The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opinion: Pandemic can't stop draggin' tradition

 

June 10, 2020



Insubordinate teenagers dragged Clovis Main Street for at least 50 years.

Parents forbid the practice, cops harassed the perpetrators, the city even tried to make up laws to discourage the ritual — nothing worked, until gas prices started doubling in the 1980s.

That worked pretty good, followed by options for electronic forms of entertainment, and so kids don’t drag Main much anymore.

But their rebel grandparents still do, at least once a year.

The annual Clovis Draggin’ Main Music Festival will be without the music festival part this year because of COVID-19. But no pandemic or orders from the governor can stop these children of the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s from showing off their rides on the city’s brick streets come June 20.

And so today’s a good day to look back at historic events that may have shaped a few generations’ determination to keep the Draggin’ Main tradition alive.

• In 1957, Clovis Police Chief Bob Whitley announced his officers would begin cracking down on “reckless driving, improper mufflers and unnecessary horn honking.”

The majority of such violations, Whitley said, were coming from teenage drivers dragging Main and surrounding streets.

• In 1958, city commissioners decided to crack down on Main Street u-turns, in part to deter cruisers.

Commissioners decided a new traffic ordinance would make it “illegal to make a U-turn any place on Main Street from First through 14th. Heretofore those ‘dragging Main’ have made a U-turn at Eighth, but that will be out when the new ordinance is passed,” the Clovis News-Journal reported.

• In 1969, a delegation of Clovis High School students began to fight back. They went to a city commission meeting to complain police were illegally harassing them, trying to make them “drag” someplace else because downtown merchants thought they were bad for business.

Mayor Chick Taylor told the youth that police had been asked to “crack down on this,” but only on those who were violating traffic laws. Taylor said “two or three bad apples” drag racing, speeding or fighting in the downtown area created the difficulties.

• In 1974, city resident Gene Thorn wrote a letter to the newspaper editor demanding police get the kids off the streets and return them “home where they belong.”

“At night, a person cannot drive across Main Street east or west unless he uses an intersection that has a traffic light. ... Where do they (city officials) think trouble begins? It starts at night on Main Street and in their minds,” he wrote.

• In July 1977, the Clovis News-Journal produced a full-page expose entitled “Why I do it?,” trying to get inside the heads of the rabble-rousing cruising youngsters.

The paper reported Main Street was “glutted” with assorted vehicles, even Pintos, “much to the disdain of those trying to cross the street to go somewhere else.

The paper agreed to withhold full names of those who agreed to speak about the Drag.

Brian, a veteran cruiser, told the paper he cruised “for the chicks.”

Annette said she did it to waste time or if “I’m looking for a party.” But Annette insisted there was nothing wrong with her actions and attempted to justify them. “Even old folks cruise,” she said. “Some of them go window shopping at night.”

• In 1978, City Commissioner Eddie Fowler weighed in.

“Kids dragging Main are a detriment to downtown business,” he said.

• And in 1980, city leaders formed a committee to look at local youth problems. The youngsters barked back.

An unidentified Clovis youth told committee members that adults go to bars and get drunk, too. He asked why they weren’t being arrested as are the youths who drag Main.

And so that’s the controversial history of Draggin’ Main. Kids probably don’t get it. Their grandparents will never forget.

David Stevens writes about regional history. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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