Rick McCloskey’s stunning black and white photos of Van Nuys Boulevard from the summer of 1972.
San Fernando Valley was the scene of a cruise night on Wednesday night. The long stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard would be filled with cars and children from all over Southern California.
Rick McCloskey went to Van Nuys to take these photographs in the summer of 1972. The boulevard had become an amalgamation of lifestyles, automobiles, and many types of people. A wide variety of tribes, from surfers to low-riders to muscle cars to racers to retro styles from the 1950s, could be found in the city. Rick McCloskey’s photographs capture the vigour and exuberance of youth, along with their cars and iconic backgrounds.
“You had everything from your Mustangs to lowriders and hot rods,” recalled Rick McCloskey. “Essentially, you were out there to see your friends, show off your car and just sort of being there. It was the place for young people to be.”
Other cruise spots existed in the city, but Van Nuys, for whatever reason, became well known for cruising, especially along a three-mile stretch between Ventura Boulevard and Sherman Way. There are so many laneways on Van Nuys that people travel as far as Santa Barbara and Orange County to cruise it. Cruising was affordable at the time because gas was inexpensive.
The cars were great to look at, but McCloskey said he “was more interested in taking pictures of the people when I was out there. I was interested in the people and what they looked like and what the vibe was of the people parked on the side of the road and hanging out.”
The Van Nuys cruising scene vanished by the 1980s. McCloskey said one reason was a backlash to business.
“Many of the business people really weren’t too thrilled with (cruising) because they’d find beer cans on their porches and stuff. And ultimately, they did pass legislation or traffic rules that you couldn’t cruise.”
Nowadays, young people no longer have access to gathering places like the boulevards in the past. Places where so many people could enjoy “just being there” together. These photographic images are the last vestiges of a world that have long since vanished.
In the 1970s, did you drive along Van Nuys Boulevard? My interests in making woodie wagons have been complemented by my passion for photography and art in various media.
Here is a look at some of Rick McCloskey’s work from the past. In these images,he captured a few memories from the 1970s.
Cruising Van Nuys Boulevard in 1972
McCloskey’s photos are part of “Los Angeles in the 1970s,” a collection of essays recently published by Rare Bird Books.
Related: Hippie vans from the 1960s