The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 15, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Kids’ stuff but, boy, was it a blast!

I have no idea why I thought of this, just now, but I did.

My mind, or perhaps it’s that thing that’s made of granite that beats several times a minute, speaks from somewhere deep inside. Almost as if it’s coming from the soul.

There were so many times, I thought the things that provided comfort in my life, from Mom and a yet-to-lose-it dad, to siblings, to grandparents and aunts and uncles, would be around forever.

It’s akin to the days when various gaggles of the guys I grew up with, namely, Roger Wesely, Bob Carlson, Scott Brainard, Eddie Morrison, Doug Fulton, Glenn Brown, Brett Whobrey, Dean Neenan, Mike Hintz, John Knight, Chip Jones, Randy Roach, John Powers, Don Robinson, the Jurcenko boys (and Anita, too), Steve Locy, Mike Locy, Jim Carrigan, Scott Barber and so many others would get together for a rugged backyard football game, complete with — gasp! — full-contact tackling, Wiffleball, basketball — either at Bob’s house, Nugent’s barn or, in our high school years, on the dirt in my backyard, games that amounted to full-contact basketball played on 8- or 9-foot hoops so we could throw down — and then sleep under the stars back when Hillyer Drive in Elliott allotment was not yet named and was all woods, so we just called it “the third road.”

If Mother Nature intervened, we’d gather at someone’s house and play ping pong, pool, double-board Risk, Stratego, Monopoly and, eventually, graduated to luxuries such as Atari and Intellevision, though we weren’t indoors often.

Before our teen years, Friday nights meant “Recreation” at the Baptist Church, which was basically halfcourt basketball or 4-square, and, yes, an excuse to stand around and talk about girls most of us were too scared to death to even speak.

I can recall on many nights we slept out, we’d convene at Chip Jones’ house. We’d take turns driving his go-kart around in his side yard, while the rest of us fired basketballs as hard as we could at the driver. Brilliant, I know... perhaps that’s part of the reason I have mental malfunctions.

We’d play a game — the name of which cannot be mentioned in this PC day and age and changing times — which amounted to throwing a football in the air, one guy catching it and running for his life as he was basically assaulted, then dog-piled. (Some of the most vicious hits this guy has ever taken came in backyard football).

We called Bob Carlson “Earl” because he ran like the Hall of Famer, Earl Campbell, punishing us as we attempted to gang-tackle him... then, threatening us when we finally managed to get enough bodies on him to get him off his feet and he got back up. Thankully, Bob’s temper was usually doused very quickly by his trademark laugh and smile.

Then, there was the time Eddie Morrison and myself decided it would be fun to spice up our 1-on-1 Wiffleball games by building a Green Monster in left field. So we drove to one of the factories over by Memorial Field, where I talked to one of the best guys I’ve known, Jon Brabender, and he was kind enough to give us some 8-foot by 11-foot sheets of particle board. We tied it onto the roof of my ’77 Thunderbird, drove it back to his house on Kathleen Drive and, believe it or not, we built our own mini-monster in his backyard, though at 16 feet, ’twasn’t enough half of the famed 37-foot original in Fenway Park.

That lasted all of 3 hours... until his dad, the late Larry Morrison, pulled into the driveway, heard a loud, “thunk!” after one of our drives hit the monster and he marched out the back door and stopped dead in his tracks. At first, though he never admitted it, a feint look of admiration, as if to say, “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” ran across his face.

Instantly, though, that look was replaced by one that resembled an expression one would get if they had a school of piranha trolling around in his underwear.

We were given “5 $%^&*(*&^ minutes!” to “get that (*&^$%^&*()_ down!” or else! (We did).

Then, there was the time Roger Wesely and I wanted to go see a movie at the Ashtabula Skyway. Problem was, we only had enough cash for one ticket. So we decided Roger would drive... and I would ride in the trunk and sneak in. We were such rocket scientists, huh? Who goes to a drive-in by themself, right? No one, of course.

Anyway, it was a 90-degree July night and we got through the gate well enough. As I waited for Roger to pop the trunk, I started to really sweat because of the claustrophobic conditions. Finally, after about 15 minutes (it was probably more like 3, but poetic license, OK?), I banged on the inside of the fender and hissed, “Roger, gonna let me outta here?” Then, I heard a voice, though it didn’t sound like Roger, ask, “Well, Roger, gonna let him out?”

Yup, we were busted. Fortunately, the guy had a sense of humor and allowed us to stay and watch the flick.

Other times, we took one of the coolest rides this rump has ever rode in — Greg Housel’s purple dune buggy! I vividly recall Greg, me, Glenn Brown and Doug FUlton going to see a “classic” film called “H-O-T-S.” *blush* (don’t ask).

Speaking of movies, I remember when the now-torn-down Cinema West used to show “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at midnight. One time, with the house packed to the gills, a guy stood up, asked, “Does anyone in here work here?” When he got no response, he pulled an egg from his pocket and chucked it at the screen, hitting it dead center, leaving a trail of dead baby chicken dripping all the way down the screen.

I won’t say the guy’s name because I’m not sure if the statute of limitations has run out, but he is a now the varsity baseball coach for an Ashtabula County 9.

Not to mention, the infamous night of terror Steve Locy, Mike Locy and myself spent hunting Bigfoot at a farm on Johnson Road in Rome Township.

The point is, I guess, we were always doing something... anything, and the vast majority of it was outside. We all played football, basketball and baseball, along with a myriad of other activities and had a blast doing it.

I could go on for hours, I’m guessing, but I’d rather that bore you to tears. For example, there are other tales involving guns while in the gulf at 3 a.m., fire extinguishers filled with water driving around dousing people, putting 3 giant boxes of Tide in the fountain in North Park in Ashtabula, etc. Perhaps they will be elaborated on at a later time.

Perhaps not.

And though I have zero doubt today’s youngsters are much more worldly than we could ever dream to have been, I’m not sure they’re better off ... and I doubt very much they had even close to as much fun.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at

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