Big-wheeled scooters

Young Amish boys ride big-wheeled scooters in this file photo.

Dear Dr. Scribblerscoot:

I was out driving near Middle Creek and needed directions. I spotted this young Amish fellow on one of those big-wheeled scooters and asked him. He said, "Follow me.''

He got way down on his haunches with his hands up on the handlebars, way up in the air. Down one hill and up another he went. I was doing 30 going down a hill and couldn't keep up with him.

Finally he pointed left and kept going, and I turned to where I was going.

A number of Amish people have scooters with 20-inch spoked wheels. I wonder who makes them.

Jim McMullin


Dear Jim:

Several companies make scooters with big wheels. At least two of those companies are located in Lancaster County.

"People started making scooters out of old junk bikes,'' says an Amish source in Gordonville. "Then Groffdale Machine decided to make them from new materials.''

Today, Groffdale Machine Shop in Leola is the largest scooter manufacturer. Alongside its other welding projects, Groffdale makes over a thousand scooters a year "from scratch,'' according to the company's owner. The owner is Amish and doesn't want his name in the paper.

The owner's father began making big-wheeled scooters in 1976.

"My dad started with old bicycles,'' he explains. "He used the wheels and part of the frame and modified them.''

Those first big-wheeled scooters, often called kick scooters, had steel frames. Groffdale Machine still manufactures steel scooters. But a couple of years ago, the company also began making lightweight aluminum scooters. Now you see even more scooters on roads throughout Lancaster County.

Scooters come in nine colors. Wheels come in four sizes: 12, 16, 20 and 24 inches in diameter. A 24-inch wheel is relatively small for a bicycle. Many bike wheels are 26 inches in diameter.

And that raises an interesting question. Why don't Amish ride bicycles? Pedaling a bike with two feet would seem to be easier and faster than propelling a scooter that looks like a bike with one foot.

"We're not allowed to use bikes,'' says Groffdale Machine's owner. "The Amish Committee [of bishops] doesn't allow them. It's always been that way. It's the same reason we don't have cars.''

This is not true in all Amish communities. Many Amish in Ohio and Indiana use bicycles. But in one Ohio county— Geauga, east of Cleveland — Amish use scooters.

Groffdale Machine sells scooters in Geauga County and throughout the United States. Most sales are to Amish, the owner says, but in Lancaster County "some of the tourists stop by and buy them.''

Dear Dr. Scribblerbarney:

Reading about the source of the Red Tornadoes' mascot in last Friday's Scribbler column was enlightening.

But your comments about Barney Ewell were more intriguing. If "one of America's great runners" hails from Lancaster, why have we not honored him with a Barney Ewell Elementary School or a Barney Ewell Highway or a Barney Ewell Bridge or a Barney Ewell Street?

Kathy Brabson


Dear Kathy:

Ewell has been honored in other ways.

The sports complex at McCaskey High School is named for him.

Ewell is depicted on a mural that was dedicated in August at the city's Ewell/Gantz playground.

The man died only 18 years ago, so there hasn't been much time to honor him. It has been 146 years since the great abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens died and only this year was the Lititz Pike Bridge renamed for him.

Jack Brubaker, a retired Lancaster Newspapers staff writer, writes "The Scribbler'' column twice a week. He welcomes comments and contributions at or 669-1929.