Old cars and cheese curds
By Greg Seubert
Nearly 50 years after its release, “American Graffiti” continues to strike a chord with its audience.
The 1973 film tells the story of a group of teenagers roaming the streets of Modesto, California one night in August 1962.
Three of the film’s stars – Cindy Williams, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips – attended this year’s Iola Auto Show, held July 7-9.
Williams, who later played Shirley Feeney in “Laverne and Shirley” on TV, said she didn’t realize the film’s impact at first.
“We had no idea until George Lucas took us to a studio about two weeks after filming and showed us a 20-minute edit of the film with music,” she said. “We knew we were in for something special: the time, the place, the music, the fun aspect and the morality of it.”
Lucas directed and co-wrote the film, which also starred Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss.
The film, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, cost less than $800,000 to make and grossed over $200 million in box office and home video sales.
Williams played Laurie Henderson, the girlfriend of Howard’s character Steve Bolander. Howard then played Richie Cunningham in the television series “Happy Days” from 1974 to 1980 before branching out into filmmaking with “Splash”, “Cocoon”, “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind”.
The film’s background music included a who’s who of early rock and roll pioneers, from Chuck Berry to Buddy Holly to Fats Domino.
“It was fun for the audience and the cast to absorb that,” Williams said. “People cling to it because it was a great time before President Kennedy was assassinated.”
Williams, Howard, Clark and Phillips joined other cast members of “American Graffiti” for a sequel, “More American Graffiti”, in 1979.
The car show also included an exhibition of cars related to the film.
Al Leonard brought his 1958 Edsel Corsair, the car Williams and Howard used to cruise the streets of Modesto in the film.
“I found it at an aerial park in Spring Hill, Florida last spring,” he said. “I just got it working three days before I got here.”
Leonard, who lives in Pickford in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, remembers seeing “American Graffiti” years ago.
“It showed what it was like growing up in those days, on cruises and stuff like that,” he said. “People were coming back from the Vietnam War and cars were the thing. Many of them came back from the war with mechanical skills and they got involved in these cars and races.
Leonard has been collecting cars for over 50 years.
“Cars are like a left arm, you either love them or hate them,” he said. “I did this for 55 years. I find them and they have to be original and rust free or I won’t buy them.
Ford introduced the Edsels in 1957, but only made them for a little over two years.
“The Edsel is a story unto itself and it would probably take hours to explain,” Leonard said. “It came out at the wrong time. There was a terrible recession in 1958 and they only reached half the production figures. Instead of 120,000 sold, they only sold 64,000, but it It was still the second highest of any automaker that year, and if they had waited six months, they would have started selling them.
Leonard eventually became fascinated with the Edsel.
“It runs and drives fabulously,” he said. “It’s a nice car, it’s well made, it’s solid, it’s well designed, but it was marketed badly.
“Anybody can have a Camaro, anybody can have a Firebird,” he added. “I go for the eccentric. You don’t find them everywhere and many people don’t know what they are. People follow me on the road to a gas station and have their picture taken. Even on the way here, at every gas station we stopped at.
Leonard visited the Iola show for the first time.
“There’s a little town in Michigan called St. Ignace,” he said. “They have 100,000 people and the atmosphere and the cars are the same. They have a different theme every year. It’s very similar to Iola and I love it.
Vintage cars are the main attraction at the motor show every year.
Thanks to the Wittenberg Lions Club, fresh fried cheese curds may be a close second.
The club has been bringing its cheese curd trailer to the show for over 40 years. This year’s show helped the club raise thousands of dollars for local causes.
“It’s our main fundraiser,” club secretary Gary Thompson said. “We donate to Veterans Honor Flight, Lions Eye Bank, Wisconsin Lions Camp at Rosholt, Special Olympics, Wittenberg community and high school scholarships.”
The show celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and Thompson said the club had sold its cheese curds to the show for at least 40 of those years.
Shortly after the doors to the show opened, a line began to form in front of the trailer. An order of curd sold for $5, but several people left the trailer with more than one order.
“They’re beer-battered with our own blend,” Thompson said. “This year we are using Ellsworth cheese curds from Ellsworth, Wisconsin. It is a very good curd and they prepare it especially for frying. »
Nine people worked inside the trailer. Some, like Stacey Delforge, dropped the curd into hot oil, while others dispensed the curd through a window or prepared it for the deep fryer.
“Right now we’re using seven cans of beer and five pounds of fry mix,” Thompson said. “We mix that up and put that on about 80 to 100 pounds of curds.”
The club purchased its custom trailer two years ago which replaced a trailer the club had been using for over 30 years.
Show visitors were spoiled for choice for food options, including burgers, brats, chicken, spring rolls and funnel cakes.
“We used to go through 2,700 pounds in four days here,” Thompson said. “They’ve cut the show down to three days, so we’re hoping to go through 2,000 pounds this year.”
The club also brings its cheese curd trailer to other events, including Wittenberg Community Days and Eland Days.
“Two weeks ago we were in Waupaca County for their Farmhouse Brunch,” Thompson said. “We did things a little differently there. Instead of charging for the curds, we just gave them to people for free and if they wanted to donate to us, they could.
Thompson said the club will be back for next year’s motor show.
“I always say we’re almost world famous,” he said. “We have people coming in and saying, ‘The only reason I’m coming to the show is for your cheese curds. “”