It all started with an apple box of assorted parts.

The parts belonged to a 1912 Thiem motorcycle, and when Kieth Kalanquin first saw them he knew he wanted to someday bring the machine back to life. It took 20 years of restoration, but he brought the restored motorcycle back to Ellensburg for the first time since 1968 to display at a family reunion Sunday.

When Kalanquin and his wife, Arlene, went to visit her parents’ home in Ellensburg one summer day in 1968, her father Frank Stowe was doing some repairs to a side porch. Under the porch at the home off Wilson Creek Road was the apple box. The box and parts, which clearly belonged to a motorcycle, were destined for the scrap heap, but Kalanquin told his father-in-law he was interested in bringing them home.

Kalanquin believes the motorcycle had been in a wreck, and that the original owners may have tried to have it fixed to no avail. He speculated other reasons may have contributed to the cycle’s placement under the porch.

“Maybe the owner was drafted and never came back from World War I,” he said. “Who knows.”

Kalanquin, who is a retired Boeing engineer, kept the box in storage until he retired. In 1992 he embarked on the restoration project, trading parts and making contacts all over the country, and even as far as Europe to complete the task.

Due to the rarity of the motorcycles, Kalanquin had to be both intrepid and creative in his search for information and parts to embark on the restoration. He took out an ad in a motorcycle enthusiast magazine. He and Arlene traveled the country attending motorcycle swap meets. Enthusiasts he met through clubs and meets helped put him in touch with people that had parts he needed or could make copies of them.

The project came together one piece at a time. A motor came from Illinois with a carburetor from Ontario, Canada. Kalanquin acquired a hub from Ohio, and wheels from Michigan. Parts he had from the apple box were sent all over the country to be restored. Kalanquin estimates he spent approximately $20,000 on the project.

According to the Smithsonian Postal Museum, Fred Joerns and Edward Thiem first began building motorcycle engines as attachments for bicycles in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1900. They were the first to do so in that city.

Kalanquin displayed the motorcycle in shows after completing the restoration, but eventually found more enjoyment in riding it in parades and around town.

Kalanquin is confident that his motorcycle is the one in a picture taken in 1916 of motorcycles in the snow in Ellensburg which can be seen in the lobby at the Palace Café. His is third from the right. He said the front fork of the motorcycles are identical and that the cycles were so rare even at the time that multiple examples in a town as small as Ellensburg would be highly unlikely.

Kalanquin said the motorcycle is worth approximately $60,000, and he plans on passing it down to his family. He said the reason he was inspired to complete the restoration was because of his love for riding motorcycles as a teenager. He still has the motorcycle he had in those days. He also said the completeness of the parts in the apple box compelled him to take on the project.

“I just enjoy doing that kind of thing,” he said.

Kalanquin said he couldn’t have completed the project with the help and support from his wife.

Arlene says they still have the apple box.


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