It’s no secret that kids do stupid things. When I was a kid growing up in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles, I did some really stupid things. In fact, some of them could have resulted in my untimely death.
Spillway Bike Dive
My friends and I used to spend a lot of time playing in the Sepulveda Dam area, which wasn’t that far from home via bicycle. We used to ride our bike up the spillways at an angle and then ride straight down. You almost went over head first, but didn’t. It was a real thrill somewhat like a roller coaster ride. There was also a dirt road next to the dam that workers used to access the road at the top of the dam. It was pretty steep and leveled off for about ten feet in the middle. We would ride down it as fast as possible then fly into the air at the mid-point. It was great, as long as you avoided the ruts in the road. My sister, Shirley, was very gutsy and did this with us too. In fact, she wanted to go first. My best friend, Gary, who lived 3-door down the street was chicken, or maybe smart, because he just watched us.
Scooting The Pipe
Next to the dam, was the beginning of the L.A. River, which was dry much of the summer. One day we we had just finished some spillway bike dives and were looking for more excitement. There was this pipe that crossed the river and I decided to scoot myself across to the other side. I climbed over the wire fence and straddled the pipe. Then started across, kind of like an inch worm. I got about five feet from the edge and realized if I fell that I would either kill myself or at least break lots bones, because it was at least thirty to forty feet to the bottom. I couldn’t turn around, so had to make it across, a few inches at a time. I finally got to the other side, then it took me an about an hour to go around the back of the dam and get back to my bicycle. Needless to say, I never tried that stunt again.
Indian Motorcycle Adventure
We spent a lot of time around the dam and made friends with a guy that lived next to the road that went all around the dam. It is a dirt dam with a road that goes around much of the dam.
One day this guy said I could take his old Indian Motorcycle for a ride. No helmet, no goggles, just blue jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes. Anyway, I was going pretty fast on this dirt and gravel road and for some reason decided to turn around. As I slowed down I realized that the road ended abruptly at a turn around with a low buttress at the end. On the other side was a bunch of ragged rocks. If I hadn’t decided to turn around beforehand, there would not have been enough time to bring the motorcycle to a full stop in that gravel and I would have been catapulted into those rocks. I don’t think I would have survived that one. Somebody up above was obviously looking out for me on that day.
Kitty River Drop
When I was a kid, we lived a block away from the L.A. River. One day my sister and I decided to lower our half-grown cat down into the river using a small box and a long length of rope. We lowered the cat to the bottom and it jumped out into several inches of water. It then occurred to us that we had no way to get the cat back and there wasn’t any access near where we lived. Somehow we coaxed the cat back into the box by shaking the rope attached to the box and calling the cat. It jumped back in and we hauled it back up to where we could grab it. We sure were happy to see it, but don’t think it was too happy with us at the time.
Roman Candle Escapade
My best friend, who lived a few houses away had recently returned from visiting family in Kansas. He brought a bunch of fireworks back with him that were illegal in California. This included some Roman Candles. So being the bright kids that we were, we decided to set some off in the corridor of the office building that was about ten blocks from our house. We thought it was pretty funny as we ran away, until we heard the fire engines coming. Then it occurred to us what we might have done.
If you don’t know what Roman Candles look like, watch this video.
Nothing caught on fire in the building because of our prank, but we didn’t know it at the time. We finally got back to my house and this big guy was sitting on a chair outside the house. It scared the crap out of us, because we though he was a cop. It was my half-brother John, who I had never met. I remember thinking at the time how much he looked like George Reeves who played Superman on T.V. Anyway, the next day we went back to the office building to see if we had done any damage and there wasn’t a single singe mark. (The photo below is Keith’s senior high photo shown next to George Reeves as Superman. See the resemblance?)
Home Made Bazooka
A couple of friends were into chemistry and taught me some real neat stuff, like how to make gunpowder. We would build little bombs and blow stuff up, but nothing of any value. We thought about putting one in a mailbox, but decided against it. This one scared me though.
We we take old CO2 cartridges and drill out the top. We would then fill them with the heads of matches, pack them tightly and carefully, then add a fuse. The next step was to put our little rocket into a pipe and light the fuse.
These things were dangerous. I remember one that embedded itself about 1/2 inch into a tree. Can you imagine what would have happened had it hit somebody. I did burn myself once when the match heads ignited while filling a cartridge. It was in a vice so didn’t go anywhere, but the hot exhaust burned me pretty badly. After the tree incident I decided this was not a good pastime. The video below will show you the concept, although a CO2 cartridge jammed full of match heads was not used.
Water Balloon Tossing
Oh what fun they can be. We used to fill them up then hide in the bushes near a street a few blocks from where we lived. Then when a car would come down the street we would plaster it with one or more balloons and then run like mad.
Poop Bag Prank
You may have heard of this one, but my sister and I actually did it. This old bitty that lived a couple of blocks away was very mean. All of the kids around there were afraid of her. We took a paper bag and then filled it with dog poop. We put it on her front porch, lit the bag and then ran like mad for nearby cover. Her husband opened the door and then started stomping on the bag. After that, she was meaner than ever.
Well I guess that’s enough of my childhood stupidity for now?