This year will mark my 50th year. I am honored to be sharing my 50th birthday year with some great company. The year 1964 was not only the year of my birth, but also that of some great automobiles — the Ford Mustang, the Pontiac GTO and the Chevy Chevelle, to name just a few. These cars joined the ranks of the already popular vehicles of the ’50s. During the ’50s, an era was born when cars became much more than a mode of transportation. They became a form of entertainment.
Ask any 16-year old today what “scooping the loop,” “shagging the drag” or “cruising” (not in a boat) refers to, and you will most likely be met with a blank stare. Those of us over the age of 30 are very familiar with the pastimes previously mentioned. The teenage ritual of cruising, once a staple of Perry’s teen entertainment options for many decades, has vanished from the social scene. The simple act of driving your car repeatedly on a set route over and over again is no longer a mainstay of Friday and Saturday nights in Perry.
Cruising granted teenage drivers and their passengers an opportunity to socialize with one another. Teens would drive down Willis Avenue and Second Street repeatedly, honking and waving at friends as they passed by one another. On occasion when a face-to-face meeting was needed (or you were running low on gas), you simply pulled into one of the many businesses that lined the streets to get out of your cars and chat. You would also see multiple cars pulled over at the middle school lot where an impromptu game of Frisbee had just began. Social interaction was done in person rather than through the Internet or satellites.
For decades, an inexpensive and plentiful gas supply made cruising a teenage way of life. It was a right of passage lost on the generation of today. Summer nights were spent driving back and forth with no real purpose other than socializing with friends, listening to the radio and feeling the roar of the engine.
Today, social interaction is done via technology, whether it is cell phones and texting or social media sites like Facebook. Gone are the days of driving a car just for the fun of it. However, I challenge today’s youth to get out from behind their cell phones and their computer screens and get behind their windshields to try a couple of nights of scooping the loop. You might be surprised at how much fun you can have on the streets of Perry. Hope to see you on Willis. Give me wave — I will be in the 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 XL.