Jim Molitor was 14 when he got his first motorcycle. It was also with that motorcycle he had his first accident.
“I was flying around the corner in the rain and the bike came out from underneath me. This was in Melrose where I grew up,” he said.
Jim and his motorcycle landed in a resident’s garden. Not really wanting anyone to know, especially his parents, Don and Marion, he grabbed his motorcycle and headed back home.
“My blue jeans were torn, but I didn’t get hurt. Back then, the motorcycles didn’t go more than 45 miles per hour,” he said.
Molitor discovered something many residents of small towns know. News travels fast. Before Molitor arrived back home, someone had phoned his dad.
“My dad asked me what I was doing in their garden,” he said.
Despite a few minor accidents here and there, Molitor has never gotten seriously injured. His love for motorcycles remains and he’s been the owner of more than 30 in various sizes.
Now 70, Molitor continue to ride his motorcycle. It’s something his wife, Rocky Thompson, enjoys, too. Together they’ve traveled to many places. Not just in the United States, but to Mexico and Canada, as well.
Last year, they traveled with a group just as passionate as they are to every peak, but two in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Many in the group are from the Pierz area, Molitor said.
“It was a fabulous, fun trip,” he said.
This year, they plan to visit several waterfalls in northern Michigan, Molitor said.
Molitor recalls trips that weren’t as lovely. When he was about 18 or 19, he drove to Montana, but the majority of the ride was in rain.
“It was a miserable ride,” he said.
But regardless of weather, the best part about riding a motorcycle is the freedom it offers.
“I really enjoy the freedom and the physical rush the open road gives you. It’s a fun activity and it gets your adrenalin pumping,” he said.
Molitor’s passion for motor activities isn’t just with motorcycles. For many years, Molitor was involved with motor racing.
“When I was real young, I started to race snowmobiles. I was 15 or 16 when I entered my first race,” he said.
Molitor said his dad was very interested in automobile racing.
“He never did it, but he loved it,” Molitor said.
Molitor himself not only enjoyed watching it, but also participating in it.
“I love the fact that it is a team sport, but when it comes down to the actual event, like downhill skiing or tennis, it’s up to you to do the activity,” he said.
Prior to settling down in Swanville, Molitor lived in Australia for a while. His first wife, Pat, who was a teacher, accepted a two-year job position there.
“They had this thing that if you committed to teaching at least for two years, your income tax was waived,” Molitor said.
Molitor moved to Australia after he received a migrant visa, which allowed him to do nearly everything an Australian citizen could.
“You could live, work and own land. You just couldn’t vote,” he said.
Molitor said he fell in love with Australia and its people.
“I wanted to stay there. I loved the attitude of the people,” he said.
Australia was very different from the United States, Molitor said. In the U.S. many people were driven by money and status. In Australia, the emphasis was more that people came first and that there was more to discover than just the immediate area.
“They lived, knowing there’s a whole world out there to be discovered and experienced,” Molitor said.
Another thing Molitor liked about Australia was its health care system.
“They had a tremendous health care program. That’s where your tax dollars went. I also liked that they had a military and that the majority of the country’s budget didn’t go just to the military,” Molitor said.
Even though Molitor’s heart was to stay in Australia, Pat wanted to return home to the United States.
In 2013, Molitor retired from working in sales at the Morrison County Record in Little Falls. The most exciting about being retired is the fact that he decides what he wants to do each day, he said.
Not only has it given him more time to ride his motorcycle, but also more time to spend with his grandchildren.
But even though he’s retired, he also works at Brandl Motors in Little Falls. If a vehicle needs to be picked up or dropped off at another dealership, Molitor is called.
“I like driving, so it works out great. The owners and the other employees are great to work with, too,” he said.
For the last six years, Molitor has served as a city council member in Swanville.
“Swanville is a very unique community. Not just this area, but overall,” he said.
Although Swanville only has a population of 350, the city still has a Main Street with many businesses. Main Street has a lumber yard, a grocery store, a bank and a hardware store and more, Molitor said.
Even though he grew up in Melrose, Swanville has become a community he loves.
“When I committed to the community by being on the city council, it was a chance to oversee things to keep them as they are and to do the right thing by everybody,” he said.
“There are very few communities with a population of about 350 that still have as many businesses functioning on their Main Street, as we do,” he said.
For Molitor, the key to a happy retirement is to stay active, doing things he likes.