"A lot of people ask ‘Who were the Blue Barons?' I tell them they were a motorcycle club and the first thing they always think of is the Hell's Angles or whatever. And they're not, they are totally the opposite," explained David Allen, son of Blue Baron's founder, Paul Allen.
From afar they looked like leather clad bikers caving up the streets of Tacoma on Indians, Triumphs and Harleys. Up close, they were business men and community advocates.
Though certainly not the oldest of the motorcycle clubs in the area, the Blue Barons have certainly left their mark. Established in 1938(est.) and continuing into the mind 1970s, the Blue Baron's administered Graham speedway, owned and ran the Mount Tahoma Hill Climb (also known as Blue Baron Hill), and supported a huge number of public and social works. They were members of both the American Motorcycle Association and the Northwest Motorcycle Association.
Prior to closing in the 1970s due to a lawsuit with a mink farm and encroaching urbanization, Graham Speedway was once a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts in the area. Owned by the (still active) Tacoma Motorcycle Club and ran by the Blue Barons, the speedway put on numerous races and events - including an Evel Knievel jump in August of 1967. The speedway saw the likes of local legends Bob Knox, ‘Indian' Joe and Emil Ahola.
Caroline Gallacci perhaps best described the Mount Tahoma Hill Climb best when she wrote in her book Playgroud to the Pros, "In Addition to the Graham Speedway, racers also used what they called Blue Baron Hill. It was not much to look at: a gravel scar carved out of the salal and ferns above a nondescript cinder-block building that was the headquarters for the Blue Barons club. From the clubhouse, however, it appeared almost vertical and must have been a challenge just to, let alone beat the clock. The hill sits on the edge of South Tacoma peat bogs near where the end of 56th meets Tyler Street."
The Blue Barons founded and supported several charity events in the area. The clubhouse on 56th street saw Halloween parties for the St Ann's orphanage. Rides were arranged to raise money for the numerous charities. Bob Malley, a lifelong member of the Barons and Expert Class rider independently started a youth program, Young Hotshots, encouraged riders sixteen and younger to ride safe. He also established for founded a class for McNeil Island as a way to cultivate mechanic skills, it was the first such program in a federal facility.
Sadly the Blue Baron's chapter in Tacoma's motorcycling history is drawing to a more definite close. "I've been to three funerals in the last year of club members that have passed away," Allen said.
The Blue Barons left such an imprint on Tacoma and the Puget Sound that they will be featured in the upcoming exhibit "Let's Ride: Motorcycling the Northwest" at the Washington State History Museum. The show is scheduled to open January 23, 2013.