Friday, September 27, 2019

Royal Enfield club members make the past present

Royal Enfield motorcycle posed in front of a marble statue.
A Royal Enfield of the 20th Century seems to be admired by a sculpture of the 19th.
Re-create the cover shot of a Royal Enfield company magazine of the 1950s? The very active Greek Chapter of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK did just that Sunday, Sept. 15.

It wasn't easy: the background had changed dramatically. The exact Royal Enfield motorcycle wasn't available.

None of that stopped them; and it's easy to see why the chapter persevered.

The Spring, 1954 edition of REVS, The Royal Enfield Magazine published by Royal Enfield in England, devoted its cover to a photograph of a Royal Enfield 500 twin in Athens.

Royal Enfield's Athens dealer posed the then new Royal Enfield motorcycle in the foreground. Behind it looms the toothy grille of a Buick, a large stone church and, most noticeably, a statue.

Motorcycle posed in front of statue in 1954 magazine cover.
Spring 1954 REVS magazine with cover photo shot at the statue.
The church, built in the Ninth Century, is Athens' largest surviving Byzantine church. It is known as the Russian Church because Tsar Nicholas I arranged for its restoration to serve the Russian Orthodox community in 1847.

The statue is "The Woodbreaker," completed in 1875 by Greek sculptor Dimitrios Filippotis. Up to 1958 the statue stood in a little square at Amalias Avenue, behind the Russian Church. It was called Woodbreaker Square (Plateia Xylothrafsti).

The church is still there, blogger Jorge Pullin noted in 2017. But the statue is now on the grounds of Zappeion, an historic 1888 Olympic venue in the National Gardens of Athens.

That's where the photo would have to be re-created.

REVS magazine was a Royal Enfield factory publication, produced from 1946 to 1955. In its first issue, Major F.W. Smith, chairman and managing director, wrote that he "hoped to build up a common interest among all those who are in any way related to the manufacture and distribution of products bearing the time-honored name of Royal Enfield."

REVS was to be "a permanent record of the activities of the Company and those prominent in its organization."

And permanent its influence has been: 65 years have passed, but the REVS cover still lights a fire in the eyes of Greek Chapter members.

It was in effect a tribute to motorcycling in Greece.

They take this seriously, member Andreas Papadakis noted on Facebook (where many more photos of the event appear). He called the recreation an "historic and important event!"

He thanked Pericles Papamichael for providing the Royal Enfield used in the re-creation, which he described as a very rare 1937 Royal Enfield 350cc Special Competition model.

Men gather with motorcycle in front of statue.
Royal Enfield enthusiasts gather around the statue.
And he noted that the photo session was followed by a presentation by author Yannis Liapis. He has written a book that Papadakis called "a full description of the classic motorcycle in Greece from 1895 to 1944."

The book "manages to capture the golden decades of the motorcycle!" he wrote. Its chapters "give us the image of our history."

Participant John Kalantzis made a similar comment, on Facebook:

"It's a great pleasure for me to be among the people who write the modern history of the classic motorcycle!"

Every Royal Enfield enthusiast, club member or not, can thank the Greek Chapter for reminding us why Royal Enfield is so special.

It's the history, isn't it?

Note: The next REOC International Rally will be held in Greece, Sept. 3-5, 2021.

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