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Posts Tagged ‘1970’s’

Bumper Skiing

Posted by LOTGK on December 8, 2007

Bumper Ski, the winter sport of the 1970’s in Youngstown, Ohio
A long time ago, (No, this is not a Star Wars Entry) during the winter months in Youngstown, Ohio, we entertained ourselves with a sporting event called bumper skiing. This sport was in no way like bumper bowling where cushions were put in the gutters of the alley’s so you couldn’t toss a gutter ball. Yes, there were gutters involved, but they were street gutters, and there weren’t any cushions.

In a nutshell, bumper skiing is exactly like it sounds. You grab onto the back of a cars bumper and let it pull you down the street as you ski behind it crouching down low to keep your balance.

Equipment needed was a good pair or slippery boots, gloves, preferably thick ones, a car, snow covered streets, and balls of steel. In our gang, we all had the right equipment to compete in this event.

At first, bumper skiing was not an event or competition, but merely a fun exercise to wile away the winter months. We would wait patiently for neighbors to back out of their driveways and then we would latch on to the bumper and let it drag us up the street. When the car slowed down for the stop sign we would let go and glide to a perfect stop. What a rush that was. Sometimes the car would get up to about 20 MPH. Being on a side street and with plenty of snow in the street, the cars never got a chance to get going much faster than that in the winter. This continued for sometime and it seemed like we were satisfied.

Of course, we had to have more. The Daredevils Club blood that coursed through our veins (I will explain the Daredevils Club and their antics in upcoming entries) demanded more action, more daring feats, more dangerous stunts, more risk. The escalation would have to wait however, until we got our drivers license. Then, we could control the course, the length, and the speed of bumper skiing. We now had our recipe for disaster.

To start out, we picked the local cemetery across the street of the main highway, Market Street. There we would have seclusion from other cars, especially police cars, and plenty of snowy pathways to ski on.

Let the games begin. The cemetery had a long straightaway where we could get the car going pretty fast, way faster than the 20 MPH we were accustomed to. We would now approach speeds up to 40 MPH and then when the car started to slow down, we would let go and coast to safety. But we still needed more. The next time, we decided to hang on even when the car slowed down to turn around. So there we were, hanging on, balls to the wall, when the car slowed down, and by the force of gravity, pressed us against the car bumper. Still, we hung on for dear life as the car began to turn right. We instinctively leaned into the turn and navigated it quite well. Hey, we were pretty good at this. The car then straightened out and took off again. We held on. In no time we mastered the cemetery and looked for bigger and better pathways. The local park, Mill Creek Park, would be the answer.

Mill Creek Park was full of miles of winding roads, plenty of hills and dips, and dangerous tight curves. Plus the added thrill of other cars on the road. Not to mention the several park police cruisers patrolling. This was going to be great. We started at the top of Lantermans falls four strong. The car quickly accelerated and a quick left turn brought us to the silver bridge hill where we gathered more speed. A wicked right turn and a quick left and we were over the bridge and gathering speed again. All of us were still hanging on. The road became quite winding from there and it was difficult hanging on. We knew horseshoe curve was coming up. Horseshoe curve was a very tight turn on the way to the short holes golf course. As we approached we tightened our grip. As the car cut hard to the left we tried to hang on but the guy on the far left hit the next guy and we all fell like dominos. We tumbled into the curb gutter but we came out unhurt. This became our Mt. Everest. We kept trying horseshoe curve again and again until we all mastered it.

Bumper skiing was becoming too easy. Until we got a new driver. Alan, the driver, showed no fear or mercy when at the wheel. On one occasion, we were whipping around corners and he floored it making the car fishtail and whip us violently. Amazingly, we held on and were feeling pretty bullet proof. Then the unthinkable happened. Yes, we encountered dry pavement. We hit the dry patch at about 40 MPH and we were torn from the bumper like wooden toy soldiers are tossed in a toy chest. We got banged up pretty good. But we had to go again. And again. No one wanted to let go first so we all took the brunt of the dry pavement. Welcome to the Daredevils Club folks.

Eventually, we got older and bumper skiing fizzled out of our winter sports. But not until we actually took to the main road, a 5 lane highway and went bumper skiing at speeds over 50 MPH with cars right behind us ready to run us over if we slipped and fell. It still shocks me today that none of us were killed during bumper skiing, or the other dangerous stunts and antics we did in our club.

But those are other stories, other legends, for a later time.

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State Of The Art 8 Track Tape Player

Posted by LOTGK on December 5, 2007

The Grassy Knoll Institute Stereo System Circa 1981

The stereo system above was my pride and joy in 1981. I bought the system at Custom Sounds, a now defunct “Hip” stereo outlet. There were many choices to consider, many brands, and configurations, but I knew what I wanted. Deep heavy bass and loud. Loud enough to make my ears bleed.

The above pictured system was the one selected. It was powered by a Yamaha receiver pushing an incredible 180 watts, 90 per channel. To handle all this power, I had two American Acoustic Labs tower speakers. Each speaker had a 12 inch bass, a 12 inch woofer, twin 5 inch midranges and a bullet horn tweeter. This wasn’t your mom’s Hi-Fi player. This had power, window shattering power.

On top was a Yamaha turntable. yes kids, there weren’t any CD’s back then.

The bottom unit was my Kenwood cassette deck. It had Dolby logic B and C noise. Yea, don’t know what that means either. Something to make the cassette have less hiss when played.

And lastly, the third unit in the system. Does anyone recognize this piece of equipment? Yes, it is an 8-track stereo player manufactured by Craig. Not only was it a player, but it had an added bonus. It was also an 8-track recorder. I could copy my records to 8-track and take them on the go in the car with me. How cool was that?

The headsets completed the combo. When everyone was home, yes, my parents had 7 children, I would plug in the headphones and turn up the volume.

And yes, I still have the equipment downstairs in the basement somewhere. I think I’ll find them and snap a present photo of them, especially the 8-track.

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Train Jumping

Posted by LOTGK on December 4, 2007

When I was a young lad, my neighborhood had a train that ran through it. It was right at the top of my street and like a powerful magnet, it attracted me to it. I was warned at a very young age that the train and the tracks were very dangerous and I was not to go anywhere near either. Of course I couldn’t stay away.

Back in the 1960’s and early 70’s the train kept a pretty tight schedule and I honed in on it when it came past my street. Soon I would not heed the warnings of playing near the train and one day I found my crossing the street to where the tracks were. The first thing I did was to place a on penny on the rail tracks and then safely wait on the other side of the street for the train to come by and flatten the penny out. I was told that a penny could derail the train so I took the proper precautions and crossed the street. Amazingly, the train did not derail. I later learned that bricks, tree branches, or a bicycle on the tracks would not derail a train. Sometimes, when I was feeling saucy and had the coinage, I would place a nickel on the track to flatten it out as well.

Man, that was cool. The penny would flatten out to the size of a half dollar and all recognition of Lincoln or writing would be gone. The nickel would wind up the size of a solver dollar and it also had no recognizable marks. This was having fun in the 60’s and the 70’s my friends.

As time went on, I accumulated quite a collection of flat coins and we began other games to play with the train.

We weren’t stupid enough to try and pull in front of the train or to build a ramp and try to leap over the train. Instead, we took up the sport of train jumping. Technically, it wasn’t jumping, well, sort of. Let me explain.

Since the train came through a residential area it was moving slower than normal. The gang (Mob) would gather at the top of the street and as the last car of the train came by we would all sprint across the street for the train. Rarely did the train have the typical red caboose as the last car with a railroad employee. (That would have ruined everything) Each train car had a ladder on the back. We would climb the ladder and climb on top. Most of the times we only jumped on the flat cars, they were much easier to ride on.

Every other street had several kids waiting to jump the train. Sometimes we had over a dozen kids on the train. As the train moved down Southern Boulevard we would wave to the cars driving by us. Most would just stare at us. Some would try to race up tp the engine car and try to alert the conductor. Only once was the train stopped.

We would ride about two miles until we crossed over Route 224 to Baordman Park. From there, we would climb down the ladder and jump from the train. We would all hang out at the park for the day and then walk home.

Or, maybe catch the train back home.

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Drivers License Revisited

Posted by LOTGK on November 26, 2007

The year was 1975. Yes, contrary to popular belief we actually had cars back in those days. It was an era where wagons had simulated wood grain side panels and the 60’s muscle cars ruled the highways. No signs of a minivan, SUV, or a Yugo. It was a time when cars were fast, loud, dangerous, and cost a lot of money to maintain. It was rumored women were the same way.

And there I was, a lad ready to turn 16 dreaming and waiting for the day I would be eligible to get my drivers license. God, life was good.

But, I would have to be patient and wait those several excruciating months to my birthday. To wile away my time, I had many questions for my parents pertaining to driving. I asked how much insurance was, what kind of coverage I would have, where would I park my car, gas mileage of the cars, how fast dads car went, and how good were the brakes.

Well, after driving training classes I was ready for my drivers test. My mother took me out to the Austintown license bureau to take my test. As I was waiting for my turn behind the wheel, I remembered my brothers tips on how not to flunk the test. Apparently, you were supposed to keep both hands on the wheel at all times and keep the radio turned off.

Ten minutes later my name was called and I was told to follow the instructor to the test area. We got to my car, a 1971 Buick Lasabre four door, and the instructor did the once over inspecting the vehicle to verify its road worthiness. As we walked around the car, I noticed that the rear license plate was a 1975 plate and the front was a 1974. I was doomed!!! Amazingly, the instructor did not see the error and told me to get in the car, start the car, and then turn on the left turn signal, then the right, then the brake lights, and then to honk the horn. This was going to be simple. I would pass this test easy. The instructor got in and being the good student, I had my seat belt on, adjusted my mirror and then locked my door. Ahh oh. My door wouldn’t lock. When I pushed down on the lock, it just snapped right back up. I guess the instructor did not notice this error as well.

The actual test began as I made many left and right hand turns on some side streets that I was not familiar with. However, I was doing very well and as I was driving behind a white building, the instructor told me to pull into the lot and stop. When the vehicle stopped, he told me congratulations and that I had passed and he wrote down a few things and handed me a paper and told me to hand it in to obtain my license. I was puzzled for I hadn’t even did my parallel parking yet. I inquired but was told that I did so well on the streets and pulling into the parking lot that I had passed. With that, he got out of the car and walked into the back door of the building.

What a great feeling. I just passed my drivers license test and was ready to tackle the open road. Only problem was that I didn’t know where I was. After so many left and right turns, I didn’t know what street I was on. So, for my first official driving decision I drove down a one way street the wrong way so as not to get any more lost than I already was. I chose correctly coming out just one street away from the license bureau and proudly pulled in and parked the car. I actually smiled for my photo ID and was allowed to drive home.

Thunder road had begun. The streets would now be mine. I would own them. Baby I was born to run.

Flash ahead 28 years. My son is asking the same questions I asked my parents. He was on the edge of 16 toiling away at drivers training class studying and concentrating more than I have ever seen. Like father like son.

The six months my son held his permit flew by but to him, it was more like 10 years. It was now his time. I drove him out to the Ohio State Patrol license bureau for this rite of passage. I quickly saw the clerk at the front desk and completed all the paperwork. My son was ready. He was then told to wait in his vehicle and an instructor would be by soon. I was relegated to the waiting room. Being antsy myself, I decided to do my pacing outside.

Once outside I saw my son patiently waiting in his Jeep for the instructor to come pay him a visit. One of the other parents waiting told me good luck if my son got the woman instructor for she never passes teenagers on their first attempt. Since there were two instructors, my son had a 50/50 chance. Just his luck as the woman instructor came trotting out and headed for my sons Jeep. I heard the engine start and the turn signals flash and then the instructor get in the Jeep. My son told me that as she got in, she hit her head on the roll bar and he heard her head go conk.

Onward and upward I saw the Jeep begin to go over to the orange cones for parking when a GMC truck pulled right into his way and stopped. My son started again and the truck again began to move backing up cutting off my sons path. My son kept his cool and waited for the truck to complete his maneuvers. To the cones he went and slowly went forward and then slowly reversed out through the course without stopping or hitting any cones. He had passed that part for sure.

I watched as he passed me heading out onto the road and I paced around thinking back when I took my test. Ten minutes later, (that seemed like an eternity) I saw the Jeep come back into view. The Jeep pulled in and parked and the motor turned off. Several minutes later both doors opened and they started towards me who was still waiting outside. I asked how he did and the woman said ‘He did Ok”. I asked if he passed and she reluctantly said “yes, he did”. My son had won. He had beaten the odds.

Thunder road had begun. The streets would now be his. He would own them. Baby he was born to run.

Like I needed any more gray hair….

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The Rope Trick

Posted by LOTGK on November 19, 2007

On any given day, when things started slowing down and we were bored, we would spice things up a bit by implementing the rope trick. The rope trick was handed down to me by my older brothers in hopes that one day, their legacy would continue. They even let me jump in once or twice so I could get a feel for how to perform the trick. Confident that I had it mastered, I took this new found knowledge and quickly shared it with my friends who were eager to try it out.

To perform the rope trick, certain criteria needed to be met. First, we needed at least 8 kids to work the magic. Second, we needed a side street that wasn’t very busy but busy enough for a car or two to drive down every so often. And third, an unsuspecting motorist. Being that we were in front of Guy’s house, his street was picked. We were ready.

Now, to the rope trick. We would split into two groups and we would stand on each side of the street very close to the curb. We would stand in a single file line and wait for a car to come down the street. When we spotted a car, we jumped into position. Each of us would crouch down and pretend to be holding a rope across the street simulating a tug of war. As the car approached, the driver would see us kids on each side of the road apparently holding a rope across the street intended to stop the car in it’s tracks.

The driver would always slow down trying to figure out what was going on. They would roll their car right up to where the imaginary rope should be. The driver would then yell out the window to move the rope so he/she could pass by. We would all yell back, “No way” and we would shift positions appearing to dig in to strengthen our hold on the rope. Without exception, an argument would ensue with the driver and us. He/she would begin to yell at us and we in turn would egg him/her on daring them to challenge the rope.

After several minutes, we would pretend to put down the rope and the driver would put the car in gear and proceed forward. As soon as the driver inched ahead, we would jump up and assume the position of the tug of war. Of course, the car would stop again and we would all laugh.

Sometimes though, the driver would become agitated and forge ahead and accelerate. When this happened, we would all scream “Wooah” and run along the side of the car as if being dragged by the rope. Yes, you guessed it, the car would stop once again and this time the driver usually got out which signaled to us that the game was over and we would disperse quietly and quickly into the back yards of the neighborhood.

Minutes later when the coast was clear, we were back on the street waiting for the next car, the next victim, to come down the street.

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