It’s just about Friday night … let’s go cruisin’

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Remember when you, or one of your buddies, got a driver’s license? Remember when someone had access to a car that they either owned or borrowed from their parents? It was time to go cruisin’, a “social and recreational experience that involved driving on impulsively random and aimless courses.” Cruisin’ was a great opportunity to meet new friends, and hopefully, new friends who were members of the opposite sex.

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American Grafitti, a 1973 George Lucas film, presents a great depiction of the culture. That film was set in Modesto, California, and in towns throughout the US, Friday and Saturday nights were “cruise nights” somewhere on a local “strip.” Sometime during a cruise night, drivers would inevitably wind up at a local drive-in restaurant to grab a pizza, a sandwich or an ice cream treat. Quite often, music was playing from a PA system, a band or from car radios.

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One of the oldest cruising strips in the US was located on Whittier Boulevard in East LA, where “low-riders” started having fun in the ‘40s. Cruising spread east to Van Nuys Boulevard in California’s San Fernando Valley and then to Woodward Avenue and other streets in the Detroit, Michigan area. Cruising has evolved to local car shows, where American machines can be seen on display somewhere almost every weekend. The “Woodward Dream Cruise,” primarily sponsored by Chevrolet, “actually started as a small fundraiser to raise money for a soccer field,” and has become the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and forty thousand classic cars from around the globe each year on the third Saturday in August.

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Local law enforcement has increasingly become disenchanted with cruising and officers regularly write traffic tickets for a number of violations. I guess there are lots of other things for today’s teens to enjoy.

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6 thoughts on “It’s just about Friday night … let’s go cruisin’

  1. In the 1960’s Southern Ohio, the Cruisin’ Place was Frisch;s. It was a burger place with speakers just like an old drive in movie theater. You could pull in, order your greasy stuff via the speaker. lay back and watch the parade.

    Once, I went there shirtless and sat on the hood of my car. More than thirty years later, when I went to a high school reunion, I got rave reviews way too late to act upon.

    Marshall

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  2. We could always find somebody whose Dad would free up a car for us. We were more or less responsible with it and always took up a collection of coins to replace the gas we used up that night. Gas in ’63/’64 ran between 28 to 32 cents a gallon where we lived if I remember correctly. Truly. Cruisin’ was THE Friday night pastime for us. Main landmarks were McDonalds, the Red Barn for those who liked hot dogs over hamburgers and a quick drive through of the Manners Big Boy (I think it was) to look at the muscle cars the slighty older guys with money drove.

    BD

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  3. Oh yeah. Woodward ave was the hot spot . Big boys was the hangout. Rival schools , other girls boyfriends . Such innocent fun. Too bad the kids nowadays don’t know what they’re missing . Oh and when I moved to Phoenix in 69 it was Central ave.

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  4. In Erie, Pa, we “bugged State Street” from the hill by Academy High School down around the dock, and back. Met lots of other teens and young 20’s folks from all over. Lots of friendships made along that street. We could pull over and park at what is now a school district building, and mingle. In fact, my husband and I were introduced by a mutal friend when we were all out “bugging State”.

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  5. Living in a small town, Palm Springs, you just cruised up and down Palm Canyon Drive, but not too far up and not too far down. We didn’t have any drive up fast food but we could park at The Plaza, eat at A&W’s outdoor tables and then right back to cruising. We met new friends from all over the desert valley and during Easter Break, literally from everywhere. The police were pretty good about the cruising as long as we kept moving, so the trick was to try and catch the only red light on the drive which was smack in the middle of town. We would try to gage it and speed up or crawl so we were right at the light when it turned red! It was a blast because, even if we didn’t have a ride we would walk along the sidewalks and talk to the guys in the cars. You could tell if they liked you by how slow they would drive while talking to you and the guys in the back would hang out the windows. The coolest people around had convertibles! Yes, it is a shame that our kids on down won’t experience that. It was so much fun and so innocent!

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