Smokin' Fast Ride to School - Part XII of “I Survived Washington Irving JHS”

SMOKIN' FAST RIDE TO SCHOOL - The following is part of a series of articles written by Michael Leavitt about his real life experiences at Washington Irving Junior High School in Los Angeles, California from 1974-1976. The events are true and have been documented to help Michael's family better understand the racial tensions he endured during that era. And even amidst the turmoil, good times were plentiful and proof that even when you are given the sourest of lemons you can still make a great lemonade. If you haven't read the previous  entries, then I invite you to enjoy them when you have time.

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Getting to Washington Irving Junior High School in East Los Angeles each morning was not easy. My options were limited, I could either ride a bike and have it vandalized in the school bike racks, walk over the hills cutting through hillside foot paths, ride a skateboard, or on occasion get a smokin' fast ride with my older brother Jimi.

In 1974, while I was in 7th grade at Washington Irving, my older brother Jimi was about 20 and sometimes lived at home. Occasionally he would relent to my Mother's request and give me a ride to school when I was running late. A ride to school with Jimi was a true thrill ride. Speed limits were not really enforced on the hilly route we would take to get from Jessica Drive to Washington Irving. What made it even more exciting was the hilly terrain with windy streets and sharp turns. From Jessica Drive heading up Division Street to Avenue 42 and hitting the sharp hairpin turn to Scandia Way was an incredible G-force to remember (both directions). The only place that Jimi really exhibited great care was the small police patrolled stretch down Eagle Rock Boulevard. Turning off Eagle Rock he was back in the residential streets it was once again pedal to the metal with his foot on the floor. Flying down Marguerite Street, passing my friends walking to school, until we screeched to a halt on the back side of the Washington Irving auditorium was a pure adrenalin speed rush.


Edelbrock2I never remember getting pulled over by the Pigs (Pigs is what we called the Police back then... Why? I have no idea). I never remember getting into a crash. I never remember anything other than the feelings I had being thrust back into the seat by the raw horsepower coming from under the hood. The engine was so big that a hood scoop was required because the top of the 4-barrel carburetor with its triangular Edelbrock air cleaner sat above the height of the hood. Jimi's ride was a work in progress without the show car paint job. HurstFirst it was a gray primer work-in-progress and ultimately flat black primer. It always wanted to be the black Mustang I used in the main blog photo, but high speeds and delayed driver judgment ultimately took the cars life; but Jimi survived!

Jimi's car was no traditional cruiser. He started with a worn out 1966 Mustang Fastback and he initially blew up the stock motor. My parents gave him the family tuna boat, the golden Ford Galxie 500. Jimi thought better of the situation and pulled out the huge V-8 in the Galaxie and cut the motor compartment of the Mustang and placed it in the little '66 pony. I remember him cutting the hood and installing the coolest teardrop shaped stingray hood scoop. Jimi fiberglassed the new one into position and the hood could then be lowered over the huge power plant. The motor was connected to a 4 on the floor transmission with a "T" style Hurst shifter. The Mustang sat on four wider low profile tires so that it would handle well as it sped through the hilly streets of Glassell Park heading to Washington Irving. And for the audiophile purists, Jimi was one of the first to have a quadraphonic 8-track system installed. Quadraphonic was the rage of the day and would send different parts of the blasting rock-n-roll to different speakers.  I seem to recall Pink Floyd's "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon being especially great with all the alarm clocks sounding off from every corner of the car. Pink Floyd's "Money" also had great audio effects.... But I digress.



Just this morning, my brother Jimi forwarded onto me an incredible YouTube video. I was mesmerized as I watched a newer, highly modified 1965 Ford Mustang, showing off the sights of Los Angeles using a lot of GoPro cameras, along with the assistance of the LAPD. This video is what caused my flashback to Jimi taking me to school.

Please fasten your seat belts and keep your hands and arms inside while you watch and enjoy...



The video title is a complete understatement


I just love the footage along the L.A. River. I remember riding our dirt bikes along the banks and hitting the transitions. It was really easy to access and it makes a great environment for the Mustang's adventures.b2ap3_thumbnail_W-65-Low-Rider.jpg

I just busted out laughing when I saw the low riders with the hydraulics. And then I went silent with awe as I watched the synchronized bouncing and pass-unders.b2ap3_thumbnail_W-65-Donuts.jpg

It certainly wasn't Randy's Donuts back in the day, but I remember the large roof mounted donut. Wasn't it down nearer LAX?b2ap3_thumbnail_W-65-Cockpit.jpg

The cockpit view is just too cool!!!b2ap3_thumbnail_W-65-Hollywood.jpgI loved the choice of the Hollywood sign for the ending. From that vantage point he could view his entire domain.  If you like the  video, then please share it with your circle of influence.

Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah -

How did you get to school each day?

NOTE: Washington Irving Junior High School was 7th, 8th, and 9th grades during my 1974-76 tenure. I see that it is now named Washington Irving Middle School and features 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

NOTE 2: Washington Irving has changed again. The internet shows it is now called the Irving Magnet School and is painted white and vibrant blue and features grades 5th through 8th. LINK