By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now
NEWTON—Beverly Metcalf and her husband Pat Johnson met in 1973 while cruising the streets of Hutchinson in 1973.
“We loved muscle cars,” Metcalf said. “He had a ‘68 Charger, and I had a ‘67 Chevelle. You know, wide tires, jacked-up rear ends and loud pipes and big engines. Now, we’ve settled into more practical rides, but we’re again looking for our perfect muscle car.”
It seems fitting, then, the Newton residents have taken part in the Main Street cruises the past couple of weekends in downtown Newton. The cruises are providing a short relief from people being cooped up inside so much because of the COVID-19 scare. This past Saturday night, people in a variety of vehicles drove up and down Main Street, Newton, from Sonic to Sonic, forming lines to be able to pull into the drive-through restaurants. When the vehicles were downtown, they honked at each other, and people waved. It was a chance to be out with people, but not be near them.
Even though it’s 47 years later than when they met, Metcalf and Johnson enjoy the recent cruises for a few reasons.
“It is a great relief at this time, and, with respect to social distancing, brings together a group of people who enjoy doing the same thing,” Metcalf said. “Love people’s smiles.”
The event evoked some memories.
“A more simple time of life when people smiled and waved at each other,” Metcalf said. “A time when young girls weren’t afraid to stop and talk to guys they didn’t know. You could actually sit by your boyfriend in the front seat with the music blaring and singing along.”
The downtown cruises were the brainchild of Newton resident Richard Mick.
“Well, because of the social isolation, I had been going out and taking a short drive every day,” he said. “Basically, it was a nice reprieve from being in the house all day. One night after that, I was sitting around and thought it would be a good idea. I made an initial post on Facebook that got a favorable response so I then made an announcement that we would be doing it. It was shared several times, so a lot of people heard about it, and a lot of people participated. I really didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal, but it turned out to be pretty popular.”
That initial cruise was from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21, with the more recent one this past Saturday during the same time.
Mick thought it would be a good idea.
“I just remembered doing it in high school and how much fun it was,” he said. “I’ve always thought it could be a part of class reunions because many from our era used to do it. In the ’80s, it was kind of the thing to do. Most people would cruise Main Street to connect with friends and figure out where all the parties were (ha ha).”
Mick estimated around 50 to 75 vehicles took part that first weekend. There probably were more the second weekend.
Mick said that when they took part that first weekend, his wife was in charge of the music in their car, and they played ‘80s rock music from some of the greats from that era, including AC/DC, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Journey.
“The neat thing was seeing people of all ages,” he said. “Three of our kids were out, and they didn’t really even know what it was at first. After a couple trips, I think they were having fun. Newton really does have a great Main Street for this. I don’t think it is something you could do every weekend, but occasionally it could be a big hit. Maybe something like the first Saturday of each month from April to September.”
Mick thinks it could be good for business, like for restaurants and vendors. He said this, though, before the Kansas stay-at-home order.
“From what I know, we have a couple different car shows, and those are good occasions also,” he said. “I don’t know. I just know given the circumstances with everyone being socially isolated, I think it was a good outlet for people.”
Mick thought the event would be a one-time thing, but the community picked it up and ran with it last weekend, as people posted about cruising again on the Newton Community Support Facebook page.