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Misdemeanor In The Moonlight

September 17, 2014
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

This is the last full week of summer and I want to tell you a story that takes place 46 years ago at Bruce Pool. For the country, it was a time of war in southeast Asia and here at home the Works Drive-In was showing Planet of the Apes on the outdoor screen.

A new home cost an average of $27,000. You could buy a dozen eggs for 53 cents. A US postal stamp to mail a letter was a whole six cents. It was also a time as the sun set, radio stations went off the air and stopped broadcasting. On television, the late show with Dick Cavet concluded the day's broadcast until the morning. With no radio or television to entertain the young people of the community, what were they supposed to do when the sun went down? Well, sometimes they rode around in their cars and looked cool. With gas costing 34 cents a gallon you could ride around a long time looking cool.

The alleged crime I am about to tell began early one evening at the Red Gable parking lot. For those of you who don't remember the Red Gable, it was a quick food restaurant near the north end of Bruce Park.

That particular evening in the parking lot, four teenagers were doing what young men of the day often did; they spent time looking cool as girls drove by. There is an art to looking cool while leaning against your car in the late 1960s. First, be with your friends; standing by yourself in a parking lot was just weird. The next important thing is your car; it must be clean and shiny; dirty cars don't shine in the parking lot lights. Third, the car should be yours and not your parents. This was not always possible, but helped to get girls' attention. It did not make any difference if the car was older, as long as it was yours and clean. Lastly, pretend not to pay attention as girls drove by while you were being cool with your friends. If you started waving and hollerin' at the girls, they thought you were desperate and shied away.

That particular evening a green Volkswagen turned by the Park Gulf station and slowly drove along the street in front of the young men. At first the guys were interested, but then they recognized the girls were from another nearby town and friends of football players. Best not to notice them as they passed by. After that the only thing the cool guys had to notice were moths flying around the lights. Someone suggested catching a green Luna Moth for Mrs. Gilmore's class, she liked bugs. After a moment, we decided it would be creepy if we all took in one dead moth. Each agreed.

As the evening turned late, radio WETZ signed off and the night grew quiet with no music and no girls passing. By 11 p.m. on a week night, the town has closed its doors. It was about then when someone said they should climb the wall of the pool and go swimming in the dark. The warm evening air and lack of girls made the idea of going over the wall into the pool sound inviting.

The Red Gable's lights were now out and the night closed in around them as they made their way to the backside of the pool. The smell of chlorine filled the night air as the perpetrators watched for any sign of life in the surrounding area. Traffic was heavy on the highway as the afternoon shift workers made their way home, but that would soon pass. Stop lights had changed to flashing to help traffic overnight. The world had passed and it was now time to scale the wall of the pool.

In the shadows, they moved a picnic table closer to the wall. Then with the aid of a sunbather's bench, the wall was breached and the four scurried over the concrete fence. A moment to check the surroundings one more time. Then, they stripped down to their birthday suits and eased into the warm chlorinated water.

The young swimmers felt a sense of accomplishment at the success. They had gotten away with entering the pool and no one but them knew. As they swam in the warm water they talked about the things teenage boys talk about-cars and girls.

Then, somewhere in the night a radio crackled in the silence. The water suddenly felt cold as they froze in place to see where the broadcast voice came from in the darkness. After a moment they saw the source of the voices, a police car with it lights off had stopped in front of the Quaker State gas station waiting for speeders.

The late night fun swim now turned into a sense of getting caught with their pants down, or should I say with them hanging on the fence rail. In the quiet of the night they could tell whoever was in the police car was just passing time talking to the dispatcher. They had not been found out and yet they were trapped in the darkened pool. As if things could not get worse, the clouds separated and a partial moon appeared overhead, illuminating the swimmers' faces.

Suddenly, without warning the police car switched on its red light. The red glow touched the faces of the boys as it flashed. Some quick words on the radio and the car sped past the Dairy Queen. Each of the boys held their breath to see if he was going to turn in the road that came back to the pool. But, as they listened and watched the flashing light faded as it hurried up the road. They realized the police officer was off to arrest someone else. A sense of relief came over the swimmers.

They knew it was time to go. But, they wanted one more lap around the pool as a victory lap. After all, they had scaled the walls of the great Bruce Pool and they wanted to congratulate themselves. As they climbed out someone said, "Let's do a cannon ball off the dive before we go? Wet with water in the cold night air, each climbed the ladder and one by one cannonballed down into the dark water of the pool. Broad smiles were on each of their faces as they swam for the shallow end.

Dripping wet, the swimmers put on their dry clothes and slipped over the wall to freedom, still feeling a sense of conquest. Their late night swim was not the first time the pool had been used under cover of darkness and not the last. Perhaps to this day when those men look up at a partial moon in the late summer they sense chlorine in the night air as they remember that night swim Through the Lens.

 
 
 

 

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