The first sanctioned BMX bicycle racing in the United States, if not the world, ran around a track at
July 10, 1969, a group of boys riding their Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycles in Palms Park in West Los Angeles wanted to race. A park attendant, Ronald Mackler, a teenager with motorcycle motocross (MX) experience, helped them organize. Palms Park became to BMX as Elysian Fields is to American baseball, for at that moment Bicycle Motocross racing was born. By 1973, entrance fees of US $4.50 (which included a US $1.00 insurance fee for the year) for a 10-week season of Thursday-night racing was charged, and the top three racers in the season were given trophies. Then a new season of 10 weeks would start the following Thursday. The track operated well into the 1980s largely unchanged, including the lack of a modern starting gate. Wikipedia’s BMX racing page (October 2017)
Ron Mackler surrounded by BMX racers. The Garnet & Marge Rainey house, converted to a clubhouse when Palms Park was established, is behind them.
Ronald Steven Mackler (March 9, 1953 – July 10, 2010) organized the first sanctioned BMX races at Palms Park, obtaining insurance and giving awards. His brother Eric said he started the races to give the kids something to do to keep them out of trouble. Ron went on to be a corrections officer.
Ron Mackler in uniform as corrections officer.
Todd Bank (shown midair at the top of this page) and his brother Devin were among the early riders. Devin shared this account:
In nineteen-seventy when I was five years old my father would drive my brother Devin and myself on Friday nights to begin competing on a new kind of race course at a neighborhood city park. Ron Mackler was putting on the twenty-inch BMX bicycle races at Palms Park on Overland Avenue in West Los Angeles. The course was a combination dirt and cement race track that had six berm turns that were built around tall Douglas Fir trees and a small jump at the bottom of a hill. At the start of the race, you had to be the racer in front first into the turn if you wanted to win. Bart de Jong, “In The Beginning” True Story by Todd Bank, BMX Freestyle in the Making (Feb. 12, 2008)
BMX Action Magazine publisher Bob Osborn presents the story of Palms Park BMX racing in a video for Ron Mackler’s induction into the National BMX Hall of Fame in 2015.
Whether it was coaching boxing, putting on youth functions or creating off-road bike races around the trees of Palms Park, Ron Mackler was all about helping out the local kids, giving them something positive to do and keeping them out of trouble. As park superintendent, working for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Ron Mackler was the man in charge of Palms, and held some of the first organized BMX races ever.
USA BMX Hall of Fame (July 18, 2015)
Flyer for May 13, 1973, “Bicycle Moto-Cross” presented by Palms- and Cycle Products West.
May 16, 1974, Pedal Pushers publication about Palms Park BMXers.
Report from Thursday, May 16, 1974. (Palms Park is not in Venice, California.)
Airborne at Palms Park, with the former in the background. Rainey house
Competitors at Palms Park with Cheviot Hills (Country Club Highlands) behind them.
Palms Park BMXers Facebook page is dedicated to the birthplace of BMX and followed by a number of the racers.