On August 23, 2023

Looking Back: Dumb ideas


During my annual dermatology visit the doctor and I discussed how the choices that people made in the ’60s have resulted in skin damage as we age. Sunscreen was not promoted back then like it is today.

A popular trend among my high school and college friends was to slit the sides of a record album cover (remember them?) and put aluminum foil over it. Then we held it to our face with the sun reflecting off it. Usually there was baby oil on our face and body. Now what could go wrong with that? Fortunately, I didn’t do that very often and my recent office visit showed nothing that needed removal. Talk about dumb luck!

As I took a look back at that memory I couldn’t help but think about other “dumb ideas” that occurred from childhood to adulthood.

We all know how annoying it is to get phone calls that we don’t want. But the person making them often gets pleasure from such things. At age 12 or 13 we used to call people and ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” If they said, “Yes” then we told them to let him out. Another question we asked was, “Is your refrigerator running?” When they said, “Yes” we said, “You had better catch it!” Our annoyance calls could have come at a very inopportune moment for the people who answered but young people don’t think about such things!

Neighborhood kids made daily visits to houses under construction on nearby streets. There was often a board in place that went from the framed door opening to the future lawn area. The board allowed workers to pass over the 8-foot drop of the cellar wall. One day we found that the board on the back of the house was missing. Instead of going back to the front of the house where there was a board we jumped from the door opening to the lawn portion. Only I didn’t jump far enough and down I went and landed on construction trash at the 8-foot bottom. Fortunately, there was a ladder down there and I was able to climb back up. That was one “dumb idea” that could have killed me! FYI: The house I am referring to was owned in later years by fellow columnist, Dom Cioffi and his wife! I have joked with him that I am still finding his golf balls!

Back in the ’50s a few classmates from Christ the King School decided to ice skate on Piedmont Pond. We knew that the owners did not want us to do that so went onto the pond from the south side — the one furthest away from the house. Unfortunately, we picked a day when the ice wasn’t firm and one kid from our group fell into the pond. It wasn’t very deep where the ice gave way but he still got totally wet. It was a cold walk home for him and none of us ever went back there again.

Moon Brook was a popular spot for kids to hang out. It ran behind an apple orchard on Piedmont Drive. My cousin, Betty, and I decided to float a large wooden drawer from the brook to an area near her home on Engrem Avenue. We took the drawer from my parents’ kitchen cabinet and got into it. It sunk immediately and we went nowhere! My parents apparently thought we were old enough to be left alone but a soaking wet drawer was evidence that we were not!

That same cousin and I decided to create a swimming hole at the foot of our driveway. We did a lot of digging and had one deep, muddy mess by the time my parents noticed what we were doing. The two of us were very creative when it came to “dumb ideas.”

My friend Betty (not my cousin) and I wanted to try smoking. My parents didn’t smoke but her mother did. She took two cigarettes from her pack and brought them over to my house along with some matches. We went into our shed and lit up! My father had wood stored in there and how careful do you think two 12-year-olds were? Dumb luck was with us once again or we could have burned down our house.

Another friend, Margaret, and I set a field on fire in the Piedmont and Harrington Avenue area. There were no houses on the north side back then and the roar of fire trucks were what we wanted to hear. They came and we hid. We never got caught but trust me it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. I was as quiet as a mouse when I was a kid so that expression definitely applied to me.

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