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Happy days are here again!

The Queen Street Cruise used to be a regular Friday-night and Saturday-night fixture in the Sault. Joe Bisceglia and Gary Trembinski want to bring it back.
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Proud as palominos, Terry and Gary Trembinski were coasting downtown in Terry's resplendent '69 Camaro.

Gary was just a kid then, five years younger than his brother.

Ever a font of wisdom about the stuff every young male needs to know, Terry was counselling Gary on the rudiments of the Queen Street Cruise.

"Two things you gotta remember," Terry told the kid.

"First, make sure that if you're looking at a girl, you've gotta watch the car in front of you. Because you're going to hit the guy in front of you.".

"Second. when you go by the Walker building, those windows are the best windows to see your car in. If you want to see your car looking good, you look at it there."

Sault Ste. Marie's Queen Street Cruise, a regular Friday- and Saturday-night fixture in the 1960s and 70s, was all about looking sharp.

'It was the Vegas Strip of the sixties and seventies'

"It wasn't just the cruise. It was the socializing event of the evening," says Joe Bisceglia, who's working with Gary Trembinski to revive the cruise nights.

"A lot of fun, a lot of camaraderie. You had somewhere to meet all the time. It was the Vegas Strip of the sixties and seventies," Bisceglia tells SooToday.

"It was huge. If you didn't have anything to do, go down to Queen Street, because it was a happening place."

"People would meet in certain parking lots along Queen Street. Bumper-to-bumper traffic up and down Queen Street, Bay Street and Albert Street, going around in circles," Bisceglia recalls.

Joe Coccimiglio

The revival of the Queen Street Cruise started with Joe Coccimiglio.

"My wife and I have attended the Woodward Cruise in Detroit several times in the last several years," Coccimiglio said in a letter sent to SooToday last September.

"We had a fantastic experience there and brought back many memories of the mid sixties and seventies here in the Sault where everyone would cruise Queen Street."

"Having experienced the Woodward Cruise and researching actual cruises (not just car shows where classic cars are on display) I often wonder if reviving the actual Queen Street Cruise would be feasible and if there is enough public interest for such an event," Coccimiglio wondered.

Coccimiglio approached the Queenstown Business Improvement Area with his idea.

'What we're looking at here is more than a cruise'

Now Bisceglia, Gary Trembinski and BIA Manager Duane Moleni are testing the waters for a cruise revival as early as this summer.

The main event would be in August, 2017.

The launch trio hopes to make it a big production, with a budget in the range of $60,000 to $65,000.

That will require a major grant, corporate sponsorship, volunteers.

"What we're looking at here is more than a cruise," says Bisceglia. "Something that might best be referred to as an automotive extravaganza."

"We want this to be a huge undertaking," adds Trembinski. "It's not just classic cars. Everybody's included."

Everybody:

  • classic cars
  • newer performance cars such as Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers
  • exotics including Lamborghinis and Ferraris
  • motorcycles
  • transports
  • rat rods
  • maybe even some entries from the Prince Township tractor parade

If it has an internal combustion engine and you're proud of it and want to show it off, they want to hear from you.

"What we are attempting to do has never been done in any car show in Sault Ste. Marie, that I know of," Bisceglia tells SooToday. "They have never incorporated cars from the past and the present and motorcycles."

"The goal is to get these vehicles onto Queen Street and cruise. To get 150 or 200 vehicles down there, rejuvenate Queenstown. Get it back to where it was in the sixties," says Trembinski.

Plans for 2016

As for this year, they're hoping to stage a smaller-scale version of the event on August 13 and 14.

They want to hear from prospective participants.

Duane Moleni is compiling an e-mail list.

To express interest in the 2016 event, please email him at d.moleni@saultdowntown.com using 'Queen Street Cruise' in the subject line.

Meanwhile, there was considerable discussion this week about the original cruise nights on the You Know You're from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario When??? Facebook group and other social media.

"All the cars would cruise Queen from about 8 p.m. 'til whenever," said Harley Witty. "A lot would stop for a spell and have coffee at the Adanac old bus terminal and talk and then get back to cruising."

Cheap gas

Glen Mackenzie remembers tooling "aimlessly westbound on Queen and then decisions to be made: eastbound on Bay Street or Albert. It was a fun time... on cheap gas."

Quite a few posters mentioned the low gasoline prices in those days.

"In the mid to late seventies, me and my buddies would take my family's fire-engine-red Buick and cruise for as long as the gas we put in would last," recalled Michael Whalen. "Usually only a few bucks' worth, but it lasted a lot longer than today."

"I was so lucky, I got to drive a lot of the fast cars racing down Bay," said Marilyn Davie.

And there were the "fire drills" at Queen and East, where you stopped at the light and got out of the vehicle, ran around it and then hopped back in, usually in a different seat.

Submarine races

What happened after the Queen Street Cruises was just as important as the downtown street parade.

Lisa Robinson Dallaire would park at Memorial Gardens or the Dairy Queen to socialize.

Sandy Mayers went to the Lantern for coffee.

The Jupiter was Carol Martin's favourite spot to go afterward.

"We would park in the front row of the Gardens parking lot and pretend we knew something about engines," said Michael Whalen. "All an excuse to catch a pretty girl's eye as they strolled back and forth for a few hours."

Lori Reed and her sister put 45 cents worth of gas in at Jiffy's on Tancred Street and then hung out at the Gardens.

Deborah Spadoni-Vanscoy went to Bellevue Park to watch the Sault's famous submarine races. "The serious ones went to the bridge," she confessed.

"Until the... peeking-tom cops showed up, sneaking up to the fogged-window car and banging on the glass with their nightstick," replied Michael Whalen.






David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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