Legends of the Cruise 2019

Legends of the Cruise

By Chris Murphy

 

George Lucas’ American Graffiti was released in 1973 and since then, Modesto USA has been immortalized in one of the top 100 films of all time.   There were so many people, cars and experiences that George drew inspiration from and these were all put together for this legendary film.    For years, Modesto has been working on a variety of ways to celebrate our classic history, educate the public and draw tourists from around the world.  

 

Located on 10th St, the street of the original drag is home base to the Modesto Historic Cruise Route and Walk of Fame founded in 2012.   Like the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, there are nearly forty Classic Tailfin Markers on the sidewalk and plaza between J and K streets featuring Modesto’s Legends of the Cruise. The first marker was presented to George Lucas in 2013. This is also the starting point for the Cruise Walk Tour featuring 25 interactive kiosks loaded with Modesto, music, car and cruising history. 

To learn more, visit www.modestocruiseroute.com for pictures, video and history.

 

The 2019 Legends of the Cruise are:

Steve Pedego

Dub Kyle

Bill Terpstra

Bob Piccinini

Jerry Sauls

Road Rebels Car Club



Steve Pedego

By Chris Murphy

If you weren’t there in ’62, the person you want to learn about our American Graffiti history is Steve Pedego, Modesto High 1961.  Steve has been keeping the graffiti history flame alive since he finished.  Steve and his cross-town rival-Downey high-school sweetheart wife Linda have the most amazing collection of memorabilia, old car club jackets, cheerleader uniforms and so much more.  When I started to learn about Modesto’s American Graffiti history, my first stop was Steve’s house. It is a rabbit hole I have fallen into and haven’t gotten out of yet.  Not only does he have this knowledge, but he is the chair of the Modesto High Class Reunions as well as the Downey High reunions too.  He truly lives and breathes our community culture. 

 

By Steve and Linda Pedego

I have so many good memories of my years in Modesto from the late 50’s until mid 1963 dragging (the term we used for cruising)  on 10th Street, then expanding to the 10th & 11th street and out to Mc Henry Ave. to Al’s Drive In on Mc Henry Avenue and Frances Ave. and in the earlier years we went to Burge’s Drive In on Ninth Street.  Modesto High School Students would also meet at Warrens Drive In and the Downey High School Students went to Felix’s  Drive In.  We were down town dragging every night of the week – it wasn’t just on the weekends.

 

There was only Modesto High and Downey High until 1962.  I met my wife, Linda Elliott in 1961  on a blind date.  She was Head Song Leader at Downey High School.  Linda was a classmate of George Lucas from first grade until 1962 when they graduated from Downey High.  Linda’s mother was George’s teacher in second and third grade at John Muir Elementary.  Her mother often talked about her memories of George hiding comic books inside his reading book.

 

During my time at Modesto High both Modesto and Downey had Fraternities and Sororities. I belonged to the Regs which started in 1945. There were approximately 11 boys fraternities and at least 4 girls sororities.

 

My love for Modesto High School has kept me involved with my class reunions, The Silver Panthers and the Modesto High School Hall of Fame Committee.   I am an avid supporter of Modesto High School.  My wife has also kept her love for Downey High School and has been involved with her class reunions and became very active in the Thomas Downey Alumni Association.  She was president for several years and was instrumental in putting on the very successful 60th anniversary of Downey High.  When her term was over no one wanted to take over so I offered to become President of the Downey Alumni until someone else came forward.  During Linda’s term I helped to get the Football Field at Downey named after Chuck Hughes and during my term I helped to get the gym named for Lyle Iverson.  I took a lot of ribbing for it.  We try to have a annual party of old friends from Modesto and Downey each year.   Linda and I have a true love for Modesto and such fond memories of our time growing up here, living the true Graffiti times and now growing old in the same community. 

 

Jerry Sauls

Jerry Sauls has lived in Modesto almost his entire life. He went to Thomas Downey High School (Class of 1960), married his high school sweetheart, Toni Andrade (Class of 1962 and classmate of George Lucas) in 1962. They both cruised 10th/11th Street and McHenry Avenue as far as Al’s Drive In together starting in 1959. Jerry recently “cloned” his 1950 Chevy Coupe that they cruised in 1960. This was the same year that Jerry stated his love of the Tri-Year Chevys.

 

Jerry was raised at the local drag strips of the day like Kingdon, Vernalis and Balico, plus the local street racing. When Jerry was asked about ever having problems with the local law enforcement, he mentioned that the strangest ticket he ever received was from the infamous local police officer Leroy Applequist; the first ticket was for doing 16 m.p.h. on 11th street and then three blocks later, received another one, from the same officer, for doing 26 m.p.h. The other ticket stories can be saved for a later time. His love of cars has never waned.  Jerry has been a member of the Modesto Street Rods for 22 years and he has built an elaborate garage for his cars and memorabilia. 

 

Jerry and Toni, along with Don and Elaine Harmon, were very instrumental in the very popular “Graffiti Classic @ McHenry Village” car show that continues to run to this day. The couple has (2) sons (Todd and Scott) and (4) grandchildren (Hunter, Ryan, Cameron and Natalie) and both continue to run successful businesses within Modesto today. They both love to say that Modesto has been very, very good to them!  Chris Murphy note:  Please use Jerry’s company, Willey Printing (founded in 1946) for all your printing needs. 

 

Dub Kyle

Biography of Dub Kyle

Dub spent his early years growing up Farmersville, CA. He attended elementary and middle school in Farmersville, along with his classmates. Dub soon then transferred to Exeter High School located in Exeter, CA. As a teenager, he and his pals, on a Saturday night, often the traveled 2 1Ž2 hour drive to Modesto to cruise 10th street! His interest in cars and hot rods developed at the early age of four, when he shadowed his father at his auto repair business. This love affair has endured over 78 years!

 

In his early years, Dub has raced motorcycles, cars, vintage, cars, and Jeeps. In 1977, his competitive success in the National Sand Racing Association brought him the prestigious award, “Driver of the Year”. In 1960 Dub and Bonnie moved to Modesto, and later moved to their ranch in Escalon where their 3 sons grew up. After 20 years in the country, they returned to Modesto in 1990, and have resided here till today.

 

Dub became a business owner in Modesto in 1967. The business continues today, it is owned and operated by son Quinn. Kyle’s 4Wheel Drive has been in operation for 52 years. In 1978, Dub began his affair with building street rods starting out with a T-Bucket Roadster. Over the years, he has accumulated many awards with various street rods. Now in his 1946 Mercury convertible, one of his greatest joys is to haul dignitaries and celebrities in Modesto parades, especially if some of them are his good friends.

 

Bill Terpstra

Immigrating from Holland in the 1956, I’d never been around cars. In fact, I’d only ridden in a car one time before coming to the United States. My life as a car guy basically revolves around one automobile. In 1959 while working for Bibens Landscaping, I found a 1930 Model A Coupe in a barn on the corner of Tully and Kiernan. I paid $50.00 dollars for it. That was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted 60 years,

 

I drove the Model A as a stocker for about a year, then in 1961 I completely disassembled the car and put it in an Oldsmobile V8 with 3 twos and a Chevrolet rear end. With this combination, going to 10th street on Friday night was the highlight of my week. All my friends were there and of course lots of girls.

 

After returning from military service, the Model A went through another rebuild. My wife and I were charter members of the Modesto Area Street Rod Association with our two sons growing up in the rumble seat. In 2009, after a stint of circle track racing, my sons and I decided to resurrect the Model A. I bought a late model race car and used all the components for the new build. It’s my honor to be recognized for my contributions to Modesto car culture.

 

Bob Piccinini
Bob Piccinini’s passion for cars started at a young age. In high school, he saved up all of the money from his after-school job to purchase his first car. One of his first custom classics was this beautiful metal flake 1950 Mercury, and he was hooked.  As the years moved on, Bob created a successful career in the grocery industry, purchasing the family business in 1985, but his passion for cars never waned. As The Save Mart Companies grew from a small operation to a sizeable regional chain in the late 80s and early 90s, so did his classic car classic collection, which included his favorite models from his childhood. 

With a true love for classic cars and nostalgia for the era he grew up in, Bob was an avid fan of the Modesto American Graffiti Parade. Over the years, Bob was lucky enough to have some of his cars participate in the parade—and even had the chance to drive around Grand Marshall “Wolfman Jack” one year in his ’57 Chevy, fulfilling an ultimate childhood dream. His car collection included another Mercury Custom and a ’58 Impala that he had been trying to find for a long time.  

In 1991 Bob formed a partnership with Sonoma Raceway for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Racing. Bob never tired of watching those incredible machines take on the challenge of that difficult road course with the Save Mart banners flying proudly in the background. In 2015 Bob passed away, leaving a legacy of community involvement and passion for racing, still integral to The Save Mart Company’s culture today. 

 

The Road Rebels Car Club 

By Robert Martin

One of Modesto’s classic car clubs, the Road Rebels, started in late 1957 with Modesto High kids at Bundy’s Auto shop on Maze Blvd. listening to the ball games, fights on radio and working on cars. The emblem on the back of the jacket was a 32 Ford pick up owned by Harry Moore. It was fixed up with a polished hardwood bed and a chrome 50 gal beer keg converted to a gas tank. We chopped (raked) the front springs to bring the front bumper to be a beer can high (6 inches) off the ground.  That’s how the police would judge our legality.  Officer Leroy Applequist would always be on the watch for our guys as we drove around town.  Especially on Friday/Saturday nights as we cruised downtown from Burge’s Drive In on “O” and 9th down 10th to the Greyhound Station, over to 11th, then to J then to McHenry and out to Al’s Drive In then back downtown town on McHenry to J and over to Burge’s. We loved hot rods and Gene Winfield would customize them, if we could afford his fees.  He was located across from the MJC football field on Tully.  He would paint the cars, or Sapulvida and also Furtado’s would paint the cars. Many times we would take the cars to T.J. (Tijuana, Mex) for what was called “Tuck & Roll” upholstery work on the interior. Had to watch though as they would cheat by stuffing the seats with old newspaper instead of cotton.

 

The Road Rebels hung out at Mabel’s Sweet Shop across the street from Modesto High Auditorium during the day and then to Warren’s or Burge’s and hang out in the parking lot having Cokes, fries and hamburgers, being cool, watching the girls come by, comparing who has the coolest, fastest rod in town and then go to Al’s and harass the Downey guys and challenge them to race, or to impress some of their girls.  This would drive Officer Applequist and Officer Sturm nuts.

 

Every weekend Friday night, it was to the California Ballroom to dance to Roddy Jackson and the Blue Notes Band from Merced or Kent Whitt and the Downbeats from hometown Modesto.  After Kent Whitt, Bob DeLeon, Connie Hightman and Bill Gross would finish, it was time to race rods in the country.  Either California Ave to the west to challenge the Modesto High guys or Claribel Ave to the north of town to challenge the Downey High guys.  Then to the canals to have a victory party.

 

Founding members were:  Harry Moore, Russell Wade, Dale Reynolds, Steve Burris, Bill Barney, Bob Martin, Dave Montgomery, Vince Todero, Dave and Richard Kessler, George Klopf, Don Walen, Larry Smith, Larry Lee, Don Lowe, Jack Robinson, Dave Elliot, Ted Pannell, Terry McGrath, Connie Hightman.  Several more joined in later.  There are about 31 members still around and 19 who have had their last rod race on earth.

 

As far as current members, I believe the courts and police thought we should disband years ago.  Could never understand why.  Of those living, Bob Martin, Terry McGrath, Russell Wade, Connie Hightman, Kent Whitt, Steve Burris, Larry Lee, Larry Smith, Dale Reynolds, Jack Robinson, Dave Elliot, Richard Kessler, Don Lowe, Bruce Nelson, Ted Pannell, Jim Weyth, Ivan Weyth, and I know I have not mentioned some of the others. Good times in a special era.  

 

 

 

 

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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.