One sunny Saturday morning six decades ago in Seattle’s Ballard district, two kids blew open the door of a playground field house, and the rest of us, including my neighbor pal and me, ran in, tossed around basketballs then took off.
I was in the fourth grade.
A couple minutes earlier a bunch of us had stood around outside the field house as the two ring leaders, hardened sixth graders, showed us cherry bombs they’d scrounged up somewhere (no one said “on the street” then). They lit the fuse and BAM! So long, padlocks.
It didn’t occur to us that the bombs had startled the whole neighborhood.
Afterward, Bobby and I roamed around then, all innocence, headed home — and to a Seattle Police Department squad car sitting outside my house.
Today parents grab their attorney. Not then. The cops plopped me in the back of their cruiser, chewed me out and closed with, “Keep your nose clean, and when you reach 18, you’ll have a clean record.”
I did and I do.
The episode was scary. Cops? Fourth grade? I could hear those iron gates slamming shut. While I was doing hard time (grounded in my room), my neighbor was outside announcing, “I’ve got a police record!”
It was an early lesson in choosing friends wisely and not being a clueless follower.
As kids we ignore both, but luckily most of us don’t end up like the grandpa prisoner at Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh. I was visiting the prison for a newspaper article, and he told me, “I was sittin’ in the car when my friend shot a guy during a holdup. I still got life.”
My pal got death when he OD’d on drugs in his 20s.