Sunday, December 5, 2010

Draggin' Broadway in A.L.

Dragging Broadway was something we did almost ever weekend night, if only one pass down and back to check out the action. It's where everybody was. Times change. They eliminated the turn-around at the north terminus and you can't get around the A & W on the south. That's okay. I wasn't a kid anymore and Broadway's time had passed anyway. This is a shortened and edited (not by me) version of a longer piece from the Feb 8, 1974, New York Times. Why A.L.? Why the N.Y. Times? Beats me.:


It is winter, and there is supposed to be an energy crisis on, but that didn't stop a 21-year-old from dragging Broadway here the other night in his souped-up '69 green Camaro with the wide mag wheels. Back and forth, he drove. Back and forth, on a mile long route from the A & W  Root Beer stand to the Fountain Lake dead end. Back and forth, in that teen-age ritual known here as 'dragging,' in George Lucas's current hit movie, 'American Graffiti,' as 'cruising,' and in other cities and towns as just plain 'driving around.' But no matter what the phenomenon is called, the purpose is still the same: for teenagers, and sometimes those in their early 20's, to show off their cars and try to meet someone new of the opposite sex. In other words, Broadway - and streets like it all over the country - is a mile-long outdoor singles bar for those who aren't always old enough to drink. "I think it's a bad way to do it; I'd rather meet a girl at a party or something", said the 21-year- old ... But he conceded that if he saw an interesting looking female pedestrian, he would not hesitate to invite her to ride around with him. "But right now, I'm just, uh, well, uh, just fooling around." he said as he put $3 worth of gasoline into his car at a service station on Broadway.
Almost all of the dragsters who were interviewed in this city of 19,000 on a recent Saturday night - Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons are the hottest cruising times-said they didn't believe there was an energy crisis, and that even if there was, they hadn't curtailed their dragging activities any because of it."There's no gas shortage!" said a senior at Albert Lea High School. "The only evidence we've had here is that they close the stations on Sunday." 

According to the dragsters, cruising is more fun in the summertime, when it's easier to shout to each other from open car windows without having to worry about catching pneumonia. "But we still do it [shout]," one young male dragster said. "We just turn up the car heater, so you don't notice the cold so much."In the summer, of course the A & W Root Beer stand at the southern end of the drag route is open. A lot of between-car socializing takes place there, not to mention the offers to climb into one's car for a few spins around Broadway. "In the winter, the teenage hangout is Jake's Pizza, where one has to park one's beloved car, get out, walk into the restaurant and sit in a booth in order to make social contacts. But winter cruising lives even in the frequent subzero temperatures of this region because winter is when the high school basketball games are played, and a high school basketball game with cruising afterward is like an A & W Root Beer without a hamburger, tangy but somehow incomplete.

Dragging begins around 7 p.m. and pretty much ends around 11 p.m. "By that time we've found out where the parties are - if there an" one teenager said. A party can deter a dragster temporarily from his appointed rounds. But after it's over, you can be sure he will be back on Broadway, checking to see if there are any interesting new faces driving around. The new faces usually belong to teenagers from the small surrounding farm towns in Minnesota and nearby Iowa, who come to Albert Lea because of it's two movie houses and its lively drag route.

6 comments:

Tom G. said...

1980's, our Albert Lea was Batavia NY, our Broadway was East Main Street, our Jake's was Pontillo's, our turn around's were the Pizza Hut Parking Lot, and Wendy's. I'm sure the kids are still cruising, unless self righteous baby boomers have driven them into hiding in the name of safety.

Gunnar Berg said...

They aren't here. At least it isn't the slow bumper-to-bumper the way it used to be.

Mimbres Man said...

That ritual seems to have disappeared in Silver City, NM as well. It used to be bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights down Bullard St. Our Broadway is downtown but runs perpendicular to Bullard. BTW, both are part of the downtown criterium in the Tour of the Gila.

Adena said...

Generation x doesn't go "draggin' on Broadway in A.L." We "clip the lake".

Gunnar Berg said...

Good morning, Sweets. Or evening there I guess. I'm just about to head to Nick's Meats for Christmas presents. ;-) Take care, Love.

Lorna Berg said...

Lovely to see Addy post.