January 18, 2012

Cruising Levittown in a 1953 Chevy Bel Air with no particular place to go

Mike Caldararo in 1958 wearing his Division Avenue High baseball uniform. He was a pitcher.


By FRANK BARNING


One of my first high school friends to have his own car was Mike Caldararo. Many of us who took driver ed. with Mr. David Peyton at Division Avenue High School, soon passed our road test and acquired a license at the infamous Nassau County DMV office. But few had their own wheels. Mostly, we bummed rides and occasionally were given the privilege of driving the family car.


I remember driving around Levittown with Mike in his 1953 Chevy Bel Air and a few other class of 1960 friends, probably including Ron Albaum and John Gentleman. We had no particular place to go but it was so freeing, so grown up, to take a spin around town or roar up and down Hempstead Turnpike.


Once Mike was stopped on Division Avenue by a policeman who wanted to make sure that a bunch of young teenagers were not joy riding in a stolen vehicle. Although he was not a hood, Mike had a hairstyle that might have fooled the fuzz. Mike was courteous to the cop and he was soon free to drive on.


One afternoon as he drove us around, Mike pointed out that he was almost out of gas. The term used in those days was running on fumes. We were asked to chip in for a refill and as was typical of most Levittown guys in the late 1950s, there was little or no change in our pockets. Mostly we had lint. Sheepishly, we contributed what we could and handed it to our sweet-dispositioned driver.


Mike headed to the nearest service station and 28-cents worth of gas was pumped into his car, which was enough to buy a full gallon. Someone wiped off the windshield and then off he and his buddies drove.


A Chuck Berry lyric captures the moment....

" Cruisin' and playin' the radio
With no particular place to go."

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