Eastern Ontario, Ottawa HOG® 25th Anniversary
Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Chapter, Harley Owners Group: The Beginning ( Founding Director – Andrew Kasprzak )
In the great continuum of history, 25 years barely represents a tiny blip on the timeline of our past. Yet 1986, the year that marked the fledgling beginnings of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa H.O.G.®, could be described as the “Dark Ages” of motorcycling in Ottawa. In the early to mid 1980’s the local motorcycling climate, especially for Harley riders, was markedly different from what it is today. The Harley-Davidson media machine has done its job well. Today, Harley riders have become cultural icons, individuals to be admired or envied. Twenty five years ago, motorcyclists were ignored, barely tolerated, treated with suspicion or even feared. Organized riding groups were mainly limited to the criminal element (1 percenters) or perceived as being on the wrong side of the law. This was the atmosphere in which our chapter began its existence and struggled to grow.
So what precipitated the birth of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa H.O.G.®? Two events coincided to launch our group on its way.
The first was the arrival in Ottawa, in August 1982, of Andrew K., a young immigrant who arrived in Canada by way of Poland, Sweden and France. With him was his most prized possession – a vintage 1942 HD WLA “45”. Known in his native “Westman” – for his drive and determination to escape the oppressive Communist regime in Poland – Andrew had spent years enjoying camaraderie and motorcycling adventure throughout Europe with his fellow members of Harley-Davidson Club Warsaw, of which he was a founding member. He was stunned to discover that no similar group existed in Ottawa, that as a diehard “hog” rider new to the area, he found it almost impossible to find and meet like-minded riders.
The second event was the launch of the Harley Owners Group in 1983 by the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company. The birth of H.O.G.® flowed naturally from the purchase in 1981 of the American Machine and Foundry Company by 13 investors led by Willie G. Davidson and Vaughn Beals. With the new ownership came a new name, new ideas and new ways of doing things. H.O.G.® was the company’s response to a growing desire by a new breed of Harley riders for an organized way to share their passion and show their pride.
In the spring of 1983, Andrew attended a Harley-Davidson open house at Motosport Plus in Ottawa. There he met Barry Wilcox, a regional sales representative working for Fred Deeley Imports. Armed with posters introducing the new Harley Owners Group, Barry was recruiting members to join the organization. Andrew loved the concept. It sounded very much like the kind of experience he had enjoyed in Europe. Not only did he join H.O.G.®, he also promised Barry to recruit members locally and to organize rides and activities for those who signed up – mostly customers of and people affiliated with Motosport Plus.
For a long time, H.O.G.® remained totally silent. The chapter system as we know it today, didn’t exist. Despite the lack of information forthcoming, Andrew began organizing rides and activities with support from Motosport Plus. With no news from H.O.G.® after a year or more, Andrew began to wonder if the new group still existed. He sent a letter to then H.O.G.® president, Mark Cunningham, inquiring about the status of the group and its plans for members. Drawing upon his European experience of interconnected riding groups, he suggested H.O.G.® might consider creating “chapters” across North America and eventually further afield. Perhaps Andrew’s letter sparked an idea; H.O.G.® was already thinking along parallel lines. Whichever, a year later, in 1985 H.O.G.® announced a new chapter system and a developed a mechanism for registering chapters. The same year, Andrew submitted the necessary papers to register the Eastern Ontario – Ottawa group. In 1986, he received the formal charter for Canadian Chapter #9007. Among the first to join the new chapter were Irvine Martin (a former director), Jim Arsenault, Janet McSheffery, Peter Robinson and Earl Garfinkle.
Known as “Westman” in his native Polland, Andrew began restoring and riding vintage WWII Harleys in his teens. At 16, along with fellow college students, he founded Harley-Davidson Club Warsaw, a group that subsequently expanded to become Harley-Davidson Club Poland and is known today as Green Valley Chapter Harley Owners Group.
After his arrival in Canada in 1982 and with the onset of H.O.G.® in 1983, Andrew embraced the challenge of starting a local group in Ottawa. The group was formally registered with H.O.G.® Canada as Chapter #9007 in 1986. As well as serving as founding director, Andrew has served as Chapter Safety Officer and Historian. His rides of choice have been a 1942 HD WLA “45,a 1943 HD Servicar, a 1984 Special Edition Electra Glide “Popecycle” (one of 40 collectible HD motorcycles used to escort Pope John Paul II during his visit to Canada in 1984), a 1997 Sportster 1200 Custom and a 2002 Heritage Softail with a killer paint job.