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Confessions From A "Kid Hoodlum"
What was there to do when you're a pre-teen pre-electronic age?
I didn't break the law (much) as a teenager nor have I as an adult. However, before I turned thirteen years old, I did some really horrid stuff. Nothing to ever harm anyone or to be mean to one individual. In fact, I'd smack a bully if they were being mean to someone weaker than themselves. Being the tallest kid in class always had some advantages. My cousins lived down the street so there were always two partners in crime to encourage me... or dare me. Don't ever dare a kid.
Oh, sure many kids "T.P.ed" or egged houses. We just did it on a very consistent basis. No need for an occasion of sorts, either. It was just fun. For instance:
They call it "grab and dash" now when a group of young people invade a store, pick up anything they could find and blast out of there within a minute. My friends and I did it on a grand scale, a few times... at eleven years old! The theory is that the store worker could only catch one of us, at the most. So we liked our odds!
Four of us would grab a shopping cart and just start piling it up with candy, snacks, toys... I mean, we would get these shopping baskets nearly overflowing with goodies! We'd planned our escape beforehand.
The wash was only about 500 yards from the store and we'd all meet there after our "job" was pulled. We knew the guy that worked in the SAFEWAY was extremely overweight, out of shape and we all knew we could outrun the guy even with a loaded shopping cart.
The signal was the guy's voice when he'd ask, "Uh, excuse me boys!" Then BOOM we're out the door and running leaving a trail of goodies in our wake! Not surprisingly we all escaped unscathed and met up in the wash. Tons of goodies! We'd swim in it like a pirate that just uncovered his treasure chest of gold booty!
An enterprising "business"
So we decided to open a "store" in the neighborhood. Kids were flocking to us because we offered all of their favorite treats at a tremendous discount! Our parents were baffled.
"How are you guys making any money off all this?" my mother inquired.
"Oh, we offer it at a small profit. The kids are too lazy to walk up to the store." What a lie. She actually fell for it.
So I'm walking around with $150 (which in 1969 was comparable to about $400) bulging from my pocket feeling like some kind of an eleven year old Mafia boss.
"Hey kid. I like your bike. Give ya five bucks for it." I offered to a boy one day.
"I don't wanna sell it for $5 but I will for $10!" he said to me.
"Sold. Here's ten bucks." Then I'd "hire out" the meanest bully in school and said to him, "See that kid over there? Smack him around a bit and get that $10 I gave him. He just pissed me off. Here's $5, Bruno." Supply and demand. Well, sort of. Bruno wasn't smart enough to figure out he'd have $10 already while he was just doing what he usually did to all of my classmates. I just knew he enjoyed smacking kids around. Ah, my first employee.
Pulling pranks were an art form with us
Flaming dog poop in a bag on fire? We had an assembly line going. Anyone that didn't give us a decent treat on Halloween or didn't answer their door when we knew they were home, got it. Of course, we had to steal those Ohio Blue Tip matches during one of our "goodie dashes." Along with aluminum foil.
Why the foil? We'd snap the heads off of about 50 to 100 wooden matches. We would smash these match heads into a foil ball, scrape the ball on the sidewalk and it would make the biggest smoke bomb that would last for about five minutes.
Not unusual for us to knock on a door, hide in the bushes and when the unsuspecting homeowner opened the door, we'd chuck it into their house. Then we'd run. A lot of running was involved in the tail end of many of our schemes.
One time we made an "atomic bomb." 500 match heads squished into some tin foil the size of a baseball. We (I've been saying "we" because I still don't want to be incriminated) threw it into the middle of a busy street and then squealed with laughter as traffic ground to a halt because it resembled the thickest London fog you could ever imagine. Cars skidding, tires screeching as we sat back and revelled in our mischief. Well, terrorism was more like it.
Those were good times. I just NEVER got caught. I think it was because all of my mini-hoodlum adventures were very well planned with diagrams and worst case scenarios thought out and discussed beforehand.
The most guilt that I have ever experienced from these less than noble endeavors (and that I still carry with me to this day) is throwing a rock through a church window. I'm going to Hell for that one, I'm absolutely sure of that. Oh well.
Part II. Being A Teen Hoodlum
You have to make your own fun when you're a teen. Asking to borrow the 'reigns to the family chariot' has been the bane to parents for centuries but the preferred yet most dangerous way for teens to more easily find trouble and then, of course. to blindly get into it. .
Growing up in the '70's was the greatest time for a teen! I was lucky enough to grow up just north of Hollywood/Los Angeles. I could lie to my parents and say that I was at a friend's house down the street then go party on Hollywood and Vine yet still be back home by ten on a school night!
Our last resort for entertainment was to sneak into the drive-in movie (remember those?) I had a two by four board in my trunk, we'd just drive up to the exit then threw the board down onto the tire popping spikes and drive on in with a carload of people. It was never a problem getting someone to buy beer outside a liquor store for us before the movie, either.
Many times we would get up real early on school days to go surfing at "County Line" (from the Beach Boys' song "Surfin' USA") which was a half hour away and we'd still make it to school on time before eight in the morning.
We'd leave with absolutely no gas in the tank (the road to the beach was a steep grade downhill so we could coast) then syphon someone's gas tank to get back home or to school. If I forgot my shoes to class, the teachers didn't care. Hey, at least I showed up.
Fake I.D.'s weren't checked as closely by doormen, bartenders and businesses (or maybe they knew and didn't care as long as they got your business) and goin' to a club before your 21st birthday was common practice.
Everyone was thin and in great shape back then. The clothes we wore were so tight, you knew exactly what you were gettin' before you jumped into that back seat of the car at the drive-in and "makin' out!" And they were big cars! Lots of room to lose your virginity in. I did and fast! (The cars, I mean!) Very fast gas guzzlers. But who cared how much gas cost back then? It was cheap!
Wednesday night was "Cruisin' Night" on Van Nuys Blvd. Shine your car up, head on down to the San Fernando Valley and talk to the girls in the car next to you while you waited at the light... 12 lights back! Maybe they'd even let you cruise with them for a while!
Experimentation with drugs, sex and new ideas were just part of the agenda of the day. Although I didn't indulge and maybe one and done. I could see the harmful circumstances. To this day I don't like the taste of beer and will go months and months without so much as a social drink. AIDS wasn't even "invented" yet. Only Dick Tracy had a portable radio/phone/wristwatch in those days. Everyone had long hair even the cops, your teacher and your boss!
Oh, there were many roads to choose to go down in the '70's. It was a time of change possibly more so than the '60's because "doing your own thing" was a phrase coined in that era and a lot more acceptable than the previous decade. Yet, there we were... night after night... complaining that there "wasn't anything to do in this damn town."
The author Dan W. Miller somehow survived his youth to serve our country, father two fine upstanding daughters of his own, raise a responsible step-son and not spend one minute of incarceration behind bars. IN bars is not deterrent time but only leisure time served.
Just keep me occupied at that age!
This was FUN! CRUISIN' VAN NUYS BLVD. ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT! The cops hated it. Oh this was a place full of teens just waiting to break some traffic laws!
© 2012 Dan W Miller