By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Silents & Boomers started local ‘drag’

Before the car parade begins in this year’s Dragging the Gut Festival, a few of McMinnville’s early cruisers would like to set the record straight.

Our entertaining feature story last week drew responses taking issue with its opening lines: “Third Street cruising hit its height in the ’80s … the weekend evening ritual became a major focus from the late 1970s through mid-1988.”

As any native Baby Boomer could tell you — confirmed by members of the Silent Generation who preceded them — dragging the gut in McMinnville was a firmly entrenched teenage activity dating back at least to the mid-1950s. It’s no accident that George Lucas, 72, co-wrote and directed the classic movie, “American Graffiti,” set in Modesto, California, in 1962.

In fairness to reporter Karl Klooster, while his story focused on the 1980s surge in local cruising, he did recognize the history by writing: “Beginning in the late 1940s, post World War II vets started to cruise Third Street in cars they modified and maintained themselves. Soon local teens joined them, often in the family car, making Third Street a weekend see-and-be-seen kind of scene.”

And so it was — some in a flashy ’57 Chev, and some in the family Ford Falcon. The primary route was round trip from Third Street to the A&W Root Beer drive-in, located where Chan’s Chinese Restaurant sits near Larsen Motors. Some cruisers ventured farther north, beyond the edge of town to Chick ‘N Eats. Along the way, at mid-town, there was Smitty’s Drive-in on the block that today houses Incahoots.

As Karl reported, in June 1988, “McMinnville City Council passed an ordinance banning vehicles from passing the same point on Third multiple times in a given period … the old folks pulled the rug out from under one of the few and most enjoyed recreational activities McMinnville youth had available to them at the time.”

Well, in defense of old folks (having become one), let’s remember that in the 1980s, teenage drivers were streaming into town from throughout the valley. Dragging the gut had become a spectator sport, with hundreds of youths lined up and down Third Street with lawn chairs on Friday and Saturday nights. Resulting trash leftovers and occasional property damage produced a downtown backlash that prompted the new city policy, which remains today.

Except, of course, for Dragging the Gut weekend.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Don Dix

I know my generation began the cruise in the early 60's, and we were just following the lead of others. With only 1 traffic light on 3rd, the cruise was much less congested, but no one noticed at the time.

You left out that the turn-around on 3rd was at Mac Glass (3rd and Galloway, now KAOS). Also, John's Restaurant (east of Don Carlson's grocery, now Tommy's) was another turn-around.

The biggest change we had to deal with was when Baker became one-way (1963) shortly after I was licensed to drive, although a NR article claimed Baker was changed in the early 50s.

I wouldn't trade that 'cruising experience' or the fun times that was McMinnville of the 60s. Sorry others can no longer encounter that city!

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