Full width home advertisement

Post Page Advertisement [Top]

Inside the vanished world of SoCal's cruising scene when Camaros and Corvettes roared down Van Nuys Boulevard, gas was 33 cents, and barefoot blondes and brunettes chilled on hoods during the summer of '72

Inside the vanished world of SoCal's cruising scene when Camaros and Corvettes roared down Van Nuys Boulevard, gas was 33 cents, and barefoot blondes and brunettes chilled on hoods during the summer of '72
  • In the summer of 1972, photographer Rick McCloskey chronicled SoCal's Van Nuys Boulevard cruising scene
  • Cruising, in which young people drove up and down certain streets or strips to show off their cars, park and hang out, happened across the country from the postwar 1950s until about 1980 when mall culture took over
  • McCloskey, a San Fernando Valley native who cruised during high school, captured the now vanished pastime
During the summer of 1972, there was only one place for San Fernando Valley teens to see and be seen: Van Nuys Boulevard.   
Gas was 33 cents, the Southern California weather was balmy, and so they took their Camaros and Corvettes, their souped-up older models like a 1944 Pontiac Trans Am, and their Volkswagen vans and Beetles and drove up and down the main drag.
Cruising was a scene playing out all across America, a favorite pastime for the young from the postwar 1950s up until about 1980 when mall culture took over.
'Every town in America had a strip where kids would take their cars and go hang out whether it was only a block long - big towns, little towns, cities. It was really a thing for everybody to be involved at some point,' Rick McCloskey, a photographer, told DailyMail.com. 
That summer, McCloskey was on the edge of being too old - at 26 - when he set out to take photos of Van Nuys cruising. His black-and-white images radiant SoCal culture and embody teenage carefree: barefoot young women and men sit on hoods, lounge on the top of cars and recline in the back of trucks. All the while they congregated, chatted and chilled out. 
And, of course, they showed off their embellished and engine-enhanced vehicles.       In the summer of 1972, Alice Cooper and David Bowie blared from the radio as the country prepared itself for a presidential election later that year. (Incumbent Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern, the South Dakota Senator.) In the San Fernando Valley, teens and people in their early 20s were cruising up and down Van Nuys Boulevard. They also parked and hung out. Photographer Rick McCloskey, who grew up in the Valley, took his camera and chronicled the scene. 'This particular picture. This is the one that says it all,' McCloskey said of the above image. 'This picture of the Mustang and the barefoot gals and the white shorts and the guy sitting on the hood. That's Southern California'
In the summer of 1972, Alice Cooper and David Bowie blared from the radio as the country prepared itself for a presidential election later that year. (Incumbent Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern, the South Dakota Senator.) In the San Fernando Valley, teens and people in their early 20s were cruising up and down Van Nuys Boulevard. They also parked and hung out. Photographer Rick McCloskey, who grew up in the Valley, took his camera and chronicled the scene. 'This particular picture. This is the one that says it all,' McCloskey said of the above image. 'This picture of the Mustang and the barefoot gals and the white shorts and the guy sitting on the hood. That's Southern California'
McCloskey grew up in Sherman Oaks and while attending Van Nuys High School in the early 1960s, he cruised with his classmates on the boulevard as well. Cruising was a 'high school thing,' he told DailyMail.com. 'In order to get these pictures, I had to be accepted by the people I was photographing. If I was much older than 26-years-old, I'm not sure. Maybe I could have done it and it might have been more difficult. But I sort of fit in: I had long hair.' Above, a customized 1941 Chevy is the dark car in the front with a late 1950s Chevy pickup behind it
McCloskey grew up in Sherman Oaks and while attending Van Nuys High School in the early 1960s, he cruised with his classmates on the boulevard as well. Cruising was a 'high school thing,' he told DailyMail.com. 'In order to get these pictures, I had to be accepted by the people I was photographing. If I was much older than 26-years-old, I'm not sure. Maybe I could have done it and it might have been more difficult. But I sort of fit in: I had long hair.' Above, a customized 1941 Chevy is the dark car in the front with a late 1950s Chevy pickup behind it
Cruising really took off during the postwar economic boom in the 1950s and lasted until about 1980, according to McCloskey. (During the 1940s, there was some cruising but it wasn't widespread.) For decades, young people worked on their cars in their garages and then showed them off while driving down the strip. There were also specific spots where people parked and hung out. Above, a Pontiac that has been customized with a groovy paint job. McCloskey recalled the car's owner was off to the side getting a ticket. 'In the meantime, I'm photographing his car and his girlfriend,' he said. 'She was used to having her photograph taken with this car'
Cruising really took off during the postwar economic boom in the 1950s and lasted until about 1980, according to McCloskey. (During the 1940s, there was some cruising but it wasn't widespread.) For decades, young people worked on their cars in their garages and then showed them off while driving down the strip. There were also specific spots where people parked and hung out. Above, a Pontiac that has been customized with a groovy paint job. McCloskey recalled the car's owner was off to the side getting a ticket. 'In the meantime, I'm photographing his car and his girlfriend,' he said. 'She was used to having her photograph taken with this car'
'That's what the boulevard looked like all the time ¿ at least on Wednesday night,' McCloskey said of the above image. By the time he was documenting the scene in 1972, anything went as far as vehicles were concerned and people drove what they owned down the boulevard: hot rods, 1940s and 1950s vehicles, Volkswagens and Toyotas, he said. 'You saw this transformation of what kind of cars people drove¿ there was a range of like 40 years of automobiles'
'That's what the boulevard looked like all the time – at least on Wednesday night,' McCloskey said of the above image. By the time he was documenting the scene in 1972, anything went as far as vehicles were concerned and people drove what they owned down the boulevard: hot rods, 1940s and 1950s vehicles, Volkswagens and Toyotas, he said. 'You saw this transformation of what kind of cars people drove… there was a range of like 40 years of automobiles'
McCloskey was no stranger to cruising. Born in Hollywood, his family moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1957 and he grew up in Sherman Oaks.
'Our back fence faced Van Nuys Boulevard and there was a vacant lot the whole length of the block behind us. It was just walnut grooves at the time. That was going to change very quickly because it was prime commercial property and within a couple of years, it was developed,' McCloskey, now 73, recalled.
From his bedroom window, he could look down, see the cars and hear them racing down the street. I 'tried to pick out the sounds of car engines – what kind of car was that,' he said with a laugh. 'In those days, you could actually tell to a certain extent, which is certainly not true any longer because there's so many millions of different kinds of cars, it's all a big blur now.'
Above, the price of gas in the summer of 1972. McCloskey said there were probably stations selling gas for 29 or 30 cents. The decade would see two oil crises: one in 1973 and another in 1979. This put a damper on the market for big-engine muscle cars and was one of the factors that led to the decline of cruising
Above, the price of gas in the summer of 1972. McCloskey said there were probably stations selling gas for 29 or 30 cents. The decade would see two oil crises: one in 1973 and another in 1979. This put a damper on the market for big-engine muscle cars and was one of the factors that led to the decline of cruising
While Van Nuys Boulevard was where people went to cruise, there were different focal points where teens hung out and parked. When McCloskey was in junior high school, Bob's Big Boy was the spot. (Bob Wian founded the restaurant in Southern California in 1936. Named after the founder and his 'original double-deck hamburger' called the Big Boy, it later on became a nationwide chain. Its mascot – of a brown-haired boy in checkered overalls holding aloft a burger – became iconic.)
'At the time, Bob's Big Boy was – it was the place,' McCloskey said. 'Cars would line up on Wednesday night and Friday night and Saturday night. They would be lined up on two streets waiting to get… car hop service.' 
When he went to Van Nuys High School in the early 1960s, McCloskey cruised the boulevard just like his classmates did: 'It was a jumping place at the time.' But after he graduated in 1964, cruising somewhat declined.
'Around about 1965, the Vietnam War came along and began to change the tone and tenor of cruising,' he said. 'It still occurred, of course, but it was one of those things at that time where young people quickly switched over to smoking pot and hanging out at apartments and other people's houses.'
The United States involvement in Vietnam started in the 1950s but it wasn't until 1965 that President Lyndon B Johnson sent thousands of soldiers to the Southeast Asian country. The first draft took place in late 1969.
By the time the summer of '72 rolled around, the war was winding down and the draft would officially end in January the next year. And there was a cruising resurgence, McCloskey said. 'It was something I just stumbled onto that, wow, there's a lot of people back out here on the boulevard after a number of years where it was… so-so.'
'Here it is: Perfect - couple of gals barefoot,' McCloskey said of the above image, adding that the car is a 1971 Camaro. 'I didn't go barefoot. I was doing a lot of shoe leather taking these pictures. I'd walk for miles.' Since it was Southern California, it wasn't unusual for people to be without shoes while hanging out. McCloskey, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, recalled: 'The nights were long and beautiful. How do you beat it? Gee. I'm glad I was able to be part of that as a kid. It was really a formative experience'
'Here it is: Perfect - couple of gals barefoot,' McCloskey said of the above image, adding that the car is a 1971 Camaro. 'I didn't go barefoot. I was doing a lot of shoe leather taking these pictures. I'd walk for miles.' Since it was Southern California, it wasn't unusual for people to be without shoes while hanging out. McCloskey, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, recalled: 'The nights were long and beautiful. How do you beat it? Gee. I'm glad I was able to be part of that as a kid. It was really a formative experience'
Above, a classic Volkswagen Beetle, center, on Van Nuys Boulevard. McCloskey said he took this image while the cars were at a stoplight. He ran across the road, stopped and snapped. 'I was in the crosswalk. I would have been dead otherwise,' he joked and then laughed. He noted the Pintos to both the right and left of the Beetle. 'What I liked about that picture was it was just this sweep of down the boulevard and the lights.' He noted that it was downtown Van Nuys, which was founded in 1911 and named after Isaac Van Nuys, who settled in the area in the 1870s and was a prominent landowner
Above, a classic Volkswagen Beetle, center, on Van Nuys Boulevard. McCloskey said he took this image while the cars were at a stoplight. He ran across the road, stopped and snapped. 'I was in the crosswalk. I would have been dead otherwise,' he joked and then laughed. He noted the Pintos to both the right and left of the Beetle. 'What I liked about that picture was it was just this sweep of down the boulevard and the lights.' He noted that it was downtown Van Nuys, which was founded in 1911 and named after Isaac Van Nuys, who settled in the area in the 1870s and was a prominent landowner
The Capri Theater, shown above with The Godfather on its marquee, was an important touchstone for people who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, said McCloskey, who went there as a kid for Saturday afternoon matinees. When he took the picture, the theater was still doing fine, but it is no longer in business. 'I loved the neon and the fluorescent lights¿ And I love The Godfather part of it.' The film, which was released in March 1972, was the highest-grossing movie that year
The Capri Theater, shown above with The Godfather on its marquee, was an important touchstone for people who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, said McCloskey, who went there as a kid for Saturday afternoon matinees. When he took the picture, the theater was still doing fine, but it is no longer in business. 'I loved the neon and the fluorescent lights… And I love The Godfather part of it.' The film, which was released in March 1972, was the highest-grossing movie that year
While Van Nuys Boulevard was the place for cruising, throughout the years there were different locations where teens would park and hang out. When McCloskey was in junior high school, the spot was Bob's Big Boy. He told DailyMail.com: 'Cars would line up on Wednesday night and Friday night and Saturday night. They would be lined up on two streets waiting to get¿ car hop service.' Later on, it was June Ellen's Donuts. Above, a young woman smiles while she and her friend hang out on the side of the road
While Van Nuys Boulevard was the place for cruising, throughout the years there were different locations where teens would park and hang out. When McCloskey was in junior high school, the spot was Bob's Big Boy. He told DailyMail.com: 'Cars would line up on Wednesday night and Friday night and Saturday night. They would be lined up on two streets waiting to get… car hop service.' Later on, it was June Ellen's Donuts. Above, a young woman smiles while she and her friend hang out on the side of the road
McCloskey's interest in photography paralleled to when he started driving in 1963, and he grabbed the family's Kodak Brownie camera, kept it in the car and took pictures. This was also around the time he became interested in what are known as Woodies, which are station wagons with wood paneling. (He currently restores the classic cars.) 
For four years, he worked during the day and took classes at night. By 1968, he had transferred to what was then called San Fernando Valley State College in Northridge. Thinking a photography elective would be easy, he took a course that spring, but the department and instructors were demanding. After a few years, though, he found his style.
'When I set out to do this project in 1972, I had a handle on it. I could take the pictures I wanted. I knew how to do it. I knew what I wanted.'
It was both an art project and documentary series for McCloskey, who had no idea that he was chronicling a culture that would soon be disappearing. 
While there are now groups of older men who cruise to show off their cars, it is not the same thing as it was in the 1950s, '60s and '70s when high school students painted, repaired and renovated vehicles, he explained. 'You don't find all the high school kids hanging out just to see the cars or drive their cars. It's older guys that can afford cars now, you know, to work on these things. These cars have become expensive to modify or restore.
'I have a son that's 25-years-old. He has really no interest in automobiles and nor do his friends.'  
Above, three young women enjoy the Southern California weather during a cruising night on a stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard. 'There was room to park, lots of lights and a good spot to get shots of people,' McCloskey said. He noted that at the time this image was taken in 1972, it was still legal to ride in the back of trucks, which is no longer permitted in the state. The three are hanging out in a Nissan Datsun, and McCloskey pointed out: 'Before 1968, you would never would have seen one of these'
Above, three young women enjoy the Southern California weather during a cruising night on a stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard. 'There was room to park, lots of lights and a good spot to get shots of people,' McCloskey said. He noted that at the time this image was taken in 1972, it was still legal to ride in the back of trucks, which is no longer permitted in the state. The three are hanging out in a Nissan Datsun, and McCloskey pointed out: 'Before 1968, you would never would have seen one of these'
Americans' love affair with the automobile began in earnest after World War II. During the war, companies like Chrysler and General Motors stopped manufacturing cars and turned to defense work. After the Great Depression and the war, people wanted new cars during the booming economy of the 1950s. McCloskey said of the above image: 'You got a good cross section of a whole bunch of cars coming at you ¿ new ones and old ones. There's even a bus coming down the boulevard. That boulevard was busy on a Wednesday night'
In the 1950s, as people bought new cars, they were selling their older models that they had clung to during the Great Depression and the war. 'So the kids got these cars for $10 or $20 dollars. Things were cheap. You could do this in your garage or driveway,' McCloskey explained about renovating the vehicles. After restoring, upgrading and painting these older cars, people needed to show them off and cruising on Van Nuys Boulevard took off. McCloskey said that he took the above image in June Ellen's Donuts parking lot, which was a spot where people parked and turned around while cruising. He said: 'This gal just looks so Hollywood to me'

Americans' love affair with the automobile began in earnest after World War II. (During the 1940s, there was some cruising but it wasn't widespread.)
During the war, companies like Chrysler and General Motors switched to manufacturing defense products. More than 3 million vehicles were produced in 1941, according to a PBS series called The War. Only 139 cars 'were made during the entire war,' according to the documentary.
Many prospered in the postwar economy of the 1950s and the demand for cars grew quickly. McCloskey noted: 'They couldn't sell them fast enough. They couldn't make them fast enough.'
Older models that people had clung to during the Great Depression and the war were now on sale. 'So the kids got these cars for $10 or $20 dollars. Things were cheap. You could do this in your garage or in your driveway,' he said about painting and enhancing the vehicles.
And cruising on Van Nuys Boulevard took off.
In the 1960s, car companies became savvier about marketing to teens, he said. McCloskey, who had a delivery job for a fast food joint called Chicken Delight, pointed out: 'You could have a job - a part time job - and pay for a new Mustang by 1964. Or a similar hot rod.
'By 1972 when I shot these pictures, there was a range of like 40 years of automobiles.'
There were a number of reasons why cruising eventually tapered off, McCloskey said. One major factor was the decade's two oil crises – one in 1973 and '79 – and gas was more expensive, especially for big-engine muscle cars. This would led to a car culture change as Americans turned to Japanese models and fuel-efficient vehicles.
Another reason was complaints from the business leaders about the cars clogging up the boulevard. 'The business community figured out how to kind of circumscribe young people and put them into malls where they would cruise on foot and shop. They would buy stuff. They'd hang out in that mall culture (that) arose around 1980,' he said, adding that this shift was building throughout the 1970s.
He said that his images showcase 'something that came and went. So this is a vanished world.'
McCloskey estimated that he took about 4,000 photographs the summer he chronicled cruising. 'It's a really large series,' he told DailyMail.com. 'At this point, they're almost 50 years old and I look at these pictures and I go, gosh, this seems like yesterday.' About a fourth of the images have been digitalized, he said. Above, a woman and man sit on top of a Corvette, which McCloskey pointed out wasn't painted, calling it a work in progress. A line of cars on a cruising night can be seen behind the pair
Van Nuys Boulevard was a 'jumping place' when McCloskey cruised in high school in the early 1960s but after he graduated, there was a bit of a lull in the middle of the decade. 'Around about 1965, the Vietnam War came along and began to change the tone and tenor of cruising,' he said. 'It still occurred, of course, but it was one of those things at that time where young people quickly switched over to smoking pot and hanging out at apartments.' By the time the summer of '72 rolled around, the war was winding down and the draft would officially end in January the next year. And there was a cruising resurgence, McCloskey said
After the project, McCloskey moved to a Hawaii and eventually settled with his family in Lakewood, Washington. He currently restores a type of classic car known as a Woodie. 'I earn my living by working in a wood shop building wood bodies for 1949 to 1951 Ford and Mercury station wagons.' He recalled shooting a number of photos at the gas station seen above. McCloskey said: 'For the most part the experience of the people on the boulevard was a positive one, at least for the young people. They were there to have a good time and they did'
McCloskey moved to a Hawaii and eventually settled with his family in Lakewood, Washington. He currently restores a type of classic car known as a Woodie. 'I earn my living by working in a wood shop building wood bodies for 1949 to 1951 Ford and Mercury station wagons.' He recalled shooting a number of photos at the gas station seen above. McCloskey said: 'For the most part the experience of the people on the boulevard was a positive one, at least for the young people. They were there to have a good time and they did'

No comments:

Post a comment

Bottom Ad [Post Page]