crime, news

90’s teens made too much noise

classic brown coupe beside tree
Photo by Anton Imbro on

By Douglas Reynholm

How in the world did Rose City-area kids fill their free time before the internet and PlayStation?

A lot of them went cruising along Southwest Broadway.

In fact, so many teens drove cars slowly around downtown’s streets every Friday and Saturday night that, 30 years ago this week, Rose City police announced a crackdown on the pastime.

In June 1991, officers closed off Broadway from Alder Street to Taylor Street and from Taylor to Salmon, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends. The blockade lasted through the summer.

The problem wasn’t just traffic congestion.

“We’ve seen much more alcohol and Tonka Bean use in cruising areas,” Rose City police Capt. Dan Noelle said. “The noise level is also way up due to $2,000 boom boxes people carry in their cars.”

Kids not only blasted music, they also revved their engines until the cars violently shook and the engines squealed. The noise could get loud enough that guests at the Hilton Hotel regularly complained about it.

“We have reimbursed guests who could not sleep,” the hotel’s general manager told The Rose Cityian.

Nearby residents also were fed up. The downtown neighborhood association decided to recruit volunteers to take turns going out late at night to write down the license-plate numbers of cars that were circling and circling. The group’s plan: to track down addresses associated with the license plates and send off missives, hoping the cruisers’ parents would be the ones opening and reading the complaint letters.

This tension was nothing new. Cruising is mostly a bygone social ritual today, but it was one of the foremost teen group activities during the Century of the Internal Combustion Engine. Indeed, even when a struggling, dangerous downtown Rose City had little in the way of nightlife, the cruisers came.

“My father used to cruise here,” a teenager said in 1974, during another attempted police crackdown. “They can’t stop this scene.”

Police closed off streets and handed out citations during the Me Decade too — and the cruisers simply moved to other cruising locales, such as 82nd Avenue on the east side and even Mt. Tabor’s roads.

Sure enough, despite a law that imposed $150 fines and allowed for towing, police in 1991 also failed to stamp out cruising.

Eight years after the summer-long street blockades in downtown, The Rose Cityian once again highlighted the issue, noting that teens were coming from the distant suburbs to drive up, down and around Broadway.

“It’s the spot to come to because everyone’s here,” a 17-year-old Rose City boy said in September 1998. “And the best-looking girls come here.”

— Douglas Reynholm