Revisiting the Park: Cruising through the Park

Revisiting the Park: Cruising through the Park

Revisiting the Park: Cruising through the Park

World War II finally ended 65 years ago, along with our concerns about world safety and personal freedom.

It was hard on the youth as we barely understood the reason for blackouts, food shortages and why we couldn’t be with close friends. We were once again able to meet at the Broadmoor Café, plunk coins into the big jukebox and order Green Rivers. Life was back to normal, and we felt the freedom.

Before the war we didn’t fully appreciate the ability to play baseball under the street lights on 41st and Lynn. Before the blackouts we roller skated or biked around the neighborhood. An interest in cars began as we read comic books at Ken Lindley’s drug store and discovered Hot Rod magazine around 1948.

Popular cars sold in the Seattle area at the time were four-door models used in carpools for going to and from work and required gas-rationing cards to fuel them. The low mileage made it a reliable investment, but our interest lay elsewhere. Any model A 1920s coup or convertible which, depending on condition, would sell for $100 and up. Today, that price would be anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000.

By the sound of the engine alone, we could tell it was a six cylinder or a V-8. If a friend had a license and that friend offered you a ride, it was a whole new world of freedom. Enter a talented friend named Bill Dennis having a know-how of welding and anything else dealing with cars. One fine spring day in Madison Park, our group met in a friend’s back yard. We heard the car before we saw it and realized it was louder than ever.

Bill had found this abandoned car while on his paper route. So many folks were strapped, what with the rationing of gas and other economic issues, but Bill was able to rebuild this car by welding a frame, adding four wheels, a transmission, a steering wheel and then an apple box for a driver’s seat. What a kick to cruise the alleys of Madison Park seeing friends and neighbors, all while keeping an eye out for Gordy Sacket, the sometimes-friendly cop.

The little guy had just the amount of power — 29A V8! It was seldom ever out of first gear. We used that home-built concept during the summer months again, but suddenly that car and Bill disappeared. Later, it reappeared, well, at least the V8 did — now the heart of an almost new 29A minus rear fenders.

In California, a car club was started by the Barris brothers. They mainly customized cars and engine conversions. Soon the craze hit Seattle.

Whenever we left the park in a friend’s car, we would go to the Rainier Triple X Drive-in restaurant, where the many car clubs lined up their classics with the club placard hanging in the rear. Car manufacturers were beginning to notice this trend and opened the door to sport models, family cars with extras, power steering and even A.M. radios.

A friend named Ron Weiskind built a ’36 Ford Roadster with a chopped convertible top and a 6-inch windshield that you could just see over your knees.

We all chipped in one evening to detail Ron’s car for the coming car show in Seattle. We spent the evening washing, waxing and detailing every nook and cranny of the car.

Later we headed to Ron’s home in Leschi to detail further. In hindsight, I think Ron might have had a couple of unpaid tickets. While on Empire Way (MLK), Ron made a u-turn passing the local law. After stopping, he pulled a lever under the dash which turned on the super charger to which he then put the pedal to the metal. We weren’t airborne, but it felt like it, winding the streets around Madrona, up a hill and into a garage. After pulling the door shut, we heard a police car go by several times.

That was close and the reason for my complete hair loss. We continued the detailing on the rear lid by removing the license plate.

A much safer expression of speed in those days was the racing in the I-90 tunnel. We blocked the intersection between the Leschi turn off and I-90, and with a flashlight the race was on! Afterwards, the loser bought drinks at the Rainier Drive-in.

I joined a group who meet at Starbucks outside in the mornings with masks and down coats on. We have been known to discuss the latest cars, using our phones to Google info like costs, sports models with an abundance of horsepower, and vehicles so large they require tank treads.

As for now, here’s hoping this pandemic will end so we can rip off our masks, run outside, talk to neighbors, relish in our freedom, pour a martini or four and celebrate!