When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Sandy Boulevard, 1949

Believe it or not, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has a small bit of Portland's own Sandy Boulevard on display.

Called "Hot Rods and Hangouts -- Portland 1949," the exhibit shows a slice of cruising life.  Hot rods and motorcycles squeeze between a city bus and other traffic.  In the background we see the Tik-Tok Drive-in, the old Hollywood Fred Meyer, and the Wallace Buick dealership. Even the 7-Up bottling plant makes an appearance.

That's right. In Washington, DC, "America's Attic" has deemed Portland an iconic hot-rod city.

Myles Theberge's modified 32 Ford gets a special mention, as well as John Athan's '39 Ford roadster.

Flat Out Press also appreciates the quality of Sandy Boulevard. Here's how Al Drake describes cruising Sandy and around Portland in 'Fifties Flashback: A Nostalgia Trip!

"...Most Saturday nights were balmy, at least in the tricky circuitry of memory, and after we'd finished I started the engine, turned on the lights and waited for the carhop. Then I pulled out, slowly, being cool, hoping the clutch wouldn't chatter, rapping the pipes as we headed down the road. Many nights we made the rounds of other drive-ins. On 82nd I could hit Merhar's, where many of the cycle guys hung out, then cruise through Rutherford's Triple XXX and back through Flanagan's again, just in case someone hadn't seen me. On Sandy there was Jim Dandy's, a real hot-rod hangout, another Rutherford's Triple XXX, then Yaw's, a place where the rich kids from Grant hung out, then on up to the Tik-Tok, a favorite gathering place for rodders since the 'Thirties. That might be enough or one night, my date and I might have other things to do, but if we felt like driving and if I had enough gas we'd hit Bell's Drive-In at the east end of the Ross Island Bridge, or Waddle's, or a couple drive-ins back in the west hills. Portland was a good-size city, but a few runs through the drive-ins and you felt like you knew, or at least had seen, everybody who was car crazy."

Dad's 1935 Packard

Here's a photo of me and my dad on a trip from Oregon to North Dakota. My mother is probably taking the picture. I guess we're in Montana here.

The car is a what I believe is a 1935 Packard. Both sets of doors are suicide doors. It's a flatback model so there's no trunk. As a result, we had to pack all our travel stuff in the back seat.

Earlier Packards were the standard of the world. Their motto was "Ask the man who owns one." The early ones had a lot chrome and stainless -- in 1932 or 1933 they were just loaded.

This a plain 6-cylinder, not so different from a Plymouth or a Studebaker. In the depression they had to make a cheaper car to keep customers, and it worked. They continued making cars, and the marque survived until 1958 when it merged with Studebaker. The results were some pretty unattractive cars.

I think my dad liked larger cars, which is probably why he bought this one.

This photo is in my book "Overtures to Motion," essays about the vehicles before I had a car, learning about cars, and finally getting one.