Cruising, boozing and maybe some no-shoesing

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Did you ever cruise the gut? I wish I had gotten to. The closest I ever came was when I went to a slumber party at Tracy Ahler’s house in junior high and her sweet mom took us. We had so much fun driving back and forth from Albertsons all the way down Isaacs and Rose to Safeway! We even got brave and had her honk at a few older guys. We thought we were so cool.

By the time I had my driver’s license a few years later, though, there really wasn’t much action in the cruising arena — unless you count cowboys showing off their big trucks in the Albertsons parking lot. Or the EuroCar CreationZ guys comparing their tricked-out cars in the Penguin parking lot.

But I’ve heard tales of cruising in the 1960s, the apparent heyday of cruising, when the streets were full of young people all through downtown.

Where you could honk at your friends or future friends, or where one misplaced honk of the horn could get the wrong carload to stop. Where people could congregate in parking lots and street corners, their cars full of friends and even beer — I guess DUI laws weren’t as harsh in those days.

This was an idea my grandpa loved to wax nostalgic about. He would sigh and shake his head at the harshness of today’s government.

“Ah,” he would lament, “we could drink too much at the bar and drive home without any worry. If the police pulled us over and saw we were drunk they would just drive in front of us to make sure we had someone to follow.” God bless him, I sure do miss that Leonard Mobley.

But back to those wild teens in the ‘60s. I can’t let my uncle Tom Alexenko off the hook. Now, admittedly, Tom is still pretty wild! But apparently I missed out on some really good nights before I was born, because everyone loves to tell of Tom’s streaking escapades, especially the time he streaked from The Green to Pepe’s Pizza.

I guess Tom really enjoyed streaking — no problem for someone who is thin and fast (and probably drunk). He planned ahead and gave my dad his clothes to take to the bathroom across the street at Pepe’s, then he raced from the bathroom at The Green, through the bar, into the street, where he jumped up and clicked his heels together like a leprechaun before running into the pizza parlor.

As everyone reminisced about the event at a recent family dinner, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not he was barefoot or wearing boots. I remember the old bathroom at The Green before they remodeled, and I can’t imagine being barefoot in there, not to mention running on pavement. But hey, who knows, he could have been barefoot.

Today, no one cruises the gut. We have to call a taxi or walk when we drink too much. And, saddest by far, I’ve never seen a streaker; in fact, as I write this the term “streaker” comes up on spell check as not a word. My poor generation. We’d get arrested if we tried to do half the things our parents laugh about getting away with. But at least we could probably all beat the pants off them at “Super Mario Bros.” Yep.

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at saravandonge@gmail.com.

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