Meet Lucious Hawthorne
Meet Lucious Hawthorne From Macon, GA Occupation: Master Bike Mechanic
Lucious Hawthorne has been working on bicycles longer than many of you readers have been alive. So long, in fact, that he’s known around here simply as “Lou from the bike shop.”
I first met Lou about 15 years ago when I started riding mountain bikes. He, along with Nate Embry, were the go-to guys when your bike needed fixing. Every time I’ve been in the shop, Lou’s been quick to share a good story about life in Macon. I sat down with him recently – at Bike Tech, of course – to hear a few more stories about growing up here, his love of sandwiches, and being known as “that black guy” at the bike shop.
You never went to school to be a bike mechanic, so who taught you how to work on bikes?
I’ve been doing it all my life. That’s all I ever done. I used to work on bikes in my grandmamma’s house when I needed to be getting ready for school. I used to get grease on the carpet because at night I couldn’t be outside, so I’d sneak it in the house and put it in my bedroom and start working on it. I had grease and ball bearings rolling all over the floor. … I had to buy her some new carpet.
When I was a kid, we couldn’t afford bike-shop bikes. I could go to the junkyard and piece one together, and it would last a long time. … That’s how I got around back then, so I could cut grass. I used to ride my bike from my momma’s house over to my Uncle Lucious’ house to cut grass once a week. He did 22 years in the service; he wasn’t gonna pick you up and bring you. You had to man up and ride the bike if you wanted to make some money; he wasn’t gonna pacify you. I had to cut the front and the side, then he’d make me a big ole sandwich. I’d eat that and then it’d be hard to cut the back. See, I learned how to make sandwiches from him. I used to work at Subway.
(Showing me photos of sandwiches … and vodka … and bikes on tractors … on his phone) I love making sandwiches. I used to work next door at Subway when I worked here at the bike shop. I’d walk right over there after being here. I always worked between two and three jobs all my life.
Why is that?
I was doing it for my family and to make my house payment. I didn’t want my wife to worry about it. I used to work here, clean buildings three nights a week and cut grass on Mondays.
Tell me about your family.
I’ve been married (to Jackie Hawthorne) for 25 years. Our anniversary is Aug. 22. I’m getting nervous. I wanna do something nice for her. I’m buying a ring from Bashinski. I think she’s getting nervous about me sneaking around. I told her I’m getting something made for her and it’s real nice. But now I’m getting nervous. What happened is, I put money down on the ring, then my AC broke. I got fleas in my house. My car tore up. I had to pay my truck note, my house note and all the other bills and I just blew a gasket. Everything’s going wrong. I can’t wait for our anniversary to get here.
You just had a birthday too, right?
I turned 51. (The guys at Bike Tech) did a surprise birthday party for me. It freaked me out because they’d never done anything like that before. I’d never been done like that. … When they do you like that, it’s hard to come back from that, it takes a while to get back normal. You’re just so busy trying to play cop, to see what’s going on, it freaked me out. It was probably funny to the guys though.
I’m sure they just wanted to do it since you’ve been working here so long. What’s it been like, over the years, working at different bike shops in Macon?
I started when I was 17. It was Dixon bicycles then. It was a little racial back then, in the mid-1980s. White people didn’t want me to work on their bikes. I guess they didn’t think I knew what I was doing … because I never went to school.
It changed in the last 20 years. Nate said when I was (working at) Breakaway for those four years, everyone come in (to Bike Tech) saying, “Where’s Lou at?” The customers were coming in for me. He said every day they’d come in looking for me, “Where that black guy at?” They didn’t know my name, just, “Where that black guy?” Now, they want me. They realized I’m nice to people and I try to take care of them.
How do you feel about people knowing you as “Lou at the bike shop?”
I don’t know, I guess I feel real good because I worked so hard those 10 months, for six days a week (when the bike shop was changing ownership recently). It hurt me to do it; I was neglecting my wife. Now, she’s working two jobs. I’m trying to get her another job so she can have regular hours, so we can spend time together.
And you have three children, right?
Three girls, Jessica, Kindeja, Kenyatta; and a grandbaby.
So how are kids today different from when you were growing up?
A lot of kids not getting outside any more. We got pushed outside. Your parents would be like, “Get on outta here. You’re not gonna sit here and stare at grown folks’ faces and learn grown folks’ business.” These days, kids sit in a room and know everybody’s business. Back then, when it was grown people talk, it was get your ass outside: “Want some water? There’s a hose outside. Let it run; it’ll cool off.”
How about this, a couple weeks ago (a friend and long-time cyclist) came in here. She got three little boys. They come in here and tear the shop up; they been outta control since their daddy died. And I just got tired of it. So I came around the corner, and took my belt off, and it was a big ole belt, I said, “Y’all come over here and sit down. Y’all embarrassing your momma!” I said, “I’ll put the belt on y’all.” And she was like, “Get ‘em Lucius, get ‘em!” I said, “Y’all know better. You got better home training than that.” I said, “If your daddy was living you wouldn’t be acting like this. He’d tear y’alls butt up. Y’all need to straighten up. Y’all embarrassing your momma.”
I was at Subway about a week after that happened. There were two little girls in there with their dad, say about 9 and 6. Dad was buying them two kids’ meals; he didn’t buy himself nothing. So he bought their sandwiches and came over here looking at bikes, a lot of people do, and the older one was like, “I’m ready to go, ready to go.” I said, “Why you so mean to your daddy? He just bought you lunch. Go sit over there and eat on the sofa.” They didn’t want to do it! He couldn’t even look at a bike. So I told them about those three boys, and those girls just ran to the truck. And the daddy just laughed. I bet when he got home he said to his wife, “If these kids get outta control, I’m taking them to that black guy over there at the bike shop.”
My uncle used to whoop us. I mean it hurt. I was crying … but I told my uncle a few years ago, I appreciate those ass whoopings, it made me a better man.
What else do you want to tell me about living here in Macon.
Renee, I could tell you a lot about Macon, but you ain’t got the time though. I got some Budweiser over there though, we could eat Subway, drink some beers. … After 34 years I got a hundred stories.