Street Scenes: Curbside Classics In Their Prime

Galesburg IL, 2/21/86

(first posted 4/4/2012)    A lot of times I’ll think, “why didn’t someone take pictures of common things twenty or thirty years ago?” I would have loved to see pictures of my town in the 1960s and 1970s, especially the new and used car dealerships! Things can change so gradually that we don’t notice it until we’re confronted with scenes of normal life from years past. Well, if you’ve ever had the same thoughts, you’re in luck.

Kewanee IL, 2/19/86

My first job in high school was microfilming closed files at my dad’s office. Today you can simply put a pile of paper into a scanner and it will be imaged into your computer in seconds, but back in the 1990s you used a microfilm camera. I would put a stack of paper on the tray, push the button, remove the sheet just photographed, then repeat. Over, and over. Yep, it was a repetitive job, but it was still a nice place to work, plus I had a radio!

Manteno IL, 7/13/93

As you might guess, the paper copies of the files were retained for a while, just to be safe. At some point in the early Oughts, I was tasked with getting rid of all the paper copies. As I went through each file, I noticed there was a photo of the bar or restaurant in each file. Once I noticed this, I paid more attention and saw that some were some pretty old photos, and most of them had neat cars in the background. No one minded if I kept some of the pictures, so I saved quite a few from the landfill. And that is why today, you lucky readers can see some great Curbside Classics, when they were just everyday cars on the street.

Naperville IL, 1/27/93

Most of these photos are from the 1985-95 period, and were taken all over Illinois. There’s something for everyone, whether you like ‘Box’ Town Cars (you know who you are) or Liftback Corollas.

Peoria IL, 3/3/86

You can tell that GM had quite a lot more market share than they do these days, and that Japanese cars, while seen, were not in near the concentrations they would be in in another 15-20 years. After all, this is the heartland, and us Midwesterners still liked GM a whole bunch, even in the ’80s.

Rockford IL, 8/17/94

Another interesting thing in these pictures is all the unique eating establishments. They were very diverse, unlike the usual chain restaurants seen today in any fair-to-middling town.

South Beloit IL, 12/18/85

Woudn’t you like to pull into Frank and Mike’s in your Country Squire and have a burger basket and a beer? I would.

Sublette IL, 1/30/86

I can’t help but wonder if any of these establishments are still around. Maybe some of them, but time marches on and everything changes once enough years pass. So what cars do you see?

Wapella IL, 3/3/86

P.S. If there’s enough interest, I can do more installments, as I probably have about 100 pictures like this. Let me know what you think!  (Update: Tom made five of these, and we’ll re-run them all)