As far as car shows go, it’s not the biggest or the most explosive. The village of Westchester hosts occasional “burn outs” on Monday evenings. West suburban Lombard has gained fame for its spectacular Saturday night shows.
But when it comes to hometown flavor with a generous dash of local history, you can’t beat Tuesday nights in Forest Park. The village hosts its final Cruise Night of the season on Tuesday, August 28.
2012 marked the third year for this Tuesday night event so it’s probable that the show will continue to pick up speed in the coming years. But while there might not be quite the abundance of vintage vehicles at Thomas and Madison, it does make for a very pleasant pit stop for car lovers from all drives of life.
With the majority of cars parked in the lot adjacent to Doc Ryan’s, the outdoor garden area offers some fuel for thought with a variety of food and drink specials including 50-cent tacos and $4 pitchers of beer. The atmosphere here is quite convivial which is reflective of Forest Park’s unique charm and character, which Cruise Night regular Catie Hyde likens to an “adult version of Sesame Street” where everyone is familiar and accepting of each other.
The friendly small-town vibe extends to the car show where attendees have the chance to chat with congenial car owners such as Don Carter with his smooth-running 1926 Model T Ford.
This energetic octogenarian is a lifelong Oak Park resident who has family roots dating back to the time before the village even had an official name. But his Model T certainly needs no introduction, as the faithful never fail to gather around the old Ford after they see its owner piloting the almost century-old vehicle down Madison Street.
A retired mechanic, Carter has owned more cars than he would care to count. Yet it’s obvious that the Model T holds a special place in his heart as he harkens back to his first car purchase at the tender age of 15 during the noteworthy “summer of 42.”
At that time, Carter was working as a soda jerk in Oak Park and happened to encounter a young woman who was moving to Evanston. He knew he would need a vehicle to make the trek up there so he purchased the Ford—beginning a long history of car ownership that included a few “rather pathetic” Packards as well as a showroom-worthy Cadillac.
First conceived by the legendary Henry Ford in 1908, the Model T was geared toward middle-class citizens and is widely hailed as the car that got America revved up for its long-term love affair with cars. Carter purchased his current Model T about 15 years ago and just made some minor modifications including giving the old motor a little more “oomph." He also replaced the tiny taillights with larger ones in an effort to ensure that his car remained safe and roadworthy.
Carter is definitely no slouch when it comes to car care or years of experience. During the Second World War, the teenager held a number of jobs at local garages in the Oak Park area. Back then, cars were not “jumped”—instead attendants like Carter would give the vehicle a push to get it started. Carter said that this service would set people back a buck. And, in a case of “some things never change,” he recalled that many Oak Parkers kept their cars in storage garages due to the village’s restrictive parking laws. Carter was charged with bringing cars to the garage’s customers in the morning.
Like he has throughout this sticky summer of 2012, Carter plans on driving to Model T down Madison to its usual Tuesday night spot in Forest Park. The final Cruise Night of the Season begins at 6 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. For more details, visit http://www.forestpark.net/index-Home.html or call 708-615-6203.