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50,000 Bikers Invade Town - But It’s Really A Lifestyle Choice

Sun., July 6, 1997

They’re the Wild Ones, all right. And they live a life of danger - beer, fatty foods, and not enough sun block.

Outside of that, the more than 50,000 bikers that roared through this small town Saturday to mark the legendary motorcycle invasion of a half century ago were as mild as accountants driving Winnebagoes.

“As a matter of fact,” said a bemused R.C. Rush, 53, an old-fashioned biker who rode up from Burbank, “when people bump into you they say, ‘Excuse me.”’

On the third of a four-day “Invasion of Hollister” - the anniversary of the event that inspired the Marlon Brando film “The Wild One” and created the American image of the rebellious outlaw biker - motorcycles roared, drinkers drank and everyone else tried to make money by hawking anything from T-shirts to “giant biker burritos.”

“There’s lot of people,” said San Benito County Sheriff Harvey Nyland, “and everyone’s well-behaved.”

In 1947, motorcyclists attending a nearby rally rode into town, got drunk, turned the main street into a race track and even rode through a hotel lobby. Dozens were arrested, most for drunkenness.

It was called the “Battle of Hollister,” and it started an American subculture that stretched from The Shangri-Las’ 1965 hit, “Leader of the Pack” (complete with the sound of squealing tires and breaking glass), to motorcycle gangs worldwide.

The three-day total of arrests for the crowd was 18 for drunken driving and 11 other arrests for such minor infractions as public drunkenness.

Just for the record, the town’s population is 25,681, less the half the number of “weekend warriors” who’ve descended upon it.

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