It was 1960 and Red Bank unknowingly was competing with the rest of the country to be the model for cruising the town as depicted in the movie “American Graffiti.” It did not matter if you were cruising the downtown of somewhere in the Mid West, under the “L” on 86th street in Brooklyn, or the square blocks along the board walk in Asbury Park, cruising was a way of life.
I was 17 and drove 1949 Mercury, flat head V8 with three speed shift off the column. Purchase price was $500 from Maurice Swartz at SwartzChrysler Dealership on West Front and Pearl. This car was followed by a 1960 Ford Falcon when the Mercury died. Both cars belonged to my Mother but I drove them to school during the day while she slept and at night while she worked. Most cars on the strip belonged to the parents of the cruising crew. In those days most homes had one car and one television.
We cruised in and endless circles starting on Broad Street, down and around the circle in Marine Park and back to our starting point on Broad. Many would stop in Marine Park, radios blasting and scouting out girls as they cruised by. Fords, Chevy Impalas, Bonneville’s and Stingrays were in abundance ranging from 1954 to 1960 models. An occasional Triumph or Volkswagen made an appearance as there were very few imported cars in those days, American cars ruled the world, gas was cheap; two dollars gave you almost 8 gallons of gas, enough to cruise for hours.
Today two dollars gives you less then ½ a gallon of gas. At today’s gas prices cruising would never have existed. While my car was being service this past week I was driving a loaner car from Circle BMW. It was a 2008 Z4 3.0 liter 2 seat convertible, black with tan interior. It was just begging to cruise Red Bank as I left the Rivercenter Tiki party. Following our old route around town nostalgia kicked in as I started at Foodtown and drove downtown.
Steinback’s is now Garmany’s, the post office is now Tiffany’s, Meryl Lynch is home to where Lerner Shops use to be and many stores have now be converted to restaurants which line our town. There use to be 17 restaurants in town…today over 100. Down the hill to Marine Park, past Irwin’s boat yard, around the “circle” and back up the hill. The Union House is gone, replaced by Union House Village and of course Kislin’s department store is now apartments. However the feel was the same, it was the same town I grew up in..the small town with the big city flavor, the one we live work and play in. Thank God some things never change.