From the files of Loraine Campbell, Executive Director Troy Historic Village
Many car buffs and nostalgic Metro Detroiters have attended the annual Traffic Jam Car Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise, and dozens of other shows during the summer. Cars are a big part of our culture in southeast Michigan. A number of years ago, I recorded this conversation with Diane Lee and Linda Spell. They reminisced about growing up in Troy during the 1950s and coming of age during the early 1960s.
“After high school I worked at Kresge’s in Clawson,” Linda said. “I bought a used 1963 Chevy Impala convertible.” Her eyes sparkled with pride as she described the car. “It had a 327 with a stick and a racing clutch. The exterior was a beautiful brown and it had beige interior” She paused for a second and added a bit hesitantly, “I burned out the clutch.”
“Did you cruise?” I asked.
“Oh, yes!” she said proudly. “My friend Helen and I went out every week! We were looking for guys.”
“What did you do when you found them?”
“We just talked for a while and then cruised some more. I never went out with any of them. I don’t even remember giving a guy my phone number.”
Linda remembered Friday nights when kids from Troy cranked up the volume on CKLW, sang along to the latest Motown hits, and cruised Woodward between 19 Mile Road (Square Lake Road) and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak. They pulled into drive-in restaurants and sometimes even ordered a burger or a shake. Carhops served Slim Jims at the Big Boy, terrific Cisco Burgers and strawberry pie at Mavericks, and shakes at Peppy’s in Clawson. Today Zorba’s Coney Island occupies that building. Teens who didn’t drive all the way to Woodward congregated at Bill’s A & W on Rochester Road. Local residents recalled that it was a favorite place to stop while taking driver’s education class. Today an Arby’s restaurant is located on the site of the old root beer stand.
“We also went to the Ambassador Roller Rink on 14 Mile Road in Clawson,” the ladies told me. “It was a big deal when James Brown came to the Ambassador!”
Diane graduated from high school a few years after Linda. “I got $100 for graduation,” she said. “It seemed like a fortune to me. A family friend sold me a gorgeous light blue 1962 Chevy Impala convertible for $650. I gave him the $100 and paid off the balance in six months by working at Sherman Drug Store in Royal Oak for $70 per week.” Diane also cruised Woodward with her girlfriends and remembered fondly the era when a great day included going to Neisner’s Five and Dime in Royal Oak. “They had a soda fountain with round seats,” she said smiling. We ordered Cherry Cokes, malts or shakes. We had so much fun!”
1962 Chevy Impala convertible
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.