Formed in 1946 in post-war South Gate, CA by a group of newly returned veterans, the Boozefighters blazed a trail for motorcycle clubs, and the motorcycle community as a whole, that has lasted to this day.
Although many of the original members had been riding together
since before WWII broke out it was not until after the war and under
the charismatic leadership of 'Wino' Willie Forkner that the
Boozefighters came to be.
Meeting in the back room of their local hangout ‘The All American’ bar,
they got their name from a local drunk who suggested they be called
“Boozefighters” which is an antiquated term for a barfly or a drunken
sot. They took the name and ran with it and still wear it proudly to this
Most of the ‘Originals’ also raced their motorcycles in a
variety of events from flat track and hill climbing to the
famous off road Hare & Hound races. Two of them,
Jim Hunter and Bobby Kelton, went on to set motorcycle
land speed records. Other notable ‘Originals’ were
George Manker, inventor of the convex rear view mirror.
The Boozefighters really came to the public’s attention a year after their inception at the infamous 1947 ‘Gypsy Tour’ rally in Hollister, CA over the 4th July weekend. What was, in reality, a raucous good time with racing and stunts in the streets and drunken revelry, was blown out of proportion by the national media to make it sound as if the motorcycle clubs in attendance had raped and pillaged their way through the town. A particularly famous article by Life Magazine, using a staged photograph of a drunk on a motorcycle surrounded by empty beer bottles contributed greatly to this version of the weekend’s events.
A year later the Boozefighters made headlines again when they
attended a 4th July rally in Riverside, CA. Newspaper headlines
read: “Riverside Again Raided by Gang” (there had also been
an event attended by BFMC on Labor Day weekend the previous
year) and showed a photograph of original members ‘Fat Boy’
Nelson and Vern Autrey.
Following the “Riverside Riot” the local under sheriff Roger Abbott wrote an open letter to the media in which he described “the one percent of irresponsible, intemperate and sometimes vulgar motorcyclists hiding behind the cloak of decency of the ninety-nine percent….”. And so the term “one percenter” was born, though the Boozefighters do not and have never claimed to be that.
1953 saw the release of the movie “The Wild One’. It was based on a short story entitled ‘The Cyclists’ Raid’ which itself was a fictionalized account of the events at Hollister in 1947. The movie starred Marlon Brando as ‘Johnny’ and Lee Marvin as ‘Chino’ (whose character is based on ‘Wino’ Willie Forkner). To this day the Boozefighters still refer to themselves as ‘The Original Wild Ones’.