The Brat Patrol | A Long Time Ago, In a Neighborhood Far, Far Away…

Posts filed under 'Games We Played'

Remembering Bob-Lo Island

It’s fall in the Detroit area and commercials run regularly advertising Cedar Point’s “HalloWeekends.” While Sandusky, Ohio may be the closest amusement part to Detroit these days, it was all about Bob-Lo Island in the 80’s.

Boblo Island Storage Building

My grade school had annual outings to the island. Though I didn’t especially enjoy the boat ride at the time (approx. 80 minutes), I would love another chance to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the boat. Each had either a dance floor, arcade or both, concessions and of course an amazing view of the Detroit River. The park itself was relatively small with a couple dozen rides ranging from bump’em cars to full-on rollercoaster thrill rides. I was never quite old enough to enjoy the park to the fullest and regret having been afraid of the best rides.

The Screamer

The Screamer

These days, the entire island returned to its residential roots, housing private homes, vacation property, and marina space. Who knows… in another 20 years rides may return and ferries could carry excited Detroiters to that little chunk of Canada (yep… it’s really part of Canada) to appreciate local amusements… though I doubt it.

Here’s some more Bob-Lo Island resources:

2 comments October 14th, 2009 by duane

Video Games Change The Landscape

One of the most formative experiences in my childhood: my early exposure to an Atari 2600. My older cousin, Kyle had a few different video game consoles. Joey, a friend that traveled to Detroit from California every summer to visit his grandparents had a 2600 in both states! Enough of our friends had Atari consoles that we had regular opportunities to “rot our brains out” (as our parents put it).

Ah, the veritable Atari 2600, complete with woodgrain accents.

Ah, the veritable Atari 2600, complete with woodgrain accents.

The actual game itself wasn’t the main attraction. Heck, most games were merely a square darting around the screen avoiding other squares. When we played games as a group, it became a production. Alternate storylines to the game evolved: Activision’s Space Shuttle game grew to include mission control, mission specialists, and technicians, Missile Command became a life and death struggle between the US and the commies… which one should note was un-winnable.

The view from the Space Shuttle... according to Activision

The view from the Space Shuttle... according to Activision

Many early games relied heavily on the printed instruction manual packed with each cartridge wherein the back story was established and the difference between the all-too-similar bad guys was explained. The Nintendo Entertainment System was the first home console that actually had recognizable characters on the screen and a developed storyline that played out on your screen. However, we managed to establish one of the most critically panned games as our favorite: Gumshoe.

In the fall, we would go into hibernation mode. Sure, we would spend some time hiding in leaf piles, playing army, and digging up each others’ yards. But as the outdoor temperatures dropped, we found ourselves inside more often. One of the youngest members of the “Brat Patrol”, “C.J.”, had a Nintendo (which was still a relatively new gaming system). He had a few sports games for it, but the title that we all marveled at was “Gumshoe.”

The Nintendo “Blaster” was a light gun that had a simple camera that was able to detect flashing signals sent from the T.V. when the trigger was pulled. You would aim the blaster at the hapless “Gumshow” and shoot him to make him jump, as well as shoot oncoming projectiles, cars, bad guys, and (oddly enough) floating balloons. The game was horrible. It was the only Nintendo game I ever remembered to randomly lock up the console. We were luck if we made it through a few levels. However, we were held captive by the implied story line (we read the manual while waiting for our turn to play) and the prospect of firing a “gun” at the television.

We never spent much time playing video games, but when the weather was too hot or too cold, we would sneak inside for a few minutes of R.C. Pro-Am or Duck Hunt. Today, many kids spend far too much time isolated from each other or making “virtual friends” online via World of Warcraft or Halo. They let their game consoles do the imagining for them. Old school games forced you to imagine that a blinking triangle was your spaceship. Video games were novel enough that 6 or 7 of us could crowd into a den and just watch each other play Pitfall, then after 30 minutes-or-so, we ran outside and played it in real life… except with sprinklers for crocodiles
and each other for logs!

1 comment December 17th, 2008 by duane

Is it possible? Ghostbusters 3 promised by Bill Murray!

Spike has published an article (and video) where Bill Murray outlines some information regarding Ghostbusters 3. Starting with about 1:30 remaining in the clip, he also notes some of the frustrations with Ghostbusters 2 and “what went wrong.” When I watch these movies now (as an adult), I recognize that Ghostbusters was superior to Ghostbusters 2. However, when I was a kid… I just wanted to see another Ghostbusters movie. Let’s hope that the writers get it right and we’re treated to another supernatural comedy classic.

Ghostbusters 3?

Ghostbusters 3?

Add comment September 29th, 2008 by duane

The Top Secret Lego Vault

Every set ever made. I recognized more than my share of sets from my brother’s, cousin’s, friends’, and my collections.

[“Click Here To Read Article and Watch Video”:]

Add comment June 24th, 2008 by duane

What is Balduck Park?

“Balduck Park”: was the nearest public park to our neighborhood. During the summer, kites flew there and there was a “nature area (which we called “The Naych”) to hike and ride bikes, a hill provided some excitement and a few fields to play soccer, baseball, and football. My early memories of Balduck include an archery range, too, but I never had a chance to participate. Every 4th of July, the “big kids” would head over to the field at Balduck and launch the “good” fireworks into the sky. On the 5th, a group of us would pick over the scraps looking for cool shell casings and any remaining live fireworks. Usually, we would tape together the old casings of spent fireworks to resemble guns, swords, and rocket launchers.

The hill was a blast in the winter. We would go in small groups to sled down the hill. At one time, there were toboggan runs. They were great when iced over, but eventually grass grew in the cracks and they were removed. (Legend told of a little girl that wiped out on her sled and knocked all of her teeth out, but that was mostly local urban myth.)

Eventually, we outgrew playing war in the alleys and backyard bushes and moved to the Nature Area. We would have epic hunter/hunted battles. Days were spent building forts and traps throughout the single acre wooded lot. We mostly just sat there in our rigged-up base talking and eating lunch.

When were a little older (maybe between 12 and 16), we would venture to the Nature Area at night, dressed head to toe in military camouflage. Although it started as a chance to play “witch” (kind of like tag at night… more on that later) in the woods, it quickly evolved into “hey-let’s-scare-the-crap-out-of-drunk-highschool-kids.” Jocks and their prey would hang out at the picnic benches just outside of the Naych swigging on ill-gotten booze and ghetto-taxed beer. We found this practice despicable (at the time). So, what else was there to do other than shoot the drinks off of the table with BB guns and slingshots? Most of the time, this would send the offenders scattering, yelling all the way to their cars. (Balduck had a reputation as a dangerous place because a body was found behind the hill in the early 80’s.) Rarely, the letter-jacket wearing tough guys would venture into the woods to prove their manhood. Mistake.

By this point, the majority of us were 14, 15, and 16 years old. Some of us had a few years of high school wrestling experience and were in the best shape of our lives. The jocks would enter the Naych. 1 or 2 of the crew would then cover the entrance with a big branch of leaves. Then the biggest of the bunch would drop from the trees directly in front of them… dressed in full combat gear. Drunk and scared out of their minds, the Jocks would run back towards the entrance that no longer existed (once they figured it out and screamed “they’re trying to trap us… we’re going to die!”), freak out and turn around to run down a random path. At that point we usually uncovered the entrance and snuck around trying to find them without revealing our location. Awesome.

One time, however, they must have called the police, because Detroit’s finest showed up with a spotlight and some flashlights (on a night that we didn’t scare any drinkers). Although very scary, we managed to escape undetected. A huge rush, yes… but also pretty stupid. At around 6′ 2″ and 180 lbs, I might have looked pretty scary dressed in camo, to both a jock and the cops.

As we grew older and spent more time at school or driving around with our newly earned licenses, we visited Balduck less and less often. I still remember that place very fondly. Every time I look out my window at the woods around our house, I think “hey, that would be a great place to build a fort and play witch.” Someday, I might do just that.

10 comments July 6th, 2007 by duane

The Alley

During our regular adventures, we discovered that the over-grown vegetation in the alley at the end of the block made a great place to set up a “base.” We put on our best camouflage outfits, hopped on our bikes, and drove right into the bushes. I’m sure a half dozen 7-10 year-olds dressed as a special forces unit riding brightly colored Schwinns wasn’t especially inconspicuous, but we thought we were just about on par with a ninja squad. We fashioned tunnels through bushes, made an area to hide our bikes, and formulated an escape plan in case we were discovered.

Occasionally, one of the neighborhood dogs on the other side of the alley fence would discover us, bark a bit, and then be on it’s way. The real excitement happened when the people who’s garages lined the other side of the alley started backing out. We tried our darnedest to keep from being discovered. Occasionally, we would be chased off because it was “too dangerous” in the alley. However, minutes later, we would be back, planning world domination one alley at a time.

2 comments August 16th, 2006 by duane


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