Cruising the GAP!

Everyone jumped into a car, and drove around town looking for adventure.

I grew up in a small town on the west coast of the US. In those days, the population of Grants Pass was somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 people.  Today there are somewhere around 30,000 people. Some things have changed, many things remain the same.

In the early 1970's, before cell phones, ipods, or really any small portable device beyond a simple transistor radio, there was this thing that happened every Friday and Saturday night call Cruising the GAP.

I don't really remember who came up with the term, but it seemed to come directly from our own age group as we grew through the rite of passage called High School.  As I understood it, the GAP was short for the town of Grants Pass. We learned at the age that the unofficial name for our town would forever be the GAP.

This was the teenage ritual practiced in our little town, part social experiment, part mating ritual, part escape from the small town boredom infecting our generation long before any e-toys had really been invented.

We cruised the GAP from one end of town to the other over and over and over again.

Much like a scene out of the movie American Graffiti, cruising the GAP was a very real experience for all of us. The down was basically set up on an North/South axis, with a split off to a east/west portion at the south end.

We only had a few options in those days. There was the Bowling alley known as Caveman Bowl -- Caveman was the town mascot, the idea we all rallied behind as a sport name for Football, Basketball, Track etc. It's what gave us some sense of identity and belonging, a sense of school spirit etc.

Then there was the near by Rollerdrome, a multipurpose roller skating rink and dance hall where local bands could play and teens could get together for some fun, maybe some smooching or cigarettes in what was known as the make out room. It was always dark in there, no matter what was happening out on the big floor.

Our band frequently played at the local roller skating rink called the Rollerdrome.

Aside from that there was either the local walk-in movie theater, or the drive-in theater. We only had one of each and so the variety was severely limited. Most people didn't have cable television in those days so there were only two TV channels, and radio reception was also very limited due to the surrounding mountains. We had two basic radio stations, one the was more or less country and middle of the road standards from Hollywood, kind of an easy listening station, and the other that play mostly TOP 40 and news programming.

To make a long story short, our options were limited, so the one thing we were able to do was Cruise the GAP.  Several of us, usually with our closest friends, would pile into one car or another, pool our coins, and drive from one end of town to the other, which consisted of an approximate six or seven mile loop, more or less. At the top end were a few restaurants, like a Denny's, or some other chain of national eateries, where we would often end up congregating for a late plate of fries or something more substantial depending on what we could afford before we ended the night and headed home.

Small town social groups were vital to us, maybe as important as our daily schooling. It was while Cruising the GAP that we learned some of our most important life lessons.  But that really is a longer story. It will have to be part of an upcoming book at some point.

Surely there are a million stories across the country and from around the world so some sort of variety of Cruising the GAP.  What was your experience?

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