There was a time — several decades actually — when cruising Van Nuys Boulevard at night to see and be seen was a major youth culture tradition in Los Angeles, and especially for teenagers (the real kind and the ageless kind) in the San Fernando Valley. The practice began before World War II, spread across LA with the car culture of the 1950s and 60s, crested when the baby boomer hordes were at their most numerous and bored, and finally faded after the LAPD shut down the boulevard in the 1980s. There has been cinematic and musical treatments of Van Nuys Boulevard cruising, and an interpretation for the East Coast by Tom Wolfe in his 1963 Esquire story, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.". But until now I had not been aware of a deep collection of candid, on-the-asphalt photos from among the cruisers. My sense is there are more photos around of cruising on Whittier Boulevard, perhaps because the East Los Angeles strip remained popular later.
Richard McCloskey, a Lakewood, Washington fabricator of replacement wood panels for Woodie station wagons, was among the thousands who cruised Van Nuys Boulevard in 1972. He is selling prints of his photos from Wednesday nights -- the traditional car club night when customized roadsters, hot rods, lowriders, Harleys, surfer vans and many other slow-moving vehicles filled up with 29-cent gasoline and crept along a packed boulevard while the sidewalks were filled with gawkers. The cruising zone ran from Sherman Way south to the parking lot of Hughes Market and June Ellen's Donut Shop just above Moorpark Street. That's where generations of Wednesday night cruisers knew to turn around so they could creep back north. The popular Bob's Big Boy drive-in was between the two poles.
McCloskey captures it all — the ritual, the dress, the social exchanges. He's got pictures of June Ellen's, you see at least one member of the Los Angeles Street Racers club flying his colors, there are the old LAPD cars with the circular red lights, or cherries. And lots of cars. The images are black and white, so if there are any Kandy Apple Red paint jobs in the bunch, we don't know it.
There's an online gallery of McCloskey's pics for sale at Fine Art America.com.