Aretha Franklin music played in the background as a group of inner-city high school kids filed into the Tombo Racing shop early this morning. Tommy Bolton was hosting these impressionable youth for a shop tour at the request of Tarrence Rodgers, principal at Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Acadamy in Oklahoma City. Fifteen kids filed in past high performance race bikes and gleaming chrome choppers, eyes wide as they gazed at the 11″ slick rear tires, custom paint job, nitrous bottles and turbocharged engines. “I have never been to a shop like this” one latino youth breathed in awe. “I have only seen a place like this on T.V.”
Once assembled in the shop, Tommy talked to the youth about his experience growing up in Los Angeles. He explained how he had dropped out of high school to work as a motorcycle mechanic, but that as soon as his boss found out his age and that Tommy wasn’t going to school, he fired Tommy. “He told me when I got back in school come back and talk to him. I decided I better get back to high school so I could get this job.” Tommy went back to school and soon the Honda powersport dealer put him back to work part time. “The shop owner made me keep my grades up or I couldn’t work for him.”
As they listened to Tommy’s tales of growing up and getting started in the racing business, the kids began to loosen up, ask question, and take copious notes. They could tell Tommy had an upbringing not that different from their own, and his easy laugh and tidbits of “street wisdom” rang authentic. One of them asked Tommy to start one of the bikes. He obliged by firing up “Baby Boy”, his Hayabusa-based race bike that had recently won races in California and Louisiana. Several of the girls jumped and clutched their chest, while big grins spread across the faces of the boys as the throughty bark of a race-tuned turbocharge Hayabusa mixed with the sweet smell of high octane race gas. Tombo Racing bikes sound fast just sitting at idle. A blip of the throttle made the grins grow even wider.
After the auditory stimulation of the raw-bred race engine, Tommy showed videos of his bikes at the drag races. “It is all about results at the track here at Tombo Racing” he explains. “Our bikes have to go fast first, then look good second.” Within 15 minutes the kids were excitedly asking a multitude of questions and thoroughly engaged in the visit, talking about their friend’s motorcycles, which bikes were their favorite, asking how much the bikes cost, and asking if they could sit on the bikes. Tommy rolled out a pearl white chopper with air ride suspension and custom sound system and let everyone sit on the bike for a “selfie” they could post to Facebook.
After a 45 minute tour of the shop the kids loaded up onto the bright yellow school but, off to their next visit. Tommy passed out race posters and several kids jumped back off the buss to get Tommy to autograph the poster. “Any chance me and my brother could stop by and work for you, clean your shop, sweep the floors – for free?” asked one young man.
“Sure, just stop by sometime and you can start out like I did, with a broom” replied Tommy. “But you gotta stay in school and keep your grades up!”