Sunday, February 12, 2017

REMINISCING: Still Cruising After All These Years

I was looking through my mess of a library the other day for a piece of research for my fire department book. While I was unable to locate it (which means a quick trip to the Lockport Library on Monday to verify), I did run across my copy of “American Graffiti.” Thinking about that movie made me think of some days from my own youth.

When a friend’s older sibling got a car, we all became closer friends with said older sibling. This was mostly so we didn’t have to walk or ride our bikes everywhere. It also could expand our range of roaming. All of a sudden, we could get to the mall fairly easily. This jumped exponentially when we got our own cars, or our friends did. Now, going to the mall in Amherst was not out of the question.

One of the things that happened, too, was cruising. That seemed to happen more in the smaller towns than in Lockport, but we still did it to some extent. However, probably the best cruising we did was in Medina. I had family and friends in Medina, so I was very familiar with the Main Street laps.

My cousin, Traci, was the first to have a car. It was an Oldsmobile 442, so it was not just a ride. It was a pretty darn cool ride. Matt and I would practically beg to ride with her in the evening. We’d head on up to Main Street. It was a fairly short loop that we made. Medina isn’t huge, by any stretch. However, we’d start at the cold storage. Everyone kind of used that as a home base. It was a good way to see who was out that night.

We’d cruise from one end of Main Street to the other, the other end being the parking lot across from Hartway Motors and next to the American Legion. We’d spend hours driving back and forth, and meeting up with friends. It was the social media of our time.

Of course, Medina wasn’t the only place we’d aimlessly drive through over and over. Barker was another hot spot for us. We’d go to T-Putt’s to play pool and get some food. We’d take a couple cars out there since there wasn’t enough room for just one. I’m sure that the kids in Barker were thrilled that a group of Lockport kids were invading their town, but there was never any trouble.

In Lockport, the Lockport Mall was our main congregating area. We’d drive through the parking lot looking for familiar cars, stopping when we saw other friends. We’d back in along the last row of parking spots near Hills and hang out on the hoods of our vehicles. When we got tired of throwing the football in the parking lot, we’d head inside and cruise the mall on foot. The arcade and pizza joint were popular spots to hang, along with Cavages.

We put a lot of miles on our cars during those years, and we really never went anywhere. We sure had a lot of fun when we were cruising, though. And it was a lot different to plan in those days compared to today. We didn’t have cell phones or social media to plan our evenings on the town.

During lunch at school, we’d make our plan for the weekend. Lunch was the one time that we could all get together. We’d make plans to meet at a certain time and a certain place. And then it was us heading out and hoping that everyone else would show up. Sometimes you’d wait around and friends would show up late, or not at all.

When our group got together, we’d debate where we were going for the evening. Honestly, that was entirely dependent on where we thought we’d run across the most girls. Gas was cheap, and we had enough money for gas and food, even if that meant pooling the money and sharing food. It’s a good thing that we all liked the same food.

I wonder how many teenage drivers still follow this rite of passage? Do they still meet up with friends and hang out playing pool or throwing footballs in the parking lot? My children have no interest in learning to drive, but I’m sure they will likely still take part in cruising with their friends. There is just something that is all-American about the car and driving the main drag.

Craig Bacon likes to drive. More than sometimes, he drives his wife and friends crazy. If you’re one of those people, don’t worry, you’re already halfway there.