In the days before the ubiquitous smart phone placed a camera in the hands of everyone, photography was an expensive and time consuming hobby. Gear, film, and darkroom or lab costs meant taking pictures was something only a select few opted to pursue. Thankfully, Jack Leong of Calgary, Alberta had the means to support his passion. In his younger years, Jack worked as a grocer, drove a truck and a taxi, and was a partner in a sporting goods store. Everywhere he went, he brought a camera, including when riding his beloved 1947 Indian Chief as a member of Calgary’s Ace-Hy Club in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Jack took an incredible number of photographs documenting the group’s activities, and an impressive archive of 500 black and white images of motorcycles and the men and women who enjoyed them has come to light after being stored away in bins and boxes for decades.

Jack Leong looking cool with his girlfriend (and future wife) Jean Tewsley, his 35mm camera in evidence [Ace-Hy Archive]

Walt Healy 

None of this story would likely have happened without Walt Healy, an integral figure in Calgary’s motorcycle history. Walt was born in 1913 and lived his entire life in Calgary. As a youngster walking to school, he was curious about an Indian Power Plus that leaned against a fence at a local greenhouse.  At 13 years old he was working as a bicycle courier for the Diamond Motor Company Limited – a Graham-Paige garage in downtown Calgary – and had earned enough money to buy a 350cc Douglas twin. Replacing his bicycle with the Douglas allowed Walt to deliver farther and faster, and it was the machine he owned as a founding member of the Calgary Motorcycle Club in 1926. After the Douglas, Walt ran a 1918 Harley-Davidson attached to a National sidecar, and opened shop as Walt’s Service, delivering everything from groceries to paint for 10- to 25-cents per load.

Walt Healy on his Indian TT Warrior hillclimb special at an Ace-Hy event. Note the sweet two-into-one pipes! [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
An Indian 101 Scout and sidecar joined his fleet, but in the late 1920s he was looking for another machine. He left a $20 deposit with the local Harley-Davidson dealer and was assured he’d get the next retired police outfit to come in.  When Walt returned with the rest of the cash for the bike, he was told it had been sold to someone else. And the next outfit didn’t fall into Walt’s hands, either. That bike was turned into a hillclimber by the shop’s proprietor.  For his $20 deposit, Walt instead got an Indian 101 Scout motor languishing on a workbench.  It had been left behind due to an unpaid service bill, but Walt knew who had owned it. He visited the motor’s owner, and for another $10 bought the Scout chassis…and built a hillclimber for himself.  Walt told me he did it just so “I could kick the Harley dealer in the ass” in every hillclimb the dealer entered.

Jack Leong’s 1947 Indian Chief in front of Walt Healy’s shop on 10th Street in the community of Kensington, Calgary. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Walt still needed two new machines for his delivery service; he was only 18 but business was strong. In 1931, Walt spoke to the Indian dealer in Calgary about obtaining motorcycles; he was told that for $100 he could buy the entire stock, including enough parts to build two Chiefs, and more to keep other Indians in service.  From a rented garage, Walt ran an Indian sales and repair agency during the hours he wasn’t delivering goods. By April 1939, he and a few other members of the Calgary Motorcycle Club founded the Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club. It’s believed Walt was interested in sponsoring racing – hill climbs, hare scrambles, ice and flat track racing – while continuing to foster an active riding group. The fact he was an Indian dealer meant several of the Acy-Hy members rode Springfield-built machines, but the club was not restricted to just that brand and Ariel, Harley-Davidson, Triumph and even Vincent motorcycles were represented.

Jack Leong and his girlfriend Jean Tewsley in Banff, two-up on their 1947 Indian Chief. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]

John ‘Jack’ Leong

Circling back to John ‘Jack’ Leong; he was born in 1923 in Vancouver, B.C. His parents moved to Calgary when he was a child, where his father prospered in business and later opened a gambling club. Leong Sr. was generous, often helping new Chinese immigrants gain their footing in the community. “I’m not even sure my dad could speak English until he started school here,” his daughter Denise Eckert says. Jack was mechanically minded and worked hard at whatever job he was doing. During World War II, he flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Jack Leong’s c.1949 Indian Scout vertical twin. These postwar singles and twins, designed by the Torque Corporation during WW2, were intended to be light and quick competition with British machines. They fit the bill, and looked great, but were rushed into production before all their bugs were sorted, which cost Indian so much in money and reputation, they killed the company. Many old Indian stalwarts resent these models, but in truth Indian had the right idea, but bad timing. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Jack didn’t see any overseas action but after the war he remained enthusiastic about flying and held a pilot’s license and owned an airplane. Denise surmises it was the thrill of being a pilot that led her father to the controls of an Indian Chief, often equipped with a sidecar. And that’s when Jack would have entered Walt Healy’s orbit, and the thrall of the Ace-Hy Club. Denise says, “I know my dad had other motorcycles that he raced and hill-climbed with the Ace-Hy, but he just really seemed to be passionate about Indian.” Of his photography hobby, Denise says her dad was mostly self-taught. He loaded his own film, took the pictures, developed the negatives and enlarged the images in his own darkroom. “Photography was a passion,” Denise says. “He subscribed to photography magazines and read them cover to cover, and he was always carrying a camera.”

A classic image of bikers at rest. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Many of the images Jack took of Ace-Hy activities were shot with one of his trusty medium-format folding cameras. At the time, he owned a Kodak Vigilant Six-20 (f/4.5 103mm lens) but upgraded to a Kodak Tourist (F/4.5 101mm lens). Many of his photos feature hillclimb competition, and these events were sometimes held on the steep terrain found 23 miles west of Calgary near the town of Cochrane. While Jack was usually behind the camera, some photos show him campaigning a parallel-twin Indian Scout. He also snapped shots of the club on road runs, with a line of machines and riders posing in front of a cafe some 65 miles west of the city, near the Rocky Mountain town of Canmore. On the road, at club socials, racing – Jack had his camera ready and even traveled with Walt and others to tracks in the western provinces and northwestern states to captured the action.  There’s even a shot of Walt aboard his Indian race bike on a track that looks like Montana. Walt raced in Canada with his CMA No. 38 plate, but when he raced in the U.S., his number was 38T because Ed Kretz Sr.’s number was also 38.

On the road to a hill climb or flat track race. The ca. 1940 Buick Limited Touring Sedan was Walt Healy’s. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
In the early 1950s, Jack met his wife-to-be, Jean Tewsley, at an Ace-Hy Club dance. “The club had so many social events,” Denise says, “and that’s where they met. My dad was 26, and she was 18. My mom rode her own motorcycle, and she was really a bit of a trailblazer. She rode the bike year round, but after they got married in ’55 and started the family, motorcycles were given up. They did attend some Ace-Hy social events after they were married, but there were no more motorcycles. And when I was growing up, Dad didn’t elaborate very much on stories about his machines. I think he was somewhat sad about having to give them up but realized raising a family and starting a new career as an electrician were now his priorities.”

Preparing the ground on a hill in Cochrane, Alberta, for a hillclimb competition. An image rarely seen!  And poetically beautiful…like a Courbet painting. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
But he kept taking pictures. As an electrician, Jack was often away on job sites and would photograph and document the work. When Denise was younger, she went with her dad on road trips to the mountains to shoot wildlife. In the early 1980s, when the Canadian economy crashed, Jack was laid off from the electrical industry. “At that time,” Denise recalls, “He started working at Japan Camera at Market Mall. A few years later, he began working in the photography department at London Drugs. When the management got wind of his age — he was already in his 70s but didn’t look it — he was essentially forced to retire. He loved these jobs and cherished the relationships built with so many repeat customers.” By that time, the Ace-Hy club had become only a memory to those who had been involved during its heyday, as by the mid-1960s it had essentially disbanded.

‘Dave’ Attitude. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]

Art Gavel 

But some remember the Ace-Hy Club, including Art Gavel. I interviewed Art four years ago and learned he was a talented motorcycle mechanic from Nova Scotia who arrived in Calgary in 1957. The day after he got to the city, Art was knocking on doors. The first place he stopped was Walt Healy’s motorcycle shop, then on 10th Street in Kensington. After a quick word with Walt, Art found himself employed and began turning wrenches the next day. “I never regretted working with Walt,” Art recalls. “He was a wonderful man to work for, but you didn’t want to get him mad. Of course, Indian – the brand Walt had started with – was done by ’53 so by that time we were selling Triumphs, and then Jawa and CZs. In the shop, I could service anything, and what Walt and I didn’t have in the way of tools to fix something we’d make.” He says Walt’s shop was roughly the size of three double-car garages. There was a showroom, and a large service shop. One of the most common chores in those days, according to Art, was bottom end servicing, including grinding crank journals not only for motorcycle engines but also automobiles and tractors.

Prep for the Turner Valley hillclimb with a c.1948 Ford F4 flatbed. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
The day Art started working with Walt he joined the Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club. “There were quite a few members then,” Art says. “The Ace-Hy wasn’t as much about road riding as it was about sport riding – grass track racing, cross-country racing, 100-mile endurance runs, and a lot of hillclimbs.” One of the club’s favourite activities was the annual Christmas Turkey Run. A turkey run is so-called because of the chance to win a prize bird, but the event was mostly an off-road cross-country race held late in the year in the cold and the snow.

Three Ace-Hy Club members at McFarland Lumber Yards in Okotoks, a few miles south of Calgary, on a winter ride. Jean Tewsley and Donna Hamilton are aboard their Indian vertical twin Scout models, while another rider has a JAWA 350cc twin, all attached to outrigger wheels for riding on ice! [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
“The Ace-Hy was a really good group of just ordinary people,” Art explains. “It didn’t matter what make or model of bike you rode, you’d be welcome. And, if somebody bought a cheap bike and joined the group, we’d all pitch in to work together and get the bike into good shape for them to safely ride.” And just like Jack Leong and Jean, if it wasn’t for the Ace-Hy club, Art says he’d have not met his future wife. “An Ace-Hy member, Eddy Thomas, and I had overhauled a motor for his flathead Ford,” Art says. “Eddy was getting the car into shape because he was going to drive it on his honeymoon. We were driving over to work on the car when we saw his bride-to-be Lorna and her friend waiting for a bus. We pulled over and picked them up, and Lorna’s friend was Joan – and Joan offered to buy me a milk shake. I always say that buying me that shake was the biggest mistake of her life!”

An Ace-Hy competition on the prairie: the club was primarily organized around racing. Note the Triumph T100 twin and AJS M18 single in the background. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]

Kaetyn St. Hilaire

When Jack died early in 2015 at the age of 92, Denise began the task of sifting through decades of her dad’s photographs, including the Ace-Hy archive. His work might not have come to light, however, if the Ace-Hy name hadn’t been resurrected in 2018 and used to identify the Alberta chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Now, the revived Ace-Hy, as an AMCA chapter, holds regular meetings, road runs and swap meets and is fortunate to have young Kaetyn St. Hilaire as an enthusiastic member. Kaetyn works the club’s social media and updates the @acehymotorcycleclub feed on Instagram.

Pit stop on a club competition. Note the AMA patch on his leather jacket; many racers crossed the border for racing. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
In the summer of 2021, Kaetyn began working with Calgary’s boutique Village Ice Cream shop to promote an antique motorcycle display at their Victoria Park location. And Denise, who happens to follow Village Ice Cream on Instagram, took notice when the shop posted a notice about its upcoming Ace-Hy motorcycle event. She made a comment on the post about her dad, Jack, the Ace-Hy club, and his archive of motorcycle images. “I asked if I could see them,” Kaetyn says, “and she allowed me to take all of them and scan them.” That treasure trove of photographs now forms the Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive, and Denise granted permission for the images to be widely shared. Kaetyn routinely posts them to Instagram and Denise is happy, and says her dad would be happy, too, knowing the images have been given new life in a digital environment where others can appreciate his work.

A contrast in gender roles, although Alberta ladies surely had no problem digging in when required. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
As the note says, Banff in March 1950. The snow has mostly melted on the ground, but Cascade Mountain stays white.[Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
This cafe was at the side of the highway at Canmore, Alberta. Mount Lady MacDonald to the right, and what is today know as Bald Eagle Peak to the left. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Hard to say what Jack Leong thought of the ‘white help only’ sign at the cafe… [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
That Ace-Hy patch is begging for a reboot! Great club colors. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Jack Leong’s daughter Denise Eckert sitting on Ace-Hy member Robert Olivier’s circa 1946-1947 Indian Chief with sidecar, the same year and model her dad, Jack, would have ridden. She has no motorcycle experience, and this was her first time even sitting on a bike. [Kimberly Eckert]
Out on the Alberta prairie on a club run. [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]
Bikers: cool without even trying (too hard). [Jack Leong/Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Archive]



Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics


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