April 10, 2012

Treasure Hunting in the Alleys

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

As a treasure hunter the alleys were our gold fields. Things we could find that became our treasure were
an old pair of roller skates and a 2 x 4. This was the birth of modern day skate boarding. We would take the skate apart and attach the ends to the front and back of a 2X4, this was the skate board.

Now to make a scooter we would take the 2X4 with the two pieces of skate wheels and attach a wooden orange crate to it. We then attached an old broom stick to the top of the crate; this became our handle. We would paint them if we could find paint. Old baby buggies were prized for the wheels; we always wanted to enter a soap box derby but we never progressed that far. Most of the time it was a cardboard box on top of a collapsed buggy.

A rare find was an old inner tube. We would find one and patch it up. This became our Lake Michigan Yacht. If it was shredded and couldn't be patched we would cut it into strips and make rubber guns.
This was a carved piece of wood that resembled a rifle; a spring clothes pin was the trigger and we would shoot a large cut piece of rubber out of it.

Match guns were made by taking a spring clothespin apart and reversing one of the handles with the spring on the outside. By pushing in the lever of the spring, it fit into a notch that we cut in on the inside of the pin. Then when we inserted a kitchen match and pulled the spring/trigger, the spring shot out a lit match. This was great for burning down small forts we made out of popsicle sticks.

Finding bottles was the same as finding money. Cereal box tops and the inner liner of a jar of Ovaltine was the same as a pot of gold. Kellogs PEP sponsored Superman, Ovaltine, Captain Midnight, Ralston Tom Mix, Wheaties Jack Armstrong. Cherrios The Lone Ranger* We listened to all their radio serial programs, 15 minutes each.

When we found a piece of wood about a 2X2 we would taper it at each end them put numbers on it. 1 on one side then 2 then 3 then 4. We then would hit the tapered end with an old broom handle, the piece would fly up and then when it landed the number showing on top was your score. We played to 21.

Speaking of patch kits for inner tubes, which we could buy at the Dime Store, we would also buy repair kits for shoes. A rubber sole the could be glued over the hole in your shoe, along with new rubber heels. I even remember the "Cats Paw" brand.

Metal crescent shaped cleats were essential in order to be noticed walking down the street. We would attach them to the heels and the tips of our shoes. As young kids we developed a way of walking, double bouncing and dragging the cleat on the sidewalk that made a terrible racket. Especially in the school hallways.

Most every kid in Stewart School collected trading cards. We would start out with an ordinary old deck of cards and the trade one of your cards for a different card from someone else. Over a period of time, we would end up with a hundred cards all different, most valuable was any card that that had a scene on it. Pin ups were the best.

We did this for a couple of years, then some company started selling trading cards with an already mixed set and blank on the suit side. Well, that took all the fun out of what we were doing, so we all quit. I think the Dime Store got stuck with a lot of inventory

Thanks for reading!


bill Matteson said...

From John, who was in Harrison Fords class. and now a retired Teacher, from Lane Tech.
Hi Bill,
I never forgot the time the bowling alley on Wilson tossed out the old pins. I sure wish I still had them. Yes, the Alley was our Gold Mine, and the Oasis our watering hole. Remember John the Barber on Wilson, as well as the "China Man" laundry? I believe he was also the neighborhood bookie.

adgorn said...

Still remember the bowling alley's 10 cent popcorn machine (painted red & yellow I think) with the little metal chute in the front to load your bag. Yum!

old guy said...

yup, yellow with red lettering and a glass top with a light bulb to keep the popcorn warm. I can still here the hum of the machine as it filled up your paper bag.

Maia Dobson said...

I missed your very tasty and crunchy popcorn! I was even inspired to make my own popcorn business and buy popcorn machines for sale when I tasted your popcorn.


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