Just like Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Van Nuys in Los
Angeles, or just about any small town in a America, the greater
Seattle area used to have a youth social network called “cruising.”
Way before the distraction of supermalls or electronic entertainment
other than juke boxes or pinball machines, so many of us found the
opportunity to get together while being seen in a car. The car you
drove was like a suit of clothes; it told people who you were. Golden
Gardens, Alki Beach, Rat City and even The Gut in Portland were all
known places people gathered and cruised. But the one place that
everyone knew about was the Renton Loop.
If you start on 2nd Street, The Loop moved west along
2nd past Renton High School. Take a turn south on Rainier and
turn left on 3rd at the old Triple X Rootbeer, (or across the street,
Dag’s Drive-in) and The Loop moved east on 3rd. The interesting
part of The Loop was that the eastern border never seemed to be
fixed. Most often we would, all turn north on Burnette Street at
the old Williams & Swanson Cheverolet dealership, but many times
cruisers would go all the way to Williams, Well or even Main.
Remember that years back, many of the north-south streets were
not one way . . . once we chose where to turn north, The Loop
continued on by turning west on 2nd again.
There were no rules about where to cruise in Renton.
Turning off The Loop onto a side steet might be with intent to
go to Don’s Quick Stop on Sunset and try to get someone to buy
beer you weren’t technically old enough to buy yourself. Or
maybe trying to do the same thing at The Melrose, or Dino’s
Bistro, or at the 7-11 . . . hey, it used to be a rite of passage!
Buying a pizza at Pizza Pete’s was always on the menu, or a
burger at Herfy’s, or even the occasional trip to McDonalds on
Rainier. Most times though, staying on The Loop and stopping
at Dags or the Triple X was the first choice.
Another reason that we used to get away from The Loop
was to race. Not just a quick stop light blast, but a challenge.
Once a challenge had been thrown down and accepted, a location
was named. In the 1960’s, going south of the Burien Highway
(before I-405 was built) on Rainier brought you onto the Kent
Highway. Kent Highway was a two lane road that was surrounded
by swamp land as soon as you passed the old Holiday Inn - you
remember - the one with the airplane on the roof. It actually was
sort of like American Graffiti, as just off the west side of the Kent
Highway in the middle of the swamp was AM radio station KREN,
transmission tower and all. Once I-405 had been built and Highway
167 began to take shape, the racing moved around. I might even
have had some personal experience racing down behind the Renton
Business Park. There were many other places racers chose, these are
just a few that bring good memories.
There were many urban legends that orignated on The
Loop. Maybe they contained a degree of truth, but most were
just fun to repeat. I recall stories about gang knife fights in the
old Safeway parking lot, when Safeway was where A&H Drugs used to be. Or stories of the Renton P.D. trying to run radar from the
open field west of the Renton Business Park to catch cars racing
on Powell Street. If you don’t think there wasn’t a bit of racing on
Powell Street, drive by and look at the “No Racing” signs prominently
displayed today. They really are a smiling reminder of the past.
You will have to help me with some of the urban legends you recall.
This far down the road the memories might not be so accurate, but
that’s what urban legends are all about. The fun is in the telling.
I really have to wonder how many memories this site will
kindle. Girlfriends found, races won, fights picked, cars broken,
mischief done and what made each of us decide to move on to
those responsibilities that life inevitably brings. In the famous
words of Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) talking about John Milner
(Paul LeMat), “You can’t stay seventeen forever.”
Or maybe you can . . . let me know what you remember
best. Send me photos or videos of cars cruised or hopefully of
The Loop itself. Together we can make this site the kind of place
that brings great memories and is a reminder that once we were