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Cruisin’ Vineland Remembered (Fall 2002)

By Ted Ritter

The 2002 Cruise Down Memory Lane is history. What a fantastic night: great weather, new and old friends and fabulous cars.

As I strolled the Avenue, a flood of memories of Vineland in the 1950’s and 1960’s came back to me.

The traffic lights on Landis Avenue were mounted on concrete pylons in the center of the intersections.

The Vineland Police Department traffic patrol rode three wheeled motorcycles.

The best Friday nights were spent at the Vineland Speedway..…bench seats, right at trackside, watching the hobbies and modifieds run and wreck on that half-mile oval.

There was a decommissioned jet plane displayed in Landis Park near the Little League field. Kids were allowed to climb all over and through it.

Some of the premier Vineland Little League players of that era were Augie Fabietti, Swifty Parrish, Tony Tirelli, Chip Law and Bobby Sciore.

A mere hundred yards away, former major leaguer Ray Narleski and future major

leaguer Ted Ford were playing high quality hardball.

I remember going with my grandfather to the northeast corner of the Boulevard and Landis where I ate a fried egg cooked on the “Worlds Largest Frying Pan.” This occurred adjacent to the Vineland Roller Rink. Directly across Landis Avenue was the Sun Ray Drugstore.

Vinelander Fred Hartley’s ’32 Ford Drag Racer was pictured in Hot Rod Magazine.

Steven’s Dairy delivered milk and butter to our door. Mr. Stevens had a 1963 Stingray 340 horsepower split window coupe. His back-up car was a letter series Chrysler 300.

In all the local parades, Henry “Bub” (later Mayor) Garton drove his 1912 Baker Electric with tiller steering. His son, Buster, drove a really sharp solid axle, black Corvette convertible. It was regarding the latter car that I first heard the expression “four on the floor”.

Drive up eateries on Delsea Drive included the Beef Coral and the Barrel. Wasn’t there also a teen hangout on Delsea Drive called “The Hut”? I think it was somewhere near present day LaTorre Hardware.

You went grocery shopping at Best Market on the circle or at the A&P at 6 th and Elmer Streets, diagonally across from the Vineland Public Library. Next door to the A&P was the Reliance Fire Hall where, parked all the way in the back, on the left, was the 1924 American La France Pumper named “Old Betsy”.

In those days, the Vineland YMCA was on Wood Street.

How neat was the historical pageant produced at Gittone Stadium for Vineland’s 100 th Birthday? All of the adult men in town were strongly encouraged to grow facial hair. They were called “Brothers of the Brush”.

Young mens apparel was purchased at Silvermans or Stan Lees or at Robert Hall.

In the summer, after dinner, we’d go for a swim in the Maurice River at Almond Road. On special nights, after swimming, we’d stop for custard at the Dairy Queen at the Circle.

I can’t allow these thoughts to pass without mentioning some of the cars.

Gary Gorgo (65), Frank Martini (’65), Andy Johnson (’66), John Frambes (’66) and Butch Dusharm (’67) each had a brand new, four-speed, GTO hardtop.

The Pontiac contingent also included Bob Williams red 1963 Grand Prix, Bob Butlers white 1962 Grand Prix (Bob still has it!), Tom Hansons 1965 Le Mans, Andy DiOrios ’64 Tempest with six two barrel carburetors and Roger Lintons ’66 full size 2-door with fake 421 emblems.

Chevys competing for space on the Avenue were Dawsons black ’57 with the smiling grille, John Ferrarie’s 1964 SS, Ric Pepe’s 409, Tom Rossi’s candy apple red 1955, Bob DeSanto’s black and white ’54, Jim Larro’s Chevy II, and Ben Notaro’s Chevelle with the Atco class winner decal proudly displayed in the quarter window.

Believe it or not, there was even a 1955 Chevrolet altered wheel base “funny car”, driven by a fellow named Walker, which actually cruised the Avenue to the amazement of everyone – especially the Vineland police

Ford products often present included Al Broan’s 1955 Thunderbird, Marcel Durand’s maroon Ford 2-door and Dave Berman’s 1963 ‘Bird.

On any given night, the Mopars might have included Butch Magolda’s black Barracuda, Jerry Kearney’s white 383 Sport Fury, Ron Stretch’s Super Bee or Brian Stevens’ family car: a 426 Wedge Motor, triple black, Dodge Coronet Convertible.

I remember the first time I ever saw a set of red line tires: they adorned Jack Tuso’s Olds 442 Convertible. Other Oldsmobiles on the Avenue were Lou Benvenuti’s black two-door with very loud glasspacks, Joe Curcio’s ’67 convertible and Solve Tuso’s 442 hardtop which had dual factory ram air scoops mounted under the front bumper.

Some of the early Camaro cruisers were John Fricano, Denny DePalma, Gene Lagerholm and Frank Wheaton, III (a 375 horse, 396, if I recall correctly).

Vineland also had plenty of Corvettes on the Avenue in the 1960’s: Bostwick, Kontes, Gagliardi and Steve Martinelli all had 427 Stingray Roadsters.

Driving small block Corvettes were Dennis Buglio (blue 1961), Linda DeMarco (silver 1969 Coupe) and, a pretty brunette named Gloria in a white 1965 Stingray Convertible.

Vineland even had it’s own version of the British Invasion in the form of Nick DiBello’s MG-TD, Joe Marcione’s Alva and Hilton Shostak’s XKE.

I remember being up on the Avenue the night that a 427 Stingray Roadster was demolished when it went into the woods at high speed on the north side of Landis just east of Mill Road.

On another memorable Friday evening, in 1964, Jay Usinger let me borrow his 1931 Model A Ford which I took to an Explorer Scout Display at Millville Airport.

I vividly remember drooling over the most desirable car in the “new” Vineland High School parking lot: teacher Ed Nicolonco’s red, 1965 4-speed GTO Convertible.

Mixed in with these reminiscences are late night snacks at Nucci’s diner and movie dates at the Landis Theater.

Finally, I remember when a new, fast food chain opened on Delsea Drive a bit north of the circle. One of the first employees hired by McDonald’s was my classmate, Gary Galloway.

My Vineland version of American Graffiti.

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