Ear to the ground

“That’s probably not the best place for that sign.”

-A local man commenting on J.C. Penney’s decision to put the clothing sign “Sag Harbor” above the dressing room

Still Smyling

Last Sunday, a local icon pedaled off toward the pearly gates. Melvin Smylie, known affectionately around Durango as Mr. Smylie, passed away at the age of 93.

Mr. Smylie’s front yard on North Main Avenue was long a repository of bicycles: from road bikes, mountain bikes, townies with tassels and bells to a whole line of kid’s bikes propped against each other. Mr. Smylie would spend several hours a day, on a good day, taking apart or putting together bicycles that had been donated to him. For the past 33 years, people brought him bicycles and bicycle parts in all states of disrepair, “saving them a trip to the dump,” Smylie said.  

Smylie would make the donated bikes roadworthy, and people would come from all over the Four Corners to buy restored bicycles and bike parts, though mostly parts, from Melvin Smylie. A step into one of his several sheds in the back yard (roofs held down with wheels and bike frames) revealed buckets brimming with pedals, seat posts, derailleurs, reflectors, patch kits, freewheels, cranks, quick-releases, spokes and one bag full of bells. “There’s an order to it all; it’s a systemized junk shop,” Smylie said.  

In 1935, at the age of 22, he went to barber school in Kansas City, and after finishing school, Smylie saw an ad in a Durango paper seeking a barber. For 40 years, Melvin Smylie worked as a barber downtown. “I remember when a haircut cost 25 cents, and a shave was 15 cents,” he told theTelegraph. Toward the end of his barbering career, he bought The Sanitary Barber Shop, at 937 Main Ave. The bike wrenching began when Melvin started fixing bikes for his grandkids in his free time. Once he retired, all his time was free and the business simply evolved.

Smylie quit riding bikes when he turned 90, though he continued to take daily walks and did push-ups and sit-ups every night. He also kept wrenching on bikes up until the very end.

“I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime and had a pretty good time,” Mr. Smylie told theTelegraph in 2002. “If the Lord wants me tomorrow, I’m ahead of the game.”