Leslie W. Watson was born September 28, 1908 in Antioch, TN. While growing up the family moved around different areas of Middle Tennessee and in the late 20’s lived for a while in Chicago.
He first came in contact with Harley Davidson motorcycles in the early 1920’s. It was a 1914 model and those early machines were basically big
bicycles with pedals to get them started. He and his childhood friends pushed and pedaled it farther than they ever rode it. He vowed that one day he would own a brand new Harley.
It wasn’t until 1940 that he finally accomplished that dream. Along with two of his friends, he went to the factory in Milwaukee and they rode three new Harleys back. His was a 1941 Knucklehead, and it was a thing of beauty.
Watson opened his own motorcycle shop in Clarksville, TN in 1946. He operated as an Independent distributor until 1955, when he became an Authorized Harley Davidson Dealer. He remained an authorized dealer up until 1961, which was the year that Harley Davidson began dictating to their dealers which models they would stock, and how many of each. I guess OLE Les figured that he new his customers better than Harley did, so he turned in his dealership and went back to operating as an independent. He continued operating as an independent right up until his death on February 13, 1982.
At the time of his death, that old ’41 Knucklehead hadn’t been started in thirty years. Booger Watson, Les’s youngest son, felt that it was only fitting that this bike lead the procession taking Les to his final resting place in Greenwood Cemetery. Booger had been involved in the business all his life, and I guess some of Les’s knowledge must have rubbed off because, amazing as it may sound, the Knuck fired right up after an hour or so of cleaning the points and plugs and adjusting a few things. Many of his friends lent a hand cleaning and preparing the bike for it’s mission.
On a very warm and overcast February day Leslie W. Watson was laid to rest. The newspaper headline read –
That first Toy Run consisted of about 100 bikes, each carrying gifts for the area’s needy children at Christmas time. They had a party after the run and, much to their surprise, they ended up making a profit from the proceeds. After some discussion, it was decided that they would use that money to support the newly formed Dream Factory of Clarksville, with the donation being earmarked for Camp Rainbow. That first donation was just under $200.
The ensuing years have seen the number of motorcycles at the Toy Run steadily increase. At some point along the way, it became necessary for them to open a bank account to manage the finances. The bank, of course, requires a name of some sort to be associated with an account. The name Bikers Who Care was chosen for the organization and the growth has continued to this day.
Big Les’s old ’41 Knucklehead still leads the procession each year and he lives on in the joy you can see in the faces of all those kids at Camp Rainbow.