Cruzin' the Ave

Most areas still have a cruise night when some of the local hot rodders hang out and compare notes on how to shine paint, or maybe get a few more horses out of a small block. Some areas even have a history of cruising with the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise being one of the longest running. Many of those cruise areas were eliminated due to progress, as civilization took over, traffic to the supermarket got in the way and some actually just got too big. One such cruise area in South East Texas was on Nederland Ave, Nederland, Texas. A few miles to the north was the larger town of Beaumont with plenty of hot rodders running up and down 11th street, and to the south was Pt. Arthur’s Gulfway Drive, where at least one future NHRA record holder started life in the fast lanes cleaning the 4-lane asphalt of all comers. Perhaps it was the fact that Nederland Ave is in the middle of these two four lane hot spots that drew so much interest. The two mile long four lane stretch contained a few naturally located burger joints that made for a great cruise loop, and place to stop. On a great Sunday afternoon the run extended into a neighboring town that has a park that proved a great location for competing high schools to met until football season brought things back into perspective. This was a place where hot rods could sit in the shade of tall oaks, maybe even get a new coat of wax as the local girls would cruise by in daddy’s car. It was widely reported by the Nederland police chief that on Sunday afternoon, when the ‘drag’ was at its finest, over 3,500 cars an hour would be making the drag.
    For many years, the city looked at this as a good thing. More people in town meant more spending money on snacks, gas, and even a few burgers. That many cars also meant there was no real drag racing or hardly any speeding due to the almost parade like congestion. Anyone really wanting to do some illegal street racing had to take it out on the highway which also meant the Texas Department of Public Safety had jurisdiction, and those boys don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to smoking tires and a contest of speed. So while the cruising was great, like many other towns across America where the hot rodders found room to roam, progress caught up with them.
    The town was going through a growth cycle, and that means change. . Businesses that had to clean up their parking lot on Friday, Saturday, and Monday morning before customers arrived understood and tolerated the cruisers. However, it appears the final straw was when emergency vehicles became embroiled in the traffic. No one was hurt, but it was enough for the City Fathers. Suddenly no stopping on the parking lots or car washes, everyone had to keep moving, and it didn’t matter if it was a 16-year old out on a first cruise or one of the many returning from Viet Nam. Traffic violations that use to be a warning or even a call to parents became traffic citations – expensive traffic citations. Those that lamented the loss understood it was their own doing, and dreamed of a better day.
    Change can come in a positive way, and working with the City Council, a new group is bringing the Nederland Ave Cruise back on a limited basis. There are still rocks in the road for cruisers, and still silly people doing burnouts that shouldn’t be, but with communication, a little self-control, the groups are working to revive an age old tradition that many of us really appreciate - if only twice a year.

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