Back The Tracks – Part 6 – The Pink Inferno

Philadelphia, PA – Mid 70s

My friend Michael and I were hanging out in one of our forts just chilling one afternoon. We’re just chatting and watching the trains roll by. We noticed some other kids who we didn’t know across on the other side playing around with matches. We figured just a couple of firebugs like us.

But stuff starting to catch a little bit and we decide to investigate. They were a little younger than we were, so we felt a bit of hierarchy there, (plus this was our territory, We had forts!) We crossed the tracks to go talk to them.

Growing all along that side of the tracks on the Cheltenham side were these pink colored weeds. We knew most of the plant life around the area because we had all come home at one time or another with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Pretty, gross. I had it all over my arms once and not only does it burn and itch it creates these little pustules on your skin that burst into tiny yellow crusty sores. Yea, the woods are fun. We tell them to watch out for the pink weeds because they’re really flammable. We’d used them before to help get our little campfires going. But these idiots are just doing what they want and before we know it, the pink weeds start to burn.

Pink Muhly Grass | Naturehills.com

Normally the tribe just take off their jackets and beat down the flames. That usually worked for us, but it’s getting a little bigger. At one point somebody says, “Does anybody have to take a wicked piss?”

No one did, so that solution was struck down. Fire on dry weeds start to spread, and somebody had the brilliant idea to pick up this big slab of wood the size of a door and say: “This will put it out,” thinking that will crush and extinguish the flames. Normally that could work, but what it did as it fell, was create this burst of air that landed on the main fire, but blew the flames out all around it. Now the fire was 5 times bigger.

There’s a moment when boys realize they’ve lost control of a particular situation. At that point, there is only one solution. And that my friend, is to RUN like Hell.

Michael and I knew the fire was out of control and bigger than anything we’d ever seen. If we ran back across the tracks and headed home, neighbors would see the two of us, walking away or running away from a blazing fire and billows of grey smoke coming from where we just were. We’d totally be blamed because the other kids simply vanished at some point heading south.

So thinking quickly, Mike and I ran west across the old ball fields. They led to the woods we were very familiar with, and we just kept going. We ran through the woods in terror not looking back. We were so frightened and paranoid we’d go to jail for being framed for arson and burning down the woods, we just kept running. There was a path that ran along Tookany Creek. I told Micheal we shouldn’t take it because if they put together a search party, they’d look on the path, and what if they brought dogs? We were so just so scared. Our fear had hit hyperdrive. I came up with the idea that we should slide down the embankment on the creek edge, and follow the creek south as far as we could. No one could see us from the woods down there.

I remember back then we referred to Tookany Creek as, “The Crik.”

We made our way along the creek bank for about a half-mile, stepping on stones making our way along the creek out of sight. We got pretty far down until we came upon a small waterfall, so we knew where we were. We climbed up the embankment and got back on the path.

I remember, while down there making our way along the creek I found an old metal helmet. It was underwater, banged up, rusted, and looked pretty old. It was round with a wide brim and I knew it didn’t look like a modern army helmet I’d seen soldiers wearing in movies or Vietnam footage. We figured it was maybe from the Civil War. Our young minds conjured up battles fought a hundred years ago between the North and South. A helmet lost in combat right in the woods on the edge of our neighborhood.

But we’ll get back to that.

We walked up Levick street which was a huge hill. Not as high as Martin’s Mill road but a solid climb. We got to the bridge that went over the tracks and climbed under it. There was a cool space where you could sit under the overpass out of sight. Just a moment of repose to gather our thoughts and plan our next move. It’s funny when you’re a kid you think you find all of these cool hiding spots around your neighborhood. But, there’s always evidence somewhere to show you that you weren’t the first ones there. I’m sure kids had been hanging and drinking under that bridge for years.

Still scared to death, I said we should walk east on Levick street until we got to Rising Sun Avenue. We got to the corner of Levick and Rising Sun and headed north along the avenue. We strolled along, fanning our jackets trying to get the smoke smell out of them.

Once we got to our street, we turned left on Magee Avenue. We casually walked up to Oakley street and then down our block. This way, if anything was going on it would look like we were just two innocent little boys who were coming from the opposite direction to whatever destruction had occurred. As we approached my house we saw the white Cheltenham firetrucks sitting over by where the fire had been. There was smoke still billowing up from a very large section of the pink weeds that had been decimated by the fire.

We went into my house through the back door and I ran the old helmet up to my room. I came back downstairs and Michael and I peeked out the front porch side window at what was going on over there. Our parents would have skinned us alive and left us for dead in a ditch somewhere if they thought we had any part of something where the Cheltenham Fire Department had to come and put it out.

Michael and I never talked about what had happened that day for a long time, but later when we told the story it was always good for a laugh.

Oh, and that helmet I found…

When my mom saw the rusty helmet in my bedroom, I told her I found it in the creek. (Not a lie, even though it was connected to a two-alarm blaze!) She knew my friends and I were a bunch of trash pickers so she never raised an eyebrow. It looked worthless like many of the things we found.

I sprayed it gloss black, and painted a German Iron Cross on it. I just thought it looked cool like that. It sat on the radiator of my bedroom for years until I agreed to lend it to my sister for some play she and her classmates were putting on. I told her I wanted it back when they were finished their little show, but I never saw it again after that. I think some little weasel absconded my helmet. I was a little salty that my cool helmet was gone. Had someone realized it was an authentic relic from the Civil War and sold it for a bunch of money?  But, I was so busy in my life by then I pretty much forgot about that.

Turns out it was only a doughboy style, early World War II Civil Defense Helmet.  Sounds like an impressive collectible, but you can buy helmets like the one I found today that are in better shape for about $40 on eBay.

ORIGINAL EARLY WWII CIVIL DEFENSE HELMET - OD DOUGHBOY STYLE

So, no harm done Sis.

Tune in next Tuesday for, Wildlife and Evil Pets

And Thursday for,  Back the TracksThe Journey to Metamorphosis

 

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 4 – Railroad Detective

One afternoon I was with my friend Paul, and we were walking around the woods and the train tracks. Whenever a freight train went past we’d always throw stones at the boxcars just to see if we could hit them and watch them bounce off. That one boxcar is 30 tons. That’s 60,000 pounds. A rock hitting that is like a fly bouncing off a car door. I’ve touched a boxcar close up. It feels like a stone wall.

We had entered the tracks by way of Passmore street. Passmore was a little street that had a steep incline that ended in a roundabout at the bottom. Beyond the end of the street was a stone wall. You could climb over the wall to the right next to where a fence began. Once over the wall, you could see the railroad tracks. But if you looked to your left there was an embankment that led down to some sort of water drainage area. The water was shallow and full of rocks. There was a stone tunnel that went under the tracks and led off to a large, round stone pit. You’d see the occasional rat running around back there in the rocks. Beyond that was the woods that led through to Tookany Creek.

After doing a little bit of research, I found out that the word “Tookany” is actually derived from “Tacony,” which is derived from the term “Towacawonick,” which means “uninhabited place” or “woods” in the language of the Lenni Lenape American Indians (Unami Language) The place we all played was once inhabited by people that had been here for a long time before our ancestors ever arrived here. I always wondered what those kids were like.

Think of this sort of tunnel but with shallow water running through it.

Bridgehunter.com | BO - Tunnel No. 6

None of us knew why it was there. I’m assuming that maybe because Passmore street ended in a steep hill, it was once used for drainage and sewage removal many years ago.

There were all sorts of graffiti on the walls and bits of detritus everywhere. My all-time favorite bit of graffiti sprayed on that wall was the following joke:

“Dick Hertz was here.”

“Who’s Dick Hertz?”

“Mine does.”

I’d seen graffiti before but I always liked that someone took the time to write something funny that would give boys a chuckle whenever they came through the area.

I remember one night, Buddy Drew, (I’m pretty sure he lived on Passmore street) came running up to us and told us to come and see something wonderful happening on his street. My friend Michael and I walked over there in the rain. Parked on the corner of Passmore and Newtown Avenue was a long black limousine. I looked in through the tinted window and could see an 8 track tape of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti in the player. We peeked through the bushes of the house where Buddy told us the magic was happening. I could see the celebrity through the window chatting with his cousin, (or, sister?)Miss Tallerico.

It was Steven Tyler.

Anyway… back to the story.

So we’re throwing rocks and just doing the things boys do. But one of the unspoken rules was that no one I knew would ever throw a rock at a passenger train. We just didn’t do it for obvious reasons.

I remember my mother telling me once she was sitting on the train one day headed into the city when she suddenly heard a loud bang, and when she looked down her whole lap was covered in tiny bits of broken glass. Passenger train windows are like automobile windows in that respect. They don’t shatter creating big pieces because they’re a piece of transparent tough flexible plastic inside the window. So if it breaks it busts into little nonlethal bits and the window technically doesn’t break a hole in it. Some idiot obviously threw a rock and that was the outcome. So stone-throwing at passenger trains was a big no-no in my neighborhood. It just wasn’t a cool thing to do because somebody could get hurt.

So, later we returned back to the treehouse at the end of the lot near my house. We just sat there doing our thing. Paul had to go home so he ended up climbing down and headed out.

A little while later I decided it was time to go home a well. So I started walking up the lot toward Hasbrook Avenue. When this black car slowly pulled up out of Newtown avenue and into the lot, blocking my path. A man got out and wasn’t wearing a uniform or anything.

I had heard of railroad detectives through local schoolboy lore. But I didn’t think they were real. Well, apparently they were and still are. But there was a part of me that thought this guy might be a pervert that molests kids. We knew about the whole stranger danger thing even back then. I also wondered why this guy showed up now. It had been hours later, and I was now alone.

Chuck Malloy Railroad Detective on the Streamliner by McClusky, Thorp: Fair Hardcover (1938) 1st Edition | Frank Hofmann

He started asking about me and my friend throwing rocks at trains. So he must have seen us when we were all the way down by Passmore street. I was pretty nervous about the whole situation and explained that we would never throw rocks at passenger trains and were just doing a little target practice. I don’t know if this guy was just doing his job, or being a dick, or indeed a pervert.

But he pulls out this pad and pen and starts asking me questions. He asked my name and my address and my phone number and a bunch of other standard questions, but I remember him asking me other stuff like did I go to church and stuff of that source. That’s what seemed weird about the whole thing.

He ended up letting me go and didn’t do anything to me, but I was just scared that he’d call or come around my house and tell my parents. I just didn’t need one more thing for my dad to knock me around.

But that memory always stuck with me, and I never heard of it happening to any other boys I knew at the time. Just a weird day in the life of a kid.

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

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How to Plan a Date to Knock the Socks Off Anyone You Want to Impress

You’ve got yourself a date—great news! Now the reality sets in of what you must do, how to plan a date to remember! It’s all in the creativity…

A great date isn’t about huge amounts of money spent. It’s not about doing something crazy and out there. No, knowing how to plan a date to remember is about being creative, thinking of something fun, and being yourself. It’s really that easy!

Most of us panic when it comes to planning a first date. We’re so high on the energy of them actually agreeing to go out with us. Then, the panic of what to actually do on the date dawns on us.

The good news is that understanding how to plan a date to remember isn’t really about needing huge amounts of time or cash. It’s about thinking outside the box.

How to plan a date to remember: The dos and don’ts

Let’s explore this subject a little more deeply, and touch upon the dos and don’ts of a great date.

#1 Do avoid checking your phone. Okay, you might need to leave your phone on just in case of an emergency, but do not keep checking the damn thing! There is nothing more annoying than not being present. Your date will notice it and wonder whether you’re wishing you were somewhere else.

Think about how you would feel if your date was doing the same. Incidentally, if they are, it’s probably time to find another date altogether!

#2 Don’t stick with the regular routineDinner and drinks? Boring! Cinema? No time to talk! Rather than sticking with the regular tried and tested routines, when it comes to knowing how to plan a date well, the best tips all center around doing something different. Go to the zoo or a festival. Check out a local event or see a comedy show.

Basically, go somewhere that interests both of you, and avoid the regular haunts which put far too much pressure on how a date goes. By being creative, you’re setting the scene for conversation and quirkiness, not regular boredom!

#3 Do find out if they have any specific fears, irrational or otherwiseIt’s a good idea to do a little delving before you plan the date. Find out if there is anything they really don’t like or are fearful of. For instance, we mentioned going to the zoo. What if your date hates animals? Unlikely, but it’s possible!

You might plan a butterfly sanctuary visit, and they’re really scared of the little creatures! By asking questions about the things they like and don’t like when you’re generally chatting and texting, you’ll avoid these kinds of minor disasters.

#4 Don’t have a friend obviously lurking nearbyThere is a difference between letting a friend know where you’re going for safety and actually having them sitting at the next table! Your date will notice. It certainly won’t make them feel comfortable! If you don’t feel safe with your date, whether you’re the one planning it or not, don’t go. It’s that simple.

#5 Don’t think you need to splash the cash. You don’t need to spend a fortune to plan a great date. If they are only impressed by money, they really aren’t the type of person you should be dating anyway. Of course, it’s nice to offer to pay, and it’s nice to go to quality places. If you’re really low on cash, don’t feel pressured into heading to a fancy bar for cocktails.

Sometimes, the small touches really mean more. We’re talking about things like holding out a chair, holding open a door, taking a coat, etc. These things are far more valuable than anything money-related.

#6 Do attempt to impress with your sense of humorThe number one thing which most men and women find attractive is a sense of humor. Don’t turn the date into a stand-up comedy routine, but make them giggle a few times. This disarms the other person and puts them at ease. Bonus, it also makes you feel more comfortable.

When you make someone laugh, you’re showing your true personality. Who you are is what will really shine through. Which leads onto…

#7 Do be yourselfThe biggest piece of advice on how to plan a date, above everything, is to always be yourself. Never try and be someone you’re not simply because you’re nervous about how it will go. Remember, if things do go well, you’re going to need to keep up the pretense of being someone different for any dates following. That’s just downright exhausting!

Be yourself and you will shine. It’s really that simple.

#8 Don’t choose a venue too far awayFor the first date, choose somewhere relatively close to home for both of you. This is not only for convenience but also for safety. You don’t know this person well. You don’t want to be a million miles away from home if things don’t go as well as you would like. In addition, the drive there and back may be awkward!

#9 Don’t put too much pressure on the first dateIf you place a huge amount of pressure on yourself and the outcome of this date, then you’re not going to enjoy it. You’re not going to be the best version of yourself, and it’s probably going to be a disaster.

If on the other hand you relax, enjoy your time, and simply be yourself, you’re more likely to not only have a great time but also bag a second date!

What makes a great first date anyway?

If you watch anything from Hollywood, you probably think that first dates have to be swish and hugely impressive to make it to date number two. This is not true. A great first date is about connection and having fun together. It’s not about money or huge effort.

Of course, do your best to impress, but impress with your personality above everything else. Some of the best dates are simple in nature. For instance, a walk through a national park, followed by a lunch in a cozy country pub is a wonderful way to spend your first date together!

If you go too over the top, keen and eager to impress, chances are that you will come over as ‘trying too hard.’ That’s never a good thing. Most men and women are turned off by someone who’s clearly trying to impress with money and flashy items, rather than their sense of humor, warm personality, and wit.

Being humble and kind is a far better option. Even the biggest failure of a date can turn into a success with a smile and a quirky remark to make someone laugh!

When it comes to knowing how to plan a date that impresses even the most difficult to impress date, the simple tactics are always the best. You simply need your personality, creative thinking, and the ability to make someone smile.

 

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