Growing up, Keith Pariani never rode a bicycle. Instead, he enjoyed riding mini-bikes and, later, motorbikes. In fact, as a teenager, he competed in motorcycle races.
But bicycles are not his thing. That is, until a friend took him on a bike ride and he found himself riding the Easter parade at Disneyland.
There’s no turning back. He developed an interest in vintage 19th-century bicycles and began collecting them.
“One becomes two and two becomes eight and eight becomes 20,” he said. Today, men St. Augustine owns about 50 vintage bicycles.
Many of them can be seen in a special exhibition at the Lightner Museum that runs until September 30. “Ride On! Historic Bicycles from the Keith Pariani Collection” celebrates the beauty, engineering and innovative design found in bicycles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pariani was in attendance on 2 February for the opening of the exhibition to meet members of the public admiring her collection.
Pariani has participated in several parades and celebrations, including the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the opening of the EPCOT Center that same year. He rode in the Super Bowl parade in Tampa and in 1984 rode a bicycle across the United States.
In addition, he is a member of an international club for vintage bicycle lovers, The Wheelmen.
The oldest bicycle he owns dates back to 1868, which is about seven years before people started calling these devices “bicycles.”
“There is a metal eagle head on the front, which is very, very unusual for an American bike,” Pariani explains. “There are only two American bicycles with animal prints. Europeans do it quite often.”
One of Pariani’s bicycles was an early form of what we now call a bicycle. It was a tricycle, and rode on iron “tires”. There’s little doubt why people call them “bone shakers.”
Pariani preferred to ride one of his high-wheeled bicycles, a style which made its debut in America in 1878. The careful observer will notice that some of them featured a larger wheel at the front while others placed it at the rear.
All the bikes on display have vintage headlights on the front. When bicycles were rare, such lights ensured that people could see them in the dark.
Pariani looked for bikes at auctions, on eBay, and even at flea markets.
“I bought some amazing bikes at flea markets here in Florida,” he says.
With so many people moving here from out of state, they took their treasures with them – including vintage bicycles. Finally, they or their family members decide to sell.
This is the 75th anniversary of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, and “Ride On!” is just one exhibit in its year-long celebration.
Also on display is the “75 for 75: Lightner Museum Diamond Anniversary Exhibition”, which runs until February 16, 2024, and features works of art and objects from the museum’s collection.
Founded in 1948 by Otto C. Lightner as the Lightner Hobby Museum, the museum has its origins in the hobby boom that swept America in the early 20th century. The museum exhibits countless pieces in its collection, including lamps by Louis Comfort Tiffany, exquisite shell and geological specimens from around the world, porcelain produced at Sѐvres, and Victorian mechanical musical instruments.
In addition, a new permanent exhibition opens on February 2. “St. Augustine Through the Lens of William Henry Jackson” features large, high-definition photographs taken by Jackson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Lightner Museum, located at 75 King St. in St. Augustine, open from 9am to 5pm daily. Admission is $17 for adults; $14 for seniors (65+), military and students; $10 for youth ages 12-17; and free for kids 11 and under.
For more information, go to lightnermuseum.org.