1989 Ford Mustang LX 5.0L. Sunday, September 20, 2015.
A funny thing happens over time where everyday objects, places, and occurrences to which we paid little or no attention when new become curiosities. This is probably part of the obvious appeal of sites like Curbside Classic and the always-booming nostalgia market. What changes is what is considered “vintage” or “retro”. What I’ve assembled here is not so much a deep dive into my thoughts on any one, single automobile, but a smorgasbord of vehicles that would have been common and, besides the Mustang, not of particular interest to me around the time I was in high school. Almost three decades removed from my own commencement, all of them trigger vague memories of my own teenage years.
Shortly after moving to Chicago in my 20s in the mid-Aughts, I had been a regular at a spot called the Holiday Club which was located not far from my first apartment in the Second City. The Holiday Club seemed to combine pretty much everything I wanted out of a weekend at the time into one location, all wrapped neatly in kitsch and warm feelings as elicited from its vintage decor. There was the very 1960s-inspired front area that housed a bar, pool tables, and dining booths upholstered in sparkly, gold vinyl.
At the Holiday Club near Wrigleyville for brunch. Sunday, August 23, 2009.
The back room converted into a full-on disco on weekends that featured another bar, more booths and tables, and a giant, silver mirrorball over a decent-sized dance floor located in what had probably been the cashier’s checkout area of the 1930’s-era drug store it had originally been. I was a regular patron for years, sometimes hitting the dance floor on Friday and Saturday nights, and then returning on Sunday for brunch. I celebrated my thirtieth birthday there. Wednesday night karaoke was a hoot. I both met and brought many of my favorite people there, including friends from both high school and college who were visiting from out of town, as recently as last summer.
Fridays featured “Eighties Night”, and Saturday nights were dedicated to the ’90s. A funny thing happened in celebrating the former between when I first used to go there and my last time there late last summer. In the mid-Aughts, many the other patrons in the bar and on the dance floor were in their 20s, having been born around the time that many of those songs were new. This wasn’t so different from when I would go to “Seventies Night” while in college myself, with many older-than-me adults wondering how I could know all the words to some of those disco, funk, and rock classics that would have been played on the radio when I was still in diapers.
1989 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. Sunday, May 31, 2020.
There was nothing quite like being caught up in the whooshing, churning, washing machine-like maelstrom of celebratory, sweating, dancing girls and guys on the dance floor in various levels of intoxication, scream-singing the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey” or Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” to each other at the top of their ever more festive lungs. Fast forward ten or fifteen years, ’80s Night was still a thing at Holiday Club before the current pandemic started. The music was still choice and the service and overall vibes friendly.
On my last visit there, the crowd on the dance floor was still mostly made up of twenty-somethings who on average were probably at least negative five years old when the last mainstream pop, R&B and dance hits from the ’80s had first reached the Billboard charts. My mid-forties self is now probably older than many of their former college professors. Neither this, nor my increasingly plaintive joints, have kept me from my occasional return to the H.C. to break it down on the dance floor with everyone else. “Everybody, get up and do your thing… ♪♫” Madonna, you don’t have to ask me twice. We need a holiday.
c. 1992 Ford Taurus wagon. Monday, August 31, 2015.
Many of these songs may not have some personal resonance with many of my younger, co-revelers. There’s also no rule that says that one must be of a certain age to enjoy things from an era before one’s own. More than a few of my friends and acquaintances were into the ’60s and The Beatles when we were adolescents. Still, I doubt that hearing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” would fire many of-that-time memories for those clubgoers the way seeing some of these cars had thrust me back into the years before I became my own responsibility.
All of these featured vehicles existed as new cars in the form in which I photographed them in the magic model year of 1992. By that year, the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable had just been restyled into the versions we see here. The Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, introduced for model year ’83, was then in its tenth season, with its four-door variant only having been introduced a couple of years prior, in 1990. The Chevrolet Lumina was in its third, proper model year, having been introduced in early ’89 as a 1990 model. The last restyle of the ’79-vintage Ford Mustang which was introduced for ’87 would hang on through ’93 until the replacement SN-95 model would debut the next year.
c. 1990 Chevrolet Lumina. Sunday, September 13, 2015.
While I was able to confirm the model year of only the Blazer and Mustang LX 5.0 convertible, both from 1989, they look much like their ’92 counterparts. It’s entirely possible that the three other vehicles could also be from that latter year, as well. Riding my Raleigh twelve-speed bike through my old neighborhood in Flint as a teenager, I could have seen any of these U.S.-branded cars (or truck) parked in a driveway with new a window sticker on it from Al Bennett Ford or Hank Graff Chevrolet. Outside of the Mustang, which appeared to be in great shape at the time I photographed it, the condition of the other four vehicles was slightly unsettling if expected, given their age, as I remembered how their brethren looked as new cars when I stood on the cusp of adulthood and leaving my parents’ household for the first time.
c. 1992 Mercury Sable. Thursday, September 3, 2015.
This grouping of cars is not unlike an actual class reunion, given the varying conditions of each of them, all of these years later. When I was a teenager, I would think of someone in my current mid-40s age bracket as being, like, so old. I couldn’t stop laughing the day I delivered the newspaper to one of my customers whose wife had put a signboard in their front lawn that read, “Lordy, Lordy – Don is 40!” I’m not sure if I found that so hilarious at the time because of the corny simplicity of that rhyme, or because I was wondering to myself, “Why would anybody want that advertised?” The respectful truth is that four decades is long enough for one to have experienced many things, some of which can leave a human being a little worse for wear, whether inherently good or bad.
Unlike the rust, duct tape, rattle-canned finish, and missing components (i.e. the luggage rack on the Mustang’s deck lid) on this assortment of cars, on people, our acquired imperfections can tell a story of a life’s path, even if every turn wasn’t the most ideal one for us in the moment. I had supposed that the common thread of approximate year of manufacture was enough for me to tie all five of these vehicles together, much like I treasure having experienced having gone to high school as part of such an amazing, multi-faceted, diverse student body at long-defunct Flint Central High School. Even though I photographed most of these vehicles in my neighborhood of Edgewater five years ago, there’s a big part of me that would like to see them together in this area just one more time, even if only for old times’ sake.
All vehicles were photographed in Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.