Published Saturday, September 12, 2009
Just over 35 years ago an article in the New York Times featured Albert Lea and its then very popular route based on “cruising,” “dragging the main street,” “driving around,” and just plain vehicular socializing by the younger generation. In 1974 the route publicized by this Times article was based on going from the A & W Drive Inn, then located near the corner of South Broadway Avenue and East Seventh Street to the north to the end of Broadway
In that era the north end of Broadway made a turn to the west into Fountain Street. And near this location there was a roadway feature known as the “turn around.” There, the drivers of the vehicles could use this part of Fountain Lake Park to reverse direction and go back south for about a mile to the A & W. Here, another turn around could be made in the parking lot to go back north for another cruise on the city’s main drag.
However, it wasn’t just all driving back and forth on Broadway on those evenings and afternoons. There would be occasions where the occupants of several vehicles ended up being parked somewhere along the route to maybe exchange passengers or to discuss vital young adult topics. Those trips up and down Broadway by the various vehicles driven by the young drivers, in reality could add up to quite a total during an afternoon or evening. And the most popular times for this vehicular dragging, according to the Times article, were Friday and Saturday from about 7 to 11 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons.
There were also stops for gasoline refills, restroom breaks and refreshments. And three places specifically mentioned in the Times article were the A & W Drive Inn during the warmer months of the year, Jake’s Pizza at 126 W. Clark St., and Quik Stop Burgers at 538 E. Main St.
There was an indication that she was very familiar with Broadway’s popularity as a drag strip destination for the area’s younger generation during her high school and college years. The New York Times article citing Albert Lea as one of the nation’s top drag strip locations appeared in an early 1974 edition. It was written by Judy Klemesrud who grew up in Thompson, Iowa, located in Winnebago County about 15 miles west of Lake Mills. At that time she was a Times staff writer.