Pete Baker of Redding polishes his 65 Malibu Chevelle ss during the Medford Cruise at Hawthorne Park Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Nostalgia in the rear-view mirror

Memory Lane wound and twisted through Hawthorne Park Saturday as thousands of auto buffs adored and caressed many of their motorized loves of long ago.

"This brings back a lot of memories from high school and college," says Mary Jo Baich, as she checked out muscle cars, classics, customs and hot rods at the Show 'n' Shine under partly-cloudy skies with three generations of her family.

Baich recalls a time when she used to wow the boys with her knowledge of automobiles.

"I knew the shape of the fins so I could impress the boys," she says. "I knew all the names, models and years — I could talk their lingo. Then I got interested in other things. It turned out I didn't like men who needed boy toys."

John Culp still loves boy toys and fondly recalls his first '55 Chevy and its 265-horsepower V-8 engine.

"That was the rage because it was one hot rod, showing up Fords and everything else," said Culp, a 1959 Ashland High School graduate who now lives in Sisters.

"The '55, '56 and '57 Chevys were a showcase with those hot, beautiful lines and colors. This really brings back the nostalgic memories of driving through Lithia Park with my girlfriend or driving out to Emigrant Lake with the windows down and the radio on and the sunlight sparkling on the water. There was nothing like driving on abandoned roads, feeding and teasing the ducks and then going to Dairy Queen. It was heaven on earth, and this really draws me back."

More recently, the retired timber-products worker restored a '57 Thunderbird and sold it and now is working on a '57 Chevy he acquired a year ago.

"I like to work with my hands," Culp says. "I come to shows to get clues. When I'm home, I get up and head to my garage."

Strolling through the objects of worship, with their gleaming paint and shining chrome, California transplants Don and Judy Cortright, who now live in Grants Pass, admired a '66 Mustang.

"It just brings you back to the time when you were a kid," says Don Cortright. "As you walk by certain cars it brings back memories of people you knew who had those cars."

He's restored a Cobra and a '65 convertible and sold them to buyers in Colorado and Germany. His prize was a '69 Mach I with an Indian Fire paint job.

"What's different here from California is that people actually drive their (vintage) cars," Judy Cortright says. "In California, they put them in trailers, and the only time you see them is at shows."

Don Cortright once found a '53 Corvette — one of 300 units produced — surrounded in a chicken coop outside Santa Rosa, Calif.

"We had to take one wall out, because the coop was built around the car," he says. "I had to sell it because I couldn't afford to restore it."

Cameras were common Saturday, and some spectators had a nose for detail.

Dave Dorman, who has attended Medford Cruise activities from its infancy, was among that contingent.

"I like to look at the quality of construction, the paint and upholstery," Dorman says. "I look in the nooks and crannies at the wheels and tires and nitpick just to see how people take care of their show cars."

Tom Moser, who has been coming to the annual event for as long as he can remember, has noticed a subtle change.

"I've noticed the last couple years that there are more older, pre-World War II cars," the Central Point resident says. "There used to be hardly any of them. The younger people that come out are really attracted to them."

The attraction apparently remains for the generations who once drove them.

Medford Cruise activities continue today with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at Hawthorne Park and Show 'n' Shine from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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