Mister Grocer’s

Philadelphia, PA – 1970

One chilly night I was in the VW minibus with my dad and my older sister. He decided to stop at a local convenience store on the way home on Rising Sun Avenue.

The shop was called Mister Grocers and it was an early convenience store. These types of stores would giveaway to later giants like 7-Eleven and Wawa. (Back then Wawa was a dairy farm. Incidentally, Wawa is the native American word for goose.)

I don’t remember why we stopped there but maybe he needed to pick up some cold cuts. My sister and I wandered around the store while he did what he had to do.

I came upon a rotating display rack full of little toys. The ones that caught my eye were these toy cars on little cards. I was checking them all out and they were really cute little cars. So for some reason unknown to me to this day, I stuck one in the pocket of my red baseball jacket.

It was the first time I had ever stolen anything. I don’t even know why I did it. I had plenty of little cars at home. It was almost as if this other power took over and compelled me to shoplift. It was definitely a compulsion. I think this may be a common thing in children that they eventually grow out of.

I remember sitting in the car on the way home and saying how I felt cold so I kept my hands stuffed in the pockets of my jacket. There was no reason for me to say that but I obviously wasn’t a good thief.

We made it home and I went up to my room to get ready for bed. I closed my bedroom door and took out the little car. I ripped open the package and looked at the toy. It was yellow, and not a color car I would have ever wanted, so maybe it was just the thrill of nicking it from the store. I have no idea. I placed the little car in a box among some other stuff in my room that sat on my radiator.

Gama Toys - Wikipedia

I went into the bathroom and got cleaned up for bed, and then headed back to my room. My mother was standing there holding the car and the ripped open package. Did I simply throw the package into the wicker wastebasket in my room? That’s very sloppy. I don’t remember. My room was full of all sorts of toys. How did my mom find this one thing that I just clipped tonight? ESP? I’ve never been able to solve this mystery.

The next thing I know, I’m sitting on the toilet seat and both of my parents are grilling me about where I got this little car. I lied and told them my friend Dave Archut gave it to me. Was this some kind of go-to lie I would use going forward? Probably not if it didn’t work.

It didn’t.

After a few minutes of intense interrogation, I cracked and told them that the package was already ripped in the store and I just took the little car from Mister Grocers.

It would have been awesome had it ended there with a stern scolding. But no… that would not be the order of the day. My mother and father left the room for a moment while I sat there having an anxiety attack on the toilet in my pajamas like a prisoner in the Gulag.

My mother returns with my jacket and slippers. It’s bedtime. We’re going in the wrong direction, mom. But apparently, we were going in the right direction. My father marched me downstairs and took me back out to the minibus and put me in it. I’m shivering as he proceeded to drive us back to Mister Grocers.

I’m terrified and nearly go into paralysis as we pull into the parking lot and there are two police cars parked there.

philadelphia police vehicles from 1969 | Police cars, Old police cars, Philadelphia

I see that, and I’m practically filling my pants in fear. My father tells me to go in with him and what I need to say to the clerk. We get out of the van and head into the store. I can’t believe the cops are on the case of the stolen car already! This is a serious offense. I’m in deep trouble. Grand theft auto? Juvenile Hall? Hard time?

My dad places the car in the ripped-open package in my hands. We walk up to the counter to the clerk behind the counter.

“Go ahead, son.”

“Sir, I took this. It doesn’t belong to me, and I’m sorry.”

Then my father tells me to go stand over there. Of course, I complied because there was no alternative but to obey. I was caught. Nabbed. No longer on the lam. My days of thievery were officially over.

He spoke with the man for a few minutes, and then we left. I don’t remember the conversation in the car on the way home, but I felt really bad but relieved I didn’t have to go with the police.

We never really spoke of it again, but it was a lesson well learned. My days of shoplifting and thinking I could get away with it had begun and ended on the same day.

Philadelphia, PA – 1978

I was 16 years old and shooting pool in my basement with a few of my buddies one evening. I’m sure my buddy Michael Mitchell was there, but I can’t remember who else. Maybe my friend from school Hugh Deissinger. (Yea, we had a pool table) I remember by then, my dad was working at a bank at the shore now and only came home on the weekends. Life was good, and it was a typical Friday night. My dad was cool with us listening to our records on his stereo, and the sounds of Aerosmith, Boston, Kansas, Foreigner, The Cars, ELO, and Peter Frampton filled the air.

My pop had an old wooden desk in the corner where he used to write out the bills and do his thing. That desk and its contents were completely off-limits to us kids because it was all dad/work stuff inside. We had no business touching anything in that desk. I remember going over to it to look for a pen or pencil to write something down that we were talking about.

I pulled open one of the drawers and there was the little toy car from my childhood crimewave days. I pulled it out and held it in my hands for the first time since the night I stole it. Did I have a moment of nostalgic wonder? No, I felt only revulsion for the object because of what it represented.

I told my friends the whole story that I just told you, and they all laughed. I felt better about the whole thing. My dad had paid for it that night back in 1970 to make things right. He righted my wrong with Mister Grocers but never let me have the stolen toy as part of my punishment. I get that, and it was the right thing to do. I didn’t deserve the spoils of my wicked handiwork.

He later told me that when we pulled up to the convenience store that night to return the stolen property, the police cars were there by pure chance. Just a couple of Philly’s finest grabbing a donut and a cup of coffee on the night shift. But he never said anything about it to me to further drive home his point. You steal stuff, the cops can come and haul you off to jail.

Well played, dad. Well played.

But what became of the little toy car?

That night that I accidentally found it and told the guys about it, was to be its final appearance. I took it from its package and placed it on the pool table. We then proceeded to blast billiard balls into it until it was smashed to bits.

I never said anything else about it and my dad never asked. I’m sure by then he’d forgotten about the little car in the drawer, but I’m sure not the incident.

Don’t take things that don’t belong to you!

 

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

Back The Tracks – Part 1 – Forts

Philadelphia, PA – Early 1970s

As a kid, we all loved our toys. Toys were our stuff. Toys were exclusively for kids. Parents had no use for them. When I misbehaved my dad would take things away from me. No TV, or take away certain toys. To me, this made no sense. I loved TV and toys, but without either of them, I always found something else to do. I had just as much fun with found items or making stuff. I could be just as happy with nothing as long as I could go out and play in the big lot at the end of our street. It was full of rocks, weeds, and bushes.

At the far end of the lot was a solitary tree that we fashioned into somewhat of a treehouse. It was really just a few long two by fours we found and stretched across a few of the limbs to make the ledger boards. We drove a bunch of nails into the limbs and then placed any boards we could find for the floor. It didn’t have any sides. It was simply a platform about 20 feet off the ground. We found some shorter bits of wood and nailed them into the trunk so you had something to grab onto and put your feet on to climb up and down to the platform above. It stood at the edge of the lot at the top of an embankment that led down to the railroad tracks.

Sitting in the treehouse just felt good. You were with your friends and safe from anything approaching on the ground. It’s an ancient feeling that washes over you. I’m sure primitive man did the same thing to escape ground-dwelling predators. It also gave you an advantage over your enemies. We always kept a box of rocks up there in case we were ever invaded. No one’s going to attempt to take your fortress if you have potentially lethal projectiles. We never needed them, but it was comforting to know you had them, just in case.

In Carl Sagan’s book, The Dragons of Eden, he stated that there was a theory that when you’re in your bed at night and just about fall asleep, you sometimes feel that sudden jump. He thought that it was a primitive mechanism that was in place to stop us from falling out of the trees as early hominids. When you’re a kid, it seems to occur with greater frequency but could be a long lost survival safeguard. But as children, we just loved to climb up on things. Old instinct? Maybe.

We’d built many forts over the years when we were kids. We kind of liked having several places we could go to hang out whenever we were wandering in the woods across the railroad tracks. Numerous little campsites that were exclusively ours.

One day, we were back in the lot. There was a fence that went all the way around the Peerless Steel factory back there. There was the fence, and along it was a dirt path. If you walked about thirty feet along the fence, at the edge of a hill was suddenly a small fort built there. It had almost appeared that it had gone up overnight. We were a bunch of 9 and 10-year-old kids. It had four walls and a roof. On the ground were pieces of old carpet so you could sit down. It was better than anything we’d ever seen. We figured some bigger kids had constructed it. We knew that older boys would go back the tracks at night and drink beer and smoke weed. It was really the only place to hide in my neighborhood. It was a really nice community, but full of watchful eyes. So they must have constructed it at night. Of course, being the curious boys we were, we went inside and hung out.

Such a primitive thing. A small tribe finds shelter in a place made by bigger more advanced beings. Empty beer cans and bottles littered the area. We would collect the bottles and cans and take them down the embankment to the railroad tracks below so we could set them up and play target practice with them. The trackbed was full of grey stones. So there was an endless supply of ammo to throw at the bottles and break them.

One afternoon we were sitting in the fort and a big kid appeared at the door. It startled us all and we were a bit intimidated by this formidable figure. He told us the fort belonged to him and his friends. We immediately told him we meant no harm and would vacate the premises immediately, but he sensed our fear and respect and told us to keep an eye on it for them. Of course, we accepted the job. We told him we’d clear all of the trash out so if there were any cops or railroad detectives around they wouldn’t find anything. When I think about it now, the older guy seemed like a man, but when you’re 10, a 16-year-old looks like an adult to you.

We played back in the lot and on the railroad tracks all the time. It was our place. No parents ever went back there. Think about how different things were back then. Today most children have organized play in sporting events and teams. They have video games that would have seemed like science fiction to us in the 70s. They wear all sorts of protective gear just to ride their bicycles. We had none of that. It was just your young hide against the elements. There were plenty of injuries back then. Who would let their kids today go play back in a vacant lot, wander through the woods, and play on railroad tracks? You’d be labeled a neglectful parent. But we loved it back there.

About a mile south, there was a church at the top of the hill where Levick Street crossed over the railroad tracks into Cheltenham. Behind its parking lot was a vacant lot. Sort of a landfill. It was just tons of broken rocks and cement that created a cliff on the edge of the woods. We moved some of the rocks and cleared a small enclosure we could get inside to call a fort. It was fun to dislodge giant stones that probably weighed 800 lbs. with our feet, and push them down the side of the hill. There was a certain triumph in being able to collectively move and object of such weight as kids. The joy of watching the boulder roll down the hill like it was all happening in a Road Runner cartoon. Once a space was cleared, we’d claim it as one of our many forts. The Rock Fort was born. We had found some boards and covered the small shelter so it had a roof. Of course, we’d carve out a hole in the dirt wall for the fireplace. My friend Michael had found an old rack from an oven in the trash and we shoved it in the wall over the fire pit. One morning my friend RJ, showed up with an open box of frozen Canadian bacon. I had never heard of that but I was willing to try it. We stuck the patties onto whittled sticks of wood and held them over the fire in our little fort until they sizzled. They were quite good actually, and we really felt like true mountain men that day. I wondered if RJ’s mother ever noticed them missing from her freezer.

Another style of fort we had back then was to dig a hole in the middle of the woods. We would carve out a space about eight feet square and maybe three feet deep. We’d take pieces of the roof from a broken dugout from the ballfields above the woods to make our roof. I liked the idea of the corrugated fiberglass. It was sturdy enough to stand on and any rain could be channeled and runoff during inclement weather. We’d find bits of old carpet from people’s trash and line the floor of the fort. As I said, it was only three feet deep, so you had to lie down in there. I used to love the idea of being in my little Bomb Shelter Fort. It felt safe in there. You could smell the soil in the air of the place. That rich dark clay smell of the earth around you. I would lie on my back in there with my friend and we’d read digest editions of the old EC Mad comics. These were in paperback and black and white reprints of the old comics before there was a Mad magazine.

We’d cover the corrugated roof with soil, rocks, and leaves so the fort was completely camouflaged. No one could see or find the place unless you knew where it was in the woods. It was actually comforting to have my back on the carpet knowing the only thing below me was the Earth itself. No wooden floor. No basement or foundation of a house. Just dirt. If I lifted the old bit of carpet under me and kept digging long enough, I’d hit China.

We had a bunch of forts back them. We always had the treehouse, that was ours, but sometimes we’d venture away down the path past the big kid’s fort, and just hang out behind a big mound of dirt on the side of the railroad tracks. There were plenty of trees and it was just a chill hiding spot.

We called that hangout spot The Dirt Fort. Beyond that about thirty feet away was a lower area that was a nice flat piece of land under a single big tree. We called it The Flat Fort, and let the girls have that space. Of course, they always want to do the cool stuff that boys came up with, so we sublet that bit of real estate to my sister and her friends.

These weren’t really forts per se, they were just little spots by the tracks we liked to hang out in.

One day there was a group of us down in the Flat Fort. I think it was me, my sister Janice, Margie, her brother Michael and my friend RJ. (I think!) We were all just hanging out chatting when this man wandered up. He looked like he was maybe in his twenties. He was skinny and had a t-shirt on and a pair of shorts and sneakers. We greeted the stranger, and he asked us if we had seen anyone else around the area. We told him we hadn’t. The first thing I noticed about him was how his eyes darted about when he spoke. Nobody I knew did that when they spoke. He stated that he was looking for his friends with whom he was out jogging. I was thinking who would go jogging back here by the railroad tracks? Bad place to twist an ankle on all of the irregular ground. He asked again if we had seen any of his friends because they were wearing shorts like his. Then he proceeded to pull down his pants. He had what appeared to be underwear on, but left his shorts down around his thighs and kept talking. We were all getting pretty weirded out at this point and told him again we hadn’t seen anybody else back here. We had him terribly outnumbered, so he pulled up his shorts and moved on.

We all immediately left the area and went straight home and told our parents. I’m glad the incident didn’t go any further and the guy just seemed odd and maybe just what he did in front of us was enough to satisfy his whatever. But after that, the mothers forbade the girls from going down there anymore. Just the boys. Kinda sucked because we didn’t mind having them around that much. But it’s funny how just the girls had to stay away. Like young boys couldn’t get molested too? I’m just glad nothing happened.

There was one other similar incident once when my friend Michael and I were just hanging out on the corner of Magee and Hasbrook Aves. I don’t remember how old we were but we were pretty young. We were both sitting in a wagon. It was right on the corner near our houses. Some guy rolled up on a motorcycle and stopped to chat with us. He seemed cool and we liked his bike. I don’t remember what we were all chatting about but at one point he asked us if we wanted him to pull down his pants. We immediately knew that was weird and got the heck out of there. He rode off but we went and told Michael’s dad about it. We never saw that perv again either.

Can’t be too careful out there, kids.

Part 2 of Back the Tracks will publish next Thursday.

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

Wildwood Daze – Kites – Part 2

So I needed another kite. I knew my mom wouldn’t spring for it. So I used what little allowance I had to get another one.

It had to be this:

The Baby Bat! This was a cool kite. Probably the coolest kite Gayla ever made. Black, with flaming eyes, and the lower edges looked like real bat wings. It too was only a dollar.

I loved my new, cool black kite. The eyes were stickers you had to put on yourself, so the spacing had to be perfect upon application. You didn’t want your bat looking cross eyed or weird. It needed to be cool and menacing.

In hindsight, I think the better name for this kite would have been the Manta Ray, because it better resembles a ray than a bat. Just saying…

Our next idea was to buy more twine. Let’s connect two or more spools of twine and make the tether even longer than 200 feet. Let’s go for 400 feet of string. It became less about the simple whimsy of flying a kite as a restful activity, and more about let’s see what these kites can withstand.

But, this is what boys do. Let’s just see how far we can take an idea before something breaks, or we’re injured. As kids we used to engage in activities that endangered our health and welfare on a daily basis.

It was called the 70’s! Nobody wore seat belts in the car, and nobody wore helmets when they rode their bikes. It was like the wild west back then. Look at jaw breakers candies. Perfect choking hazard for any child. But when you’re young all you ever think of is “I”.  I’ll be fine. I’m Indestructible. I’m Immune. I’m Immortal. You never think anything you do will have any consequences, until you start seeing kids wearing casts on their arms and legs for broken bones.

Good times!

So, I tied the string together, and wound the second spool of 200 feet of string to the first one. Now I had 400 feet of tether. My kite will go higher than ever! My kite is going to go so high, a plane or even a helicopter could crash into it. Now that would be a spectacular day of fun for a couple of boys. Nothing like causing a good old-fashioned air disaster to get the blood up.

We head down to the beach with my new Baby Bat kite and a giant spool of string. The wind is up and blowing north. We follow the path through the bushes to the open beach.

Once there, we let it rip. The string is going out like mad and the kite is rising high into the twilight sky. The sea air is invigorating as I watch as my great ebony vessel rises higher and higher. I decide to place both of my index fingers into the ends of the spool and just let that sucker spin. The cylinder of twine is a blur in my hands as the line goes out like mad. It’s as if I have a fish on the line. (That, or a giant bat!)

The bat is going so high, it’s getting smaller and smaller. Soon it’ll be just an inkblot in the sky. I’ll have flown the highest kite ever!

Now, you have to keep tension on the line so that the kite stays up. If that pressure is off the kite could fall. But the wind is carrying my kite higher than I’ve ever seen a kite go. The spool spins on my fingers.

The line… still going out.

Once it reaches the end, it’ll stop, and the kite will soar even higher. 400 feet is just seconds away! My beautiful brand new kite soars like a bird.

But that didn’t happen.

What I failed to realize was that the string on these spools isn’t tied to the spool. It’s simply wrapped around it by a machine when it’s manufactured.

The final feet of the twine go out, and I’m left standing with what would be equal to an empty role of toilet paper in my hand.

The kite is so high it continues to fly. But it’s so far away and we’re on a beach, so I can’t even see the string as it slips away at high speed. I watch as my brand new  Baby Bat flies away on it’s first, and final mission. My friend is laughing hysterically as we watch the kite fly over the channel as it heads out to sea.

It probably crashed somewhere across the channel in Stone Harbor, five miles away.

So, that was the end of that kite.

I owned a few more Baby Bats that summer. I think it was my favorite kite design. Most were destroyed in sky battles or tangled in electrical lines and lost. I remember my mom saying, “You went through a kite a week that summer!”

Ahh, what a grand time we had as children each summer. Living by the sea, in the sunshine, and getting our exercise. Those experiences build strong, healthy minds and bodies. Better than any video game you could imagine.

One night, there was a land breeze from the west and my friend and I were flying the latest kite. It was a red Sky Raider.

Exciting fun for all ages! Boys, girls, and apparently old guys who smoked pipes! (for only one dollar!)

We were sitting up in the lifeguard chair. Which is the coveted spot to sit on the beach at night. You’re probably 7 feet in the air and it definitely feels like a position of power for a couple of kids.

Ogunquit Beach Lifeguard Chair at Sunrise Ogunquit Maine Photograph by Toby McGuire

I got tired of holding  the string of my kite, so I tied it to the chair. The red kite sailed high over the Atlantic Ocean. Normally you don’t stay long on the beach during the day when there’s a land breeze. It brings all of the green  flies from the bay to the beach. They aren’t like the annoying pests you get in your house in the summertime. These suckers are bigger and ‘bite like horses’, as my dad would say. But by nightfall they’re usually gone.

So my buddy and I are just chilling in the lifeguard chair and chatting. We’re watching the red kite as it flies and dips over the sea. But at some point, the wind died down, and the kite vanished below the waves. At that point we didn’t feel like hauling in all of that wet sandy string, so we just broke the string and let it drift away. I remember before it sank it looked like a big red shark’s dorsal fin before it slipped away.

Another dollar and a half well spent. Taken by Neptune.

I wanted to change up my game. I needed a better kite.

I had heard from one of the other kids that there was a bigger and better kite that was made by Gayla. It looked like the Sky Raider, but it was bigger and had a metal controller you held to maneuver your kite.

Kind of looked like this, but much bigger. It had a six foot wing span. It was called…

The Invader!

Rare 1962 vintage Gayla kite The Invader Kites with box | #1821116875

I had to have it. It cost a whopping six dollars!

I scraped together what little allowance money and change I had to get that kite. It was bigger than any kite on the beach, and it had the cool metal controller included. I scampered over to the store and bought it.

I quickly assembled my great bird and was ready for action. The controller is simply a wire frame shaped like an hourglass that you hold horizontally like an airplane controller. (Don’t get too excited. Think, cheap-ass, coat hanger bent into a metal bow tie.)

Flying Fish Kiting Team: Radcliffe Conversion

You actually needed two spools of twine to operate the kite properly. They were both hooked to the controller and the other ends were attached at two different points on the kite’s brindle. This is so you could steer and maneuver your amazing kite.

I was about to become the Lord of the Skies in Wildwood.

I made sure the string was securely tied to each spool before I hand wound them both back onto each cylinder. I affixed the ends of each cord to the appropriate spots on the kite.

I was ready.

We took my vinyl Phoenix to the beach for it’s maiden voyage to the heavens. The wind was blowing from the south which was perfect. This way, if anything happened it wouldn’t crash in the sea. It would land on the beach north of where we were standing.

I slowly let out the string, and my great winged toy was carried upward. It looked enormous. Some people who were still on the beach at dusk, looked on with pride and amazement at the kid with the amazing kite.

I was so proud as I watched it sail higher and higher. Such an enormous pull on the strings. Huge kite. More wind resistance coupled with great aerial strength and elegance. My beautiful winged beast flying high. It’s glorious six foot wing span, like some great albatross, controlled only by my willing hands. I held the controller and watched as my kite flew higher and higher. We were coming to the end of the string.

This was it.

That moment where the line would become taut and the kite would fly even higher on the tension of the lines. I would proudly steer it along the beach as startled onlookers watched the glory of my passing.

The Sky King.

The Invader!

The anticipation was exhilarating as the end of the spools approached. Within seconds, the strings went taut.

The force was so great it yanked the controller from my tiny hands.

I watched in mute protest as the controller flew from my grasp and bounced down the beach.

My friend and I gave chase. Running as fast as we could in an attempt to catch the bouncing metal frame as it bounded down the beach. It had enough weight to keep the kite aloft, but was light enough to escape from us.

We eventually ran out of energy as the kite flew further and further away.

Another kite had made its escape. It would probably crash like the last on the other side of the channel in Stone Harbor.

My kite…

Snatched from my hands like my fleeting childhood.

 

I’ll always look back on my times at the shore with fond memories. Some of my greatest moments happened on that sandy stage.

 

Here’s a great song that serves as a soundtrack to this story.

 

Here’s one gentleman’s obsession:

http://gaylakitememories.blogspot.com/2012/07/introduction.html

 

Why couldn’t this have happened to us?

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

My new books, Phicklephilly 2 and Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon are now for sale on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

 

Wildwood Daze – Kites – Part 1

Back in the early seventies the world was a different place. Kids played outside. The only time you stayed in was when it rained. That meant playing board games, and dealing with your sisters and brothers.

When we were children we were always coming up with creative things to do. No one had any money, there were no video games, cell phones,  internet, or social media. We could spend a whole day making boats out of whatever we could find, and watching them float down nearby Tookany Creek. We spent so many wonderful hours playing in the woods.

One day, my friend RJ and I found some old trash bags. We tied strings to them and attempted to make kites out of them. We were probably 9 or 10 years old at the time. There was a vacant lot at the end of our street that served as an entrance to the factory, Peerless Steel. We were always hanging out in that lot because it lead to the railroad tracks and beyond that, the woods. We began our foray into the world of flight in that vacant lot.

RJ and I were a couple of creative kids. We were always making things. We had high hopes for our experiments. It was a windy day and that was probably our inspiration. We tied the string to the bags and attempted to make them fly. We thought with a bit of a breeze, our creations would become aloft. But without any knowledge of aerodynamics, our trash bag kites were merely crappy, trash parachutes.

They twisted in the wind and spent more time on the ground than in the air. We continued to modify the design of our bag kites, but to no avail. Once the bags were snagged in the barb wire on the fence that surrounded the factory, we abandoned our experiments.

 

Each summer after 1970, my family stayed at our summer home on 8th street in North Wildwood, New Jersey. Living a block and a half from the beach, there were plenty of places for kids to play. The kid who was my age who lived next door became my summer friend. He and I spent a great deal of time together.

The year was probably 1972.

Over on 10th street, was a grocery/variety store called Botto’s. One day, my sister and I were over there with my mother. They sold all of the things you’d need for your time at the shore. Groceries, snacks, candy, soda, sundries, and beach toys. The usual seashore corner store fare.

But we noticed a box among the other products that held kites! They were made by a company called, Gayla and were rolled up in long cellophane packages. We both picked out the ones we liked and my mom got them for us. Back then, each kite cost a dollar. The twine was probably a quarter or .39 cents. So, not much of an investment for what could be a world of fun.

Janice picked out a blue one, because that was her favorite color. It was called Sting-A-Ree. It resembled a stingray, with cute eyes on it. Here’s a photo I found which will give you an idea what these kites looked like, and also that attractive price point.

I got a white one, called Sky Spy. It had big flaming eyes on it and I dug it’s bright, menacing intensity.

The one in this picture must be a later model, because my kite was the same size as my sister’s with the standard 3 foot wing span. (Also, only one dollar!)

Like it says on my sister’s kite’s packaging, it was literally ready to fly in seconds! Each kite came with a wooden dowel that you placed the ends into the kite horizontally to create the cross spar. You tied one end of the string through a reinforced hole in the brindle. (Which is the triangular guide piece that extends forward from the spine of the kite. Once that was done, all you needed was a good breeze. Kite flying is fun!

Of course, my friend next door immediately got one as well. I don’t remember which design he went with. Possibly a yellow one called, Sky Raider. But I could be wrong. It doesn’t matter.

So we kids would go to the beach in the evenings when all of the tourists were gone, and fly our kites on the beach. I liked that it was still light at night so you could see, but the heat of the day was gone. The cool breeze rolled in from the sea, but the sand was still warm under your bare feet.

My sister Janice never seemed to have any problems getting her kite in the air, and the blue Sting-A-Ree glided through the air with the greatest of ease.

Of course, my friend and I being boys were always having problems. Strings getting tangled, and kites colliding in mid-air. Kites getting hung up in electrical wires, or crashing into the bushes on the dunes.

I think trying to make kites out of trash bags was a creative way to play. Creativity is the highest form of intelligence, and can’t be taught. Funny, how all the stuff you learn in school is just memorizing the memories and words of others who have come before you. History written and spun by the winners.

Kids back then had to find their own fun to keep from getting bored. Making things filled the time, and lit up our young minds. But flying store bought, manufactured kites was easy. As long as the wind was blowing, these kites would take right off, no problem. They looked really cool flying in the air high above our heads. You simply let out the string, and the spool it was wrapped around spun out and the kite rose higher and hire like a bird. You held the string, hoping it wasn’t to windy, because if the string went out too fast it would burn your fingers as it went. (I guess that’s why they had the parental notice for 8 and up on the package.)

But for young boys, once your kite’s in the air, it’s a little boring. So, we of course devised ways to make the experience more interesting.

One of the things we did was, once the kite was fully aloft, we’d pull a special move. Realizing if the line was slack, the kite would fall. Without the tension on the string, the kite would tumble back to earth. That defeats the purpose of flying a kite. But… what we started to do was this. I would place the spool under my arm and hold it tightly in place. Then I would start to pull on the string. I would haul it in arm over arm, and the string would pool at my feet. All the while keeping tension on the line. Once I had about 40 or 50 feet of string in a pile at my feet, I would grab the spool from under my arm and let go of the twine in my hand. This would release the tension on the kite and it would start to fall. Well, not just fall, sort of nose dive toward the ground. The string on the ground would rapidly go out, being pulled by the falling kite in the wind. But there was still no tension. Once the string ran out, and the line tension returned, the kite would once again soar back up into the sky.

Exciting!

It was really about how much wind you had blowing, and how much string you pulled down onto the ground in front of you. It was cool to watch the kite begin to fall from the sky like a plane that had been shot down. The slack line would go out, and once it hit tension again, that sucker would shoot back into the sky before it hit the ground. The key was to let it fall as far as it could and as close to the ground as possible before it took off again. (Even if you had to run in the opposite direction to get the tension back in the line!)

This was super fun and exciting to watch the kite fall aimlessly towards a potential crash, and at the last minute take off again. It was glorious to witness. But more times than not, the kite never recovered, and would crash and be destroyed in the bushes two hundred feet away.

My buddy would always volunteer to go get the fallen vessel. He had the most amazing callouses on the balls of his feet from being barefoot all summer. I mean, this dude was like an Indian with those feet of his. He could step on broken glass and not get cut. I think he did it to show off, but I was happy I didn’t have to trudge through the bushes and dunes on my tender tootsies. (I once watched him put out a cigarette with his bare foot as a teen.)

Fun to watch, but risky. There’s nothing worse than trudging through two blocks worth of heavy bushes loaded with mosquitoes, flies, and whatever else was alive in there to retrieve your fallen kite. You would hold the line, and simply follow the string to your fallen toy. More times than not, the kite was irreparably damaged in the crash. A tangle of string and ripped vinyl. If the wooden dowel snapped, your day of flying kites was terminated. All in the name of your own foolish quest for young boy thrills.

But… when it worked, and your kite flew back up with seconds to spare, it was an amazing thrill. An exciting rush. Cheering, we felt like stunt pilots.

But was that thrilling enough for a couple of 10-year-olds?

You’d think it would be.

But no…

It wasn’t.

We began to have air battles with our kites. It was cool to watch them crash into each other. Most of the time they would get tangled together and crash back to earth. But then we came up with the idea to tape a long carpenter’s nail to the nose of the kite.

So this for boys was like strapping sharp spikes to a rooster’s legs to inflict more damage on his opponent during a cockfight. Think about it. Kites are boring. They look pretty floating through the air, but for 10-year-old boys, that’s boring. Let’s have full on, air battles with metal spikes. Now it’s fun! We have goals. Those nails will do some serious damage!

The order of the day… Destroy your opponent’s kite at all costs.

Due to our destructive nature, my Sky Spy was destroyed after a week, and so was my friend’s kite. But we had fun doing it. We still liked flying kites as something to do at night on the beach.

We headed back to Botto’s to get new kites. All the while, Janice’s kite flew unhindered high above us all.

 

More tomorrow!

 

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

Listen to Phicklephilly LIVE on Spotify!

The COVID Quarantine Is Scarily Similar to the First 30 Years of My Life

Here is a piece written by a friend of mine. It’s incredibly revealing, and I never knew this about her. I can understand why. She’s shown incredible courage and patience growing up in that situation. I think we all take for granted how ‘normal’ most of our childhoods were. I’m happy she’s in my life, and honored I had the opportunity to work with her. This is one case where the cypress not only grew in the shadow of the oak, but actually flourished.

https://medium.com/@jackierupp215/the-covid-quarantine-is-scarily-similar-to-the-first-30-years-of-my-life-ca2da29d9906

 

View at Medium.com

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

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com