Hundreds turn out Saturday night in P-Town ‘with no particular place to go’ –
By Patricia Beech –
Most Saturday nights in Peebles are a laid-back affair. The town is still, and Main Street is empty but for the occasional car pulling up to one of the town’s two pizza parlors.
But last Saturday night the downtown area was just a camera crew shy of full-on American Graffiti – cars bumper to bumper, music pouring out of open windows, horns honking, and people waving and laughing as they looped the main drag from Ogden’s Dairy Bar to the parking lot where Top-Jo Dairy Bar once stood. More than a hundred cars, trucks, and jeeps cruised the route from the north to the south side of town and back again. As Meatloaf once put it, “Cruising up and down the main drag all night long.”
It all started with a single Facebook post: “Thinking about having an 80’s Style Cruise-In just like back in the day when everyone from all over used to come to Peebles to cruise. Let me know what your thoughts are on this, and if you want to do it. Spread the word and let’s take a trip back in time for a night.”
The 80’s style cruising event was the brain-child of Peebles resident R.D. Malcom, who says he came up with the idea after a friend complained that the town was dead. “I thought about it for a couple days then put the idea of cruising on Facebook to see how people would respond and it just exploded everybody was like, ‘lets do it’!”
You’d have to explain it to anyone under 30. Cruising? What’s the point? But for those who grew up in small towns across America between the 1950’s and 1990’s, cruising was how you spent your weekends. It wasn’t just a pastime, it was a rite of passage. For teenagers, it represented a coveted status. You got your driver’s license and officially became a member of the cruising culture. Even if you had to drive your parent’s car it was your first real taste of freedom, and it was the center of your social life.
But, Saturday night’s cruise-in wasn’t a coming of age event. It was a blast from the past for the town’s cruising alumni and their families – without benefit of a DeLorean.
“We had people of all ages,” Malcom said, “So next year I’m changing the name to Cruise Fest to cover all the age groups.”
Support for the idea of an annual cruise-in was multi-generational and unanimous.
PHS Senior Jessica Sowards posted on Facebook, “Tonight was such an awesome experience for me. Glad I got to participate. Definitely should do this more often. Thanks RD for setting up such a great event”
1980’s PHS graduate Tanya Evans posted, “It was a blast. Great evening, can’t wait to have another one soon.”
From the 1970’s Randy Franklin posted, “Really nice seeing the community spirit. Next one needs to be 70’s style.”
1960’s graduate Eva Hodge, posted, “I think that was awesome, you should at least make it a monthly Cruise-in.”
Cruising alumni now living out-of-state followed the event live on Facebook.
“We had one guy who came all the way from Tennessee, and a lot of my friends who live out of state couldn’t make it, but they plan on being here next year,” said Malcom. “We’ve already set the date – Sept. 9, 2017, the second Saturday of the month, so it’ll be the like the last bash of summer before fall starts, and I expect the second turn out to be a lot bigger than the first.”
Malcom queued up seven hours of 80’s rock music for the event on his radio station 88.5 WBUZ – The Buzz, and the cruisers listened in sync as they rode the main drag. He also got local businesses involved in the event.
“I asked Ogden’s Main Street Dairy Bar to stay open a little longer, and they sold out of their burgers within two hours,” he said. “It was good for the community and for the businesses – the dairy bar, the gas station, and the pizza places all made money.”
Inevitably, the nostalgic event raised an obvious question – Should cruising make a comeback? In a small town where there’s little else to do, isn’t cruising a safer past time for young people than going to parties or driving to distant events? It may be difficult for young people to imagine the simple joy of driving in circles for hours, especially when the alternative is cruising cyberspace where gathering places exist at their fingertips in the pixels of their cell phones.
Who knows? Saturday night might have given them a taste of what they’re missing.