My Best Summer Ever
There are several regular breakfast “meetings” of old car guys, some emphasis on OLD, near where I live. Friday Mornings, The Hanger in Carver, 7am. Tuesday mornings, The Redland Café, 8:30am-ish. The first Wednesday of every month, 8:30am-ish, Kissin’ Kates, Beavercreek.
The topics of discussion often varies widely. I don’t remember which breakfast it was or what topic we were talking about, but I volunteered my summer of 1966.
Back when I ‘knew everything,” you know, as a teenager with nearly 17 years on this earth my knowledge and wisdom had reached it’s all time high. Having a mind of my own, and not wanting to comply with the rules and demands of all those older folks like, my parents, teachers, bosses etc. etc. I decided it was time for me to grow up and get out on my own. Funny thing was I needed my parents and grand parents help to do that.
The day after my last day of school, as a Junior in high school I boarded a south bound Trailways bus, with Moms help of course. That 24-hour bus ride got me to LA where my grand parents lived in nearby Glendale and they picked me up at the bus station. Fortunately, I was welcome to stay with Grandma and Grandpa and I did have a huge extended family living all over that area.
My first order of business, being “on my own,” was to try and find a job. My ripe old age of 16, going on 17 was going to pose a problem, I found out, so I conveniently turned 18 shortly after I arrived and began looking for work.
Probably most of you readers have heard of BOB’S Big Boy. A restaurant with an eat in dining room and a car hop service at all of there some 15 locations all over the LA area. Famous for the BIG BOY hamburger, (like the Big Mac) their onion rings and their strawberry pie. You probably heard the Beach Boys song mentioning cruising on “Colorado Boulevard,” and there was a Bob’s on that Boulevard in Glendale. After magically turning 18, (No one checked ID back then) I applied for work all over the area, walking door to door for a about a week after my arrival. Bob’s was maybe less than two miles from Grandma and Grandpas house, and they were always hiring it seemed. I took a job as a bus boy working in the dining room. After only a few days working in the dining room my boss came to me asking if I would go work out in the Drive-in area busing the trays for the 15 or 20 car hops that worked that part of the restaurant, because the guy that had been doing that job didn’t show up for work and they were in a bind. The “Drive-in” part of the restaurant was usually quite busy, especially on Friday and Saturday.
I did that job for one evening and went back to preparing onion rings and making strawberry pies on my next shift when my boss came to me and said the bus boy for drive-in was a no show and the car hops had requested me and in fact told the boss that they didn’t want that other guy back at all. It seemed that tips would be inadvertently left on the window trays and because I had sought out the rightful owner of those tips the night before, and given them to them, and that had NEVER happened with the previous bus boy, the girls wanted me to stay in that job. All this was ok with me because I was young and so were the all-girl car hops. The other cool part was on Friday and Saturday night the drive-in would be full of hot rods, street machines and wannabe drag cars and I got to work right there.
Cruising was a phenomenon back then. Teenagers with their own hopped up cars or their parent’s station wagon would be out cruising maybe in every town in America. One friend had a 41 Ford coupe with a 421 Pontiac and B&M hydramatic, another had a 58 Ford Station Wagon with a 427 engine he pulled out of his 63 ½ Ford Galaxy and a B&M hydramatic. One of the cooks at Bob’s had a 55 Chevy 2dr Sedan Gasser with a 425hp 409 and a B&M Hydro. You’ll probably remember the movie, American Graffiti. It was based on reality in the late fifties and sixties and I was there, at Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado Boulevard, smack in the middle of the maybe the height of the cruising era.
After saving a few bucks and with the help of my Mom’s twin brother, Jack, I set out to find me a car. I found a beautiful bronze and beige 57 Chevy Bel Air on a car lot for $695.00. Of course, I didn’t have that much money saved so I continued my search and found another one for only $275.00. It wasn’t as nice as the bronze one, but it was ok. Uncle Jack co-signed for me to get a loan of $200.00 on the car at his bank and I bought the car. My payment was $37.50 per month and I forget what my insurance payment was. It was probably nearly everything I made but I had my own car and didn’t have walk to work anymore.
Back then gas was around .30 cent a gallon, cheap by todays standards. I’d made some friends , some from work and some through my relatives and being the only teenager with his own car, I did most of the driving and hauling everyone everywhere, but they usually chipped in for gas.
Life was good, and the livin’ was easy. I continued to stay at grandma and grandpa’s, worked nights at Bob’s, making $1.48 an hour, cruisin’ all the Bob’s and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood on my nights off with my friends and teenage family members. We’d go to Disneyland when I had a Friday night off. They usually had like a “Battle of the Bands” thing going on with multiple bands playing through out the Park.
Funny cars were just being invented and Irwindale Raceway was maybe 20 miles east of Glendale. We’d go to the night drags when we could and when I wasn’t working. At Bob’s it was a car show every Friday and Saturday night. Those wannabe gassers would roll through the drive-in with their exhaust headers open and get a little rowdy now and then. It was a teenage, car crazy kids dream and the best summer EVER.