Salute to American Graffiti 

The 9th Annual Salute to American Graffiti was held this weekend in Petaluma, CA,  the original site used for the movie. Over 400 Classics were in attendance at the multi-day event. 

Petaluma’s Salute to American Graffiti is an annual celebration of American Graffiti, classic American cars, cruising the “main drag”, rock ‘n roll music and the “happy days” of the ‘50s and early ‘60s. So, put on your poodle skirts, peggers, jeans, white sox and loafers, and come kick up your heels while we share a part of Automotive History. 

Little Known Facts About the Movie

Source-LucasFilm Ltd
• George Lucas chose Petaluma as the setting for most of the filming when the city of San Rafael revoked his permit after the first night of shooting because a local bar owner complained that the late night schedule was disrupting his business. 

• Mr. Lucas immediately jumped in his car and drove to film-friendly Petaluma, where he was welcomed with open arms. Although filming in San Rafael was allowed to continue for a couple more days, after making necessary logistical arrangements, director Lucas moved his production to Petaluma and completed filming most of the movie here.

Source-LucasFilm Ltd
• Production was not easy. In a makeshift camera car, Lucas, the sound man, and cameraman were forced to ride in the trunk.

• American Graffiti reinvented the movie soundtrack. Featuring 41 songs by 35 groups, it used pop songs of the day to reinforce the period setting.

With a budget of only $700,000 and over $50 million in rental earnings, American Graffiti is one of the most profitable films of the modern era.

Filming Locations

Cruising Scenes: Petaluma Boulevard North was the location of many of the cruising scenes. Cruising filmed here is distinguishable from cruising filmed in San Rafael by two-way traffic. San Rafael scenes are all one-way traffic. 

Curt's Dream Girl: 172 Petaluma Boulevard North near Washington Street. Curt's first encounter with his T-bird dream girl while sitting in the back seat of Laurie's Edsel as they drive to the hop. 

Toad's Accident: Washington Street at Petaluma Boulevard North is the intersection where Terry 'the Toad" Fields challenges another cruiser to a street race, forgets his car is in reverse gear when he stomps on the gas pedal, and goes backward, crashing into the car behind him. 

The Overzealous Car Salesman: 320 Petaluma Boulevard North
The location of the used car lot where Toad, driving Steve Bolander's car, stops to inspect the damage after his cruising accident and is confronted by the overzealous car salesman sitting in a giant rocking chair. 

Source-LucasFilm Ltd

Chasing a Dream: Corner Western Avenue & Kentucky Street, Sleep City Matress Center
This is where Curt stood after running after the white T-Bird driven by his blonde "dream girl". 

The Liquor Store: 884 Bodega Ave, Petaluma Sport Shop and Dive Center
In 1972, this was a liquor store and is the filming location of the episode where Toad tries to buy "hard liquor" for his new girlfriend, Debbie Dunham. 

Curt Meets The Pharaohs: 145 Kentucky Avenue Maguire's Pub
An appliance store in 1972, this is where Curt sits atop a car's hood watching an episode of Ozzie & Harriet on a TV in the store's window before being confronted by Pharaoh's Car Club leader Joe Young and members Ants and Carlos. 

Carol's Revenge: The Corner of Western Avenue & Petaluma Boulevard North is the location where Carol, after being hit by a water balloon, and Milner jump from Milner's yellow deuce coupe to take revenge on some girls by "soaping" the windows of their car with shaving cream and flattening its tires. 

Outside the Miniature Golf Course & Arcade: Mary Street between Bank of America & Hill Plaza Park: The white T-Bird driven by Curt's dream girl is seen turning left onto Mary Street from Petaluma Boulevard North (the wrong direction on the one-way street - watch for the arrow painted on the pavement) as the Pharaoh's Mercury approaches from the opposite direction and parks in front of the arcade and miniature golf course. 

Destruction of the Police Car: 23 Petaluma Blvd. North, McNear's Mystic Theatre & McNear's Saloon & Dining House: The marquee on the old State Movie Theater (now the Mystic Theater)  

Laurie's New Boyfriend: 43 Petaluma Blvd. North, in front of Tall Toad Music is where Laurie, after her fight with Steve, parks her Edsel and gets into the black '55 Chevy driven by Bob Falfa, a rival from another town. 

Finding Steve's Stolen Car: Water Street, adjacent to the Petaluma River
The location where Toad gets sick, but then finds Steve's stolen car. While trying to hotwire it, he is confronted by the two thieves (one of whom is played by Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.) who proceed to rough him up before Milner jumps from his coupe and beats them off. 

The Gas Station: California Highway 101 (Old Redwood Highway) about 2 miles south of Petaluma: The gas station where Milner works and goes to open the headers on his coupe in preparation for the drag race. 

XERB Radio Station: Rovina Lane just off Petaluma Boulevard South
The remote location of XERB radio station where Curt goes seeking to get The Wolfman to broadcast a message from him to his dream girl. 

The Drag Race: Frates Road between Ely Boulevard South and Adobe Road
Adjacent to what is now Adobe Creek Golf Club is the film's infamous "Paradise Road", site of the grand finale drag race between Milner and Falfa.

Other Locations 

Mel's Drive-In: San Francisco; South Van Ness Boulevard & Mission Street  
Source-LucasFilm Ltd
It’s a misnomer about Mel’s Drive-In Burger City being closed and re-opened just for filming and then demolished immediately thereafter. Dennis Kay, Director of Operations for Foster’s West, the owner of Mel’s at the time, informs us that he was responsible for making the arrangements for the filming. The restaurant was not permanently closed for business and in fact continued in business for several years after the filming was completed. Foster’s West eventually went out of business, but Dennis remembers it being sold to another owner who he believes kept it open for several more years. Dennis recalls, “We only closed for business on the nights of filming and re-opened the next day. Weeks after filming was completed, they called and said some film had been lost on the cutting room floor, so we had one more night of filming.” He also stated that the reason this drive-in was selected was because it was the only one of the era that could be found that had a tree high enough behind it to block out the modern buildings in the background. 

More Cruising Scenes: San Rafael; 4th Street
The location of some of the general cruising scenes, which are easily identified when all traffic is seen moving in one direction. Petaluma Boulevard scenes have two-way traffic. 4th Street is the location where Milner picks up Judy's sister Carol; and where he is stopped by police officer Holstein and receives a ticket for his burned out rear license plate light. In another scene, Toad spots bitchin' Debbie walking along the sidewalk, tells her that she looks like Connie Stevens and then picks her up. 

The Freshman Hop: Mill Valley; Mt. Tamalpais High School
The school's gym was decorated for the freshman hop and is where all of the dancing and restroom scenes were filmed. The band, Herby and The Heartbeats "all the way from Stockton" is Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, a group that originated at the University of Colorado in 1969. Outside hop scenes were filmed at Petaluma High School. 

The Auto Wrecking Yard: Sonoma; East 8th Street
Rusty's Auto Wrecking is where Milner greets the "junkyard dog", jumps the fence and then he and Carol stroll through the wrecking yard and talk about racing and car crashes. Rusty's was cleared away not long after the film was completed. It remained vacant for years and today is the site of an industrial park. 

Inside the Arcade: Pinole; San Pablo Avenue near Walter Avenue
The arcade and miniature golf course where the Pharaohs break open a couple of the pinball machines to steal money for gasoline, while Curt talks to the owners who are members of the Moose lodge that gave him a $2000 scholarship. 

The Canal, Lover's Lane: Marin County; a tributary of the Petaluma River at the base of the first hill immediately north of the Novato airport. The scenes where Toad and Debbie, and Steve and Laurie go to 'park' and where Debbie and Toad think they hear the "goat killer". 

Carol's Home: Sonoma; The scene where Milner drops Carol off at her home (231 Ramona in the film). 

The Airport: Concord; Buchanan Field
The location of the final scene in the movie where Curt bids goodbye to his family and friends and then boards Magic Carpet Airlines for his flight to college. The Douglas DC-7 aircraft used for this scene was formerly owned by the band Grand Funk Railroad.