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.
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.
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.
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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