Quest for the Perfect Fort, pt 1

The Perfect Fort

fort

When we were growing up, a favorite activity of our gang of boys was the search for, the building, or outfitting, of our hideouts or forts. Whether it was an unused shed, a covered porch, a hole concealed with plywood, or even a dense clump of bamboo, the search and discovery process of finding the perfect fort was a driving force in our life. Forts were necessary for our group. We always felt the need to have privacy and a place to hide their booty. It didn’t matter whether we gathered things from the neighborhood trash, or stole stuff from the local stores, or even took it from our own homes.

These nooks were our clubhouses. The place where we could gather on the weekend, or on a summer morning. A place to go after school or after dinner; the spot to meet and make our plans with each other. They were our personal space to go when we wanted to do nothing at all.

I recently saw a comedian doing a bit about the difference between men and women, and it was spot on. His routine discussed the ways the brains worked in each sex. He talked about the woman’s brain being a million different thought impulses that kept firing. One thought setting off additional thoughts, much like the demonstration of a nuclear explosion using ping pong balls and mousetraps seen in every high school science class.

In contrast, within the man’s brain, each thought was insulated from every other thought, never leaving its own little box. And at the center of the man’s brain was a place that women did not have that was man’s favorite; the “do nothing center”.

No thinking! No doing! Nothing! Our forts were our spot to do whatever we wanted. Or our space to do absolutely nothing! Now a days, these places have a coined term: Man caves.

Much of the time when we had a good fort, we spent more time playing “I don’t know! What do you want to do?” than we did actually playing. We would lounge around waiting for everyone to show up and then go through the options again. It was an activity in and of itself.

We lived in a developed triangle with a driveway running through the middle. The driveway was between the houses on Easton Road and the houses on Tyson Avenue. The term driveway was often fought over among the group; some called it the alley and some the driveway. It was a long byway that ran from Edgehill road all the way down to Easton, allowing entrance to the backs of each house.

This trapezoid, created by the natural borders of Easton, Tyson, Bradfield, and Edge Hill, was the center of our world for many years. A place to explore with the safety of minimal traffic and many open spaces.

As you entered off Easton road, the Partons lived on the right and the Calhoun’s lived on the left. The driveway took a left hand bend at the end of the Calhoun’s yard, and was a straight run up to Edgehill. Once past the bend though, there was no blacktop and plenty of holes that required a slow navigation between potholes usually filled with water. It was impossible to drive faster than ten miles an hour without bottoming out and ruining the car. This made for a perfect place for kids to play.

On the bend, right behind the Parton’s yard, was a path worked into the slight hill sloping down to Aunt Anne’s house. She was an elderly widow, in her late sixties or early seventies, who was good friends with Jeff’s mom. The front of her house was on Tyson as was ours, and her side yard, which was full of trees and colorful bushes, butted up against the side of the church. Jeff lived on the other side of Tyson across the street from the church.

Between Aunt Anne’s and my house were the Whitaker’s. Mrs. Whitaker had two old dogs and two grown sons who lived there on and off. There were always two junk cars parked at the top of their walk or in front of the house. They had a large cherry tree that we looked forward to harvesting every year. As we were switching from playing football or hockey to starting to play baseball, the nets would go up on the cherry tree to keep the birds from eating the cherries. The netting confirmed it was Spring.

We had a large apple tree at the top of our yard, but we did more throwing and smashing of the apples than we did eating. We would fill our pockets and go to the hidden area between the Parton’s and the church and throw the apples at the passing buses. Or we would head down to the tracks behind Jeff’s house and bomb trains.

When the apples were small, still only the size of a half dollar, they made great batting practice aids. We would collect as many as we could reach from the lower branches and do our best imitation of our favorite baseball star’s swing. Tossing the apples in the air and crushing them with the bat as they came down, visualizing the walk off home runs we would hit when Little League began, was fun alone or with friends.

Once the year turned to Summer though, I hated our apple tree. Our yard filled with bees who enjoyed the apples as they rotted. The chore of picking up the rotting apples was one that I detested and feared every year. Every apple had the potential of a bee sting.

Mr Fanning, an old widower who was very nice, lived beside us, and two houses up lived Mr. Ricketts. Ricketts was a cranky old man who had his house egged many times for complaining that we would run through his yard and mess up his bushes. We were guilty as charged, but we were kids being kids. His complaining only increased our intent to piss him off.

The next house up is where Mike would eventually move into. Chris reminded me that a young girl lived there before Mike, but all I can remember about her is an image of a flowing flowery dress and daisies in her hair. It is funny the images we remember.

Next door to Mike’s house was the Record’s house and yard. The Records family had the largest plot in the neighborhood. If they had kids, they were grown and away at school or married. The front of their house was on Tyson and extended up the hill on Bradfield. They had an old clay tennis court with a partial fence, but was no longer in use. Most important to us at the time, they had a great front hill that we used for King of the Hill.

Across the driveway from Mike’s backyard was Bobby’s house. The Stone’s had a radio and television store facing Easton road and they lived behind and above the store. They had a large garage behind the house and their yard had tall bushes all the way around. Because of all the trees and bushes, the yard didn’t get any sun and had no grass, with lots of exposed roots, making it a rough place to play. The trees and bushes allowed for great privacy and a stone fireplace in the center of the yard made for a natural place to hide items we could not bring home.

We spent many hours in the mid sixties pretending to be the Beatles in Bobby’s room. He had all the newest albums at the time and it was always exciting to go through the house and out to the store and look through the records for sale. The store had every type of sound systems, microphones, speakers, and instruments. Bobby’s father was in a band and sometimes we got to listen to him play the piano.

Between Bobby’s house and Chris’ house were two houses with upstairs/downstairs apartments. Behind these houses were a large set of garages that a landscaper and a painter used for their equipment. There was an asphalt covered hill going up to the garages used for parking. The wall between the garage doors served as our wall ball spot and was a great bounce-back wall for pitch and catch. This was our world when we were young.

This one square block held so many adventures in our young lives, but we always craved more. We were always exploring, seeing how far we could go, always pushing our borders outward, trying to grow up as fast as we could, being as bad as we could without getting in trouble.

As mentioned, the driveway was not paved, except the first few feet where it entered from Edge Hill and extending a bit longer from the Easton Road entrance. Sometimes there were large, deep, potholes that filled with rainwater,  making it fun for us to ride bikes on the rough road. We did a lot of bike jumps and racing up and down the driveway. Riding through the large puddles would get us filthy, but the fun was worth the yelling we would get when we got home.

But still, with all the fun things to do, we enjoyed sitting and playing “What do you want to do?” This never happened when we needed a new fort. There was always something to do, a goal and a game plan, when we were not happy with our fort. There were very few things that we found more electrifying than the discovery of a potential new fort.

The search for a fort was one of the things that brought our whole group together. At that time, the neighborhood consisted of me, Chris, Jeff and his sister Linda, Bobbie, and the Parton’s. I had a younger sister who was three years younger than me. Chris was my age, Jeff and Bobby were almost two years older than us. Chris had an older brother and sister, but they were much older. Linda was two years older than Jeff and didn’t hang out with us often.

As with all groups, we were all very different, with varied personalities. Chris was the brainiac of the group. He actually liked school. His parents were the type that would accept nothing less than perfection. Chris liked to build models of cars and planes and every fall, he, his brother, and father built a train display that took up their entire dining room.

Jeff was much smarter than the group ever gave credit. He looked dumb with his big ears and bowl haircut. His jaw jutted, he had  bucked teeth, and a speech impediment. He also had quite a temper and would lash out with a punch to the face without much warning. He and I had many good brawls, and depending who was on a growth spurt determined the winner. Jeff also had a propensity for liking fires, but more on that later.

Bobbie was more of a hippie than any of the rest of us. He was laid back, loved music, and was the first of us to split off and begin making friends outside our group. But he was funny as hell and introduced us to rock and roll while we were still young boys.

Bobby had an older sister, Diane, but we only saw her when we were at Bobby’s and she was home, or when she came to Chris’ house to visit with his sister Nancy. Jeff’s sister Linda was a few years younger than Diane and Nancy; closer to our age, but spent time with Diane and Nancy. At one point while we were still young, Linda had a severe accident while horseback riding and was out of commission for almost a year with a broken hip. At that point, she was open to hanging out with “Jeff’s younger friends”.

Diane was beautiful! I always thought it was such a waste that she was going through the process to become a nun. All her beauty hidden behind a Sisters of St Joseph’s black habit seemed wrong.

Gracie, Ruthie, and David Parton were close to our age and we used to spend a lot of time playing with them in their yard. They had a garage with a backboard and hoop, a fenced in backyard, and lots of trees, so we had quite a bit of privacy there to play. Their family did a lot of camping and it was always great fun when they would set up the tents in the yard to air them out. We would spend hours playing in the tents until it got too hot and stuffy.

Mister Parton was the pastor of the church and the kids were perfect stereotypes of the pastor’s kids. They introduced us to lots of grown up stuff, especially David. We all thought he was very cool. As we got a bit older, we realized what an asshole he was. Ruthie and Gracie were exciting to be around because they were happier finding bad things to do than being good. We learned about Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle from them and David.

One time when we were still pretty young, we were playing Truth or Dare in the cemetery. We were still pretty young and not allowed to cross out of our little block of safety. We did anyway. To play the grown up version of Truth or Dare, we needed privacy. Deep woods privacy! We found a great spot beside the train tracks that was perfect. It was close enough to home, but well hidden.

What we didn’t realize was that we were sitting and playing, taking all types of dares in a poison ivy patch. For a week, everyone had poison ivy everywhere. And I mean everywhere! Except for me, since I didn’t get poison ivy. Those girls were both hot little kittens, and we loved it!

We were all still pretty young when the Parton’s moved. The church decided to level the house and made a church parking lot out of the property. So much for our privacy! It wasn’t that we were doing bad things all the time. It was way more exciting to do things without the prying eyes of adults. Especially when doing bad things!

Yes, we did do bad things. We were smoking at a very young age. We were good, and daring shoplifters. So, we needed our places to hide the things we couldn’t bring home. We also liked to bomb cars and buses with apples, snowballs, and sometimes eggs, so we needed safe places to run and hide. And it was always a case of out of sight; out of mind when it came to our parents.

I remember how upsetting the whole transition of finding out the Parton’s were  moving. We worked through the shock by focusing on the excitement of a new, big, family moving in. It was a big house, so it would have to be a big family. With three fun kids, plus two older brothers and a young baby moving out, our neighborhood needed plenty of kids moving in.

Instead, Chris’ older sister and her new husband rented the house. No kids to replace the loss of three friends, two of which we all had crushes on. No new boys to play sports and no new girls to like or tease. On top of that, Nancy’s husband was a rookie cop! A cop to watch over us as well as losing so many places of privacy.

Since Chris was a member of the church, and because his sister was renting from the church, he was the first to find out the house was being knocked down and the whole corner lot was to be paved. The space would be the new church parking lot. Not only were we losing our friends, the only girls our age, but we were losing our play area and as we discovered, so much of our privacy. Everything was changing too fast.

For a while, the house sat empty. The house and all the corners  hidden by either fence, garage, brush, or even the steps leading to the basement, allowed for great concealment and took away the need for a fort. We could watch our parents come and go without being spotted, which gave us great comfort. But this was short lived. Especially since our friend Jeff had a pyro streak in him that was about to catch flame and make the property off limits.

It was easy to find ways into the house. The lock on the basement door was easy to jimmy. We were always cautious about playing in the house because it was right beside Chris’s, but it was easier to store our cigarettes and other things that needed to stay dry in the basement instead of trying to get in and out of the garage without notice. What we didn’t know was that Jeff had exciting plans for the house. Not too long before this, we got to witness a large fire up the street that burned down a restaurant. Jeff wanted a repeat!

He took a bunch of oil soaked rags from his dad’s auto repair garage, placed them by the heater, and lit the rags with his new Zippo lighter. The fire never got beyond smoldering, the oil creating a great deal of smoke, but no fire. There was plenty of excitement with the police and fire vehicles, but the house was not damaged. I’m sure it moved up the timeline on the demolition, though. Jeff was questioned about the fire, but I have no memory if he was ever charged with an offence.

There was some excitement when the construction equipment arrived. After the crew left, we got to play on the front-end loader, the steamroller, and  the backhoe. They were gigantic compared to our size. The day they started tearing down the house, we had our chairs set up in the Calhoun’s yard to watch the destruction of the house we knew so well from our earliest days. It was sad to witness the cutting down of the trees in the yard. These trees held so many memories, were such a part of our youth from all the climbing and playing.

There were three large maples in a row on the border of the property right beside the entrance to the driveway. They were mature trees with thick trunks and offered great shade that covered most of the side yard. Chris broke his  arm falling out of one of them. We would play Red Rover, Redlight-Greenlight, and Buck-Buck between the trees, and the middle tree was always base or the designated spot where we would count for Hide and Seek.

In the fenced-in side yard, was a beautiful, large, mimosa tree that grew beside the garage. We were small enough and light enough to climb out on the branches and climb onto the garage roof. In the Fall, all the maple leaves raked into piles beside the garage grew to five feet tall. We would climb onto the mimosa tree branches or onto the roof and jump into the piles.

We spent so many spring and summer days lying on the branches of the mimosa. Hours of our young lives picking and pulling apart the pink, fluffy flowers, waiting for everyone to get out of the house and come to play. Seeing these parts of our childhood cut down and put into a chipper was very sad!

For a kid, seeing a house ripped down from beginning to end was incredible. Seeing the exterior peeled away, exposing the framing and the supports was fascinating. We were expecting a wrecking ball to come and have the house bludgeoned to pieces, but we watched as the house, dismantled floor by floor filled truck after truck and was hauled away.

Of course, being young boys, we all laughed at the bathroom humor of seeing the walls torn down and seeing bathtub and toilet exposed. We all had the hots for Ruthie or Gracie, and talked about being how cool it would be to have x-ray vision. Able to see them use the bathroom and watch them getting in the tub was a big laugh. We joked about that for a while, always making sure Mrs. Calhoun wasn’t close enough to hear. All we had left now, was our imagination, and memories of all the Truth or Dare days now that they were over. Ah, the simple pleasures of youthful boys!

The excitement of the de-construction diminished however, as we watched the opening of the sight lines to all the places that before were hidden from Chris’s house and my yard.

We could no longer hang out on the hill beside the church without feeling exposed. We could no longer climb up on the roof of the church without being in plain sight of Chris’s nosy mom. Aunt Ann’s yard was now visible to us sitting in Chris’s yard. The gazebo in her garden, which gave us a place to avoid the rain or sit and smoke without notice, was now the first thing you saw looking toward the church. This was disastrous and apocalyptic for us.

Once the Parton’s house was leveled, the quest for a new fort became paramount. Later on, we would be glad for the paved parking lot that would be our playground. It was too early to see that we now had a perfect place to play baseball, football, and street hockey. Our first opinion of the new landscape was focused and slanted toward the need for a fort.

We were thinking like exposed rabbits, open to the whims of our parents and feeling like they were circling hawks, waiting to dive and grab us in their claws and take us home for this shopping trip or that chore. Better to be hidden from view to keep them from including us in their thoughts. Far better to have all the parents ask where we were and what we did all day than to have them know we were a yard away and at their mercy.

There was a definite set of requirements we all agreed were necessary for what could be a good fort. This was something we discussed often between our “I don’t know, what do you want to do” sessions. It had to be a place that we could keep secret, but it had to be close enough where we could get to it and get home quick. Getting in and out without notice was priority and played an important role in our fort choices. We had plenty of freedom to play around the neighborhood and plenty of overgrown areas to explore.

This was before the days of parents needing to keep track of where their kids were at all times. Life was simpler and so much better for kids. We made our own fun and entertained ourselves. We were outside from morning to night whenever possible. We had our shows to watch, but cartoons were a Saturday morning at seven thing; not an all day Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon thing like today.  

We lived pretty close to Hillside Cemetery, which offered great potential for forts all over the cemetery. We took advantage of these as we got older. But when we were younger, it was important to be close enough that we could hear at least one parent’s call when it was time to come in. Each of our parents had different rules and ways of getting our attention. Jeff’s mom rang a bell. Chris’ mom would shout “Christian” until he came home.

We always teased Chris about his mom’s call because each time she uttered his name, more emphasis was on the second syllable of his name. “Christian, ChrisTian, ChrisTIAN! But mine was simple. I had two calls and I better hear them or I was not allowed out after dinner.

Fortunately, there were few places in our township that my mother’s voice couldn’t reach. Especially on the anger call with middle name included!

Another necessary component of the perfect fort also had to do with the secrecy issue. It was our hiding place and our haven for childhood secrets. It was the safe for our collection of contraband, which  changed over the years and is all relative to age. The fort had to be somewhat safe from the elements, and not visible to those passing by. It also had to be a place that we could wander in and out of without being seen and giving it away.

It goes without saying that once a fort was discovered, whether by a parent or a property owner, or even a younger sister or brother, it was time to find a new fort!  As fun as the process of finding a new fort was, it was painful losing a good fort because someone found us. Sometimes we knew our fort was a short term thing so we didn’t put a whole lot of work into it, and enjoyed it while we could. Some times they were hideouts rather than forts. But there were other times that it was an incredible, exciting, long term project.

A couple of the places that we used that were perfect in most ways, but we knew that it was not long term were places that had great leaf cover during the spring and summer but unusable during the fall and winter. Places like Mrs. Cox’s empty pond, quite hidden and safe between a row of tall brush and a fence covered in overgrown vines served in this way.

Mrs. Cox lived next door to Bobby and we used to go visit her a couple times a week because if we sat on her porch and sang Christian songs, she would bring us cookies, and sometimes lemonade. “Jesus Loves Me” was her favorite. t was a win-win for both of us. Cookies for us, and company for her.

Afterwards, we would slip into her backyard which was very overgrown. While doing this one day, we discovered an area under her back porch. The porch was a concrete slab with steps down to her driveway. Behind the trash cans there was a hinged door that led to a crawl space big enough that four of us could hide in. It was dry and perfect for rainy days, but even better, it was a perfect hiding place for our “Stuff”.

This spot was far from perfect. It was difficult to get into and out of, because we had to move the trash cans without making any noise. On top of that, it was hard pulling the door closed from the inside. Even though we didn’t use it as a hideout often, it was perfect for hiding our stuff and we always needed a place like this. Even at six and seven, we were very talented shoplifters and after a trip to the A & P, Mrs. Cox’s porch was a great place to hide cartons of cigarettes, bags of candy and cookies and other things before bringing the milk, bread or other things we picked up for our parents.

A fun version of this type of fort, a place hidden from view with no one near enough to hear us, was beside “the haunted garage”. The garage was up near the top of the driveway from us. It was out of the way, easy to get in and out of, kept us hidden from view, and gave us plenty of fantasy fodder. We knew the place was vacant. We never saw anyone in the building or even lights on. In actuality, the vacant garage was used by a construction guy for storage of his tools and supplies.

One day we found a message painted on the inside of the window in what we thought was blood, requesting “help”. We were sure a kidnapping and murder accured. Shortly after, either late evening or in the fall after dark came earlier, we found someone there unloading unidentifiable things. We were sure more bodies or kidnap victems were being hidden!

When the stories got old and stale, we would bring my little sister and her girlfriends up to this hideout. We would tell them scary stories, show them the blood on the window, and get off on the big-shotism of scaring the pants off these much younger girls. Ah, the simple pleasures of young boys!

When we were older and had more freedom, we had a fort that we built in the woods behind the cemetery. In one case, we dug out a 10 x 12 hole, carried nine pallets and plywood down the train tracks to use as a floor, found carpeting, and cinder blocks and bricks for shelves, and built plywood walls and shingled a slanted roof. We had working  windows, and even had a secret compartment under the carpeted floor to store our lock box that we found in the trash for our Playboys, cigarettes and lighters, papers and pipes, and other early teen valuables.

The process of building this fort was amazing. We were always on the lookout for something to make the fort better. We made ourselves quite at home until a group of older kids from Ardsley found the place. But I am getting ahead of myself. That was the culmination of many other experiences.

                                                                 ——————–

When we were seven or eight, we found a fort, well, really a clubhouse, that set the standards for all future forts. We discovered a way into an empty house across the street, and down one from my house. I don’t know how long it was empty, but it was vacant for a while. Time in kid years is much different than real-time.

A family with three young boys moved into the house across the street from me and the oldest boy was close to our age. They had a big yard with a couple plum trees and a pear tree. We were able to play in the yard with the boys and discovered a gap in the fence leading to the back of the abandoned house next door. It didn’t take long to find a way in.

The process of finding a way in, discovering the place was full of furniture, and could be our new fort was very exciting. Seeing the condition of the house and everything left over from the life of the previous tenants gave us exciting things to think about and many topics to talk about, and plans to accomplish.

We each stole some cleaning supplies from our homes including trash bags, brooms, and furniture polish. We cleaned up the trash, swept and dusted a couple rooms, and took furniture from other parts of the house to make ourselves very comfortable in our new house. Once we had the place cleaned and comfortable, we invited the girls over and watched with pride as they inspected the place and praised our work. Ruthie and Gracie were like our new fantasy wives and we all wanted to be their significant other, not that any of us would admit to that at the time.

Our parents would never know how resourceful and neat we could be. That would be a disaster. So much better to do the minimum at home so more wasn’t expected. It didn’t take long for us to have the place looking like a home with everything we needed except electric and water. And come on, we were seven or eight in the pre-electronics era. Electric as a need wasn’t even considered!

Besides the awesomeness of having a real house as a clubhouse, we had so much fun searching the premises for hidden treasures. We would sneak around the back of the house and crawl into a window well, and climb through the window into the basement. From there, it was up the stairs, and into the dining room. The windows were all covered with blinds or curtains, yet during the day, there was still plenty of light to see. We felt like it was ours.

We each had our own chairs and puffed up with the pride of  home owners. I remember the old stuffed, tall-back recliner that was mine, as clear as I remember my first apartment setup. The old rolled fiber oval carpet that is in my mother-in-law’s den brings back the memories of this place every time I go over to visit. These things stay so clear even though they were almost fifty years ago.

We learned from asking Jeff’s mom and Aunt Ann, that the house had belonged to an older lady who had died a few years after her husband. Our fantasy filled youthful heads thought for sure that we were going to find packs of money or jewels, or something even more valuable, hidden in the furniture, or closets, or drawers. We found what we thought were secret compartments, gaps between the walls or floors, stuffed with old newspapers and these lead us to the greatest fun.

In one of these “secret compartments”, spaces that we later learned were not so secret when we watched the Parton’s house get torn down, we found some rolled up newspaper with a headline about a bank robbery still unsolved. We had many fantasies about the people who lived there. but when we found the newspaper, we were sure that she and her husband were bank robbers, like Bonnie and Clyde, and hid their part of stolen cash in the house. It was our goal to find it

Jeff saw Bonny and Clyde in the theater with his sister and told us about the pair of outlaws in glamourous description. We were sure the lady or her husband were a part of The Barrow Gang and must have had a hideout right in our little town. Now that the old lady had died, the treasure was ours if we could only find it. And we sure tried to find it!

We had a systematic approach. We went through the house, searching floor by floor, room by room, closet by closet. We checked every floorboard and baseboard for anything  loose that could expose our hidden prize. We worked in two person teams as much as possible and would discuss what we found and where to check next. We all wanted to be the one to find our bounty, but teamwork was how we were going to succeed.

One day, Chris and I were searching one of the bedrooms upstairs. In the closet, we found a door in the back wall, hidden by a smelly, old, quilted, wardrobe bag. The trap door in the back of the wall was screwed closed, the plywood painted the same color as the walls, and not noticeable unless you were looking. The fact that the garment bag was placed in front of the door, hid it from any cursory glance, gave us a jolt of excitement. We knew we had found our treasure!

We went back the next day with screwdrivers, all excited to see what was behind the plywood door hidden in the closet. It was almost ritualistic. The level of excitement was building. We each took turns taking out a screw. I took out one, Chris took out one, Jeff took out the third, and Bobby took out the last.

We all watched, expectantly, as Bobby used the screwdriver to pry out the panel and took the door away. The tension was thick with expectation and the impatience of youthful greed. We all had a picture in our mind of what we would find. I knew it would be a box hidden between the studs filled with piles of money and lots of gold and diamonds. As each screw was removed, the gap between the panel and the opening grew, my mind could see the glitter of riches filtering out between the gaps as if light was reflecting off all the silver and gold, magnified by all the facets of jewels. My mind was working in overdrive. What would we do with all that money?

The anticipation and excitement were powerful. Not knowing what we would find was even more intense than the feeling when we reached the bottom of the steps on Christmas morning facing piles of presents. What could be in there? Which box looks like it could contain the gift we wanted most? Or the feeling of spending a quarter on a pack of baseball cards, knowing exactly which cards we hoped to find. Would this pack hold our favorite player or give us the cards we needed to fill our set? Or would it be more doubles to trade and flip? All these thoughts filtered through the brain in the seconds it took to remove the last screw and pry away the board.

But all we found was an empty space containing access to the water fixtures and traps for the bathroom. What a letdown after such a buildup!

But what fun for us! The quest for our hidden treasure would have to continue. But we had all the time we needed, and if we had to, we could start tearing out the walls. Looking back on this adventure it is easy to say this beat the hell out of video games!

But, we didn’t have all the time in the world! We didn’t even have another week! Our time had run out!

It was extremely disappointing when we found that someone had boarded up the basement window we used as our entrance. We took tools from Jeff’s house and forced our way back in. The next day, boards across the window again. And posted above the window, a no trespassing sign. We were so angry. They were the trespassers! We felt violated, robbed! Finding the No Trespassing sign was depressing on so many levels. The best fort/clubhouse we ever had up until that point in our lives was gone.

We would sit on the Record’s hill and complain. They lived four houses down from me and they put up with us playing or hanging out on their hill. We would sit brooding while we watched the workers coming and going in our old fort.

Record’s hill was a perfect rolling hill that we used for King of the Hill. The hill was caddy-corner across from the house and we would watch the workers, listen to the sounds of hammers and saws, and talk about our anger and resentment at losing the “greatest fort”. We complained about all the hidden treasure we never found. We were always waiting for the shouts from the construction crew when they found the hidden booty in a wall or a loose floor that we did not notice. “We should have started tearing down the walls earlier!” was our common thought.

When the sale sign went up in front of the house, then people moved in; people without kids, we had to hate them for stealing our fort and our riches. We egged the house a few times, but it didn’t take long to find another fort and another fantasy to focus on.

I still, to this day, have to smile every time I go past that house. It makes me think about all the fun we had that later generations of kids have missed.

                thank you                                                      ——————-

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