2015 Legends of The Cruise

Walk of Fame 2015
By Chris Murphy

The Walk of Fame is the latest addition to the Modesto Historic Cruise Route celebrating our “Legends of the Cruise”. Permanent sidewalk markers honor each of our “Legends. The very first cruise marker was presented to George Lucas during his appearance in Modesto for the Kiwanis Cruise Parade in 2013. In 2014 nine other markers joined George’s in a new special designated “Walk of Fame” that begins in 10th Street Plaza and will extend each year as new inductees are honored.

These are our own hometown heroes. They shaped the lives of today’s generation and thanks to them, Modesto USA is known around the world for being the birthplace of American Graffiti. This is just the beginning and the Historic Cruise Route is just getting started. More events, Legend inductees and monuments and visitor experiences will be added each year for Graffiti Summer and new designs for a “retro 10th Street are being developed to make our Graffiti Story and benefit our local economy. Hopefully soon, we will have a Graffiti USA Museum.

The 2015 Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame will be unveiled on June 10, during the Mid Valley Chevy Car show in 10th St place. The car show starts at 5:30 and the presentation event will begin at 6:30. The 2015 Inductees are the late Gerry Ramirez and Bennie Furtado along with Wendell Reed, Dennis Wilson, Charlie Reynolds and the speed shattering car club, the Century Toppers, represented by Gene Winfield, Bart Bartoni, and Pete Hischier.

The mission of the Walk of Fame is to highlight the character and history of Modesto and educate and illuminate these stories to own citizens and visitors alike. The 2015 markers were donated and created by Chris Murphy, ModestoView, Sierra Pacific, and the hard work of Colin Sparkman and the DecoStone Concrete team along with United Signs and ColorCoat. I specially want to thank the City of Modesto, in particular Andy Johnson for making it easy to create these events and team with the city to make a positive change in our downtown.

Gerry Ramirez
Geraldine C. (Gerry) Ramirez was Modesto’s Carhop and Burge’s Drive in was the place that started it all.
The unique round drive-in was a refreshing motorist beacon along Highway 99 in years after the end of the war, when car travel became popular. But in the evenings, Burge’s became a place for the youth of Modesto to hang out. The classes of ’47 to ’67 made the weekend evenings a happening place. ModestoView readers get an exclusive look at rare Burge’s photos thanks to the personal photo collection of Tony Ramirez, son of long time Burge’s carhop, Gerry Ramirez. Both of Tony’s parents worked at Burge’s. “It was a special time” Tony says, ”I had the most interesting childhood and my parents were amazing. The friends and family from those days were a special part of my life”
Gerry and Tony Ramirez were at Burge’s from day one. Gerry, born in Tuttle, Oklahoma on 9-21-1926, has been immortalized in the few photos that exist of Burge’s. Tony was a soda jerk at Burge’s and kept the place moving fast and satisfying hungry customers. The carhops worked hard and long hours. They hustled and had to juggle the cars sometimes stacked 3-5 deep. Gerry was on the job from the day Burge’s opened until the day it closed in 1967. Gerry passed away June 8, 2011 and is remembered fondly by many of Modesto’s original cruisers. She is survived by her son Tony and daughter Debra.
Burge’s and Gerry are a symbol of Modesto’s amazing cruising and Graffiti history.

Photo: car at Burge’s: (Photo from McHenry Museum) This is the picture most often seen of Burge’s. Here are the people in this iconic picture. Carhop: Gerry Ramirez, Plymouth: Driver: Jack Floyd, RF-Mimi Cox Draper, LR- Leroy Cunningham, MR-Pat Michaels Laird, RR-Dick Hardy, RF Shadow-Sarah Jane Paradis, Coupe-Ben Gragg

Wendell Reed
Wendell G. Reed is a Modesto High School graduate, class of 1946. He went to University of California at Berkeley, majoring in engineering. Wendell took his love of cars with him. In high school Wendell drove a 1933 5 window Ford Coupe and later got a 1935 Ford convertible.
While at Berkeley he drove a 1940 Plymouth coupe. He later acquired a beautiful two-tone blue 1935 Auburn Supercharged Convertible Sedan. After graduation, from Berkeley he met and married the love of his life, Norma, who lived in San Francisco at the time.
His career started with the Corp of Engineers in San Francisco. In 1945, he came back to Modesto to work in his father’s construction business, Geo. Reed Inc. of Modesto. The company grew from a struggling $275k a year to over $300 today, with his family members at the helm. Through all of this growth, Wendell’s love for cars continued.
Wendell and Norma purchased a new, green 1951 MG and then drove it all the way to New Orleans for a construction convention. Space in the car was at a premium. Later they bought a more practical 1952 Mercury two-door sedan.
In 1975, Wendell started a restoration of a 1951 Riley, beautiful when completed. In 1976, he purchased a brand new blue Caddy Eldorado Convertible. He then put this brand new car in a box and stored it for 35 years. This car only has 317 miles on it. From 1975 to present, Wendell has actively collected over 33 rare and vintage automobiles including but not limited to a 1937 Cadillac, 1952 Racing Allard, 1956 Continental, & a 1956 Ford Victoria. Wendell and Norma now have a beautiful facility to show and display their collection of truly rare cars. The Reeds frequently provide the use of their cars for Graffiti events and were involved in the formative years of the car shows. His dreams of a great collection of automobiles has never diminished and his heart is bright in those great automobile dreams of the past.

Bennie Furtado
Bennie Furtado was one of the first of Modesto really cool car guys.
Bennie Furtado was born on August 3rd, 1930. He worked most of his life on the family dairy on Paradise Road. He worked hard during the day and enjoyed his evenings with friends, cars and chicks.
In his late teens, Bennie became extremely obsessed with cars. Not racing cars, but custom cars, most customized by Gene Winfield thru the fifties. Later known as the American Graffiti era.
Some of the cars he owned included a 1948 Ford chopped top. It has custom color called “blurple”. He also customized a 1950 Ford 2-door sedan. Many of his cars were displayed in local parades, car magazines and custom auto shows. He was frequently seen driving with his girlfriend Carol Rafter.
Bennie also had a kind heart for friends and family. Upon his sister getting her driver’s license, he purchased a 1937 Ford for her and had it restored so she could drive to school. Needless to say, it was quite the conversation piece and she was very proud of it.
After the Graffiti era faded, his fondness for cars became legendary. Bennie passed away on October 3, 1999 at the age of 69.

Charlie Reynolds
Charles Reynolds arrived in the town of Ceres when he was 6 years old. He graduated from Ceres High School in 1953 and started attending MJC. The era of American Graffiti was new, exciting and alive!
Charles joyfully joined the cruise route with his new black 1955 Chevrolet, before cruising his 1956 candy-apple-red Chevy he installed with a Paxton super charger, which he retired from cruising for his 1956 Corvette, finally culminating his cruising with a 1957 Chevy 270.
It was joyful time, and Charles was alive to re-live his young, carefree automotive days. It extended into his mid-years with both his sons, a trio cut form the same cloth.
Charles became overjoyed when his oldest son won the Master Class of Best Custom at the Grand Daddy Oakdale Auto Show in 1979. Then his youngest son was honored and selected for the 1st full front page cover of a pickup truck by Peterson’s Four Wheel Drive Magazine in 1991, which was chosen over many custom cars.
Charles never lost his happy memories with automobiles. He still continues his senior years with pleasure and enthusiasm with all things automobile; his collection and restoration of early classics remain a part of his life.

Dennis Wilson
Dennis was born and raised in Modesto in 1939. He was raised by “Ozzie & Harriet” (also known as his parents, Gene and Emmy). Dennis attended Enslen Elementary School (Enslen just celebrated their 85th anniversary), Roosevelt Junior High and then Thomas Downey High School, where he graduated in 1957.
During his time attending Roosevelt, he passed by a 1931 Model A Vicky every day, parked alongside Tidewater RR Tracks at Virginia Avenue. By the time he was in the 8th grade, he knew every nick, scratch and dent on that car.
One day while riding home from school, he saw a guy trying to pump up the tires on the Vicky. He stopped to talk with him and found out he was at MJC and transferring to San Jose State, and was hoping to sell the A. The college student kept eyeing Dennis’ Dayton Bike and asked if he would be interested in a trade for it. Dennis raced home to get the registration for the bike and hustled back before he changed his mind.
Dennis and his father towed the car home and making Dennis the proud owner of his first car at 14! That event started him on a long journey with a love affair for anything that had an engine and wheels. (Some had 2, some had 4.)
He felt that growing up in the 50’s in Motown was the best time ever! First cruising 2-way on 10th, and then 1-way on 10th & 11th. His second Model A was a coupe which sometimes didn’t have the wooden floorboard in place on the passenger side, which allowed for certain petroleum products to be discharged at the intersection of 10th & M.
He started hanging out at Winfield’s Custom Shop at 451 Tully Road in the 50’s, and was able to tag along to some of the car shows. At the shows he was able to watch the development of such icons as the “Jade Idol”, the Winifred pickup, Ray Goularte’s ‘50 Ford and Dennis Reniero’s ’56 Oldsmobile, all with the famous Winfield pearl fade paint jobs.
While attending MJC, his architectural drafting class project was the remodel of the fascia of 451 Tully Road. In exchange, Gene designed and built a custom front end for Dennis’ 1948 Mercury featuring ’59 Chevy quad headlights and nerf bars in place of the stock bumper. The Mercury was powered by a Chrysler engine.
After attending San Jose State and a stint in the Air Force, he returned to Modesto. By this time, the cruise route had shifted to McHenry Avenue. He is still bitten by the automotive bug, and is still building, driving and racing cars. (Mostly Ford products.)
He is honored to be selected to join the Legends of the Cruise as part of the history of “old” Modesto and American Graffiti.

The Century Toppers
The Century Toppers Auto Club, founded in 1947, was the first hot rod club formed in Modesto. It was started by a handful of local hot rodders, with Gene Winfield, a well known customer car builder, as one of the local hot rodders, with Gene Winfield, a well know customer car builder, as one of the founders and Robert Bryant as first secretary. The club’s objectives were to promote auto safety and to improve the image of the sport of hot rodding. The club quickly expanded to included members from surrounding cities like Riverbank, Ceres, Turlock, Patterson, Tracy, etc. In 1949 they put on one of the first auto shows held in northern California. This show was at the local Ford garage, “Griswold & Wight”, December 10-11, 1949 and featured custom cars hot rods and motorcycles. The club also worked very closely with the California Highway Patrol. The clubs early meetings were held at the MJC Machine Shop. As the name implies, Century Topper cars were able to exceed the 100 MPH century mark. Club members Pete Hischier, and Bart Bartoni were induced individually to the Walk of Fame in 2014.



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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.