American Graffiti Meets Alamosa

While attending the Early Iron Festival over Labor Day weekend in Alamosa, my senses of sight, hearing and smell were turned up to 11. (YouTube - ‘These go to 11’ from Spinal Tap - 56 seconds of funny!) Early Iron is a brilliant car show with car models spanning much of the 100 years of human fascination and love affairs with horseless carriages, from family sedans to wildly rebuilt muscle cars. As I wandered the rows of vehicles, the archives of personal movies and pictures, stored somewhere in my mind, triggered flashbacks of my history with cars, from the first time solo behind a wheel, to going way too fast in a friend’s 1969 Chevelle SS, to my favorite joy, driving a stick shift. I still do, and love it! The shape, colors, and detailing of the cars inside and out, the view of the steering wheel and old style speedometers, the revving of the engines, the smell of brand new upholstery, and ultimately, inevitably, exhaust fumes are all part of the experience. Ahh, each of us have our own special car memories...

What a magnificent gallery of powerful artistic engineering, in the form of automobiles and trucks, which rolled into Alamosa for three days, as it has for 37 years. Rumors of 600 restored cars were confirmed by wandering Cole Park, several other venues around town, and being on Main Street Saturday night. Owners, who have spent much time and money, as restoring ‘old cars’ is not a cheap and fast hobby, have a lot to talk about with car aficionados who arrive from all over the US and beyond to appreciate and dream of their wish list ‘hot rod.’ One group from England happened to be here on a tour for Steam Trains and Breweries and found themselves caught up in the car show. The Brits, taking it all in, loved it!

What used to be high school parking lots are now called car shows. When the movie American Graffiti came out in 1973, a bunch of us from high school poured into the local drive- in to watch the film about a last weekend of high school graduates, driving on Main Street USA and celebrated the beginning of the next major step in life. As California, captured and represented on film by American Graffiti for the muscle car culture, was really only duplicating what was going on all across America, in other big cities and small towns.

American Graffiti launched careers for well-known actors, Ron Howard as an actor/ director, Richard Dreyfuss, who went from this comedy to one of the more realistic scary movies of the 70s with JAWS, and Harrison Ford. Do we need to list his credits beyond Star Wars and Indiana Jones? Cindy Williams went on to be part of the big hit TV Show Laverne and Shirley.

Fast forward to Main Street - US Highway 160 in Alamosa Sept 2, 2017. While watching street side with several thousand people, who were having nearly as much fun as the drivers in their ‘jalopies turned jewels,’ many of whom were several generations of families, the grandparents having owned the cars, their kids perhaps restoring an old car and the next generation who were simply being introduced to the culture without any actual experiences of their own. Yet. Engines revved, candy was thrown, and numerous laps were made. I snuck in to Square Peg, ordered a beer, and chatted up the Brits on holiday. We watched out the windows as the cars cruised by. We compared and contrasted English culture to modern day America. All wonderful conversation and enlightenment.

As I walked home, as the cruising on Main Street USA was winding up for the night, I was well aware of the present night and what I had just witnessed. The waxing moon hung high in the sky on the side streets of town. My mind wandered back to a warm humid Midwest evening, doing our own cruising, the town square, park for a while, talk with others, drive to the local pizza place where others gathered to hang out, try and score some beer or cheap wine, maybe drive down to the DQ or Mr. D Burger, turn up the radio to a favorite song, see who was there...

‘Take me back, To the world gone away, Memories, Seem like yesterday Oh, old days, Good times I remember, Gold days, Days I’ll always treasure”

FROM THE BAND CHICAGO - SONG “OLD DAYS” earlyironclub.com for details