At ten years old, it was time that set out on my own.
Being the middle child of six children, it always seemed there just
wasn't enough breathing room in a cramped home in which I
shared a bedroom with two younger brothers. Claustrophobia
may be the best description but, with two older, bossy sisters and
an eldest brother that dominated parental attention, I was also
lost in the shuffle. It was then that along with my best friends,
Jim & Russ, that we decided to move out and strike out on our
own. It was time to build a shack. Scavenging around the
neighborhood we managed to come up with enough scrap wood
to build three walls and a roof. We placed the open side against
the back wall of my house.
Now, I know you are thinking, "That's not really striking too far
out there on your own, is it?" However, once you were inside,
you might as well have been on the moon! Once we closed the
carpet on the door, it was so dark and soundproof we could
devise all kinds of plans that would allow us to wreak havoc on
the neighborhood! Sitting inside the 4' x 4' walls of the shack,
is when my true independence began to form. Here we made up
secret handshakes, talked about girls and shared stories about our
latest escapades. We made up tall tales and even taller lies. I
tasted my first beer in here, a warm Tech Beer, It is amazing that
I ever drank again! And it was in the shack that I first glimpsed
the inside pages of a Playboy Magazine! I still love Shannon
Tweed to this day!
We had black light posters from Rags & Records taped to the
walls, a carpet floor and even ran an extension cord to it to run
our black light! It was the perfect escape from parents, teachers
and judgmental relatives! Nowhere on the planet could a boy fall
deeper in trouble,¦with no one knowing.
One day, while walking down the alley the French Brothers, Bob
& John, noticed our shack in my backyard. They knocked on
the roof and we peeked out the carpet door. "Hey, yinz know we
gotta shack too?" "Hmmm, really?" "Yeah." Bobby said with
noticeable pride in his voice. "We have a double decker!" Double
decker! We have got to see this! So we ran up the alley to see
their double decked shack behind their house on Beacon Hill.
It was kinda rough, not many amenities, but it was a sturdy
structure. It wasnâ€™t long before Jim, Russ & I were carrying
our shack up Red Dog Alley to attach to the side of the French's
double decker shack.
Now we had a real shack! A super structure that no one in these
parts had ever seen! Three rooms of independence, diabolical
details and hidden agendas! After bolting our shack to the
French's we began outfitting it with all the amenities of a house!
We cut a milk carton from the bottom and snapped a hose to the
lid, ran it down the hill and buried it in the ground, instant urinal!
We built a chest with a lock to hold our Playboys and the cigars
John would steal from Mead's. We ran five extensions cords to
the television we put on the second floor. We buried a cooler
under the welcome mat at the front door. We put in a hibachi
with an oven hood to cook hamburgers and hot dogs. A
combination lock on the front door to keep everyone else out
and curtained windows to let us see out. It was magnificent!
27 square feet of paradise!
We now had a central point where we ran our criminal enterprise
that covered the better part of six blocks! We could throw crab
apples at buses and UPS trucks over the houses of Waltham
Avenue. In the winter, we could pelt unaware cars with tight
snowballs on Scott Road before the big hill at the end of Beacon
Hill. John was bringing in boxes of cigars from his frequent trips
to Mead's while the rest of us were amassing hundreds of baseball
cards from unsuspecting Isaly's workers by reaching over the
glass there. It seemed like our run would never end!
We slept overnight in the shack watching Johnny Carson on our
TV while smoking cigars till we puked. We ducked into the shack
after being chased by victims of our snowball barrage. We even
hid in our shack while the rest of the neighborhood was trying to
track down the culprits of an egg attack on Old Lady Fisher's
house for stealing baseballs that went into her yard. Yeah, it was
our fortress, castle, our make-believe mansion that we all
cherished and defended.
Then, ¦it all came crashing down. It seems after numerous
complaints from neighbors, UPS Drivers and Old Lady Fisher to
the Dormont Police Department they sent the Zoning Police to our
door looking for a permit! Our little shack, they would charge,
was a permanent structure on the easement and would need
numerous, expensive permits to be allowed to stand. After
threatening us with fines and court dates, we tore it down.
We tore it dow,¦while they watched. It was heartbreaking!
The lessons and the amount of growing up we did in that little
shack enabled us to move on to bigger and better things. One of
these days, that story will be told too.