Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 3 – Family Vacation

Wildwood Crest, New Jersey – 1960’s

A few years before my parents owned the summer place in North Wildwood, we stayed at a motel called the Villa Nova in Wildwood Crest. They would take a room each summer for 3 days in June, and 3 more in September. There was a restaurant next door to the motel called The Captain’s Table. To me, that was a cool exotic nautical-themed place. Even though we were only a two-hour drive from our home in Philadelphia, going to the shore was traveling to come exotic locale back then.

The world was a bigger package than our little neighborhood in Lawndale.

Wildwood Mid-Century Modern Motels & Hotels | RoadsideArchitecture.com

Villa Nova Motel, Wildwood Crest, NJ - Booking.com

Wildwood, NJ was an amazing wondrous place. We all loved it. I remember I’d be watching TV as a kid and a commercial would come on for Dorney Park. I’d say to my dad, “That place looks fun, why don’t we ever go there?”

“Because that place is a junkyard, son.” my dad would say. (Back then the place was a dump. Nothing like what it is today.

We’d always go to the beach as a family in the morning. It wasn’t as hot then, and not as crowded. By the time lunchtime rolled around we were back at the motel.

I was never a fan of the beach too much when I was little. Big waves, crabs, and deep water were things I didn’t want any part of.  There is old home movie footage of me as a toddler walking back towards the car because I hated the sand.

I remember once I was working on sandcastles with my dad and the backs of my legs got really sunburned. It really hurt and my mom applied some vaseline to take out the sting and soothe the burn. But the best part was when everybody else went back to the beach or the pool in the afternoon, I got to stay behind in the air-conditioned room to lie on the couch and watch TV. (Which is what I preferred to do anyway.)

I think even back then they had cable TV down there, so there were channels and shows I’d never seen before which I found facinating.

But by the time dusk arrived we were all dressed and ready to go to the boardwalk. It was the mid to late 1960s and we’d actually get dressed up nice to go to the boardwalk. Mom and the sisters in dresses, and dad and I in button-down shirts and slacks. It was a different time, but as a family my parents always dressed us up to go anywhere. “I don’t want you all looking like a bunch of slumgullians,” my mother would say.

Wildwood always had the best boardwalk in New Jersey.

Each summer evening, the American dream was played out along the boardwalk’s more than 70,000 wooden planks. Classic rides and old-fashioned amusements stood toe-to-toe with 20st-century innovation and excitement. Five amusement piers boasted more rides than Disneyland, complete with world-class rollercoasters, beachfront waterparks, family-friendly attractions, and cutting-edge thrill rides. In addition, a seemingly endless array of restaurants and shops offer everything from classic boardwalk fare like funnel cakes and homemade fudge to seafood specials, gourmet pizza, and contemporary casual beach fare.

As I said, back then it was like traveling to an exotic wonderland.

The idea of a boardwalk originated when a railroad conductor, Alexander Boardman, got tired of cleaning beach sand from his trains. He suggested constructing a wooden walkway for seaside strolls. Atlantic City dedicated the first boardwalk in 1870. Thirty years later, the City of Wildwood laid its first boardwalk directly on the sand along Atlantic Avenue, from Oak Avenue to Maple Avenue, just 150 yards long.

The world-famous Wildwood Boardwalk is home to a dazzling display of lights, colors, sounds, and smells that awe the senses and offer an unsurpassed level of excitement and energy. As it has for over 100 years, the boardwalk stands as a living, thriving, pulsating celebration of the American imagination.

Hunt’s Pier was pretty much our go-to stop on the boardwalk. It had the best family-oriented rides, and theme park attractions. I’ve gathered a few pieces here to give you an idea of what they had on that concrete pier back then. They’re at the end of this post. Some great videos!

My dad would go on any ride they had. My sister April was fearless, and my sister Janice would go on any ride my dad was willing to venture upon. My mother and I both don’t like heights, things that can make us dizzy, or move too quickly. But there was something for everyone at Hunt’s Pier. I think that’s what set them apart from the other amusement piers. They had the twirly ‘up in the air rides’, and the like, but also had stuff the kids could go on. (Or the scaredy cats)

They had a little classic wooden rollercoaster, called The Flyer. I remember my mom telling me that the ride only lasted 1 minute long. My father and sister Janice would go on that, and also my dad’s favorite ride, the airships.  They were these cool two-seater little jets that went around and around but then you could go high up in the air as the ride spun. (You can see it in this old ad)

That is a lovely glimpse into the past, right?

As I said, I didn’t like rides like that, but one time my dad kind of forced me to go on it with him. He told me it was a wonderful experience. He loved that ride so much. He knew if I went on it with him I’d love it too. I yielded to his wishes and went on it. “Look at that incredible view of the whole boardwalk” he would say as the ride went higher and higher. I would agree with him how great it was, but my eyes were tightly closed the entire ride, so I couldn’t really describe to you here what it was like at all. I just know I was terrified. There are those of us who are brave enough to venture forth in this life and take risks, and those of us who are hard-wired for self-preservation. The same goes for deep water and food for that matter. I spent most of my days growing up trying not to be nauseous or dizzy.

But I loved the boardwalk and Hunt’s Pier. My favorite was the Pirate Ship. The SKUA was built in 1962 and was amazing. A lot of people didn’t know that it actually was built on a hydraulic system that allowed it to rock back and forth while you were walking through it. It was so cool. You walked through it and there were all of these neat pirate-related things inside of it. Galley, and floor effects that would make skeleton hands pop out of a box in front of you, a mirror maze, and even a tilted room, that was insane. It really felt like you were on a big boat out in the sea. You could even go out on the deck and see the whole pier and boardwalk. Not scary at all. Just a really awesome Disneyland-like experience. Thinking back, my favorite part of that attraction was the dungeon. The song, 15 men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum, played on a loop in the background. It was really bizarre. It looked like a torture chamber. All animatronic characters that moved. There was this one character in the corner of the room. It was a blonde woman chained to a wall. The only thing she did was breathe. So when she moved you could see her robotic chest heaving through her ripped dress. Strangely erotic, but I was too young to know why I loved her, but I just did. Even as a child I loved the female form.

If a ride wasn’t too wild I would definitely try it. I liked the Whacky Shack and the Keystone Kops. You rode in little cars through them on a track and banged through doors and they had animatronic attractions inside. Based on amusement rides now, it was all very primitive, but we loved it all just the same. Some kids like the wild rides that go fast and high but don’t like rides that had primal scares in them. I had a high tolerance for visually scary rides and always liked horror movies. We all have different fears as children and they all manifest in unique ways.

The Golden Nugget Mine ride was probably the most awesome ride on the pier back then. It was a dark ride, which is sort of an enclosed rollercoaster with cool animatronic attractions inside. It was amazing. Depending on how I was feeling I might go on it.  I loved the southwestern desert, gold prospector theme, but it was a three-story ride that had two hills in it. I liked it because it had so many neat things in it, which were groundbreaking for the time. But that ride wouldn’t come into play until a decade later in my life.

Overall just lovely memories from our childhood. We would sometimes venture down to Sportland Pier and my dad and the girls would go on the Supersonic rollercoaster. Or up to Marine Pier, (Later called: Mariner’s Landing) to ride the Wild Mouse. They were both new German-built steel coasters that would be predecessors of what was to come for all rollercoasters. But like everything else, I wanted nothing to do with any of that stuff. Too afraid I’d throw up on it. I liked the dark ride called The Monster’s Den. It was a spooky ride without any hills or dips. If I remember correctly, you could ride, or walk through the attraction.

I was just happy to be there among all of that visual and audio excitement. It was like nothing else I’d ever seen before. I think my dad may have thought if I didn’t experience all of the things he knew were awesome, I’d somehow be missing out on something. He wanted to offer us all of the joy he felt. But if you don’t have any interest in doing something, there isn’t a loss. You’ll find fun doing something else. I didn’t want to feel the fearful rush of a thrill ride, I’d rather move through an attraction at my own pace and experience different feelings. Something I could control and manage.

It was really a wonderful time for our family. The classic 1960’s experience of piling the kids into the car and taking them to the seashore for a few days in the summer. Escape the heat and pollution of the city, and breathe that sweet sea air. Days frolicking on the beach and building drippy castles in the sand. Watching as the tide rolled in and the ocean once again reclaiming its property.

These fun times continued each summer through the late ’60s and into the ’70s when my dad bought a house at the shore and we got to stay down there all summer.

Hunt’s Pier already loomed large in our collective legend, but the real fun for me would come many years later. 

Take a stroll down memory lane with me and check out these links:

10 Rides You Miss From Hunt’s Pier

And as always, here’s a little song to close out this chapter.

Special thanks to Joe Doyle for his video work

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Angel with a Broken Wing – Chapter 2

My new book, Below the Wheel, drops on June 22. Here’s a little taste from last year’s novel, Angel with a Broken Wing.

 

TWO

The next evening, Christian relaxed on the couch watching the news on television. He glanced at his watch.

“Six-thirty? Whoa! I got class tonight.”

He leaped off the sofa, grabbed his textbook off the kitchen table, and headed out the door. He had some difficulty getting the Pinto started, but after several tries, the engine of the old ‘Gas Crisis Classic’ finally turned over.

“Going to work all day and then school at night is brutal. I should have done this right out of high school when I had the time. “I’ll be thirty-five this summer. It’ll take me forever to get my degree.”

The Pinto hesitated and bucked as he pulled into the parking lot of Gloucester County Community College. 

“This car’s a piece of junk! Didn’t they used to say that if you got hit from behind in a Pinto, the thing blew up?”

“The Flinto!”

He parked the car and began the long walk to the main building. He shivered as the frigid February wind whipped across the parking lot. It seemed to go right through his jacket and rattle his bones. 

He got to the door and a blast of warm air poured forth as he opened it, and dashed inside.

The hallway was filled with the sound of students chattering and running to class. It felt like high school to Christian. High school without the lockers.

He suddenly felt old as he trudged past the groups of twenty-year-olds that congregated outside the classrooms. He couldn’t help but notice the abundance of baggy pants, bad haircuts, tattoos, and body piercings.

“What the hell has happened to our culture?”

Christian finally arrived at his classroom and tried the door. 

Locked. He then noticed a note taped to the inside of the window on the door.

PSYCH CLASS CANCELLED DUE TO DEATH IN THE FAMILY

“Yea… Join the club, man. This sucks.”

He turned and headed back down the brightly lit corridor. The walls were lined with bulletin boards displaying upcoming student activities. Activities Christian would never attend. He was nearly to the door when a particular sign caught his eye. It was covered with brightly colored advertisements regarding travel. He stopped for a moment to read the board.

GO ON YOUR DREAM ADVENTURE! TRAVEL TO BEAUTIFUL COLORADO WITH US THIS SUMMER!

“Is it really that good? It can’t be as nice as the pictures. I suppose it’s good for the kids to get involved in something positive.”

“I wish I could go away…”

He continued to read the notes and signs on the board.

DIG UP DINOSAUR BONES!

HELP FEED THE CHILDREN!

BE A BIG BROTHER!

ROOMMATE WANTED!

NEED A RIDE!

“Need a ride?”

It was a small 3×5 card tacked to the corner of the board. Christian pulled it free from the thumbtacks that held it to the corkboard and read it carefully.

I NEED A RIDE!!! GOING WEST, POSSIBLY CALIFORNIA. WILL SHARE EXPENSES. IF INTERESTED, PLEASE CALL (609)555-2602) ASK FOR T.R. JEROP. 

SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY!!!

He read the card again, turning it over in his hand. He glanced up and down the hallway, and not seeing anyone, stuffed the card in his pocket. He walked towards the nearest exit. He stood in the warm vestibule and lit a cigarette before stepping back out into the bitter cold.

“What am I doing?” He made his way along the tree-lined promenade that led to the parking lot. “I should just put the damn thing back. I’m not going anywhere. Maybe I’m just jealous that this free spirit is going somewhere and I’m not. I don’t have the time, or the money to go anywhere. I’ve met so many people that would love to win the lottery and just fly away. This Jerop guy… he’s probably twenty years old, not a care in the world, nothing to tie him down. He just wants to see the country and cruise to the golden coast this summer. Must be nice. I gotta find some way to change my life. Jeezus it’s friggin’ cold out!”

Light snow began to fall as Christian got into the Pinto and drove home.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – 4 Crazy Tour Stories

Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t quite the same these days is it? We don’t hear quite as many crazy touring stories, fueled by drugs, alcohol, and god knows what else. But at least we still have the memories of the true rockstars; here are some of the more memorable:

ZZ Top’s buffalo escaping
ZZ Top had a real-life, living, and breathing buffalo on one of their tours, and it wasn’t the only animal tagging along. They also had a longhorn steer, two vultures, and two rattlesnakes for their famous 1976 and 1977 Worldwide Texas Tour.

You can imagine that having wild animals on tour is probably going to end badly, and you would be right – the animals escaped after a show on 12th June 1976 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, doing damage to the stadium field. The buffalo escaped again in November that year, close to wrecking the nine rented limos parked at the venue.

Marilyn Manson doing $25,000 worth of damage to a hotel
After a concert in New York City in 1998, 29-year-old Marilyn Manson and his bandmates trashed the dressing room of the venue in a very ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ move. They then returned to their hotel where they started a food fight and proceeding to completely trash one of the rooms.

The posse ended up causing up to $25,000 worth of damage, including telephones struck in the middle of walls, burns on carpets, and stained bathtubs from their purple hair dye.

Van Halen’s equipment ruining venue stage
Van Halen used to have a very specific request for their shows backstage – a bowl of M&Ms with no brown ones. While this seems ridiculous, the request was actually part of a larger tactic. Compared to other bands of the time, the band had quite an impressive stage production, including nine 18-wheeler trucks full of equipment. So the M&Ms request was actually to make sure the promotor had read all the requirements of the tour, including some strict safety measures – like whether the venue floor can withstand the weight of the stage set.

At a concert at a university in Colorado back in 1980, the band found one brown M&M in the bowl – so they decided to trash their dressing room in true rockstar style. And it turned out the M&M trick worked – the contract was clearly not read correctly, and the venue floor couldn’t hold the stage set. $80,000 of damage (a lot more in today’s money) ended up being caused by the stage collapsing.

Ozzy Osbourne goes missing on Black Sabbath tour
Ozzy single-handedly made some crazy rock ‘n’ roll stories over the years, some odd like snorting a line of ants, and some offending entire states of the US like urinating on Almano in Texas.

A more amusing story though is when Ozzy went missing during a Black Sabbath tour in 1978. The band checked in to a hotel in Atlanta, and as they were preparing for their show that evening they realized Ozzy wasn’t in his room. His luggage was there untouched with a made bed, proving he had never even arrived. The police and local TV and radio were notified, with alerts sent out to the public.

Van Halen did their opening slot, then Black Sabbath got up on stage and apologized for having to cancel the show. Fast forward to 9 am the next morning, and the band gets a call from Ozzy asking when they’re leaving for the venue. Turns out he had drunk a bottle of something, went into the wrong empty room, and blacked out for over 24 hours. When he woke up he thought he’d only slept for one night.

 

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Hunt’s Pier – Prologue

Philadelphia Pa – Autumn, 2020

“Hunt’s Pier… I’m way up here and I don’t know how to get down there and be close enough to you. I don’t know if I can write about you. Look how far away I am from you now.”

I had been wanting to write this piece two years ago when I was writing Wildwood Daze. I actually made a post that said I couldn’t write about Hunt’s Pier because it was too big and rich a story. It still is. I just don’t think at the time I was ready to write it.

Hunt’s Pier is an amusement pier that stood for many years on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey. I’ll delve into some family at the seashore history and then get on with my experiences. I worked there on one of the rides for the 1980-1981 seasons. I’ll do my best to recall my memories from that time.

But here we are in the midst of a global crisis. I’m trapped at home. I’ve been in lockdown since March 2020. The last few years of my life have been one long social exploration. But here I was stuck at home. But there was income rolling in. So what does a creative soul do with that newfound freedom?

I write.

I publish Crazy Dating Stories. I write and publish Angel with a Broken Wing. I publish Phicklephilly 2, and then Sun Stories. I write a hard-boiled detective novel to be published in June. It was a very busy time creatively for me.

But as Autumn approached I could feel the darkness gliding in. All my books were done. There was about a month there where I had nothing to create or work on. My routine was broken.

Now what? I’m worried about my unemployment running out. The stimulus money has dried up. The fear is beginning to seep in. And so is its favorite mate. Depression.

It never got bad, and will never again. I’ve made an agreement with my anxiety and depression to stay in their rooms until further notice. But sometimes they find the keys to their rooms or slip out the door.

I know what to do when they come for me. Eat, get your rest, and make a new routine. But you have to do something to celebrate to drop that dopamine to keep you on the rails.

I think we all have put on a little Covid weight during this idle time. I know I did. I went up a pants size, and once I cut my hair and shaved off my beard I realized I’d chubbed up, but not in a good way.

I should go out and get some exercise. So I started to walk 5 miles a day, every day. It really hurt physically after being sedentary for 7 months. But I would go out and get my breakfast sandwich, and then head toward the Delaware River. It was 5 miles up and back from where I lived. I would create a pattern. I’ll walk different streets every day to keep it interesting. Market, Chestnut, Sansom, Walnut, Locust, and so on. You get the idea.

I did it and it really beat me up. But I kept at it.

Here’s what I found. I started to feel better mentally and physically and got better at both. I could feel the clouds in the sky of my mind beginning to clear.

My brain started to drop the endorphins, serotonin into my system. That stuff works and feels great. It just gave me more energy and a happier state of mind.

Because I felt better I started to want to create again. Something original. Something from my past. That would be easy. You’re not making any new memories, turn inward and search your memories for the stories you wanted to tell before and never could because you were too busy.

And I did.

Once I began writing the deeper stories I was rewarded with dopamine. My favorite drug in the world. I should get the chemical symbol tattooed on my body. The endorphins and serotonin from exercise gave me the happiness and energy to start again. The positive energy to venture into some classic memories locked away in the rooms of my mind.

I started to write and it really started to flow. Once I finished a classic piece I could feel the dopamine dropping, and it lit me up to go on.

So even during this dark time I found a way out of the grey sadness and turned it into a dozen colorful balloons. I’m just going to keep doing this until this pandemic ends.

Hunt’s Pier was reborn in me and I’ve made a solid effort to bring it to you starting this week. It will run every Thursday for the next couple of months.

I hope you like it. I just thought I should check-in and let you know.

If you’re feeling the darkness, there’s always a way to find your way back to the light.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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Truancy – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – Spring, 1977

We followed Martin’s Mill Road out towards Cheltenham. It was interesting to watch all of the N buses pass us by. We knew there were kids in there on their way to Fels and hoped no one who knew us would see us. Just paranoid I suppose. We crossed the bridge over into Cheltenham where I knew there was a train station. I only knew about it because that’s the station where my mom always took us to go downtown.

We went inside and all bought tickets to center city. We then went out to the platform outside to wait for the train. It would be along soon, so we discussed some of the things we wanted to do while we were downtown. We also concocted a story if anybody we ran into asked us why we weren’t in school.

The train arrived and we boarded and found some seats. None of us had ever gone into the city on our own, so we were pretty clueless as to what to do when we got there. The only time any of us had ever been into town was with our parents or on some sort of school trip.

We did end up chatting with a nice couple while we rode the train. We concocted a story that we were going into the city to meet with our parents. We were all cousins and our folks were staying in the city at the Ritz Carlton, and we were coming from our grandmothers. Just some made-up nonsense like that. I don’t know if the couple bought it, but they were nice and we figured if we could fool them, we could fool anybody.

The train soon pulled into Reading Terminal. This is way before it became a farmer’s market and a literal orgy of food and tourist destination.

Home

Today all of the incoming and outgoing trains use Suburban Station at 15th and JFK Blvd. But back in the 70s Reading Terminal was the spot. I remember it being a smelly bum pit of a place. As I walked through the station with my friends, I remembered something my father used to say. He’d tell me I needed to pay attention and do well in school so I didn’t end up like one of the guys in Reading Terminal. Which meant a bum.

Here I was cutting school and going against all that was proper. We didn’t care. We were living in the moment.

We decided we wanted to go visit Billy Penn. His statue stands atop City Hall and was once the tallest building in Philadelphia a long time ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_City_Hall

The skyline back then was far different than the one you see on the homepage of this blog.

We went over to city hall and the admission to go to the top was free! They probably charge for it now but back then you could just get in line and head up to the top. We piled in the elevator with a bunch of other tourists and up we went. It was cool to walk around at the foot of the giant statue atop City Hall. I noticed they had a couple of those coin-op binocular-type machines up there to get a closer look, but we were happy to just be all the way up there with no parents and teachers in sight.

“If I drop a penny from this height and it hits somebody in the head, will it kill them?”

“I don’t think so Dave, but just in case, don’t do it, okay?”

I knew from my love of all things science that a penny wouldn’t have the weight or the velocity to hurt a person if it fell on their head from a great height. But I couldn’t risk us getting in trouble while we were cutting school.

Later, we were just walking around the city and stuffing our heads with soft pretzels. We got to 16th and Chestnut, we saw that there were these older girls standing on the corner handing stuff out. Everybody likes free goodies so we walked up to them. They proceeded to hand each of us little four packs of Merit cigarettes. It must have been a new light brand they were trying to introduce, so what better way than to randomly pass out little packs of smokes to a bunch of teenagers.

It was like the wild west back then. We all bought and smoked cigs and no one ever asked me who the cigarettes were for. EVER. We were always ready to say, “They’re for my mom.” but no one ever asked. They just sold us cigarettes in every store we ever went into. You could get a pack of cigs for .51 cents a pack at Rite Aid! So cheap!

We immediately opened the packs and started smoking the Merits. But when we got to the next corner, we saw a group of different girls doing the same thing. So we went up to them too. We realized that they were on every corner of that whole block so we just walked around the block a few times until we’d gotten around 20 packs of smokes. Yes!

We headed out the Ben Franklin Parkway towards the museum district. We noticed that there was some construction going on at the Academy of Natural Sciences. We all loved that museum because it was one of the fun ones. It had dinosaurs and stuff in it so we had to get in there. We saw that there was a door open on the side and workmen were coming in and out of there. So we waited until no one was looking, slipped under a bunch of ropes and barriers, and got in there.

We’d all been there before on class trips, but when you sneak in and do the museum with your friends it’s just better. You don’t have to stay with your partner, pay attention, stay in line, go over here.. .etc. You just wander.

We had a lovely time in there for a couple of hours looking at all of the exhibits. We checked out some brochures near the exit and noticed something called the Cultural Loop Bus. We decided to hop on that out front of the museum. That bus went straight to the Philadelphia Zoo.

We spent the afternoon looking at all of the animals and enjoyed a nice lunch of hot dogs, french fries, and sodas in the Children’s petting zoo. I remembered going there with my parents as a child. But this sort of thing is always better with your friends. Just absolute freedom. We even rode the monorail!

Remember these? If you had this key, you could put it in the lock on these little green metal boxes they had at each habitat and it would play an audio message about the animals. A brilliant idea for kids!

I think that was the first time I really thought about what the zoo was. When I was little it appeared to be the greatest pet shop in the world where none of the animals were for sale. But when I really thought about it, it seemed more like an animal prison. Here we were a couple of teenage boys who had broken free for a day to go on an adventure, and these animals had been kidnapped from wherever they really lived and dropped off in here. A place where humans can gawk at them while they waste the rest of their lives in cages and glass enclosures. I could suddenly relate to the sad-looking gorilla or the majestic tiger just lying on the equivalent of a bathroom floor behind a piece of tempered glass. It seemed like a horrible, cruel existence. Just knowing you will never escape. Your whole life just the same day over and over again. Not the majestic place in the jungle or the savannah. Just another inmate. It looked very much like Fels Junior High at that moment.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could unlock all of the cages and let all of the animals just run away?”

“That would be awesome, Dave but we’d probably get beaten by our parents and end up in juvenile hall.”

We left the zoo and hopped back on the bus. Once we’re back in the city we found our way back to Reading Terminal. But there were so many trains there. Which one should we get on to get back home? We had no idea.

But then I remembered my mom always said that we needed to get on the Fox Chase train to get back home when we were in town with her. I’m glad I remembered that because we would have ended up getting lost. We got on that train and off we went. I knew we were on the right route because when they called out the Olney stop, I noticed that the train was on a tilt. My mother had also pointed that out to me on one of our trips into town.

We got off at the Cheltenham stop and made our way back to Rising Sun Avenue to get our stuff from out of the bushes of that big house. Happily, all of our stuff was still safely stashed and we collected it. We said our goodbyes and all agreed it had been a great day off from school.

I walked home wearing my bookbag with my umbrella in hand.

“How was school today, Chaz?”

“Good. Happy it’s the weekend.”

“You can put your umbrella in the closet. I’m glad it didn’t rain today.”

Me too, mom. Me too.”

“Go wash up for dinner.”

So I got away with cutting school.

Sort of…

I went to school on Monday but had forgotten to bring the absence note my sister had forged for me. It was still in my desk drawer. But when I got to homeroom, I found out that my teacher had also been absent on Friday. Which meant there was probably a substitute there that day. Maybe no role was taken. Because my teacher never said anything about my absence. So not only was I in the clear, I still had the note that I could use the NEXT time I cut school. Sweet!

A couple of weeks went by without incident. But one day my mom was cleaning my room or looking for contraband and found the note in my desk. She called me out on it.

“What are you planning on doing? Did you get one of your little chippies to write this for you? It’s actually pretty good. They did a good job replicating my handwriting.”

Little chippies? I didn’t have any little chippies. Everyone hated me at school, especially the girls.

I told her she was right, and the note was something one of the chippies made for me if I ever wanted to cut school. I said I was sorry and that I’d never cut school. She confiscated the note and tore it up. Of course, I would never give up my older sister. That would have had catastrophic repercussions on my future in Frankford High next year.

So, technically I pulled it off.

Funny… you’d think a bunch of teenage boys who would cut school would take the opportunity to get into some deviltry. Maybe drink beer, shoplift or smoke pot somewhere. But we didn’t do things like that back then. Beer was for older people and pot was drugs and they were illegal.

We took a Friday off in April and went to the city. We did some sightseeing, went to a museum, and the zoo. Just normal, fun kid stuff.

 

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