Gamboa News

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Childhood Antics

chronicled by
Mark "JIm" Driscoll, Dick Shobe, Lyla "Lou" Womack,
Butch Hope, Doris Ehrman Monaco

Jim Driscoll
When we were in first grade the "older" kids had a smoking Club - they met under a large vine growing on the hill up from the school. To "join" one had to bring a pack of cigarettes, naturally I did and on about the third day there were about 20 of us all lit up when we heard a fire engine coming our way. We all ran out from under the vine as we thought we were producing so much smoke that someone had called the fire station. The fire truck passed - but there were some adults watching from up the hill and they had a good laugh (I think Mrs. Hope was one of them).

Dick Shobe
I remembered the Halloween some Gamboa kids strung a real chain across the street near the school instead of toilet paper, and who should come driving along in his Model T but our police sergeant. What was his name? I'm thinking Sergeant Ford. Anyway, no damage was done. The kids dropped the chain before it did any damage.

I too remember church services in the movie theater and in the gym.

I remembered the night a group of us boys went skinny-dipping in the pool.I forgot to shed my glasses and lost them diving of the diving board. I had to go swimming the next day to retrieve them.

And the baseball grandstand! That's a memory best told by Jim. But I'll give it a try. It was about July 11th. Panama was having one of its bloodless coups and the President was taking asylum in Gamboa, not far from your house but on the other side of the street. There was a policeman on guard around the clock. That Fourth of July Jim and I had made our firecrackers using shotgun cartridges and mixing our own gunpowder. We mixed more than we could use and decided to get rid of it all at once. Jim and his friend Danny Alexander and I lighted what can only be described as a pipe bomb on second base. It exploded big time! The whole field was covered in gray smoke. We had gone behind the grandstand after lighting the fuse and that was farsighted. The grandstand had pieces of pipe sticking into the wood. The governor believed there was an attempt to assassinate the president. The Armed Services were on alert. The Gamboa police more familiar with Gamboa kids were waiting in front of our house when we decided we had to come home.

I remember sitting with Dave Henderson, Johnny Magee and Fernando Martinez on the USO roof one night trying to talk each other into jumping off. And we did. No damage done. Danny Alexander, Jim's best friend, who died much to young, spent a lot of time with us. Your story about your Dad rigging the door knob for a "little shock" reminded me of another story Jim sometimes tells. Jimmy and Danny, not knowing the meaning of "little", wired the door knob of the little room we had under the house to the fuse box, hosed down the concrete leading to the door and called out for me to come see their surprise. Fortunately before I got to the door, the knob overheated and the current jumped to the concrete, smoke everywhere. Jimmy and Danny come running out, badly frightened.

Lou Womack
Juvenile delinquency was not even a word used in those days. I think it was from the tales that our parents told us while sitting around the dinner table that inspired us to follow their model that they so vividly displayed at times. People were always łpulling funnies˛ on each other...you know, the pratical joker kind. When we lived in the up and downer the Bantons lived on the other side. When Dad would see Marvin, a friend he grew up with in Panama, coming up the sidewalk towards his home he would run to the telephone and call his number. When Marvin heard the phone ringing he would run up the stairs, slam the door and pick up the dead phone. At another time he would be taking a shower and dad would flush the toilet on our side over and over again and all of a sudden he would hear a gasping noise through the walls as the warm water instantly turned cold. I am sure many other children heard similar stories so the tradition continued with them. On Halloween...they howled including my mom and dad.

They thought it would be sport to give the kids a thrill or scare when they came to our house for treats. Dad rigged up the doorbell to give a little shock when it was touched. When the boy or girl would run down the steps Mom would shine a flashlight on her face that had a cosmetic white mask...all peeled and moan, łOoooooo!˛ When the child let out a scream Dad would squirt a syringe filled with cold ether on their leg. Our house was the most popular house that night.

The custom was in those days that if someone didnąt give them a treat when they said łTrick or treat˛ they could expect a trick such as soaping their car windows with a bar of soap. Other extremes were stringing toilet paper across the street and making the cars stop in the neighborhood with the driver thinking it was a rope. Empty garbage cans were always and attraction and very handy to hang on the flagpole at the scout shack and to put at the top of the long row of steps leading up to the heights from the school. The clanging sound of garbage cans tumbling down this long row I am sure was always music to the policemen in the station near the foot of the hill.

Now one incident was a little too extreme when told about it the following day...putting dye in the Gamboa Swimming Pool. Now this group ran over behind the grandstand of the baseball field when they thought the police were looking for them. They even spoke of searchlights shining across the field. And now you know a little bit more about the łGamboa Gang˛. Names are not mentioned to protect the innocent.

Butch Hope
I remember one Halloween when two "pranks" occurred. We would always use the trash cans, either for rolling them down hills, steps, etc., and would hook them up to the lines on flag poles and flip them over the top. On this particular night, after flipping one over the top of the pole at the ball field, I climbed up the pole and took the cable off of the pole, and Carols Seise and I strung it across Sibert Ave. about the location of the Girl Scout's sidewalk, between two palm trees. Unfortunately. it was high enough to catch the hood ornament of a new Chevy, throwing it into the windshield. Needless to say, we got caught, went to Balboa Court. I was fined $50, $25 of it suspended, and the cost to replace the windshield and repair the hood, which was $66. Carlos received a fine of $25, all of it suspended, and we both were placed on probation for a year.

Doris Monaco
As for Halloween, one year my brother informed all us other kids to go sit on the side of the hill overlooking the school. Awhile later he and some other cohort came scampering up and sat beside us. A few minutes later the lights went on inside the school and the bell started ringing. We watched as the Police (few as there were...1 or 2?) drove up the circular drive got out and went inside the school. The doors were locked as were the windows. Another unsolved mystery. We just sat on the hill singing "Here we Sit Like Birds in the Wilderness".

Later that evening we started hearing laughter and screams...there were our parents in casual clothing running from house to house Trick or Treating. They got glasses from one house, ice from another house and drinks at the next and so on and so on. They were having so much fun it sort of took the "shine" off our evening. My Father was dressed in Pajamas that were black and white striped like a prison outfit. Mr. Banton had on a Bush Helmet and had a whistle which he kept blowing as he chased after my Father. They went up Rum Row and up to Snob Hill. Later they came to our house for breakfast. That's one time I didn't have to worry about curfew...but came home early wishing all the grown ups would grow up and go home....


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