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I Remember Having Fun

by Artie Richard

Having fun in Gerritsen Beach was easier than at any other place in Brooklyn. Some of our antics were only barely legal and some were over the line, but I don't recall any felonies.

During winter when we had snow and ice, one of the most fun things to do was sleigh-hitching behind the buses. You would stand, innocently, at a bus stop. When the vehicle pulled out you threw yourself, with sled, behind the slowly accelerating bus, grabbing the bumper. The best spot on the rear of any bus was as far as one could get from the exhaust. We even had "double decking" for the underprivileged among us. Things usually went pretty well until the sun shined for several days. This would cause "bald spots" in the snow and ice. You would suddenly find yourself sledless behind the bus as your belt buckle threw up sparks and became slightly thinner. Thinking back it's a wonder that any of us are still alive.

Bus stops were handy for other things also. We've all seen people throw their cigarettes down, after one last puff, before boarding. These bus stops were a treasure trove of tobacco for kids just beginning to experiment with the terrible weed. We acquired 25 cent corn cob pipes and salvaged the butts, tearing out the tobacco and smoking it in these pipes. Often we didn't even have matches so we trotted off to the weeds to find the ever-present smoldering fire where we lit our pipes. WE thought that we were very cool when in fact we probably looked like farmers.

The Red Ryder BB carbine was EVERYWHERE. If a kid did not have one he was like an untouchable.

Even the strictest parents eventually gave in to the whining and allowed their kid to have one. What no adult knew was that we had devised a totally insane game that solved the major problem of  "playing guns." [ I got you.] [ No you didn't, you missed.] We solved this problem by playing "guns" with Red Ryder BB Guns.

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All doubt was removed when the object of the marksman doubled up in pain and fell to the ground. There was only one rule: NO HITTING IN THE HEAD. Of course it too was often ignored. Yet, somehow, we survived both the bus hitching and the BBs.

I remember that across Aster Ct. from John's house was a Mr. Kramer and for some reason he was not popular in the Kauffner house. One of those neighbor things I guess. John and I had made a major discovery one summer. We learned how accurate one could propel a paper clip using a properly sized rubber band. With sufficient practice you could hit a bird in a tree. One evening we secreted ourselves behind the Kauffner's high hedges and started lobbing paper clips, mortar style, over the hedges and about one in five hit the Kramer window. We giggled like girls when he would dash out to catch whoever it was tapping at his window. We totally lost it when he hid around the corner of his house to catch the culprit. The whole adventure came to an end when the police cruiser pulled up in front of his house. The fink had called the cops.

We had other ways to have fun while, at the same time, making someone miserable. The two that I recall are the bag-o-crap and teetering can. The first involved, but was not limited to, securing some robust specimens of dog crap. This was a simple matter in the Beach. These would be deposited in a small to medium paper bag depending on the amount of crap. This bag was then placed outside someone's door at night and set afire.

When the unwary homeowner answered the bell or knock (often, deliciously attired in house slippers) his first instinct was to stamp out the fire always with the same disgusting results. Pure joy for us normal kids.

The teetering can required a bit more work and a lot more stealth. Anyone with a porch railing and a sufficiently full garbage can was at risk. Under cover of darkness we would tie one end of a string to a handle of the garbage can and the other end to the doorknob. Of course the can had first been set on the railing. It should be obvious to all what happened when the door was opened.

The last item of fun backfired…sort of. My dad had gone to a costume party and I inherited a particularly hideous rubber mask that actually seemed to "breathe" when the wearer did. 

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At this time the sewers were going in between Everett and Florence Avenues. I was going with a girl in that neighborhood so was very familiar with every inch of the street. It must have been 1949-50. I became the "Sewer Monster." My costume consisted of, besides the mask, black jeans, Navy peacoat, black imitation-leather gloves and a black Navy watch cap. A towel shoved up in back of the coat gave a hump backed, twisted look that I still consider a touch of genius

On my maiden outing tragedy struck, like the Titanic. A lady came down Florence Ave. and turned onto Bevy Court. She was carrying a large bag of groceries. With perfect timing, the "Sewer Monster" leaped out from the cover of the boards. The lady's eyes became saucers. She dropped the bag. Groceries everywhere. She screamed and screamed and began to run, one shoe coming off. I was petrified. I'm not sure who was more frightened. The "Sewer Monster" made his escape and was never seen or heard from again.

Last edited: 06/28/02