Cruise Nights

When I arrived in Southern California forty years ago, I found the natives engaging in a ritual that was alien to me, a ritual called cruising.

Cruising was not specific to Southern California Car Culture. It was practiced widely throughout the larger settlements in North America, and for all I know, the entire world. But where I came from, a small town in rural New York State, there simply wasn’t a long boulevard to cruise. There was a place commonly called “the four corners” where Main and Elm Streets crossed and it was the center of what little night life was available, and all of that limited night life was centered around a handful of bars and restaurants within a block of the street crossing. It wasn’t conducive to cruising.

In Southern California, cruising occurred on Friday and Saturday nights, preferably on long two-lane streets. Friends would pile into a car and drive slowly up and down the chosen boulevard, showing off their rides and seeing and being seen. It was a sort of mobile party. The scene was very similar to that portrayed years later in American Graffiti. In Riverside it typically took place on the miles-long Magnolia Avenue. In San Bernardino it usually occurred on E Street. Nearly every city or sizable town had a cruising area.

Being part of the car culture, showing off your “ride” was very much central to cruising. Now, forty or fifty years removed, the feel of those times can be brought back by attending “Cruise Nights”. There is no cruising done at the cruise nights.

They are really static shows of the types of automobile one might have taken cruising in past decades. Many of the cars at the shows appear courtesy of a local club, the Old Farts Racing Team.

The photos in this post are from one of Retro Rick’s Cruise Nights. It was held on October 9 at the Canyon Crest Towne Centre in Riverside, California. For more information on future cruise nights to be held throughout Southern California, see Cruise Nights or phone the 24 Hot Rod Line at (951) 371-5833.

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