Monday, March 28, 2022

Yrhmblhsts early Peoria memories



 An internet friend from England sent me this photo. He is interested in cars and Americana, and found the image whilst researching this end of the world. Apparently the drive in is in the Tulsa area, tho I do not recognise it. Anyway, he asked if I was the young man perched on the fender of the RoadRunner sitting next to the young lady in a short skirt. What follows was my answer :

 Regrettably, I am not that fellow as I was only 10 or 11 when that photo was taken at an unnamed drive in circa 1969/70.

So, since I was too young to really be ‘in the thick of things’, and, by my own admission, cruising, impromptu street racing, drive ins and such had declined severely by the time I reached the age to be out and amongst 'em, from whence cometh my nearly unhealthy obsession with things from that time period? Well…other than general interest and the realisation that the period from about 1955 to 1985 [if you stretch it] was the absolute ultimate period in time, especially for car guys, I actually ‘coulda’ been in that photo…I’d have just been sitting in the passenger seat of the Plymouth in wide eyed wonder. Let me explain.


My Godparents Patty and Ray had 3 children, so that makes them my ‘God-siblings’, right? My oldest Godbrother Ray [jr] was, and is, a fine man, who had a couple of neat cars [including the first 70 RS/SS Camaro in the state ] and a cool Triumph motorbike bitd. But his main interests really lay in the outdoors. Ray is quite the outdoorsman; hunting, mountain climbing, shooting, fishing, dog training and amateur archaeology – that guy can find arrowheads and such anywhere. Oh, and basketball. Plus he is quite adept at business, a trait he inherited from his folks. Has driven 4wd Chevy trucks for decades.
The youngest of their kids is my Godsister Cherry. Great girl whose first car was an Opel GT. Cherry also inherited the business gene, as well as the ‘good mom and grandmother gene’. [did I just say grandmother?!? Pip a grandma? Damn, I’m getting old…] But cars are just an appliance to her.
Then theres Dave…middle child with all that society typically accords those in that position. I could go on for hours with Davey stories – everything from twin engined gokarts down major thoroughfares – notably Peoria - leading the local Polizia on a merry chase, [same on dirtbikes], to street racing, to aerobatic stunts in a non aerobatic rated small plane, to rolling the coolest old Chevy pickup down a Montana mountainside- kicking the cab back square enough to sorta fit a windscreen in to drive back to Oklahoma in the middle of winter- to disappearing into the Rocky mountains for years at a time. Dave is one of the more interesting guys you’ll ever meet…David was my hero. But right now, I’ll just talk about why it coulda conceivably/possibly/theoretically been me sitting in that Plymouth. (or more accurately, a 1970 version of the same model)


Davey was interested in all things motorized since he opened his eyes. A fantastic mechanic and welder, he grew up around machinery in the family business and was driving trucks and tractors around as soon as he could reach the pedals. They lived about 3 blocks off of Peoria also – Peoria being the ‘cruise street’ in Tulsa bitd- and Dave was immersed in the car culture, reading Hot Rod magazines, building models and racing karts as a kid. David got his first car – a 64 GTO that was procured from the original owner [after Ray Junior’s stewardship], also named David, another friend of the family – and immediately hit Peoria.

 
Anyway, my family and his obviously were fairly close at the time, so we were at their house with some regularity. I always liked all of my Godsiblings, but had an extra affinity for David. Bless his heart, although 8 or 9 years older than I, he was very patient with me and usually tried to include me in things if I was around. Not a lot of teenagers were that kindhearted… So anyway, Davey got Davids GTO. And I LOVED that little Pontiac – 389 four speed, PS,PB, a/c. Turquoise inside and out- it was gorgeous. Always thought that was going to be my first car, but that’s another story…

 
We would occasionally be over at the Godparent’s house on a Friday or Saturday evening for supper, [Ray Sr was a phenomenal cook btw] and after eating, naturally Dave wanted to go ‘drive around’ a bit – i.e. cruise Peoria. Most of the time, my folks would let me go with him for awhile! I was fortunate enough to be able to cruise Peoria back in the day- from about 68 to 72 – some, first in a 64 GTO then in a 70 Roadrunner with Davey, just driving around, sitting in Pennington’s Drive Inn or C&Fs parking lot talking to other car guys. We banged a few gears here and there , looked at the girls, and even had a ‘real’ race out on the Beeline once that I was allowed to start with a flashlight.


Rumbling up and down the macadam, Top40 from KAKC wafting thru the monaural speakers, surrounded by tonnes of cool cars and lots of pretty girls, is it any wonder I am ‘stuck’ in that time period? So what if I was just riding shotgun, and then only occasionally; I cant imagine anyone with a single drop of gasoline in their bloodstream –nor actually, anyone with the breath of life in them at all – that had been afforded the opportunity to cruise in a musclecar, sit in Pennington's slurpin a Pepsi and woofin down a basket of fries while good music played in the background and cool cars and members of the opposite sex rolled by incessantly, to NOT be addicted to the accoutrements of the period and mourn its passing daily.

I sure cant.