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VIDEO: Remembering When Cruising Hopkins Was the Thing to Do

Driving up and down Mainstreet was once a popular pastime in a community known as a 'cars and bars' town.

When it comes to transportation in Hopkins, there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Southwest Light Rail line, the regional trails for cyclists and the paths that make Hopkins the third most walkable community in Minnesota.

But for a time, transportation in Hopkins was all about cars.

The city had a reputation as a “cars and bars” town, with teens cruising Mainstreet every weekend. Along the thoroughfare, which used to be called Excelsior Boulevard and Excelsior Avenue West, there were six major car dealer show rooms and 12 car sales lots in 1962. That same year, Hopkins boasted $1,200 in new car sales per capita compared to Minneapolis’ $200, according to Hopkins Through the Years, a Hopkins Historical Society book.

According to the publication:

“For a while there was a gas station on every corner and auto lots lined parts of Excelsior Avenue. Cruising the drag was a major pastime for several generations of teens.”

YouTube user MisterPersuasion captured that atmosphere on 8-millimeter film in 1979 for a cable access channel special and uploaded it to the Web.

“We all knew each other by our C.B. Radio ‘Handles’ so that's why all the funny names I was saying as the cars passed by. Good memories!” the user wrote.

Check out his video and then catch the cable access channel special in the videos above.

Did you cruise up and down Hopkins' main drag? Share your memories in the comments below—and don't forget to mention your beloved vehicle.

 

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Rick Larson January 24, 2013 at 04:10 PM
I was a cruiser until it ended when they finally chased the kids away. Look at Hopkins now, it's a ghost town! The strip is dead. Almost all of the gas stations and convenience stores closed. Hell, even Burger King shut down! Where are the car dealers? Drive Main St. today and look at all the FOR RENT signs! Good thing the city elders in their infinite wisdom chased away all the kids with CASH in their pockets! LOL! As for drag racing, where do you imagine that was happening? Excelsior Blvd was bumper to bumper from Burger King to KFC! I never witnessed any real racing and I was there! I would be interested to know how tax revenues have declined in the last twenty years since cruising ended. People look back and wonder what happened to their nice little town. Hopkins is now the place people used to go to for fun. RIP Hopkins.
Rick Larson January 24, 2013 at 04:23 PM
P.S. Remember when Hopkins had light rail? They called them trollies or street cars. I remember a few ramaining lines still in place when I was young. In another example of staggering foresight, someone decided that we didn't need light rail and tore up the rails and gave the land back to the original owners. Imagine if the rails were still in place! How much simpler, and cheaper it would be to now run new light rail! Or they could have just kept the old street cars running! Anyone remember when Hopking tore up Excelsior Blvd and reshaped the street into "The Mall"? Another idiotic fiasco! Are the 3 Stooges running Hopkins?
megan haas January 25, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Please be clear: County Rd 3 has always been Excelsior Blvd. What is now Mainstreet was Excelsior AVENUE.
megan haas January 25, 2013 at 02:23 PM
@Rick - have you tried to find a parking spot on a Saturday morning in the past few years? Hopkins has a booming shopping business - maybe there are no stores that interest you, but they interest someone! And it was the "Welcomall" -lame, I agree!
James Warden (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 03:13 PM
I wasn't in Hopkins (or alive) at the time, but the Historical Society's book says, "What is now Mainstreet used to be called Excelsior Boulevard, then was renamed Excelsior Avenue West." So it must've been both. I'll add in the avenue part, though.
megan haas January 25, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Thanks, James! My dad was a Hopkins kid and loved to talk about his childhood -
James Warden (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 03:20 PM
One of my (many) favorite things about Hopkins is how it has its own unique history. Not every suburb has that.
Rick Larson January 26, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Saturday morning is booming? Big deal! What about the rest of the week? What about all the vacant buildings, the closed eateries, the defunct gas stations, the extinct car dealers, and non existant night life... except for a few bars? I understand that there is a plan to widen Shady Oak Rd. thereby demolishing many businesses along the way, completely unnecessary and idiotic! Hopkins will lose the last good pizza shop in town, Chalet Pizza, a 50+ year establishment and my last reason to visit Hopkins several times each year. I wonder if the city council ever asks themselves, "What the hell happened to our town?"
Mike B. April 07, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Rick, you are correct. Downtown Hopkins is a very depressing place, and the nearby commercial buildings are half empty. And it need not be the case, as Hopkins is one of the few areas in the western suburbs with a "real" downtown. The gas station next to Hopkins Park Apts has been an eyesore since it was abandoned almost twenty years ago. And Honda moving their dealership to Excelsior has made Mainstreet look even sadder. I drive to Hopkins about once a month, and the downtown could and should be so much more. There are some storefronts, such as the convenience store next to the tall apartment tower, that are very visually unappealing. And tattoo parlors and cut-rate liquor stores attract an undesirable clientele. Downtown Hopkins will never be 50th and France because of Hopkins' demographics, but a person could lie down on Mainstreet at high noon on an afternoon and not get run over for half an hour.
Rick Larson April 07, 2013 at 05:21 AM
Ever drive down Broadway west of 94? Hopkins in a few years. Hopkins: the town that used to be nice.
Russell Jones April 23, 2013 at 05:20 AM
As the person who uploaded the above videos to YouTube, I cruised Hopkins off and on for about eight years. I made a lot of friends there, some I'm still in touch with. I have to agree somewhat with Rick, Hopkins is essentially a ghost town. We didn't just cruise on weekends, we were down there 7-days a week, 365 days a year. We made the Hopkins Burger King the second busiest Burger King in the State of Minnesota! We spent a lot of money at the Yellow Sub Bowl, the 1-2-3 Movie Theater, Tait's Super Value, 7-Elevan, KFC, Dairy Queen, etc. During the height of the summer heat, on weekends, cars would be lined up 1/2 east of what was then called Co. Rd. 18 (now 169), and down Shady Oak Road all the way to Hwy. 3, just to get into downtown! The city decided to let us cruise, and set all the stop lights to blinking 4-way reds as a traffic control. They left the road blocks down, and things were great; then along came the Green People, the Environmentalist and Government Special Interest Groups. They measured the Carbon Monoxide levels in town, and said they were way too high. They threatened the City Council, and the road blocks went back up. Burger King was forced to charge $1 for every car to pull into their parking lot. They actually had a Hopkins Cops standing at the entrance to collect it along with your license plate number. You were credited the $1 if you bought some food. It wasn't the City, it was the stupid Green People who killed Hopkins.
Jenifer Mortenson April 25, 2013 at 04:30 AM
I cruised and walked miles and miles up and down that Hopkins "Strip" called Mainstreet for years & years, and I absolutely Loved it. Great Friends, Great People, Tons of Fun and a little bit of trouble here and there. But we still have Great Memories growing up in that town and I don't regret a day of it! It is true that the evenings are quite "dead" now, and it is sometimes hard to understand how businesses thrive, but I still try to do my part by visiting local stores and making purchases throughout the town in attempt to say to them "Hey, I am glad you are still here!" I get my Tattoos from a Very Wonderful Tattoo Artist, Shahn Anderson at Electric Dragonland right on Mainstreet, and I am Far From a Bad Person or whatever was said above about the tattoo establishment in town... I am an Ordained Minister as a matter of fact. Hopkins is where I met many Great friends and the man I am with now... and known since we were 14 and cruising... I wish we could still just go be kids again, just for old times sake! Hey... I've got my Mustang... Lets meet there this summer and do some burnouts in Tait's (Driskill's) parking lot!!!! ~ LOL ;)
Russell Jones April 26, 2013 at 06:23 AM
Well Howdy Jeni! Do you remember me? I remember you, "Dimples" on the CB Radio. I was "Panther" or "N.E. Panther" depending on which you remember. Cruising Hopkins was a whole lot more fun with the CB turned on. :)

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