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

The Christmas Wish Book

“X-Entertainment”: has a great article on the experience of waiting for that Sears (or JC Penny in the midwest) catalog to show up full of the year’s best toys. Usually sandwiched between the underwear and hand tools were the things dreams were made of. My brother (Christian), and I would negotiate which things we would each as for. You see, we would cut out the toys from the catalog and tape them to our wish list… since there was only one item per catalog, it was difficult to ask for the same thing. Usually, we would ask for complementary toys: He-Man for Christian and Skeletor for me. Be sure to check out the “X-Entertainment Article”:, it’s worth the read.

Add comment December 11th, 2007 by duane

More 80’s Cartoon Love

I get it. A lot of cartoons in the 80’s were pretty bad. A recent article on points out a few stellar examples. (I disagree on a few… especially The Real Ghostbusters.) Lou Scheimer is the executive producer on quite a few of them… coincidence? I think not. Enjoy the clips!

Add comment September 24th, 2007 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

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Like most kids in the 80s, Saturday morning cartoons were an integral part of our weekly social routine. The commercials between these shows (and sometimes the shows themselves) drove the trends in toys as well as what we would be playing out in the neighborhood. Many days were spent playing GI Joe and Transformers not only with action figures, but ourselves.

The bumpers (intros and outros that occured between the shows and commercials) were a pretty good indicator of the style and tastes of the era. Video games were big in the early 80’s, so the bumpers “reflected that”: When the bumpers changed, it indicated that the new television season has started. These days, most networks keep a lop-sided flow of new episodes sputtering forward throughout the year. When I was growing up, the season began in the early fall and finished up right around spring. This conveniently left the re-runs for the summer, when we didn’t want to be inside, anyway.

Last weekend, I _really_ wanted to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The catch is… there aren’t any! The networks have replaced Saturday morning cartoons with sports updates, the occasional “educational” program (wild kingdom for 2-year-olds), and live action “adolescent/tweenager” dramas (think “Saved by the Bell, but even more sappy). It broke my heart to know that kids without cable will never know the joys of looking forward to each season of cartoons. Where can they find classics like Looney Toons?

I’m not really sure when this happened. Nonetheless, I am sad about this. There are a few resources out there on the internet for my fellow retro-addicts and I:

* “Retro Junk: Commercials, Cartoons, and Movies”:
* “X-Entertainment: Everything that Gen-Xers love, whether they admit it or not”:
* “Retro Crush: More retro goodness and good times”:


4 comments March 13th, 2007 by duane

Server Recovery

You may have noticed that some articles are missing. We lost a few hard drives on our server array and some of the articles are lost. Stay tuned for new articles and more…

Add comment February 8th, 2007 by duane

Back To School

A-Team Lunch Box

A-Team Lunch Box

I spotted a schoolbus picking up kids for school this morning on my street, this, I assume, means that school is back. I was never fond of school. It just meant that there was yet another obstacle in the way of getting outside with my friends. The back-to-school shopping was o.k. Getting a new Trapper Keeper was second only to getting a new lunchbox (the old thermos did start to smell of cheese after a while). But nothing could quite sooth the sting of the return to the classroom.

The last major event of the summer was my brother’s (Christian) birthday party at the pier park. My Aunt, Uncle, and cousins would meet with my parents and I to celebrate and get a quick swim (if it wasn’t already too cold). We would cook up some sort of burgers or hot dogs, chow on my mom’s famous potato salad, and walk up and down the harbor planks checking out the boats. By sunset you could hear the cicadas signaling that summer was nearly over.

The B.R.A.T. Patrol would spend every remaining minute of the summer break to it’s fullest. Skateboarding, RC car racing, bikes, army, anything and everything that we wanted to get into the summer before it was over. Then, one-by-one, each family would return to their respective schools. Interestingly, none of us went to school together. Detroit public schools (sadly) were not an option, so we each went to our respective parochial schools. This is probably what kept out friendships so strong. Nobody got caught up in the drama of school niches or the who’s most popular game.

We would share the stories of the new school year with each other either in Ryan’s fort or on somebody’s front porch. Knowing that Halloween was coming kept us from being too upset. Especially because this meant our Ghostbusting work would be picking up!

Add comment September 6th, 2006 by duane

You’re an Old Detroiter If…

Old Hudsons Building Downtown Detroit

Old Hudsons Building Downtown Detroit

Thanks to my mom for forwarding this to me. I don’t usually go for this kind of stuff, but… (Actually, Eileen from Detroit gets the credit for her users’ submitted content. Check out for more great memories!)

You took a “moonlight cruise” to Bob-Lo
with Captain Bob-Lo or went to
Edgewater Amusement Park .

You shopped at Hughes and Hatcher, B Siegel, Peck and Peck,
Himelhoch’s, Robert Hall, Crowley ‘s, Shoppers Fair, EJ
Korvettes or Federals.
You remember the trolley cars that went along Jefferson Avenue
into Detroit .

You remember the Detroit Train Station.

You remember shopping at J. L. Hudson’s
and you rode the elevators there,
which were “run” by an elevator operator.

You remember the world’s largest flag that
flew on the side of Hudson ‘s in downtown Detroit .

You remember a Winkleman’s and
Sanders store in your neighborhood.

You remember the “Big Snow”,
Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, Clarabelle,
Phineas T.Bluster,
Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring.

You remember Twin Pines Dairy
delivered milk and juice to the chute
on the side of your house and
Milky the Clown performed magic
with the magic words “Twin Pines.”

You remember the Good Humor man
in a white uniform, ringing the bells
as he drove down your street

You remember Olympia Stadium.

You remember when Vernors was made
on Woodward Ave. ,
and a bearded troll was on the bottle.

Your Mom got groceries at Great Scott,
Food Fair, Wrigley’s or Chatham .
You remember that the Giant Uniroyal Tire
now on the Ford Freeway was
a ferris wheel ride at the 1964 World’s Fair.

Your Mom saved Holden Red Stamps,
S&H Green stamps, or Gold Bell Gift stamps, and you licked them
into those little books.
Kresge’s and Woolworth’s were “Dime Stores.”

You had an uncle in the furniture business (Joshua Door).
You know who Bill Kennedy is.

You saw the Detroit Lions play football
in Tiger Stadium.

You remember Black Bart and the Faygo song. Or how about “Which
way did he go?
He went for Faygo, old fashion root beer.”

You watched Rita Bell’s!
prize movies in the morning.

You remember Jack LeGoff,
Van Patrick and George Peirrot.

You remember Milky the Clown,
Soupy Sales, Johnny Ginger, Poopdeck Paul, Captain Jolly,
Sagebrush Shorty
and maybe even Sergeant Satko Salute.

You visited the Wonder Bread Bakery
and got to take home a mini loaf of bread.

Your address had a two-digit “zone”
before there were zip codes. Detroit 19, Michigan .
You visited the incredible Christmas display shown each year at
the Ford Rotunda
in Dearborn .

You remember “Get on the right track
at 9 mile and Mack,
to get the best deal in town. Roy O’Brien…
it’s the best deal in town.”
You remember a laundry chute and
a milk chute and a coal chute.
You remember going to Detroit Edison
with your Mom to exchange burned out
light bulbs for new ones.

4 comments August 31st, 2006 by duane

The Lost Art of Block Parties

Hillcrest had the best block parties. Ever.

Everyone on the street knew each other. Every summer… usually late July, the block would put up a barricade at each end of the street, set up tables in the road and have a whole-block party. Early in the morning, our families would work on their agreed task: filling water balloons, making a dish for the potluck, getting ice for coolers, etc. The kids only had one task: clean up your bike. We would gather at one house and detail our bikes with concourse precision. It was the one day of the year that we could ride our bikes *in the street* and not get in trouble… our bikes _had_ to be clean!

Meanwhile, the adults would form into smaller groups: the gossipers, the sports fans, the cops, and the beer drinkers. Gossipers took turns telling each other the dirt, carefully avoiding subjects involving other gossipers present. Sports fans would stand around and either complain about the Tigers or rave about their indestructibility, then change gears to talk about how the lions need to do either as well or better than the Tigers come football season. The cops would start as a separate group, but eventually merge with the beer drinkers… that group was self-explanatory.

The earlier block parties had 3 distinct groups of kids. The “big kids,” “older kids,” and “us.” The big kids liked to scare, intimidate and chase us. The older kids were nice, but quite obviously not interested in being around either of the other 2 groups… the kind of other kids that were most likely to be babysitters or tutors.

Around a week before each block party, “the word” would get out that the big kids were going to “get” somebody in the BRAT Patrol. The reasons were trivial, but the excitement was priceless. Everything came to a climax early during the block party with a big kid chasing someone home and a few water balloons being used before the official water balloon toss began.

After a little mid-street bike riding, somebody’s mom would organize the balloon toss. The balloon toss replaced the open fire hydrant that traditionally accompanied the block party. However, legend says that “Crazy Kers” (a mysterious man around the corner) complained enough to the city about the loss of water pressure when we did this that it was eventually discontinued… anyway, back to the balloon toss: The kids all got a kick out of the adults that dared to participate. Predictably, the toss would become a water balloon fight and everyone would be soaked to the skin. A little more bike riding and everyone was dry enough. The kids would take turns guarding the ends of the block, glaring at confounded drivers when they approached the block party barricade. Occasionally, we would let residents in by sliding the barricade over just enough. To an eight-year-old, that’s real power: complete control over who is allowed in and out of your world.

As the sun began to get lower in the sky, dinner would make it’s way to the lines of tables set up earlier in the day. Everyone would gather, pile up food, and sit together to eat. The adults took their time, chatted, and hoped the food would make the kids sleepy. No such luck. We all knew that the block party meant we could stay up past dark… and that meant we could play “witch!”

After dinner the adults would start up card games and drink coffee (or sometimes more beer). The kids (all three groups) would gather on a front porch and set the rules for the night’s game of “witch:”

* One person starts as the witch, they will hide
* Everyone else covers their eyes and counts the magic chant:

bq. One-O’Clock, Two-O’Clock, Three-O’Clock… Rock! Four-O’Clock, Five-O’Clock, Six-O’Clock… Rock! Seven-O’Clock, Eight-O’Clock, Nine-O’Clock… Rock! Ten-O’Clock, Eleven-O’Clock, Twelve-O’Clock… Rock! Starlight, moonlight… Hope to see the witch tonight!

* Look for the witch (seeking). When found, yell, “Witch!” and try to get back to the safe zone (goal) without being tagged.
* If you are tagged, you help chase down the fleeing seekers.
* The person that found the witch is the witch next time.

Block parties made this game possible. Normally, we would have to be in before dusk. But since the whole neighborhood was outside, we were allowed to play until we were exhausted… and we did. Sometimes I think I looked forward to block parties more than Christmas or birthdays. I’ve never seen or participated in a block party like those of my youth.

2 comments August 21st, 2006 by duane

Neighborhood Map

Map of the old neighborhood.

Map of the old neighborhood.

Here’s a quick and dirty map of the neighborhood. I made it with the help of “google earth”:

Map Key:
# CJ’s House
# Mike and Ginny’s House (Ghostbusters/Track)
# Ryan and Melissa’s House (Fort)
# Christian and Duane’s House (Pool)
# Joe’s House (Tree Fort)
# The Alley (a.k.a. Woods Base 1)
# Papa and Gramm Thomas’s House (Joey’s House)
# The Hoslett’s House
# Danny and Katy’s House
# Eric’s House
# Big Kid House 1
# Big Kid House 2
# Big Kid House 3

Add comment August 16th, 2006 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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