Colby Diner transports Everett High School alumni back in time

They’re car guys — were, are and always will be. Over burgers and other lunch choices at Everett’s Colby Diner, their memories and good-natured jokes were flying.

Outside, it was an ordinary Thursday, with downtown workers running errands. One car parked out front — Ken Johnson’s shiny red 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T — hinted at the scene inside.

Once a month, a group calling themselves the “original Colby cruisers” meets for lunch at the diner. Nearly a dozen were there Thursday. The street takes them back. It’s where these Everett High School alumni relive the best times of their teenage lives.

Vintage cars are back downtown this weekend for the annual Cruzin’ to Colby spectacle. For these longtime friends, driving up and down Colby in a cool car was an every-weekend ritual.

Their memories are like scenes from “American Graffiti,” the George Lucas film that made a bittersweet tale of early ’60s cruising culture. Girls riding shotgun, stops at Herfy’s drive-in, dads checking odometers, the stories of Everett shared over lunch were echoes of more innocent times.

One long wall of the narrow Colby Diner is filled with framed photos of the men’s old cars. Some still own their high school rides, now collector treasures.

Dave Oczkewicz, a 1962 Everett High graduate, has three cars pictured on the wall: a red 1954 Chevy, a 1966 Plymouth Satellite and a 1970 Dodge Super Bee.

There’s a photo of Ron Osborn’s 1959 Edsel Corsair convertible. Osborn, 68, will drive that beauty Monday at Cruzin’ to Colby. His friends joked that they avoid calling it pink, instead describing the Edsel as “salmon.”

As a real cruiser, Osborn had a 1961 Ford Falcon and a 1964 Falcon Futura. After graduating from Everett High in 1965, he took a step up and got a new Mustang.

“In three days, I put 500 miles on it just cruising,” he said. Gene Fosheim, a 1969 Everett High graduate, also had Mustangs.

Oczkewicz recalled that his dad, the late Lloyd Oczkewicz, always told him to stay in Everett. One night, just cruising from north Everett’s Hilltop Drive In to 41st Street, he put 100 miles on his car.

The group’s elder statesman is Jack Kuehn, 80, a midyear Everett High graduate in 1952. A longtime police detective, he was with the Everett Police Department from 1965 to 1981. He never chased or ticketed Colby cruisers.

“I didn’t work traffic,” said Kuehn, who now takes his 1940 Ford Deluxe sedan to area car shows. Cars were a big part of his childhood.

“My dad ran a repair shop,” said Kuehn, who recalls winning Everett’s 1948 soapbox derby.

There’s one exception to the rule that everyone in the group went to Everett High. Gary Countryman, a 1963 Snohomish High graduate, had lots of friends in Everett. He cruised Colby in a 1960 Chevy El Camino.

By cruising, Countryman said, “we’d find out where the parties were.”

He remembers Fridays as the nights to bring a date cruising, “to show off that you were out with a girl.”

His family business, Countryman Signs/Screen Printers, made the group “Original Colby Cruiser” shirts, with Everett High’s Sammy Seagull logo. The business also creates annual posters for Cruzin’ to Colby.

After graduating from Everett High in 1957, Duane Gleave ran Re-Nu Auto Top Shop &Interior in downtown Everett. He remembers how Colby cruisers could tell “outsiders” by their license plates — back then, local plates had “D” as the first letter.

“And you knew guys by their cars. After they graduated and got married, you wouldn’t know them,” Gleave said.

Some were serious about racing, but not on Colby.

Al Furiak, a 1958 Everett High graduate, went on to race his 1963 Dodge at the Arlington Dragstrip, which was at the Arlington Airport.

“I bought it new and never got a ticket in that car,” Furiak said. The Arlington contests were sanctioned, but not the late-night races Furiak remembers on Highway 9 between Marysville and Arlington.

“Those Marysville guys had fast cars,” he said.

Not every cruiser had a fast or fancy car. Bob Mayer, part of Everett High’s class of 1965, helped start the lunch group a couple of years ago with his brother, Jim Mayer, and Countryman. On Thursday, Mayer pointed out the picture of his high school car — a 1960 Corvair.

Mukilteo’s Tom Nielsen, another group member, displayed his 1941 Mercury at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

“It had a chopped top and a Cadillac engine,” said Nielsen, a ‘62 Everett High graduate described by Oczkewicz as “a car guy’s car guy.”

“Colby wasn’t about racing,” Nielsen said. “It was about being seen.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Cruzin’ to Colby

The annual Cruzin’ to Colby, free for spectators, brings classic cars to downtown Everett Sunday and Monday. On Colby Avenue between Pacific and Everett avenues and on Hewitt from Hoyt to Oakes, the event is 1-5 p.m. Sunday with the Cruise on Colby. The Show ‘N’ Shine cruise and show is 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday. There’s a dance 6-10 p.m. Sunday at the Everett Holiday Inn, 3105 Pine St., $10 per person. On Monday, there’s live music downtown, the Wright Brothers Band 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and Danny Vernon’s Illusion of Elvis 1-3 p.m. Awards are 3-4 p.m. Monday. Information: www.seattlerod-tiques.com

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