by Douglas Chasar
Recently, Jean Davidson, granddaughter of Walter Davidson, one of the four founders and the first president of Harley-Davidson, was in town promoting her book Growing up Harley-Davidson: Memoirs of a Motorcycle Dynasty. Rumble took advantage of the opportunity sitting down with Jean to find out the origins of the book and what's in store for the future.

In Growing up Harley-Davidson, Jean Davidson describes how the dreams and hard work of a few young men expanded to become the cultural icon it is today. The book follows the modest beginnings of Harley-Davidson from a basement, to a ten by ten shed to a major motorcycle manufacturer. She explains why the name is Harley-Davidson and not Davidson-Harley despite the fact that three of the four founders were Davidsons. Davidson also relates several of her early and most memorable riding experiences.

Often asked about her childhood and what it was like growing up a part of one of the most influential families in the motorcycle industry, Davidson decided to answer the questions in a book. The project was expected to last only one year, but ended up stretching out to five. According to Davidson, the difficulty is trying to find people who were alive at the time and verifying authenticity of the stories. She interviewed a number of family members in order to get the stories right, and became a perfectionist when it came to recording the stories of the people no longer with us.

Davidson believes everyone should write down their stories for their children before the details get lost over the years. She feels everyone should write a book because the process allows you to get to know yourself.

As a child Davidson felt deprived always wanting a horse. Otherwise, she was made to feel like nothing more than the girl next door. Though surrounded with the motorcycle industry, Davidson claims, "When you are in it you don't think anything of it. It is just a way of life." Davidson grew up with a tremendous amount of freedom.

For most of her life, Davidson would avoid using her last name. In the past, young men knowing her family would ask if her father could get them a motorcycle. As times changed, the question became whether or not her family could get them a job. Davidson has come up with the standard reply, "I'm not with the company," to cast aside probing questions such as, "What will Harley-Davidson do for their 100th anniversary?" and "What's behind the design of the V-ROD?" Though she feels blessed by the name, Davidson states it took her 65 years to grow into it.

Currently teaching for a technical college, Davidson emphasizes the honor of a profession working with your hands. She deeply believes through hard work and following your dreams you can achieve success. Furthermore, Davidson states it is important to, "develop your gift and then give it back [to the community]." She has always been trying to save animals and is now working on programs to save injured, abandoned and endangered species all over the world.

Growing up Harley-Davidson can be found in Harley-Davidson Dealers around the United States and in Europe. Urged to include more pictures, Davidson has released a companion to Growing up Harley-Davidson titled, Jean Davidson's Harley-Davidson Family Album. She will be in Arizona April 7-9 to promote her new book during Bike Week. For more information about Jean Davidson or her books, visit http://www.jeandavidson.com.

Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc

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