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May 11, 2009

Riddle View Lane Summer Sleepovers

I grew up on Riddle View Lane in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1960’s. My guess is that it wasn’t much different than any other street in the city. All the houses in my neighborhood were shaped just like the little green houses in a Monopoly game. My mom and dad’s house was so small, measuring just 22 by 22 feet, it could fit inside the garage at my last home.

The narrow 40-foot lots in my neighborhood couldn’t take a much bigger home, as each house had the requisite tiny strips of grass in the side yards along with the mandatory driveway that led to a rear garage. Each house or two-family home was shoehorned quite nicely onto the narrow slivers of land.

Our cozy street was filled with kids that later in life would be labeled Baby Boomers. There was Roger, Donna and Johnny Boncutter, Cathy Conrad, Pekka and Charles Mooar, Donna Michaels, Eddie Albers, Butchie and Ricky Tallarigo, Billy (Max) Gottesman and Mike Wilson just to name a few. Mike's friends from school, Kenny Cairns and Doyle Spradlin often could be found on our street.

We were all close in age, and many a summer night was spent either playing hide and seek, watching distant thunderstorms race across the northwestern horizon or hanging out on the tiny porches of some of the houses. There was always something to do each night, and we all did our best to stretch the curfews set by our parents.

Some of the best times were the boys-only sleepovers that happened in Mike Wilson’s backyard. We pretended to sleep outside in the muggy air under the stars serenaded by the droning of truck and car traffic zipping along the brand-new Interstate 75 that was just below us in the Mill Creek valley. I know there were mosquitoes and other bugs, but I sure don’t remember them. What I do recall vividly is staying up till almost dawn laughing, talking, horsing around and swimming. Yes, swimming in the middle of the night.

Just below Mike’s house in the woods, some developer built an apartment complex ruining our long trail that led to Central Parkway and the dark, abandoned subway tunnels that we used to explore. This apartment building had a swimming pool filled with cool, refreshing water that was just 150 feet from where we had our sleeping bags, cots and bedding set out on Mike’s rear yard.

Billy Gottesman was the alpha male of our pack. He was a cool-headed leader who always came up with clever pranks that would most certainly get us in trouble if any of them were discovered by our parents. Looking back, I think his swagger and daredevil attitude was enhanced by his mom and dad’s divorce.

Billy lived in a two-family house with his red-headed mother Virginia. She had a contagious laugh that flowed from her lips much like her silky red hair tumbled from her head. Virginia gave Billy all sorts of rope, and he used every inch of it to extract pleasure as any young teenage boy might.

About three a.m. on one particularly humid night Billy whispered, “Hey, let’s go swimming.” So as not to wake Mrs. Wilson who was sleeping just above us with her window open, several of us murmured, “Where?” “You idiots, in the apartment swimming pool,” Billy mouthed as he pointed towards the crystal-clear water that was shimmering just below us.

“But we don’t have swimming suits,” Roger mumbled. “Who needs them. We’re going naked,” exclaimed Billy, his devilish grin illuminated by a few stray light beams that came from the soft floodlights aimed at the pool.

Within seconds, all of us were buck naked tip toeing one by one down through the underbrush to the pool. Crouching at the edge of the vegetation we stopped to scout the situation. The pounding of our hearts and the hum of the pool’s recirculating pump drowned out all the background noise the city made that night. A slight breeze pushed the scent of chlorine into our nostrils as we strained to see if anyone was awake in their apartment.

“All of us have to slowly slide into the water, and there’s to be NO splashing. We can’t get caught. This is a commando training exercise. All sissies can hang their panties on the gate post as they walk through the fence. All men need to scale the barricade,” instructed Billy.

Climbing a 4-foot-high chain-link fence with gym shoes and clothes on is not a big deal. But bare foot and with the family jewels dangling just centimeters from the sharp twisted wires of the fence made this escapade challenging indeed. As best as I can remember, no one used the gate as they would’ve never survived the ridicule that would rain upon them like leaves falling from trees on a blustery autumn day. Most escaped the fence’s talons, but a few of us scraped our prairie oysters and lived to tell the tale.

After scaling the fence, we scampered across the concrete decking surrounding the pool, trying to get our alabaster bodies out of the light and into the water as fast as possible. To this day I don’t know how we did it, but we all slipped into the clear nectar not making a sound.

The water was delightfully refreshing. Each of us slowly and carefully stroked the water gliding along like alligators in a swamp. It was nearly impossible to hold back our chuckles and laughter, as we were beaming that our mission had been successfully completed.

However, there was still one thing left to do. We had to get out and back up the hill without making a peep. With wet feet, no one wanted to climb the fence, so we all exited through the gate. In less than 90 seconds we were back in the safety of Mike’s back yard dripping wet and proud as peacocks. We assessed the damage and thankfully no one was seriously injured. Giggles were muffled into our bedding and balled-up clothes used for pillows. The pool water not only cooled us off, but it also made it so none of us had to take a shower the next day. However, we later discovered that several had to do some fast talking when a few of the moms smelled the chlorine in our hair the next morning. It was a night I’ll never forget!

Posted by Tim Carter at 9:50 AM

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