In Rome in the early to mid-sixties there were only a couple of local drive-ins to visit. A group could cruise from the Chow Time on North Fifth Avenue and West 11th Street to the Dairy Delite on Martha Berry Boulevard and West Ninth Street. Not very far from each other, so you would go around each many times during the night.
They both had giant hamburgers, very tasty, but who was there for the food?
The Chow Time was home to the “hot rod” cars in the early days of that era. The owners would bring their cars to the drive-in and line up on the North Fifth parking spaces and raise their hoods so one could view the latest engine, which had been “dropped in” that day, or the new four-barrel carburetor just installed.
Talk of speed and a little bragging would lead to a challenge, car against car in a drag race — one-quarter mile to see who had the fastest car in town.
One of the preferred sites for drags was on the new four-lane highway, U.S. 411, which was only finished to Nichols Road going east toward Cartersville. There was very little traffic at night on this road and it had a natural quarter mile from a median crossover to a road sign a quarter mile away.
“Big John” Milner (John Le Mat) and Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) showed everyone how it was done in the 1973 movie “American Graffiti,” which was modeled after Modesto, Calif., in 1962. It could just as easily have been modeled after Rome as we had the same experiences most weekends here in Rome. I am not aware of anyone getting hurt at the local drags, which is a testament to the driving skills of the “hot rodders.”
Later in the sixties there was an addition to the cruising path: Hardee’s, near Second Avenue and Fourth Street. The muscle cars stayed at the Chow Time, but most of the in-town kids moved to Hardee’s.
The new place became kind of a hangout where you would park your car and just loiter around, which did not please the owners of Hardee’s too much because their paying customers could not get in to buy burgers and fries.
Sometimes there would be a hundred kids in a parking lot that might have held 60 cars.
Understandably, this was seen as a big problem to the owners and the authorities were called upon a few occasions to clear the socializing teenagers.
Then East Rome Krystal came along and split the crowd, which helped the situation calm down for a while. The kids got banned for good from Hardee’s after someone blew up the men’s bathroom on the back of the building. That was the last straw, and the crowd moved on to the Krystal, and later to the new McDonald’s on Turner McCall Boulevard.
These gatherings, I guess, were our Facebook only we were getting the news of all our friends in person instead of on a screen.
I’m only familiar with the city cruising taking place at that time in history, but know each area of the county had its own drive-in where young people practiced Facebook before it was cool. Coosa, Armuchee, Lindale, Model and Cave Spring all had places the teens would hang out and be teens.
I would like to hear from people familiar with those places. I’ll see that as many reminiscences as can will get space on this page for all to read. If you also have pictures of this era, please send along also. You can send to BMooney@NPCO.com, and thanks in advance.