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One Day in '66

It’s a beautiful Friday evening in June, 1966. I’m off work at 6:00 pm, heading home to freshen up after a sweaty day’s work, and then I’m off to pick up my girlfriend, Joyce. We don’t have a big evening planned tonight; we’ll clean up the car, head to the Barrell drive-in for dinner, and then enjoy an evening of cruising and generally hanging out among friends.

There’s some road construction on the way to Joyce’s place. We’ll clean up my ‘63 Chevy Bel Air after traversing that so the car looks its best for the remainder of the evening. Passing by Mark Lovro’s Phillips 66 Station, at 41st and Western, I see his ’66 442 is parked outside; I may have to stop by and put in $5.00 in gas later on. I like the “quarter car wash” that’s just south of 33rd and Duluth by Joyland Park. For 75 cents I can do a meticulous clean-up on my Chevy that’s always kept in pretty sharp condition anyway. A wash job is mandatory prior to any night of cruising; it’s bad form to cruise the loop in a dirty car!

We arrive at the Barrell around 7:30 and find many of the usual attendees already there. Ron Roddel is in his red ‘65 Dodge Coronet parked towards the west end with Earl Egge in his red ’60 Chevy nearby. Rex Gulickson and Shawn are in Rex’s yellow ’66 SS396 Chevelle in their usual parking spot. I see Scott Barhite and Alan Howard in their Mustangs parked a little further down the line. Todd Sorenson’s yellow ’66 Chevy Nova, Stan Salmonsen’s ’57 Chevy and Bill Frieburger’s brown ’57 Corvette are also intermixed amongst the group. Several of the usual High-Y jackets are visible as guys and their girlfriends mill around the lot.

Joyce and I park next to Rex and Shawn, order a couple of the Barrell’s great burgers, “Huskies”, and Cokes, and start visiting with our good friends while watching the parade go by. Within a few minutes Larry Lungren comes through in his mean black ’65 GTO and parks nearby. (Larry’s GTO has some of the greatest sounding exhaust on the street.) A little later Randy Williams makes a pass through in his beautiful white & red ’61 Chevy 348 Impala; Randy stops long enough to let us know that he and Barb are headed to a movie at the East Park Drive-In.

Once the car-hop brings our meals, we casually enjoy the great food while visiting with friends that stop by the car; always keeping an eye on the line of neat cars passing by. An occasional wave, nod, or feigned indifference serves as a greeting for many of the passers by. (With some regularity, just the right look is all that’s needed to insight a drag race out on the Tea road.) Rod Ensz makes a pass through in this hot red ‘37 Plymouth coupe; some folks have been trying to get us to race for several weeks now, perhaps this is the night. But not right now…

Following an hour or so at the Barrell, it’s time for some serious cruising and checking out the town. We head up to Queen’s Kitchen at 29th and Minnesota and make a pass through to check out the crowd there and then it’s off to downtown and the loop. We meet Dave Thorson in his ’39 Chevy coupe along the way and give each other a friendly wave and rattling of the exhaust.

The loop is busy tonight; there’s lots of pedestrian traffic around the State, Hollywood, and Egyptian movie theaters, and Earls Pizza Palace is packed. Car traffic is heavy, and great street machines are everywhere. At every red signal shouted conversations are ongoing, challenges are thrown down, and the occasional “Chinese fire drill” occurs. Impromptu stop-light drag races of a half block or less occur in nearly every block on Main Avenue where the pedestrian traffic isn’t quite so heavy.

Across from Jay-Shon Chevrolet, by Washington High School, a few of the Chevy Racing Team guys are parked on the street visiting and tossing out the occasional challenge to a hot looking Ford or Mopar that passes by. It also looks like some serious bench racing is going on; everyone is probably thinking about this Sunday’s races at Sioux City Drag Strip. Then, it occurs to me that I need to make a pass by “the apartments” to see who is racing on Sunday.

At “the apartments”, near 37th and Minnesota, we find quite a bunch of the Chevy guys hanging out. Keith Gunderson, Howard Goering, Keith Schaefer, Don Breen, and Rick Kollar live there and there’s never a shortage of fast Chevys parked outside. Joyce and I know all these guys well so we stop to check out the action. Tonight Gundy (Keith Gunderson) is wrenching on his black ’61 Corvette getting ready to go racing, and there’s a red ’57 Chevy sedan across the lot that just got a dual four-barrel set installed. Bob Hughes is there with his always immaculate red ’64 Chevelle as is Dave Decker with his silver ’66 StingRay coupe. Don Breen has his maroon ’65 Chevelle A/stocker already prepped and ready for the races, and Keith Schaefer’s black ’65 Chevelle (also A/stock) is parked next to Don’s car with the tow-bar attached. This is serious Chevy lovers’ heaven; Joyce and I hang out for an hour or so, talk about the upcoming drags, and then we’re off cruising again.

The cruising continues on for another hour or so. We check out the crowd at the Candle & Cue, the Barrell and Queen’s Kitchen (again) and make another pass or two around the loop. The tunes on KOMA radio (AM 1520 out of Oklahoma City) are great after dark and that’s our favorite station once it tunes in. We stop here and there to visit with friends, cruise side-by-side with others or simply wave at friends passing the other direction.

Joyce is supposed to be home by 11:00 pm so we head towards her place at the last minute to avoid being late. I didn’t manage to get involved in a drag race tonight (yet), but then I won’t be heading home for at least another hour or two. So, there’s still time…

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