Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler

“Cruise Foothill – It’s A Riot!”


Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at
Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

I received some emails from people that had some vivid memories of the so-called Foothill Riots. This is from Craig Baker, who now lives in Paradise, California:

“For better or worse, I was one of the people rocking the RTD bus.  As I recall, the intent was only that, and people in the bus were laughing and seemed to be enjoying the excitement, albeit nervously.  The bus driver was not happy, however.  I don’t recall any rock or bottle throwing, but I’m sure it happened.  Rob Breiner and I had 50 bumper stickers made that said “Cruise Foothill – It’s a Riot,” but as soon as we stepped out the door of the printing shop in Montrose, we were confronted by two Glendale Police detectives who took the stickers (and Rob) away.  He was questioned, threatened with a charge of inciting a riot and released the same day (he had paid for the stickers – I was just the driver).”

Rob Ward graduated from CV High School in 1975, and is now retired and living in Orange County. He considers himself one of the organizers of Cruise Night. He remembers the following:

“I know I was a vocal supporter of bringing a cruise night to our area since Wednesday night Van Nuys Blvd cruising was so popular back then. I talked it up at CV High School and out in Van Nuys but can’t remember much more than that on how it started and who was involved. I believe it was strong word of mouth.

“I had forgotten that we had two peaceful cruise nights before the 3rd one where all hell broke loose. I remember on that 3rd cruise night, that me and others were pulled over by the police for anything they could find. My “Dodge” sticker in the back window of my Challenger was actually legal as I had two outside mirrors on the car but nevertheless they wrote me up for obstruction of view (a harmless fix it ticket). I do recall that the police officers that pulled me over were nice guys and we both understood what they were trying to do. Not that it didn’t happen, but I never saw any of the violence against the police that was reported in the newspapers and in your article, nor do I remember seeing any heavy handed police activity. But the police definitely used different tactics that final night as I witnessed lot of what I would call unnecessary hassling by the police earlier in the evening – which may have angered the crowd. I do remember watching the final act as the police lined up in the street east of Lowell with bull horns blaring, and then marching down Foothill arm in arm toward the La Crescenta side to break it up. (I watched from a vantage point about a block up on the north side of Lowell).

“Given what I had witnessed that night (and I’m sure I missed a lot) I remember the description of kids getting way out of control and the event being called a “riot” seemed weird to me – but again I probably did not witness the events that may have triggered the response. I do recall that afterward I felt that the situation was overblown by the press and possibly the authorities to justify the crackdown and to prevent further cruise nights. As a “seasoned”  adult I can fully understand their actions now – especially the dangers of alcohol and drag racing and the thought that the whole cruise could get out of hand – but at that time we were all very upset about how abruptly our seemingly “harmless fun” came to an end.

The impression I’ve gotten from reading about cruise night and talking to people that participated in it was that, although the teens thought it was fun, the rest of the community did not. People had moved to CV because of its quite atmosphere, and didn’t want Foothill to become another Van Nuys Boulevard. Next week I’ll have some even wilder stories that perhaps illustrate why cruise night couldn’t last.

One Response to "Treasures of the Valley » Mike lawler"

  1. Catherine Wolken   April 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Looking at it from a long distance it looks to me as if the police overrreacted. Reminds me of Barney Fife who once had most of the town of Mayberry in jail including the mayor.

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