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Kenny's Drugs: 1953

Kenny's Drugs: 1953

Phoenix in 1953. "Photographs show teenagers, mostly male, participating in the Maricopa County, Arizona, programs for teenage delinquent drivers. Includes boys working at Juvenile Farm; teens attending Attitude School; policeman with boys and their hot rods; teens driving on Phoenix streets." Photo by Earl Theisen for the Look magazine assignment "How to Tame Teenage Drivers." View full size.

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There's hot and then there's HOT

Having cooked, I mean lived, in Phoenix for a year, I can guarantee it isn't summer in this photo. Wouldn't be leaning on the car. I had metal door handles and learned the hard way that when parked outside for more than an hour or two, use a potholder to open the door.

Back then,

There were no racing slicks available. We just found the largest tires he could get and put them on the rear.

What's on tap?

What I'd like to know is which beer company is represented on the sign at the top right. I thought it might be A-1, an Arizona regional of the time, but could not confirm any of their signs had that look. Thoughts?

Sand Drags

With those rear tires, and the other racing-inspired bits, it might be am early sand dragster.

Love that sidearm

Most likely a S&W .38 police special with stag grips. Would love to have that now. What a classic.

Rear Tires

Those rear tires look like dirt track tires to me which were popular on the old jalopies of the day. I Sure wish we could get a front view of the car.


My parents and I lived in Paraguay from 1957 to 1960, and upon our return stateside, drove from New York to Monterey, California, stopping along the way to visit relatives, friends, and the occasional Route 66 reptile zoo and souvenir stand. The night we spent in Phoenix, in whatever the major downtown hotel was called, was an interesting one, especially for a teenage gearhead who'd been deprived of such stimuli for three years. Virtually all night, one could stick one's head out the hotel room window and witness what seemed an endless stream of street rods, custom jobs, and even family sedans parading down the main drag at a stately pace. I guess it was for the benefit of the tourists, because apparently every local resident was driving, not spectating. Unfortunately, my pleas to be allowed to take our steel grey Imperial and join in the spectacle fell on deaf parental ears.

Missing that final touch

A pack of Luckies rolled up in the shirtsleeve.

Pistol strap is wrong

The strap should be over the hammer of the pistol. As it is there is nothing to prevent it from falling or being taken out.

urcunina is correct.

The engine in the roadster is a flathead Ford or Merc V8. You can see the coolant hose for the left bank of cylinders routed from the top of the engine down in front to the left water pump. This completely eliminates the radiator and was only done on race cars set up for the 1/4 mile drags. This car would not be driven on the street. The flathead V8s were notorious for overheating, even with proper cooling systems, and would not last more than a few blocks of street driving set up this way. You can see in the pic that there is no grille/radiator in front of the engine. This photo was probably staged for the camera.

Personalized Weapon?

The cop's police .38 has an interesting grip, looks like imitation horn. A bit flashy for police armory issue. Most of those guns came with a polished wooden grip.

Flathead Ford V8

Was the likely engine in this car. I graduated in 1952 and many of us in that class had experience in tearing them down and rebuilding them.

No more cruising strips

This appears to be a popular street on which to see and be seen, rev up the gas and peel out, very much like the scenes from "American Graffiti" and since I was a pre-teen, there used to be one in every state in which I have lived or visited until about 20 years ago. They have mostly been restricted now by local police and new laws to keep kids and their souped-up hotrods away and keep them from being an annoyance and hindrance to emergency vehicles and drive through restaurants but they were fun (for young people) while they lasted. We made many enduring friendships and never-to-be forgotten memories by just meeting and greeting from our cars or parked side by side as we waited for the carhops to deliver our sodas. These kids who allegedly need an attitude adjustment look tame and respectful to me compared to the armed gangbangers accosting each other these days. I'm grateful to have lived my youth during the best decades of the 20th century.

Motel City

Based on the number of motel signs, I am guessing that this is either Van Buren Street or Grand Avenue. Both gateways to a city that was based on the automobile back in the 1950s.


Interesting tread pattern on the rear wheels of that Deuce. The fronts looks fairly smooth. I wonder how it drove; and where it might be now, 60 years later. I hope Theisen had another shot of these three.

Sheriff Joe would have approved of Attitude School.

These boys would not look good in pink jumpsuits if they were hauled in for drag racing

Teenage Boys?

They look much older than any teenage boys I've ever seen. Not a bad-looking hot rod, though. "Attitude School" -- I think we could benefit from some of that today!

The REAL "Happy Days"

These were the real "Fonzies" of the era, not the bland happy-go-lucky character Henry Winkler played on TV's "Happy Days". They did not wink when crossed, and those boots were not for walking.

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