LEWISTOWN - Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz drew quite a bit of attention Sunday afternoon when they parked their van in Max Corkin's lot on East Third Street, in Lewistown. Before disappearing inside Corkin's garage, the "American Pickers" stars greeted residents and fans, discussing potentially valuable possessions and signing autographs on whatever was readily available.
"I got two hugs from Frank," Lewistown resident Joyce Snook said. "Mike complained because Frank didn't leave much room on my shirt for him to sign it."
Larry Harpster, also of Lewistown, brought an eight foot long, laminated wood airplane propeller with him for Wolfe to see.
Submitted photo by ROBERTA FRYER
Mike Wolfe, star of the History Channel’s series ‘American Pickers’ assesses Bob Fryer’s motorcycle Sunday, in Fryer’s garage between Vira and Belltown, after seeing pictures of the bike earlier in the day.
"I asked him if he was interested," Harpster said, adding that Wolfe said he was interested. "So, I went home and got it."
Half an hour after going into the garage, Wolfe, Fritz and Corkin resurfaced on the porch of a nearby home, filming a segment for the popular History channel show. They ducked inside the home again and those on the street wondered what would happen next. Corkin could not be reached later for comment.
Almost 45 minutes later, Wolfe and Fritz came out of the house and walked down the sidewalk toward the parking lot behind the group that had gathered there. As they made their way across the parking lot, Wolfe spotted Robert Fryer sitting on the tailgate of a Subaru, wearing a hat indicating he is a Vietnam veteran. While thanking Fryer for his service, Wolfe looked at pictures of Fryer's 1950 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
"He left me know he appreciated me being in the Army... I had pictures of my bike, and boy he sat down right there on that tailgate with me and people swarmed around," Fryer, 72, of McClure, said.
He bought the bike in 1958 and became a life member of the American Motorcycle Association. He rode in AMA Gypsy tours for three years. One day more than four decades ago, he took his wife, Grace, for a ride, zipping along at 100 miles an hour. He laughed and said, "She hasn't been on it since."
Fans of the show know Wolfe has a penchant for this particular brand of motorcycle. He took Fryer's name and telephone number, and Fryer went home, just thrilled to have met Mike Wolfe.
"I don't miss the show, if I can help it," Bob said.
Bob's daughter, Roberta, stayed in town for a while longer. Her cell phone rang, and it was Grace calling to tell her Wolfe had called and asked if he could come to the Fryers' home, between Vira and Belltown, to see the motorcycle.
"It was amazing," Roberta said.
What they didn't expect was the entourage Wolfe brought with him, even traveling solo.
"I don't know how many people followed that truck down here," Bob said. "I had as much excitement out here as they did in Lewistown."
Even with the crowd of followers, Roberta said Wolfe was very attentive to her father, listening to Bob's stories about the bike and asking questions about each piece's history.
Wolfe ended up buying the motorcycle from Bob for $11,500, as well as some other vintage motorcycle accessories - Bob's helmet, his 50-year-old hand-painted leather jacket, complete with its misspelled "Harley-Davison," the bike's toolbox and some spare parts.
Bob admitted it would be hard to watch the bike go, but after the dust settled from the van pulling away and the people stopped parading across his driveway, it was his daughter who missed it most.
"I haven't taken it as bad as Roberta did. She was about it tears when they took it," he said.
"It's bittersweet. The Harley was his life. He loved riding it. It was sad to see it go, to see him letting go of a piece of his past," she said.
Though she has fond memories of the bike, Roberta expressed thanks to Wolfe for the way he conducted himself in making the deal.
"Mike was absolutely wonderful. He joked, he laughed and he appreciated the fact that this was my dad's baby," she said.
"American Pickers" airs at 9 p.m. Mondays, on the History channel. The episode filmed today at Corkin's garage will be broadcast in three to four months, the show's production manager said.