Prosperity and Depression
Despite the years of the Great Depression things with the USI were going strong. Member Willi Ferrulli was club champ 3 years running in 1933, 34 and 35. At the time the USI had 4 divisions: Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Meetings were held each Monday at the club ofﬁ ces on West 45th St.
The popularity of cycling and of the USI was such that Unione Sportiva Italiana branches were started in different parts of the country by interested cyclists. Among the ﬁrst was a USI in San Francisco which started in 1919, followed by branches in Philadelphia, San Jose and Buffalo. In 1937 the USI left its well loved and much used West 45th Street ofﬁces and moved to West 54th St.
In 1934 Otto Eisele, Sr. who served as the USI delegate to the American Bicycle League was elected president of the organization and he retained the position for the next ten years.
Although the Six Day Bicycle Races continued during these years of the Great Depression their popularity was eclipsed by other sports including baseball and auto racing. With the decline of cycling as a professional sport in the United States the National Cycling Association had lost a good deal of its clout, but it still retained membership in the UCI (International Cycling Union) which meant that it had the right to organize and represent the United States in international cycling affairs. Otto Sr. recognized that the opportunity to keep amateur cycling alive and growing lay in the American Bicycle League taking the place of the NCA representing the United States in the UCI.
The organization of the Olympic trials for 1936 serves as an example of how the depression affected cycling in the US. The ABL organized the Olympic trials for 1936. Owing to the lean times and the amateur nature of both the ABL and the Olympic movement racers were obliged to pay their own way if they wanted to compete at the qualifying sectional and national Olympic selection races. The American Olympic Association would only pay for the riders’ passage to and from Berlin. (The Cycling Bulletin, April, 1936)
A ten year struggle that included reviving the ABL National championship, an alliance and power struggle with the Amateur Athletic Union and recognition by the American Olympic Association (forerunner to the United States Olympic Committee) ended successfully with ABL recognition by the UCI in 1944. (Nancy Nieman Baranet, American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist, Racing News column from February 1976).