by Charles Hall
“No Particular Place to Go” by Chuck Berry
I can remember the joy of finally getting my drivers license. I really enjoyed my Cushman Eagle motor scooter, but I was ready to move on to a car. Several of my friends were a few months older than me, and got cars sooner than I did – so I learned “cruising” early on. (Think about the movie American Graffiti with Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss etc. 1958 Chevy Impala, 1956 T-Bird, 32 Deuce Coupe. Driving a certain loop for hours, stopping at the hang outs for cokes and cheeseburgers and french fries. Seeing all your friends and meeting new ones.)
Cruising definition: “a social activity that primarily consists of driving a car. A popular route or ‘strip’ is often the focus of cruising.”
That’s what we did. For HOURS! We didn’t have cell phones or social media in the early 1960’s, so we got in our cars. When you phoned a friend and his mom said he was out, you took to the streets and had a good chance of finding that person. Before, during, and after dates, by yourself, with your friends, morning-noon-night, it was never boring. You could start in anywhere along the way, and often pulled off to visit etc., but the route was basically from A&W Root Beer at Wadley and N. Big Spring – head towards town past Scarbauer Drive to Wall Street in the middle of downtown – take a Right (West) and immediately go past Kings – go up Wall Street to Andrews Hwy and take a Right – go past Burger Chef on the left (Gibsons was just behind it on W. Cuthbert) – keep going up to Midkiff and take a Left (South), you would see Tastee Freez on your Right – keep going to Illinois, and take a Right (West) ½ block to Love’s Drive In. Stop at any or all or just keep driving around.
It helped to have friends who had cool cars. I was very lucky in that regard. John Moore white ’57 Chevy convertible, Gary Durossette black MG, Tommy Franks white MG with lake plugs, Jimmy Epley (my roommate at Texas) antique cars such as Duesenberg (note to self and life lesson learned – NEVER use the only Duesenberg within 300 miles to paint stop signs. Ya gonna get caught), Cord, Stutz, etc., Randy Reuter red ’55 T-Bird.
But the most fun car to cruise in was Cliff Johnson’s yellow ’57 Chevy with a large and functional scoop on the hood. He was definitely the hot rodder of Midland. Every spare penny he put into clothes (for the girls) or into his car – which was VERY fast. Here’s the specs, if you are interested (I recently verified with Cliff): 327 cu. inch Chevy engine, pop up pistons, 3 large 2 barrel carburetors, Isky 505 camshaft, 4 speed close ratio 2:20 low transmission w/hurst linkage, 4.11:1 rear end – which he replaced with 3.55:1 gears (higher top end, better gas mileage) when I took a HS Graduation trip to New Mexico with Cliff and Gary Durossette.
Speaking of Cliff and Gary brings an incident to mind, which neither one of them remember now (they are 2 of my best lifelong friends). They probably don’t remember this because of several reasons: 1. over the course of a year there would be hundreds of incidents, most of them lots of fun. 2. It wasn’t their life at stake, and 3. They are getting old and forgetful!!
So Gary and Cliff and I are cruising one beautiful spring evening during our Senior year in High School. (Cliff attended Midland High and Gary and I went to Lee. During our Sophomore year there was only 1 high school, Midland High. But that was 2 years ago) Lots of cars would pull up beside us and want to race, but of course Cliff would turn them down (usually) and we would keep going. On this particular evening, a car pulled up beside us and challenged us to –of all things – a weight lifting contest. They even offered to spot us as much weight as we wanted to make it even. Now let’s establish right up front that Gary and Cliff were each about my size, which is to say NOT very big. The guys in the other car were HUGE. Cliff very politely declined the offer.
It was getting darker, but I could see that I didn’t know the driver. But the guy riding shot gun was Joe Ray Hurley. I knew Joe Ray in the 4th grade, the one year I attended West Elementary. He was a great guy and was always very nice to me, but we hadn’t spoken in years (we are friends on Facebook now though, small world). He was a very good football player, and went on to a great career at Texas Tech. Needless to say he could have spotted me a Volkswagen – or two – and still mopped the floor with me.
The guy in the back seat was Bob Stanley, also a great football player who went on to a very distinguished career at University of Texas as a defensive lineman. He was also my best friend in the 4th grade. We kept in close contact through the 7th grade, attended some of each other’s Little League games etc even though he had moved to the other side of town off A Street. We didn’t hang out together in High School our Sophomore year except to say Hi. I don’t think I had spoken to him since Lee High School was built and I went there Junior year and now Senior. But hey, once someone is your best friend for a year, you never forget them. Right ??
So I wanted to say Hi to Bob, and I kiddingly yelled out that Heck, I can take that guy in the back seat all by myself. Cliff and Gary (not knowing that I knew Bob) looked at me like I was crazy. That’s Bob Stanley, they said. He will kill you !!! I assured them I could handle him.
In the other car, I could hear Bob screaming for us to pull over at this park coming up. (There used to be a park between W. Wall and Texas Ave., probably around N. H Street). So Cliff pulls off of Wall onto the side street by the park, and I start to climb out of the back seat. As I’m doing so, several things slowly start to come to my mind. Bob really seemed to be mad. Its getting pretty dark now as the sun sets further. I haven’t talked to Bob in over a year. I stand up by the car and look back, and here comes Bob Stanley storming around the other car. Golly, he looks mad !!! Slowly, slowly a horrible thought comes to me. Holy Crapola – HE DOESN’T RECOGNIZE ME !! I probably could have out run him, scared as I was. But no – I did what any red blooded American male would do. I FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle as this huge, huge guy comes bearing down on me. This was definitely the end.
Bob comes charging up to me, reaches down ….. and …. grabs me in a big BEAR HUG, laughing all the while. Everyone laughs, we stand around and visit for a few minutes. Then we get back in our cars and go our separate ways.
Growing up in Midland was such a wonderful experience for me back in the 50’s and 60’s. There were so many really terrific people to know and to make friends with. The streets were wide and pretty safe. All the parents banded together to help raise us. We played outside all day when we were little, and drove around all the time as we got older. And …. Bad as it tasted, there really must have been something good in the water.
Well, to finish up my story. (I last saw Bob in about 1964 on the UT campus. We were both hurrying to class and basically just said Hi, how ya doing?.) After Cliff drove away from the park, I don’t really remember exactly where we went or what we did ….. but I’m pretty sure the first thing we did involved getting me a fresh pair of shorts.