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French Antique Tale: A Father’s Christmas Gift From 1946 Cycles Back To Owner

Bicycle standing near house

Rozena Crossman

Joseph Carayon was ten years old in 1946, living in the small southern French town of Abeilhan, when his father gave him a bicycle for Christmas. As a newly freed prisoner of war, the father had cobbled the bike together from spare parts, making for a particularly special Christmas gift.

But when he came of age, Joseph began riding a moped and lent the bike to a friend, and never saw it again. Until a brocanteur — a French antiques dealer — regifted the long-lost vehicle to Joseph a month ago.


Another dealer had found the bike in a flea market 30 kilometers away, and noticed a plaque that read: “Joseph Carayon Abeilhan HLT.” He contacted the colleague from Abeilhan, a 35-year-old named Thomas.

Joseph Carayon, his Christmas bicycle and the kindly "brocanteur" who reunited them.France Bleu Hérault

“I could have kept it for scrap,” said the brocanteur. “The bike was all rusty. Bikes like that are a dime a dozen. But my sharp eye was drawn to this plate under the handlebars.”

Thomas saw the name and knew exactly who had once owned the bike — and decided to make it his professional holiday mission to deliver it to him.

Now 85 years old, Joseph Carayon was already a local cycling icon in and around Abeilhan, as one of the oldest paperboys for the regional newspaper Midi Libre, which first reported the story.

Known as “Jojo,” he covers up to 13 kilometers per day delivering the news, half of which he does on a much newer bike.

Although his gift from all those years ago is still in working condition, he said he will reserve it for special occasions. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Carayon when reading about the return of his bicycle in the very paper he distributes. Seventy-five years ago, it was a special delivery from his dad; now from a young stranger … it’s the Christmas gift that keeps giving.

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