“Dragging the Main”
On a hot and balmy evening what else is there to do?
(American Graffiti Style) Fresno, California – 1961:
I was driving up and down on Fulton Street. An acquaintance of mine in the car next to me shouted “Do you want to go to Hawaii?”
If you saw the movie American Graffiti or the photographs Mel’s Drive-in dinners you know what “Dragging the Main” is. In case you haven’t, I will explain.
I was in my early 20s and living at home with my parents in Fresno. On a typical warm summer evening the one of the few social activity besides riding a bike, was to go to town and drive up and down Fulton Street. This was called “Dragging The Main.” We would pass the time by trying to make contact with other people.
It was fun to see if you can pick-up girls. It usually doesn’t work but what did happen was this. After a while it gets kind of boring. Always looking for something to do, I did not want to go home yet.
I was driving my newly painted and polished two door canary-yellow Plymouth. It had custom chrome “Laker” pipes which are shiny chrome exhaust pipes that run on each side of the car under the doors. The car had a loud muffler due to modified headers. It was a fun car.
One evening, just before dusk a young man in the lane next to me asked me to come and ride with him. He said he had something he wanted to talk about. It turned out he was planning on going to Hawaii and would like someone to go with him. He wanted to talk to me. So at the end of the street where you usually turn around, I parked my car and rode with him. His name is Fred Randall. I remembered him from when he worked with my Dad and I when we My Father and I did a foundation and sewer construction on the West Avenue rental house project earlier in the summer.
Fred announced that he was planning on going to go to Hawaii and he was looking for a traveling companion. When I expressed interest he said good, but if you’re going to go to Hawaii with me you need to read about the Islands before we go. We drove to the Fresno County Free Library which has a great section on Hawaii. This part of the library is a round room underneath the water tower. I checked out some books on Hawaii by James Michener and Mark Twain.
Going to Hawaii sounded like a great idea but there was a problem with my schedule. I was in the middle of a large electrical construction project wiring up a new house. I told Fred I really can’t go until I finish the electrical project. I owe it to my client. She is the secretary for the owner of the Fresno Distributing Company. I had a credit account there and that is where I purchased all my electrical materials.
The interesting thing about that project was that since the secretary was employed at the supply house the owner gave her carte blanche to take as many electrical materials and fixtures as she wanted all for free. Because of the free fixtures she came up with the idea of having recessed light fixtures in the eves all around under the eaves of her house in. the idea was she can turn it on all these lights in case she ever heard a sound outside like a burglar outside. That was fine and I did what she wanted, but I told Fred “How can I leave when I’m not even done with the rough-in stage?”
Fred said “I’ll come and work for you and you we will get the job done sooner.” I said – “But Fred I can’t afford to pay you!” He said – “I’ll work for free as long as we can make the trip to Hawaii.” Well that was a nice offer so I said okay let’s do it! He willingly worked very diligently. He learned quickly and we got the job done. I made an deal with the secretary that once the rough-in work was done and inspected by the county inspector, I could go as she could easily find someone else to do the trim work because that’s the easy part of a construction job and she had contact with lots of other electricians as part of her work.
Fred made the arrangements for an airline tickets to Hawaii. When the day of departure came, we were still working on the project. Time had passed us so quickly. We were all packed and ready for the 6 o’clock flight, but we were running out of time fast and we still had several things to get done. Finally, we were in the car on the way to the Hammer Field airport when we noticed a “strata-liner” taking off. Oh No! it was gradually rising in the air off to the east. I said – “I hope that’s not our airplane!” he said – “Don’t worry, if it is we will drive to San Francisco. There is time to catch our connecting flight.”
I was incredulous. How can we do that? He said “We can take my brothers car!” Really, is that ok with him? He said that he would ask his brother Mike bring it back to Fresno. I asked him do you mean you’re going to have your brother drive all the way to San Francisco to pick up his car? He must be a good Brother. Fred said yes he would do it. So off we rushed.
Fred told me to watch for cops out the back window was driving and watching out the front for the Highway Patrol. It was dusk as we raced through the San Joaquin valley. Lots of yellow butterflies come out of the alfalfa fields in hte evening. We were going about 80 miles an hour so a lot of them smashed in to the windshield.
I really wondered what Fred’s brother would think when he saw all that mess after some how getting to San Francisco to get his car.
P.S. We left so fast that I forgot my radio in the attic.
P.S. #2 I had put my Plymouth two-door Hardtop up on blocks and left it with my Dad. I spent all summer of 1961 in Hawaii.