I had a memory drift today. One moment I was stopped at the red light on Highway 78 at the Bryan Road intersection in Sumiton, and the next I hung a right down memory lane. A blinking bank sign …
I had a memory drift today. One moment I was stopped at the red light on Highway 78 at the Bryan Road intersection in Sumiton, and the next I hung a right down memory lane.
A blinking bank sign showing the time and temperature is there now, but in the late 1960s, a Mug n’ Cone drive-in sat there. Back then, that restaurant was a cruising hot spot for local teens. I smiled at the memory.
On weekends, the parking lot of that place was abuzz with flirting teenagers and rumbling engines. That was during a time when gas was cheap, and cars were thirsty.
The other places on the East Walker cruising circuit were Sherer’s Drive-in, which sat close to where the Sumiton Post Office now sits, and Bills Park and Eat, which is across from Walmart. Randy’s Crème Cone in Dora completed the circuit.
The cruising began at dusk for those teens with early curfews, but countless cars circled that parking lot until well after closing time.
No self-respecting teen would dare drive a dirty car through that parking lot during the rumble-fest. If a dirty car did drive through, it was probably someone’s parents, and any teens in the car were probably hiding in the backseat.
There was a pecking order of cool. Popular teens with flashy cars were at the top of the list. I was closer to the bottom. I had a 1946 Plymouth coupe that my brother had restored. The old coupe wasn’t on the cool radar for the girls, but the old maroon Plymouth with moon flipper hubcaps often got a subtle nod from the guys.
The car wasn’t as cool if I ever turned the engine off. A weak battery meant the car wouldn't crank unless I had someone to help me push it off so I could pop the clutch and crank the motor.
My first date with Jilda was on my graduation night in May of 1968. Dad loaned me the family's Plymouth Belvedere. It was a four-door but with all the windows down and the radio cranked to a deafening volume, it worked.
After high school, I enrolled at Jeff State Community College. I flunked English and algebra, and scrapped by the other subjects with Cs. The one outlier was world history; I loved the teacher, and I aced the subject…but I digress. My parents paid for the first term at college, but they started the no-pass, no-play rule early on. If I wanted to go to school, I’d be paying for it myself. I got a job.
The main benefit of having a job, other than having money to go to school and eat, was that I had enough left over to buy a car. I’ve written about this car in the past so I won’t go into detail, but it was a 1965 Impala SS. The motor in the beast was larger than Rhode Island. I measured fuel efficiency in gallons per mile. I was willing to overlook the mileage because that car was beautiful.
The thing about cruising when we were young is that with four wheels and a few dollars in gas, we could be part of something bigger. Something exciting. We had fun. It made us feel alive.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.