My Childhood Wasn’t Exactly The Wonder Years…

The hurly-burly, wing-dingy activity that is the hallmark of summertime in Niagara Falls has begun. Today alone, I’ve seen a cat shoved in a suitcase, two hookers dressed as Sailor Moon (one poor girl was big enough to have her own gravity), and a bachelorette party comprised of ten of the only living brain donors in medical history.

All before noon.

On the plus side,Β  I ascended twenty feet up a ladder yesterday to begin painting my evil lair. (Which the wife insists upon referring to as “our home”.) I’m happy to report all went well; the ladder shook like Kanye West at an awards show and my arm is sore from holding the paint can while slapping on the latest layer of make-up to my HQ, but otherwise, I made it back down under my own steam rather than by the power of gravity and my own “luck”.

The onset of summer coupled with working outdoors for once rather than within the concrete walls of a hotel has filled me with an unbelievably powerful wave of nostalgia. I remember a bright, scorcher-of-a-summer day, much like a million that preceded it. As usual, I was on my own; I had plenty of friends at school but outside the prison walls, I was flying solo.

Ironically, “flying solo”, meant hanging out in a abandoned Ford pickup, which the neighborhood kids dubbed “Big Red”, in a ginormous field that adjoined my childhood home in St. Catharines, Ontario. The windshield and windows had been removed for maximum comfort – and target practice – and the tires had been deflated long ago. It became a suburban relic, parked between civilization and what remained of the countryside. To a kid, it was ridiculously cool.

This is the stuff that childhood dreams are made of, friends.

Granted, these days I’d never let my kid anywhere near an abandoned truck in the middle of a field, where no one can hear you scream, even if it was close to our house. But it was the Seventies and people were secure in their illusion of safety. We actually thought civilization was populated by civilized individuals.

But I digest.

One fine day, in the middle of the afternoon, while I was sitting in Big Red doing nothing (it was glorious), a thought occurred to me.

“What would go great with an afternoon devoted to reading a stack of comics, listening to a transistor radio and slurping down a small cooler of Coke? I know! Popcorn!”

Of course, there were a few problems.

  1. I was in a truck.
  2. In a field.

And so I was stumped. Temporarily. Until another thought hit me.

“We have a new popcorn maker at home! And miles of extension cords in the garage! And we even have popcorn!”

And so I indulged my inner mad genius and set out to pop me some corn. After raiding the kitchen and stringing together several extension cords into something from a firefighter’s nightmare and plugging into our garage outlet, that is. And yes, kids, this is long before the golden age of mankind when microwave popcorn was created. Or, for that matter, the microwave.

At any rate, I filled the popcorn maker’s reservoir, activated the machine and the field’s silence was shattered by the mechanical whir of man’s genius.

My plan worked perfectly – but not fast enough to satisfy my boyhood hunger. Fortunately, I had another brainstorm.

“I need something to really get things popping! I got it… Dad’s barbecue lighter fluid would do the trick!”

This keeps getting better, right? Well, buckle up, we’ve barely started.

The latest portion of my plan had a wrinkle to be ironed out. I acquired the lighter fluid easily enough, but even though they were out for the day, my parents’ rules were still in effect. I was forbidden to use matches.

Luckily, my parents never said anything about my dad’s welding torch.


I couldn’t possibly drag the torch out to the field so I located a thin piece of wood, covered it’s tip in rags, lit that up and carried it out to Big Red like some refugee from Lord of the Flies.

You read that right.

So I poured the fluid on the popcorn (you’re cringing, aren’t you?), dipped the flame from my makeshift torch in the reservoir… and then reality decided to rain on my parade.Β  In an isntant it was time to play Johnny Blaze, Junior Firefighter. So I ran back to the garage and found something to smother the flames. Thank Dog for Dad’s giant stack of Playboy magazines.

Told you this would keep getting better.

And nightmares.

Remember, the popcorn maker was still plugged in and I had a bottle of lighter fluid right beside it in the cab of the truck. When my efforts failed I was forced to resort to one last tactic. The garden hose wouldn’t reach so I grabbed my father’s emergency supply of beer (after finally unplugging the popcorn maker), and headed out to put everything right. Unfortunately, I sucked at handling a bottle opener but I made due and extinguished the truck-encased bonfire within minutes.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Okay, so maybe not. In the end, my parents (the ultimate buzz-kills) drafted a new, comprehensive set of rules to govern my behavior when they were away – which was still a lot. Not that the new edicts helped much; I was a scamp, through and through. Luckily, the neighborhood kids rather liked the new scent that filled Big Red.

It was a mix of musty magazines, barbecue, popcorn and childhood dreams.Β 

See you in the lobby, kids…

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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46 Responses to My Childhood Wasn’t Exactly The Wonder Years…

  1. charflew23 says:

    Mr. Hooligan what a post to keep you on the edge of your seat, pop goes the weasel!

  2. Paul says:

    Bwahaha! Hook that was an amazing tale. I’ve done some foolish things as a kid but never such a compilation in one fell swoop. Congrats, there has to be an award in there somewhere for such a performance.

    Ha! I once decided to make some bullrush torches – you know the ones where the fuzzy end of a bull rush is soaked in some kind of flammable liquid and then set afire and carried around by the stalk? I picked a half a dozen bullrushes and laid them out on the back lawn. I went and got the lawnmower gas can, which was full, and tried to dip in the bullrush heads. Unfortunately the can had a screen inside the spout to stop anything from entering the can. So I liberally poured gas over the bullrushes laying on the lawn. I got some matches, grabbed a soaked bullrush and lit it on fire. The gas had run down the stalk and the flames followed, burning my hand before I dropped it. Of, course as soon as it hit the gas soaked lawn , the whole backyard was on fire. I ran to get the hose and the gas can exploded. ha! The neighbor came over and helped me put out the lawn. Boy did I get heck for hat one. πŸ˜€

    Funny post Hook – great memories,

  3. You were an awesome kid!

  4. 1jaded1 says:

    Cringing…you pyro you…all’s well that ends well, dear. Glad you survived.

  5. krazykris says:

    sounds more like “Wonder how I survived those years”

  6. Vanessa D. says:

    First – hello to a fellow Ontario resident. Secondly as another child of the 70’s, I know when you talk about the new popcorn popper you don’t mean one of today’s hot air poppers. You mean one of those ones that you actually poured vegetable oil into before plugging it in! Love this story of your childhood.

  7. Veronica says:

    Classic! the stuff childhood’s are made of. Mine was of similar vein although I never actually blew anything up.

  8. trillie says:

    All this really shows is that you were a creative thinker at a young age πŸ˜‰

  9. Great post. I can see it in my mind’s eye. It was the beer that clinched it! πŸ˜€

  10. Had I been your parents, I would never let you out of my sight! OMG. o_O

  11. Daydreams says:

    This taking place in the 70s ‘n all, I bet you were on the receiving end of a major ass whoopin’…

  12. Sim Carter says:

    Sheesh! You guys! My husband has some crazy stories about setting things on fire too. Boys will be boys??? Just discovered you through the amazing #SundayBlogShare thingey. When I saw the words β€” Niagara Falls β€” slowly I turned and clicked on your link because I grew up there a zillion years ago. Fifty anyway! It was the 1960’s. Here’s a piece if you give a hoot:)

  13. Old abandoned cars are the stuff of kids dreams, and you really took it to a whole, other level!

  14. I would have had a fit if I was your mom.

  15. pegoleg says:

    So you trashed your dad’s popcorn maker, beer and girlie magazines all in one fell swoop? I’m surprised you survived puberty!

  16. ” secure in their illusion of safety. We actually thought civilization was populated by civilized individuals.” Ahhhh, those were good times for kids. Shame that’s not being passed down to be enjoyed.
    Thanks for the laughs, you scamp.

  17. Katie says:

    Thank god we have interesting rambunctious childhoods to delve into for great material!

  18. Good God, there’s so much classic Hook in this, I don’t even know what to comment on! What a story(ies)! LOL here, Robert, and I am so stealing the line about “the only living brain donors in medical history”. Awesomeness…

  19. Madhu says:

    Great read! But I caught myself thinking how you deserved to have a son just like you!! πŸ˜€

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