Back in 1961 a guy named Hugh Enochs decided with a partner to start building bicycle frames. The brand name was 'Paragon'- a good name that is now used by a bike industry machine shop that supplies parts to.......you guessed it- frame builders. The two operations as far as I know had nothing to do with each other as the Paragon frame operation was shut long before the machine shop started business. Paragon was no more, but that was not the end of Hugh Enoch's foray into frame building and the bicycle business. What I know about him was that he had a small distributing company called "Jevelot" that serviced retail shops. He offered a selection of small parts and also did frame building, repair and re-painting. He was good at what he did but the bike business back in the '70's was not a good place to try to make a living. Hugh did side gigs working in bay area bicycle shops such as Velo Sport in Berkeley and the Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos. Hugh was very familiar with tandem bicycles and all the specialized parts and services that they required.
Jevelot had a run in the '70's and '80's selling stuff like toe clip straps that Hugh made in his shop. He got synthetic strap material and buckles and a rivet machine so that he could produce them himself, thus not having to order from overseas and dealing with the frequent delays and shortages of parts. Dock strikes use to really throw a wrench in the bike business supply chain regularly and Hugh's proprietary goods were a great option for small shops, provided they knew that his small company existed. I remember working at a couple of shops and ordering a few items from Hugh. He was not overly friendly on the phone , but he was very professional and one got the feeling that he knew what he was talking about .
A number of years ago Hugh's health started failing . At this time he is in a care facility with Parkinson's and is unable to conduct business any more.His wife has had the job of disposing of all his accumulation of tools and leftover inventory from his Jevelot days and all his decades in the bicycle business. A customer of mine was enlisted to oversee the sale of all his stuff and I got a call asking if I wanted anything out of all the inventory of frame building materials and tools. I was not that keen to get more stuff and further clutter my own shop but I felt that buying at least something would help out Hugh's wife who was elderly and clearly overwhelmed with the task of dealing with all the stuff, literally two small garages packed to the roof with clutter. Some of the stuff was useful but a lot of it was pretty dated and likely to be just thrown out.
On a rainy Tuesday afternoon I drove the one hour drive to the small town of La Honda where Hugh and his wife had called home for 50+ years. I met my customer and Hugh's wife there and when the garage door opened I saw a familiar sight- lots of boxes of bike parts , tubing and tools.....just like a number of garages of frame builders who have either died or just quit. I have no doubt that my shop will be the same scene when the inevitable end of the line comes for me. An associate who also builds frames was with me and he was much more enthusiastic about climbing over boxes and workbenches to look into each and every box to see what was there. No doubt , other people had come earlier and scooped up valuable and vintage European bicycle parts but we were there for the tubing, lugs and maybe some tools. The garages smelled like rodent cages and there was rat feces everywhere. I felt myself kind of getting ill while I was there but looking through the stuff was compelling. The tubing was mostly Reynolds from the '70's and '80's- very much what I was looking for. Was it something I needed ? Not really- I only used tubing like that for repairing old frames ( Which I no longer do ) or for a series of novelty retro frames ( which I don't sell ) so for me this was all about helping Hugh's wife and taking a look at the dregs of his life in the bike business that likely started before I was out of nursery school.
I made a small pile of tubing and welding rod and was preparing to make a cash offer. My associate had another idea- he took about nine boxes of tubing , a fork jig and a box of old prepping tools and added to my pile. Now we had a full truck load to take back. I made an offer to Hugh's wife and she accepted immediately. I got the feeling that she just wanted everything out of there regardless of how much money she got for it. I wound up barely making a dent in the huge amount of stuff but at least I did my part. I'm going back up there as my associate has his eye on a tool cabinet and there's the whole "Did we miss anything?" impulse that happens after one leaves such an unusual garage sale that only happens when someone's career is over, and Hugh's career was long enough to span generations-from the time of toe clips and wool shorts to the time of E-mountain bikes , Zwift , power meters and Strava. I'm not what you would call young but looking at the stuff in the garage I realized that I was the next generation after Hugh and things turned out quite differently for me than they did for him. In the end, I am sure it will be a similar scene- people looking at all the stuff in my shop and saying : " What was he thinking when he got 50 of these ?"Of course the next sentence would be : " Who the hell would want this stuff ? ". I don't pretend to be any different in that regard. Every time I think that I am shrinking my immense accumulation of bicycle stuff, another load comes in- either just dropped off by a well meaning friend or as in this case , my own weakness for going out in the field and filling my truck.
The upside to this is just that Hugh's wife will be rid of some of his stuff without having to hire a truck to dispose of it and also, the hope that the unfinished work of Hugh might not wind up in the landfill. I have already built a frame and fork out of tubing from Hugh's garage and I have plans to build more , but only after I build a lot more customer's frames out of more modern materials. I used to set aside the time between Christmas and New Years for building lugged frames , maybe one or two- not for customers but just to keep my hand in that style of building and more importantly, to use the tubes that have slept decades in boxes - waiting to be used. There's little chance that I'll use all the stuff I got from Hugh but I'll no doubt hand off the remaining tubes to someone who expresses interest in carrying on the craft, even if it is just a hobby. I feel lucky to have been one of the few builders who eeked out a living ( I still do ) at a very fickle profession. I know that Hugh was not able to sustain himself merely building frames but his impact on bay area cycling history is notable- he knew a lot of people and was well connected with the best shops back in the day. I would hope that he would approve of the spirit of how I have gone about taking his dregs and giving them life. I can't do it all , but I will do what I can.