The key to any small town’s success is to have a great hamburger stand. Valley City had three; The Dario, The A & W and The Dairy Queen. And as luck would have it, they were located on the west, east and north sides of town.
While each had their own culinary specialties, their real key to success was location, location, location! The three joints formed a perfect loop of the city that attracted young people to spend endless summer nights driving around these markers of the city. The goals of cruising the loop was to make sure that young people saw and were seen by every other carload of teenagers.
The majority of the cars were borrowed from parents and loaded with girls and boys, which of course, were segregated by sex. These family sedans roamed the city on the loop, allowing wild exhibits by the passengers. These displays were designed to attract the attention of the cars containing the opposite sex. Because each car was already loaded with 6 passengers, there was little opportunity to pick up additional passengers for any type of scandalous behavior.
Of course, there were some couples that drove the loop in their own private cars. These pairs were squeezed closely together, apparently not desiring extra passengers. These couples were the stuff of discussion in the crowded sedans. Who road with whom, in those machines was an endless source of fascination for all. Not only was it important to know who the couples were, but also where they were or were not.
In some cases, it was obvious where the cars had been, as the older ones left either a trail of blue smoke or streaks of oil in the middle of the road. Some of the cars required special consideration when driven or parked. Many needed to be parked with nothing in front of them, because they had no reverse. Others were parked on hills so they could coast long enough to pop the clutch to start them without resorting to the dead starters. If you drove one of these types of cars to pick up a date, the last thing you wanted to do, was leave oil or transmission fluid drips on her father’s new driveway.
Car repair was the great equalizer. Whether you were a jock, a member of drama club, worked on the school annual or were a member of the chess club; knowing how to repair a car made you a king. The first step to knowing your way around a car was to enroll in shop class or hang with the ones who did. These people were walking resources for finding a used break line or wiring a work around for a burned out ignition switch. Knowing them meant being able to keep your bucket of rusted bolts on the road.
Whatever the ability of the car, the rhythm of the loop was tightly regulated. The local police were well aware of the parade that took place each evening. The twenty five miles per hour speed limit was strictly enforced. Because of that limitation, the time of a completed loop was easy to calculate.
To begin the Loop, depart from the Dario and travel ten blocks east, past Mattson’s Photo and the City Park to Central Avenue. Turn left at the street light on Central and Main and drive north nine blocks passing Spitzer’s Garage, the High School and the Episcopal Church, arriving at the Dairy Queen. Once there slow way down for the trip through the gravel parking lot. Turn back on Central to return south to Main Street. Then make a left turn and glide east fourteen blocks, over the Rainbow Bridge to the A&W. Cruise through the A&W parking lot and head west again. Tour twenty three blocks back past the Pizza Palace, flying under Valley City’s only jet, skip past APCO and Peterson Oil Co, to the Dario, and once you’ve entered the paved parking lot, you’ve complete one perfect circuit of the Loop.
The total distance traveled on the Loop was 65 blocks or five and one-half miles. Depending on the eight stop lights crossed, it took about ten minutes to complete it and one half-gallon of gas.
In the late 60’s, gasoline was about 30 cent a gallon. All of the cars needed to take breaks in the various hamburger stands to conserve the money pooled by the occupants to reimburse the fuel. Once parked in the lot, the group’s collection of spare change dictated the food order. If money was tight, a single side of French fries, with extra ketchup was ordered over the window intercom! If money wasn’t an issue, it was ice cream cones and root beer for all.
Sometimes the parent who own the sedans in the spectacle not only required that gas be reimbursed, they mandated that the cars nightly mileage be kept low. Occasionally a desperate teenage driver was seen with the rear of his parent’s car up on jacks, with the car wheels running back-words trying to reverse the mileage on the odometer. While it never worked for me, some of the drivers claimed success.