TODD HALE: Jerry Dickson originated "Mike the Talking Bike" to teach bicycle safety to elementary students

Former Owatonna State Trooper Jerry Dickson’s “Mike the Talking Bike” became a statewide program that Troopers used to teach bicycle safety. (Submitted photo)

I was honored when State Trooper Safety Education Officer Jerry Dickson asked me to be the voice of his new creation of “Mike the Talking Bike”, which was to be used to teach bicycle safety in elementary schools in his district. He often used a film that showed two bikes talking to one another and thought to himself, “Why not design my own talking bike? It would be a unique way to get my message across to the kids.”

This was all happening in the late 1970’s. The first thing Officer Dickson had to do was to find a bicycle. He approached the local Schwinn dealer in town who said, “Yes, I could give you a special price on a bike.” Dickson replied, “No, you don’t understand. I’m looking for a FREE bike for the project.” The dealer finally relented and donated a banana seat bike for my use.”

Dickson needed the help of some other people to create his talking bike. He planned to use a cassette tape recorder attached to the bike. He approached the folks at 3-M in the Twin Cities who donated a recorder. He then came to us at KRFO for some additional help. My partner, Jerry Boos, wired a red flashing light below the sissy bar and he found a portable siren which Dickson attached to the bike.

Dickson would preview his program at the schools by having the school principal enter the gym where the kids were gathered. The principal was advised to do something wrong, such as not signaling for a turn or riding in the middle of the road. Dickson would then follow him with red lights and siren and pull the principal over in front of the kids. “It was a great way to start my presentation. The kids loved seeing their principal pulled over. The rest was up to Mike the Talking Bike who rendered the lesson of safe bicycle operation.”

The voice of the bike

The only thing left in Dickson’s creation was the voice of Mike the Talking Bike and that’s where I came in to the picture. Dickson asked me if I would tape record a script about safe bicycle riding that he could play on the tape recorder during his presentation. I was more than happy to oblige and each year I would tape record a new script for Dickson to use.

Dickson carried the bike in his squad wherever he went. He served the state patrol for 30 years, twenty of those were in Owatonna. When he moved here, he spent five years patrolling the highways and the final fifteen as a full-time safety education officer. He retired in 1982.

As you can see by the photo, the Mike the Talking Bike program expanded to all 11 districts in the state. A Schwinn dealer in the Twin Cities donated the bikes used by troopers. The original Mike went into storage in Rochester when Dickson retired. That’s the last Jerry saw of it. Neither he nor I know if Jerry’s “Mike the Talking Bike” program was continued, but it was a great way of getting the message out to the kids. Incidentally, Jerry is the sixth trooper from the left in the lineup.

After retirement, Dickson and his wife moved to Phoenix where he has remained. At 87, he fondly remembers his creation of Mike the Talking Bike and the folks who helped him create it. Besides the bicycle safety presentation, Jerry also created, “Gus the Talking Bus” which he used in conjunction with a slide presentation about school bus safety.

Jerry and I did weekly programs on KRFO regarding driver safety and regulations. We even created a program from the state trooper airplane which was used in conjunction with a squad car on the ground to measure drivers who were speeding.

Your chance to go “down under”

Have you ever had the yearn to learn how to scuba dive? If so, the Owatonna Diving Club is offering free “discover scuba” classes this fall. The class will be held on Nov. 6. There will also be regular classes held beginning November 13. For more information go to or call 444-7900.

Tom Walsh to observe his 102nd

Friends of former Owatonnan Tom Walsh will be interested to know that Tom will observe his 102nd birthday next Saturday, October 19th. His mailing address for cards is 5610 Norwich Parkway, Apt. 105, Oak Park Heights 55082. I talked to Tom on the telephone to wish him a happy birthday. His phone number is 507-413-2595. He told me he is nearly blind now but his daughter Holly will read his cards for him. He’s very sharp on the phone and for someone celebrating his 102nd birthday, his memory is fantastic. Tom was a long-time pilot for Jostens and also flew his own charter service. He misses Owatonna and says hello to all his friends.

Coffee with a Cop

Here’s your chance to visit up close with a police officer. Come to “Coffee with a Cop” this coming Wednesday, October 16 at Target in Owatonna. Cops will be on hand to converse with the public from 8:00-10:00 a.m. and from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Mary Monson creations in book form

I know that many of you enjoy the frequent writings of Owatonna’s Mary Monson in the People’s Press. Mary has put a collection of her favorites in a book entitled “Mary’s Musings From the 1900’s.” You can have your own collection of Mary’s writings to enjoy at your leisure. The book is available at the Little Professor Book Store.

Gifts to the school district

Here is a listing of the latest gifts to the Owatonna Public Schools: $500 from Federated Ins. to Owatonna Middle School, $200 Target Gift Card from Genz-Ryan Plumbing and Heating to Lincoln Elementary, $100 Wal-Mart gift card from Betty Wells to Lincoln Elementary, Activity tickets from Insty-Prints for Owatonna High School, Contributions to OHS activities/athletics handbook sponsorship: $500 from Prairie Ridge Orthodontics, $500 from Hy-Vee, and $500 from Tri-M Graphics, $30.00 from Myiah Jewison to OHS library, $480 from Royal Private Wealth-Ameripride-Apple Valley to OHS DECA, $500 from Gopher Sport to Owatonna Middle School for the WEB program.

The following contributions were given for the OHS Homecoming sponsorship: $50.00 from Einhaus, Mattison, Carver & Haberman, P.A., $50.00 from Fareway Foods, $300 from Plemel Insurance Agency, $100 from Cybex, $300 from Owatonna Education Association, $300 from Clifton Larson Allen, and $100 from Anonymous Donor.

Thanks from Denise and Carl Wieman

Denise and Carl Wieman thank all who donated to MS and their MS River Road Run this year. The couple has raised over $3,200 this year bringing their total for 18 years to $71,343.75. Your money is donated to the National MS Society for research, support groups, educational seminars, accessibility equipment and many more activities that help people living with MS cope with their daily lives. If you still wish to donate, make checks to the MS Society and send to Carl and Denise at 524 Glendale in Owatonna.

A wind-up to Owatonna Foundation Week

As we wind up Owatonna Foundation Week, here are a few additional notes. The initial Trustees of the Owatonna Foundation are Mark Alexander, George A.M. Anderson, John A. Buxton, Carl A. Dahlstrom, V.P. Diedrich, Daniel C. Gainey, E.W. Hammel, Henry W. Hartle, Carl Jolly, Reuben A. Kaplan, Sidney W. Kinyon, Samuel Lord, Julius H. Meyer, Harold S. Nelson, James K. Rietz, William Ringhofer, Irvin E. Rosak, Clifford C. Sommer and F. Keen Young.

Current Trustees of the Owatonna Foundation include: William Beer, Dr. Brian Bunkers, Gerald Deetz, Gregg Draeger, Tom Dufresne, David Einhaus, Dale Gandrud, Todd Hale, Bob Heers, Charles Herrmann, Mike Jensen, Jay Johnson, Kent Kienholz, Matt Kottke, Chad Lange, Betsy Lindgren, Tim McManimon, Dennis Meillier, (pres.) Corey Mensink, Gene Michaelson, Andy Michaletz, Monte Mitchell, Jolayne Mohs, Carol Nelson, Judy Plemel, Julie Rethemeier, Dave Seykora, Stephen Smith, Ray Stawarz, Dean Velzke, Dennis Von Ruden, Sharon West, Dave Ramsey, Brandon Wayne, Dr. Carol Winter, and Dr. Bob Wottreng,

Dedication to Owatonna remains strong

The Owatonna Foundation’s dedication to this community remains as strong as it was in 1958 when it all began. If you love this community as I and thousands of others do, there is a way that you can be a part of the Owatonna Foundation’s commitment to making Owatonna a jewel to live in and raise a family. You can designate gifts from estates, send a check or take part in the Owatonna Foundation “Leave a Legacy” program.

Charley and Emily info

I have had several inquiries about the status of Charley and Emily Herrmann. They are currently both residing at KODA Living Community in Owatonna, 2255 N.W. 30th St.

Toys for Tots

The 2019 Toys for Tots applications are now available at various Steele County locations including Blooming Prairie Public Library, Lerberg’s Foods and Ellendale Food Shelf in Ellendale, First National Bank in Hope, First State Bank of Red Wing, Medford location, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southern Mn, Steele County churches, Minnesota Prairie Alliance, Owatonna Public Library, Salvation Army, Steele County Food Shelf and Clothesline, Steele County Public Health and Steele County Employment Services.

The Toys for Tots application is also available for download online at the Toys for Tots Applications must be printed, filled out and mailed to Steele County Toys for Tots, Box 199, Owatonna, Mn. or dropped off at the Food Shelf or Clothesline or placed in the drop box at Minnesota Prairie County Alliance.

A tie for wins

Going into last night’s football game with Mankato East, OHS Football Coach Jeff Williams tied Owatonna coach Jerry Peterson for most career wins with 179. Williams has accumulated an impressive 179-71 overall record prior to last night’s game.

Hanna inducted into St. John’s Athletic Hall of Fame

OHS grad (1999) Adam Hanna, son of the Dave Hanna’s, was inducted last weekend into the St. John’s University Athletic Hall of Honor. He was one of 13 athletes that were honored and was recognized for his college career in hockey where he played goaltender. Adam played at OHS for hockey coach Dennis Will. He now lives in Champlain and works for Boston Scientific.

Adult chorale singers needed

Just a reminder that if you enjoy singing you are invited to audition for a new adult chorale being formed in Owatonna under the direction of Garrick Comeau and accompanied by Lisa Richmond. If you are interested, call 612-741-2524 or by e-mail at

Public invited to hear Annette Meeks

The Steele County Republican Party is looking forward to bringing Annette Meeks to Owatonna on Monday, October 21 for a free-to-the public forum at the VFW Club. Annette is the founder and CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, which is an educational and research organization that advocates the principles of Individual Freedom, Economic Freedom, Personal Responsibility and Limited Government. Annette served s deputy chief of staff for House Speaker Newt Gingrich during his time in the U.S. House.

Swedish meatball supper in Hope

It’s time again for the annual Swedish Meatball Supper at First Lutheran Church in Hope. It will be held on Sunday, October 20, at the church from 3:00-7:00 p.m. The dinner is served cafeteria style with hand-rolled meatballs with gravy, real mashed potatoes, corn, Hope butter, egg coffee, rolls milk and dessert. Tickets are $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for ages 5-10, 4 and under free. Proceeds go to Rachel’s Light.

Joke of the week

Maggie Dixon, whose picture I included in last week’s column shared this joke: The following was in the Atlanta Journal in the “singles ads” section. “SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I’m a very good-looking girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in pickup trucks, hunting, camping and fishing trips and cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. Rub me the right way and watch me respond. I’ll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me. Kiss me and I’m yours. Call (phone # given) and ask for Daisy”.

Over 15,000 men found themselves talking to the Atlanta Humane Society about an 8-week old black Labrador retriever. Men are so easy!

Finally, Maggie sent me the ways to impress a woman and a man. How to impress a women: Wine her, dine her, call her, hug her, hold her, surprise her, compliment her, smile at her, laugh with her, cry with her, cuddle with her, shop with her, give her jewelry, buy her flowers, hold her hand, write love letters to her, go to the end of the earth and back for her.

How to impress a man: Show up naked, bring beer!

Todd Hale can be reached at or write him at 632 14th St. S.E. Phone contact is 507-456-7304.

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