Bill Packard: Cruising
That was the thing to do. Before American Graffiti, here in the Midcoast, cruising was a popular pastime. There were several routes that were popular back in the 1960s.
Main Street in Camden was what we did. South to the stop sign, over to what used to be Camden Exxon, and then back through town to Mountain Street. Turn around at the Farmer’s Union, then back through town. An important part of that ritual was parking on library hill. We would park there for a while and then cruise again. There were no rules. We just made things up as we went along.
The cruising was pretty much reserved for Friday and Saturday nights. At least it was for me. If there was a school function during the week and I was lucky enough to get the car, I might have time for a couple of trips. I would even take Dad’s truck if he’d let me, just for the chance to cruise.
Beauchamp Point, in Rockport, was another popular route. Most everyone went in from Spear Street and around to the golf course.
I don’t recall that going the other way was not allowed, but nobody did it as I remember. Beauchamp Point was also a great place to park. Parking back had a different meaning than it does today. Parking was making out. If you parked on Beauchamp Point and no cars came by in the first few minutes, it usually meant that it was off the cruising list and you were good to go. If cars came by, you just moved to another location.
One night, I was parked with my girlfriend and some Camden guys came by. Actually it was Donnie Heal and Frank Berry.
They blew the horn and hollered, but I figured that was that, so I didn’t move. Still, I was suspicious, so while we were making out, I was keeping an eye out the back window of the ’53 Ford pickup. Sure enough, after a little bit, I could see red in the sky. They were sneaking up without the headlights on.
I alerted my girlfriend that we were going to wait until they were almost upon us and then I would fire up the truck and we’d be off. The plan worked flawlessly and we left them in the dust. I was into it. I have no idea how fast I was going when I went by the road to the Children’s Chapel, but I was going too fast.
When we started down the hill, the truck got away from me and we fishtailed left, then right, then left again. We passed a fire hydrant out the windshield as we went by sideways. When I gathered the truck up I was quite proud of myself and shared the same with my girlfriend, but she was in a heap on the floor of the truck. There were no seatbelts back then. While I thought I was a hero, she was less than impressed. The guys in the car never did catch us.
The Rockland rotary was also a big draw. Weekends there were dances at the Rec Center with the Tremelos and the Rockland girls were there. The Rockland girls were always fascinating to the Camden boys. At least they were to me. To get a dance was great and a date was to die for. Before and after the dances, we’d cruise the rotary. We didn’t go on many other streets down there, then. The city had a reputation and most of it wasn’t good, so we stayed on the main drags.
Sometimes we’d go up to Humpty Dumpty, but the favorite spot to hang out down there was King’s Pizza. It was located next door to where McDonald’s is today and they had the best pizza and a jukebox. After senior play practice, we’d all gather at King’s.
Camden cruising and library hill were any time of day events, but the Rockland rotary was strictly evening hours. I suppose today we would get reported to the police after a trip or two, but back then, it was what we lived for. I can’t explain what was special about it, but I know that it was special.