One of the rites of passage for me as a teenager growing up in Sapulpa was cruising. Anybody who was anybody cruised the “main drag” of Sapulpa. This route started at the Humpty Dumpty parking lot, on South Main St. (where Subway is now located), or at Cornwell’s Drive-In, driving north on Main St. We would turn right on Dewey Ave., then turn left on Mission and turn around at the Beacon Drive-In or the Green Spray parking lot and going back through town.
Much of the mystique of cruising was the social interaction between one’s peers, especially the opposite sex. If a teenage boy was lucky enough to have a really “cool” car, his chances of picking up a girl went up exponentially. What girl would not want to be seen in a souped-up 1957 Chevy, or perhaps a new Pontiac GTO (affectionately referred to as a “Goat.”) Yes, my friends, a hot-rod or a new muscle car was a great equalizer for all the guys who were not Hollywood handsome or jocks.
The idea was to drive slowly, so everyone could see your ride. You might engage in conservation with the driver next to you. But more often than not, especially in the warm months, you would drive with the window down with Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys blaring out of your 8-track under the dash. Even though I may not have had a really cool car much of the time in high school, I always had a state-of-the-art sound system that I installed myself.
Eating and hanging out at the local drive-ins was part of the cruising scene. The drive-in was where we refueled ourselves, hung out with friends and, for the guys who were not introverts like me, tried to pick up a girl.
Every so often, someone might challenge you to “drag race.” This usually consisted of racing your opponent from one stoplight to the next. One November evening in 1968, I was sitting at a stoplight in my 1957 Pontiac Starchief coupe. The car was old, but I had done a little mechanical work on it and it was quite fast. The light changed, I floored the Pontiac, and the race was on. I actually beat the new Chevy Camaro, but it came with a price. I received a ticket for reckless driving.
Serious drag racing took place at “four-mile.” From Hickory St. to Wickham Road was one mile, from Taft Ave. to Teel Road was one mile, from Wickham Road to Hickory St. was one mile, and from Teel Road to Taft Ave. was one mile, hence, four-mile. The two sections of this area that were frequented by teenagers was Wickham Road between Taft Ave. and Teel Rd. and Taft Ave. between Hickory St. and Wickham Road.
The area where Walmart is now located on Taft was the drag strip. We would measure off a quarter-mile, and spray paint a start and finish line. Someone would serve as a flagman. I never had a car worthy of entering a serious drag race, so I wound up being a flagman on several occasions. These races were held at night, hoping not to draw the attention of the local constabulary. There was a custom back then that drivers could race for “pink slips.” This involved challenging a person to a drag race and putting up your car as the ante. If you lost the race, you lost your car.
The section of Wickham between Taft and Teel was the Lovers’ Lane. That is where teenagers would “watch the submarine races.” This was a euphemism for making out in the car. On any Friday or Saturday night, there would be a row of cars sitting on that stretch of road. In the colder months, the windows would be fogged over.
For the introverted Geeks, such as myself, there was a sport known as “bushwacking.” You would fill up a balloon with water, then drive by car with lovers in it, and toss the ballon through the open window of their car. I only engaged in that sport once. I was driving a beat-up 1954 Chevy. I drove slowly by a VW with an open sunroof, and my friend tossed the ballon in the car. The fellow immediately started his car and began chasing us. I had no idea how fast a “bug” was. Conversely, I did not know how slow my Chevy was. Fortunately, he never caught us.
Cruising holds some fond memories, but perhaps the fondest memory is the way I met my wife. I was working in Tulsa and my friend Daryl Howard asked me to meet him in the Tru Discount parking lot (now Dollar General on Dewey). He wanted to go cruising in his new 1972 Javelin AMX. I parked my new Chevy Vega (remember I was a nerd) and waited for Daryl. Lynn, a girl I had seen several times cruising town in her yellow Mustang, pulled up and started talking. The next thing you know, I had her phone number. We only went out once. She set me up on a blind date. That blind date, Constance Dye, became my wife.