the same model. The beautiful color made me forget the brown bomber.

I got very good at doing wheelies on it. In fact, I could ride the distance between telephone poles on only the back wheel with ease. I would ride down Rankin Street at scary speeds. I would ride all over town with my friends.

When I outgrew my bike riding days, the Sting-Ray went in to the garage on Lawn Avenue and was surrounded by furniture and clutter. It sat entombed for 46 years until the time came to begin the process of readying the house for sale.

We started on the garage, which was packed. Only a small path ran through the clutter between the outside door and the kitchen door. As we dug through the pile, I kept looking for a glimpse of campus green or chrome.

Finally on the third foray, I caught a glimpse of the handlebars. There it was. I pulled it free and out into the light. Two flat tires, rusty rims, unhooked brake cables, but all there in one piece.

I just stared at it… for a long time.

Then I remembered that Danny Hickey of Western Auto in Lincolnville collected Schwinn bikes. I called and left him a message, then texted photos. He was back to me in an instant with an offer to buy it.

Not knowing what I wanted to do for sure, he and I settled on a starting point. He would clean it up and get it working; I would either pay him for the restoration or sell it to him.

Danny was the right person for the job. He polished all the chrome, getting rid of all the rust. He found new old stock brake pads, relined the brake cables and got correct reproduction tires. Then he posted it on Facebook with the story of my “Survivor Sting-Ray.” It looked awesome. I gladly paid Danny for his fine work.

I was keeping this bike.

After riding it for the first time in 50 years, I took the Sting-Ray downtown to get a tune up. As I wheeled it to the bike shop, everything stopped. Before I could open my mouth, someone asked me if I wanted to sell it. I noted their offer, but estimated it must be worth much more (the internet confirms my suspicions). I got a tune up plus a secret modification.

No one will ever know…

You may see me riding a green Sting-Ray bike around Rockland.

These days I keep both wheels on the ground.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Sting-Ray at the Grass Ranch. Photo by Glenn Billington