Well, Jeepers Creepers – Cruisin’ Downriver is upon us again. I went the inaugural year – 1999, and, while it was unique and fun to see all the old cars driving by, it soon got a little tiring – same old cars, incessant burning rubber, ad nauseum honking and one too many wheelies. It was a hot Summer day that year and the exhaust fumes got fairly intense and the air was clogged up and hard to breathe. The original Cruise had a carnival atmosphere at Memorial Park with oldies bands playing at the Bandshell and people dressed in 50s garb. There were vendors galore and I spent more time than I should have at the elephant ear cart. I’ve never gone back, but this event draws the crowds who flock to Fort Street, rain or shine and searing temps or not. Cruisin’ Downriver is our contribution to the annual cruise events, and is sandwiched in between Cruisin’ Gratiot and Cruisin’ Telegraph, and of course the granddaddy of them all, the Woodwood Dream Cruise. It was not hot today, nor was it sunny, and I suspect a lot of photo ops were lost due to the thick clouds and looming rain. With all this stormy weather, it will no doubt put a DAMPer on this event and not bode well for many of the classic coupes, notably the convertibles, as their owners keep an anxious eye to the sky. I started out early to beat the crowds, who, along with the classic cars cruising along Fort Street, informally start the event as early as Thursday night. I walked along the Lincoln Park portion of Cruisin’ Downriver but during my 3 ½ mile-walk I saw just a handful of classic cars. I have heard them all day, however, since I live only a few houses from main drag. I have always liked the 50s and if I could pick any decade in which to live, I would choose that era. I never missed watching the TV show “Happy Days” and loved the movie “Grease”. During high school, friends Dave and Ed Zelenak and Pete Tirpak, a classmate of mine, formed a 50s band called “Little Davy and the Diplomats” patterned after the great greaser band “Sha Na Na”. They played at the LPHS talent show and several school dances. Although we were not groupies of Dave Zelenak’s band, they were friends, and in our early college years a girlfriend and I occasionally showed up when the band played local gigs. We attended the dances dressed up as bobby soxers. We wore pegged denim pants, white socks and penny loafers and both of us scooped our long hair up high into ponytails. I bought an oversized white shirt and my mom embroidered an “L” on one shirt pocket and the other pocket sported a fuzzy poodle head. I guess you could say I looked like a cross between Laverne De Fazio of LaVerne & Shirley fame and one of Michael Jackson’s many fashion trends. Little Davy & the Diplomats has been playing well over 40 years and often show up at the Bandshell in the Summer or local fairs. I’ve gone to see them a few times, but it is not the same as back when we were all in college. Dave is now a judge in Lincoln Park and his brother Ed is the Lincoln Park City Attorney. Good times, good friends and now good memories.
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”