Cruising through history Print
Written by Jack Money   
Sunday, 10 May 2009 20:53
THIS WEEK IN OKC HISTORY – Police warned teenaged motorists they would be paying particular attention to potential traffic problems caused by what authorities termed the latest “teen magnet” – The Delta Drive Inn, at NW 41 and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The year was 1965, it was Spring, and all of Oklahoma City’s popular drive-ins were problems, police Maj. S.W Stevens told the local paper.
On one Saturday night alone, traffic officers made 64 arrests on complaints such as running stop signs and stop lights, speeding
and cutting into traffic lines.
“I think the kids got the word” police are serious about controlling the problem, Stevens confidently told an Oklahoman reporter covering the story. (1) Well, perhaps then.
 
Teens getting into trouble, after all, is a problem that seemingly returns each year along with the grass, trees, flowers, birds and bees, history tells us.
In 1963, city leaders were wanting drive-ins monitored more closely by officers, anyway.
And in 1967, teens were asking Oklahoma City to build them a place where they could go and socialize without attracting the ire of fellow motorists, or nearby neighbors or police.
Jim Burgess, then the 16-year-old chairman of Oklahoma City’s Youth Advisory Commission, asked city leaders to consider building teen centers as an alternative.
“When youths have nothing better to do than to drag Mulligan Flats, they definitely have a problem,” Burgess said. (2)
In 1970, North Paseo Drive was the rage, where long-haired, Dashiki-wearing youths congregated by the thousands to socialize and partake in various illegal activities until intense police scrutiny turned the district into a ghost town that wouldn’t come back until nearly 20 years later as a trendy gallery district.
In 1971, the youths decided to try their luck in nearby Memorial Park at NW 36 and Classen instead. (3)
In 1974, Edmond authorities expressed concerns about “juvenile rowdiness” caused by youngsters congregating at various businesses along Broadway, including drive-ins. One businessman, Harvey Valentine, said he had taken to banning customers younger than 17 years of age from his Pizza Planet on Broadway, in fact. “We advertise as a peaceful place,” he said. “and it had become anything but that.” (4)
By 1982, Edmond decided it had had enough with the problems, and approved a loitering law designed to stop the use of Broadway parking lots as places to congregate. The law did not ban cruising, per-se, but officers could at least keep traffic moving and keep vandalism problems to a minimum. (5)
By 1984, authorities were experiencing problems with the latest generation of teens, who chose Air Depot as their spot to hang out to watch others and be seen themselves.
Midwest City Police Capt. Don Ferguson, in fact, called the road “the most popular strip in Central Oklahoma.”
Merchants were upset with cruisers who parked in their lots, while others were concerned with heavy traffic the activity created along the road.
“They want to do whatever they want to do, and they want to do it on Air Depot,” he said. (6)
But that wasn’t the only area where teens were congregating. Moore residents were expressing similar concerns about Saturday nights, where the night air smelled of high-performance exhaust, hamburgers and, sometimes beer and marijuana.
Jeff Shipman, the manager of a Mazzio’s there, said his business seldom would make $5 off a teen customer on a weekend night along the Moore strip.
“But they all want to come in and use the bathroom, though,” he told a reporter. (7)
In 1988, Moore officials still were looking to a solution to their cruising problems along NW 12. Officials had decided to consider banning cruising altogether, but dropped that idea in favor of getting with teens to see if a better plan could be developed to keep traffic along the roadway moving.
“One thing that we recognized and realized is that this (the youths) is a group in the community that needs to be part of our city government,” Councilman Don Black said, when announcing a postponement of the proposed ban on cruising. (8)
Within two years, however, barricades and signs would be erected by authorities to try to keep problems along the popular strip manageable. (9)
Later, Moore banned cruising entirely. The decision upset local teens, who said cruising was an affordable way to spend time. “It’s just frustrating,” Moore local Marcy Beck told a reporter. “Now, 12th Street is closed and we are going to have to find money … I frequent 12th Street because it is one of the very few places that’s free to go to in the summer. And, it’s fun.” (10)
In Oklahoma City proper, those days seemed pretty much done, however. In 1989, a group called City Heat Cruizers Inc. organized three nights of cruising fun for nostalgia buffs, encouraging them to congregate at that once-hot spot for cruising teenagers at NW 41 and Pennsylvania, by then the home of a Coit’s Root Beer Drive-In. (11) 
Coit's Root Beer Stand - an Oklahoma City classic.

That forced teens into other, less hostile communities, such as Edmond. Authorities there responded in 1993 by stepping up law enforcement and adopting a no-tolerance stance on ordinances enforcing bans against public drinking, excessive noise and loitering. Police Sgt. Mike Meador said authorities were trying to head off problems before they happened.

"We just decided this year, we are not going to have problems in that part of town,” he said. (12)
Then teen cruising and loitering problems surfaced in Oklahoma City yet again. But this time, they brought more sinister problems than just loitering, public drinking and vandalism.
First, young men and women congregated along NE 23, leading to a shooting death there in 1994 and continued problems in the area on summer nights for years. Later, the problem moved into city parks, where cruisers would circle through and others would park to watch.
Most recently, the issue has been a concern in Bricktown, where shootings and assaults began to arise in 2006 with a disturbingly regular occurrence in the popular entertainment district. The council promptly enacted curfew laws that kept the peace over the next couple years.(13)
1.)  “Teen Traffic Tangles Target,” The Oklahoman, May 4, 1964
2.)  “City Youth Suggests Teen Centers,” The Oklahoman, July 20, 1967
3.)  “Hippies Meet at Park Now,” The Oklahoman, July 17, 1971
4.)  “Teen Rowdiness Concern in Edmond,” The Oklahoman, January 4, 1974
5.)   “Edmond’s Loitering Ban Increases Police Powers,” The Oklahoman, July 2, 1982
6.)   “Air Depot Cruise Strip Produces Trouble with Capital ‘T’,” The Oklahoman, August 17, 1984
7.)   “Saturday Night in Moore Means Action on Street,” The Oklahoman, August 10, 1984
8.)     “Moore Officials, Teens Learning to Cooperate,” The Oklahoman, August 15, 1988
9.)    “Moore Acts to Stall Teen Cruisers Withy Road Barricades and Signs,” The Oklahoman, April 6, 1990
10.)  “Moore Cruising Ban Sends Teens Scambling,” The Oklahoman, July 31, 1992
11.)  “Cruisers to Relive Teen Fun,” The Oklahoman, June 26, 1989
12.)  “Police Vow Crackdown on Crusing,” The Oklahoman, June 16, 1993
13.)  “Bricktown Group seeks 11 p.m. curfew for teens,” The Oklahoman, August 9, 2006
           
Last Updated on Sunday, 10 May 2009 22:18