cruise pic

Local lifestyle columnists

The Fairfield cruise: Take 3

By From page A2 | May 23, 2014

Here’s hoping the third time is a charm . . .

In 2011, I wrote my first column about the now-outlawed Fairfield cruise titled “I Used to Love It When We Were Cruising Together.” I related my own slightly rose-colored glasses-wearing remembrances as well as a story or two from locals – including one about a couple who met on the cruise and have been married for nearly 30 years.

I bookended that column with quotes from two songs about repetitive weekend driving in search of fun – namely  Styx’s 1981 tune “Too Much Time on My Hands” and of course Smokey Robinson’s huge 1979 hit, “Cruisin’.”

In 2013, I did a column called “The Day the Cruising Died in Fairfield,” which referred to Tuesday, May 21, 1985, when the Fairfield City Council first passed an ordinance – after several incidents of downtown violence – that outlawed cruising.

Now, even though I do a weekly column kinda sorta about history, I have never claimed to be a historian nor an investigative reporter. I’m just some guy. Still, when someone posted in the I Grew Up in Fairfield Too Facebook group that the cruise had ended in the early 1990s, I quickly corrected them like I was Captain Know-It-All or something.

Get this: I even posted a link to my own column as “evidence.” Insert facepalm here.

I have learned the hard way when gathering information about past events from people to never completely trust anyone’s memories – including my own. Still, I listened when a retired Fairfield police officer chimed in on the Facebook cruise conversation and recalled performing CPR on a 13-year-old girl for 15 minutes in 1990 because emergency personnel were stuck in the gridlock of the cruise. The date of that kind of incident is not something one would forget.

While I had microfilm of Daily Republic columns and a screenshot of the relevant city ordinance from 1985, the fact is my cruising column of last year was not accurate. It wasn’t wrong, just incomplete. Perhaps had I been like Matthew McConaughey’s character in the movie “Dazed and Confused” and continued to cruise when I was way too old to be doing it, I may have known that there was in fact a second ordinance passed.

When the City Council banned downtown cruising in 1985 it had the effect of pushing it – and the resultant problems – onto North and West Texas streets. It all came to a head when it was noted that in April 1991, a total of 435 calls were made for police assistance in an 11-block area on North Texas Street that month.

Also, fully 60 percent of people charged with crimes in that area were from out of town. Since several other cities had already outlawed cruising – most notably Modesto – which was the setting for George Lucas’s 1973 movie about cruising, “American Graffiti” – Fairfield  became a cruising mecca.

On June 4, 1991, the Fairfield City Council, in a unanimous decision, voted to expand the 1985 ordinance that banned downtown cruising to include everything from Beck Avenue to Marigold Drive.

The ordinance was an emergency measure and took effect immediately. Signs that announced cruising was prohibited from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and listed the boundaries and relevant Penal Code section were erected on West Texas Street (near the Jack in the Box by FoodMaxx) and on North Texas Street (near Texas Roadhouse). They are still there today.

The way the law works is that if someone repeatedly drives past a traffic control point as specified on the signs during a certain time, an officer can give them a written warning. If they are seen again driving by the same spot, they can be ticketed.

The first weekend the cruising ban went into effect, June 7-8, 1991, police were out in force, according to published reports at the time, but the traffic was lighter than it had been in months.

Now technically, cruising is still allowed in Fairfield – albeit in extremely limited locations. The block between Beck Avenue and Interstate 80 is cool, as are the couple of blocks between Marigold Drive and the freeway on the other end of town.

So all I need for a retro mini-cruise is an Isley Brothers “Go For Your Guns” eight-track, some skin-tight Angels Flight bell bottoms and gas that is not $4 a gallon.

Now, where did I put my rose-colored glasses?

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

Discussion | 6 comments

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  • BobMay 23, 2014 - 9:29 am

    Tony If you feel like a little cruising, I'm of the old Walnut Creek Main Street Cruise of the 60's, East 14th, San Leandro, Friday night grudge night at Fremont Drags, I know we must all have better cars then we did then maybe we should have one night where all of us old enough to have been apart of those fun nights get one night, with Fairfield's PD ok to meet at one end of Texas and cruise to the other end, maybe with traffic help at lights and end with a chance to look at cars and have some food trucks for those that are hungry Once a month in the summer could make Fairfield a must go to destination Just a though but one I like Thanks

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  • CD BrooksMay 23, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Bob, the Walnut Creek cruise, great memories '66-'70! Fremont and Camp Stoneman drags too. Too bad so many infiltrators ruined such a nostalgic event. Love the idea of a cruise given there would be a large PD presence and cool-headed attendees!

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  • Rick WoodMay 23, 2014 - 10:04 am

    Modesto was the subject of the movie "American Graffiti," Modesto native George Luca's first big hit. They've held a Modesto Graffiti cruise for several years, and this year it's returning to the historic site on McHenry Avenue. Festivities last all week but the classic car cruise itself will be on Friday night, June 6.

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  • CD BrooksMay 23, 2014 - 10:09 am

    Mr. Wood, that's cool and maybe they've had great success but IMHO, Modesto is a good place to stay away from.

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  • Rick WoodMay 23, 2014 - 10:23 am

    CD: Certainly there are parts of Modesto to stay away from if you are new to town and have no business being there, but I've been working there for a few months and I'm here to tell you, you should give it another look. It's twice the size of Fairfield, but has way more than twice the fine restaurants, activities, and quality retail, office space, and historic buildings in the downtown area. It's suffered from the recession, but there are no boarded up buildings or graffiti downtown. It's a small big city. Now check out the web for the Modesto Grand Prix.

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  • patrickMay 23, 2014 - 1:19 pm

    TONY I don't feel that any auto built after 1969 should be considered a cruise car. the last new cars I bought was a 70 Buick riv and 70 ranchero . my present every day drivers are a 68 merc and a 65 imperial. no plastic cars for me.

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