The Bad Boys of Winter
where are all the fun kids now?
So many kids, so much fun and where have they all gone and where are they now? I find it amazing to have such a vivid recall of their faces and those events of so many years ago. I am thankful that I can have and share these memories. Please, everyone, do not tell the police or the Queen of England where I live.
Bobby Molson lived on the corner of Stanford and Banner. I lived just a couple of houses down the street. Ron Kryzaniak also lived on the same street at the corner of Telegraph Road. Bobby was a year older so we can blame him for not keeping us in line with the then accepted behavioral rules and practices for 12 year olds. Sharon Blackstone lived on the corner across from Bobby and tried keeping us out of trouble without much luck. There were the Findlay’s (Gari and sisters), the LaForge’s (Rosemary and Artie), the Lovette’s (Karen and Marlene), the Davis boys (Dickie and Bill) who lived on Colgate the next street over. Larry Winton lived on the corner of Lehigh and Banner. I went to church with Larry for a very short while… it was painful and didn’t help me much; that’s another story entirely.
Michigan is on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone so summers for us meant long daylight hours. Our days of summer were mostly spent playing, going to (and coming from) our sporting activities; swimming at Seashore Pools, pickup baseball, basketball or football games. Some days I took the bus from Lehigh and Telegraph, changing at Michigan and Monroe by the Cunningham’s Drug Store, and then riding it all the way down Michigan Avenue to Briggs Stadium to watch the Detroit Tigers play; all for $1.25 which included a ticket to sit in the Bleachers. “Bleachers”… according to the Dickson Baseball Dictionary were named after wooden benches in the outfield that were “bleached by the sun.” The open seating areas, as early as 1877, were also called the “bleaching boards.” It’s a… just so you know.
Daylight hours were a different story during the winter months. We bad boys had a lot of fun in our neighborhood in the vicinity of Stanford and Banner streets in the Township where I lived. I have lost track of most of the kids from that era… the early to mid-1950’s. When I was ten I moved from the west side of Detroit(where I was notably a good boy) out to Dearborn Township where I attended the Edsel B. Ford Elementary School located at the corner of Penney and Gulley roads. My new neighborhood provided a whole new set of friends that proved to be an entertaining lot and it’s where I joined, and became one of, the bad boys of winter.
The seasons didn’t hinder our ability to find trouble; it was just easier in the winter because it became dark so much earlier. One of our winter atrocities was throwing snowballs at cars and running “for all get out” when chased for doing so. We had hiding places prearranged which were usually in someone’s backyard. There were no alleys in our neighborhood so we had to escape when necessary to the next street over by jumping the fences. Our most fun in the winter was riding car bumpers (hopping cars) on the snow and ice covered streets. To hitch a ride we would hide behind a car (or tree) in the vicinity of a street corner where a car would slow or stop for traffic. As the car came to a halt or slowed enough we would fall in behind and grab onto the bumper as it pulled away. Sometimes we could ride for nearly a block before we were discovered or just got tired of hanging on. This activity I’m sure played havoc with the bottoms of our rubber goulashes, but fortunately we outgrew them each year so parents weren’t the wiser. Our first warning that we had been discovered was when a cars brake lights suddenly came on… sometimes shortly after our grabbing onto the bumper. Sliding along with your rear end ever so close to the ground at increasing speeds… was for us, a very, very big thrill.
Doorbell ringing was our next featured venue. We crafted it into a fine art and we learned which buttons to push and which not; all from experience of course. You had to be able to quickly get far enough away and still be able to see the door and porch lights come on. Why we thought this was funny is still a mystery to me. Ringing the same doorbell two or three times in a row was really a riot and risky… it provoked the use of words by our victims we had no knowledge even existed. We weren’t aware that in other parts of the world doorbell ringing was a severely punishable crime. Had we known of course I feel quite certain we would still have done it. It was way too much fun and the Queen of England wasn’t known for her sense of humor I’m guessing.
From a Law written in the UK from about 1847:
Every person who willfully and wantonly disturbs any inhabitant, by pulling or ringing any door bell, or knocking at any door or who willfully and unlawfully extinguishes the light of any lamp:
Penalty on persons committing any of the offences herein named:
Every person who in any street, to the obstruction, annoyance, or danger of the residents or passengers, commits any of the following offences, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding for each offence, or, in the discretion of the justice before whom he is convicted, may be committed to prison, there to remain for a period not exceeding fourteen days.
Our next activity to share might be a bit off color; we bad boys called it “Window Peeping.” What provoked our doing it is something a psychologist might have fun trying to unwrap even today. I have no idea what it was we wanted to see but we wanted to see it just the same. It was probably just a curiosity at how other people were living their lives. At our ages life was still very much a mystery… it was after all, a time before reality TV. I don’t know how many people we may have scared or if we scared anyone? We certainly didn’t come upon anything worth seeing. Bathroom windows were way too high off the ground to see anything going on in there. There was a lot of knitting and people reading books and magazines. Can you imagine how exciting it can be to watch someone reading a book or knitting? Surprisingly, just watching TV hadn’t caught on and not everyone had television sets anyhow. Those were the days.
At about twelve we were just of an age when boys discover wrestling with girls could be fun. You just had to pick the right girl. Marlene Lovette was much bigger than I and could just sit on me if she got me down. Her younger sister Karen on the other hand was just right, although she was a very tough wrestle; lots of grass stained knees back then. It didn’t hurt that Karen was also cute as hell.
Where have they gone?
It’s funny how kids and their families would disappear from the neighborhood seemingly overnight. Arlene Rhea, a cute freckle faced Irish girl, lived on the corner of Stanford and Bailey just across the street from Karen and Marlene, and then one day, she just wasn’t there anymore. There are many others I can vividly recall even after all these years; Mary Christian lived across from the school, Terry Lipsky lived with his Aunt across from Tony Hernandez on Annapolis. There was little Mike that lived at Pat’s Trailer Park, also on Annapolis at the corner of Telegraph. Mikey had so many brothers and sisters and they all lived in a little trailer at the Park, and I was never able to figure out where they all slept. They also just one day disappeared.
I visited my old Detroit neighborhood some years ago. The house at 5217 32nd Street, where I lived for nearly ten years before moving to the Township, was no longer there. In fact, there weren’t any houses nearby. Everything as I knew it had disappeared. The Bar across the street, where I used to sit at a table drinking my orange soda while eating pretzels, and listening to the Mills Brothers sing Harbor Lights on the Jukebox, was gone too. The corner grocery store, where we bought cookies out of a box on the floor by the pound, vanished. The Polish bakery on McGraw that dipped cupcakes into chocolate and served them upside down, demolished. However, the sewer line that was connected to our kitchen sink, where Dad caught us emptying our glasses of milk, surprisingly was still there. I guess if the sewer lines are still intact it may not be hopeless for the neighborhood to return one day. Everyone needs a sewer.