On the night of June 14, 1966, a gun battle between two rival motorcycle “gangs” took place in the Safeway parking lot at the corner of Lee Highway and Harrison Street in Arlington. At the center of the drama was Wayne Hager – a young man who never backed down from a fight, enjoyed his motorcycles, and cherished his 1965 Chevrolet Impala; it was that Impala that ignited a night of terror in Arlington which made national news.
Fifty years later, in June 2016, I sat down for an interview with Wayne at the Forest Inn bar on Washington Blvd, around 3 PM, and when I reluctantly stood up to leave I noticed it was after 9 PM. Among other things, I learned Wayne enjoys his storytelling and his stories are quite entertaining, especially those I promised I wouldn’t repeat. I was pleasantly surprised he could remember so many names and details from his youthful days; his reasoning is because he didn’t start drinking alcohol until he was 49 years old.
The stories included Wayne’s first run-in with Arlington’s notorious bad guy, George Lincoln Rockwell, in 1959, when an owner of the old Acme Grocery on Williamsburg Blvd let a young Wayne take a shopping cart full of eggs (no charge) to throw at the American Nazi’s house; the Arlington nightlife when Wayne and his buddies hung out at Topp’s Drive-In at the corner of Lee Highway and George Mason Drive or went to see future singing stars in the area like Roy Clark at the Cherrydale Firehouse and Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter on the Potomac; the sensitive stories about Wayne’s boyhood dog, Ladybug, and some ladies in his life; and, of course, the details about his encounters with the Pagans Motorcycle Gang. The first encounter was in 1962, which was followed by frictional years and the subsequent creation of The Avenger’s [Avengers], Wayne’s own motorcycle “group” (he didn’t think they should be referred to as a gang). These are the two “groups” who battled at Lee/Harrison in 1966 – firing over 100 rounds in the once sleepy Arlington parking lot – but thankfully no one was seriously injured.
Wayne gained notoriety with an entirely new generation of Arlingtonians following local writer Charlie Clark’s 2008 published story, “Arlington’s Night of Gang Warfare,” about the infamous battle. (Note: The battle commenced when the Pagans crossed the Potomac from Maryland in search of Wayne.) There was also a story in the Washington Times featuring Wayne’s ’66 Impala which took multiple beatings from Wayne’s rivals but each time she was repaired and eventually gained her own followers.
Most of the photos shown here are from Wayne’s own scrapbook and like all the photos on our website, they’re not for reuse. Enjoy this rare collection and if you run into Wayne at the Forest Inn, thank him for providing.