A Wild American Graffiti on Foothill Boulevard
I’ve written a lot about 1975’s short-lived Foothill Cruise Night. It was an amazing social anomaly for our normally quiet and conservative valley. In one last memory from Craig Baker, we get a glimpse of how out of control things got, and why Cruise Night just couldn’t last.
“In the beginning, the cruise was supposed to go back and forth from Jack in the Box in La Cañada to In-N-Out Burger just past Lowell. But fairly quickly, the shopping center parking lots at the top of the hill there became a focal point of activity and a place to gather.
“Although every week had its crazy moments, the zenith of that brief period was, of course, the cruise on Monday, June 9. Hundreds and hundreds of people gathered near In-N-Out and cars were taking turns peeling out of the Lucky’s shopping center parking lot onto the eastbound lanes of Foothill. Someone had poured a lot of motor oil in the street so the spinning tires would generate huge clouds of smoke and the cars were sometimes on the edge of control. Sometimes a driver would pull onto the patch of oil and stop, people would grab the door handles and hold the car back while the tires were spinning, burning the oil. Eventually, one of these cars did lose control, veered into the westbound lanes and collided with another car. The westbound driver sprang out of his car mad as hell and the real mayhem began as the crowd then flooded the street, completely closing Foothill Boulevard. A police helicopter circling above turned its spotlight on the crowd and hundreds of middle fingers were immediately raised at it in response. It felt like a cross between a rock concert and a scene out of the book of Revelation. You knew it was going to end soon with what might involve running.
“We’d seen the LAPD setting up a command post at Mountain View Elementary School (in Tujunga) earlier in the evening, so we knew they had done a lot of pre-planning. Officers in riot gear staged there had been assembling on Foothill just west of the crowd and began to move toward and into it. Police used bullhorns indicating that the gathering had been declared an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse, indicating which streets we were to use to leave the area. It certainly seemed like it was a good time for me to leave, but I could not safely reach my truck through the approaching riot police.
Everything was completely chaotic. I got very lucky and was able to jump into a friend’s moving car just in time and we left – headed for Jack in the Box, of course.
“A mobile booking station for processing those arrested by LAPD had been set up at the command post at the school and busses normally used to transport jail inmates were parked there as well. Booking photos of the more than 100 arrested that night were taken against an outside wall of a school building and fingerprinting was done there as well.
“My mom and a friend of hers (both 50-ish school nurses) made a point of getting a window booth facing east at Love’s Restaurant (at the west end of the Lucky’s shopping center) so that they could safely enjoy the ‘show,’ only to be moved to seats away from the windows so a couple of LAPD officers could occupy the booth for its vantage point.
On her way home, she got pulled over on Foothill (she drove kind of a racy-looking Plymouth Barracuda). When the officer told her that it wasn’t a good time to be out and asked her where she was going, she recalled saying – still perturbed about being moved – ‘I’m cruising, of course!’
“Anyway, it was fun times. The police had little choice but to aggressively put a lid on it. Things could not have continued the way they were going. So, we went back to cruising on Van Nuys Boulevard on Wednesday nights.”
And thus the Crescenta Valley lost a place in car culture history.