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Common Sense: Cruising Military Road was very cool.

March 4, 2013

By Brent Davis, editor

Reading the news of the 35th reunion of the Benton class of 1978 was interesting. It prompted strolls down memory lane as we found pictures of the class for our Scrapbook feature each day leading up to the Saturday gathering. It is hard to believe a generation has grown up in the time since.
I started thinking of how the years have changed not only our appearance, but the customs and rituals of youth.
Back in the day, cruising Military Road was our rite of passage. The independence we gained from operating a motor vehicle was the visual we presented to the everyone that we had the world by the tail. We were out there, away from parental eyes and scrutiny. Mobile phones weren't even on the drawing board at the time. We had cut the cord and were loving every minute of it.
The cruising route in Benton began at the Sonic Drive-in. However, the Sonic was located where O'Reilly Auto Parts is currently. Upon exiting the Sonic, a quick cut north (or left for those who are directionally challenged) across the three lanes that was Military Road back then started the gauntlet ahead.
On the right side, drivers passed Dale's, McDonald's, Whitfield Tire & Service and the Dairy Queen - a favorite of teenagers and adults alike for a very long time.
Across the street from Dairy Queen was, and still is, Ferguson's Furniture. I remember sitting at the concrete tables at the Dairy Queen, eating a Dilly Bar, and waving at friends who would honk their horns as they passed by.
The far end of Military was not much more than timberland back then. Gibson's, a department store which is now Enterprise Lanes, opened up and crowds moved with it. The area where JCPenney is located was a flat piece of red dirt land covered with trees. The bowling alley of my day stood at the current location of, ironically, the Sonic Drive-In.
I don't think kids cruise Military anymore. I don't know why and I'm not sure when this ritual of youth ended. It would be interesting to find out.
Streaking was big back in the day as well. I remember streakers running through the halls of Benton High School in 1974. I also remember the names of the streakers. A mass streak event had been planned for Military Road, beginning at the old Sonic back in those years as well. I didn't witness it, but I know there are those of you out there who did.
Social networks, mobile phones that are also cameras and the Internet are the new Military Road. Youngsters cruise the digital superhighway.
But it sure was fun to do what we did back in our youth, most of which our parents didn't really want to know!

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