Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer in the City - Fun Under the Fire Plug

Here we are, more than halfway through July already. Summer seems to take forever to get here and it quickly goes by. If you haven't noticed, you can see that we're slowly losing sunlight at the end of the day, something that naturally happens once the solstice comes in late June.

One other thing I've noticed is that it isn't like it used to be on the streets. As I said in my ode to summer last year (see
http://phillymemories.blogspot.com/2008/08/close-door-youre-letting-cold-air-out.html) back in the 60s and 70s when we were growing up, we were out from midday through as late as our parents would let us stay out. We didn't hang around the house.

Getting back to fresh stuff - you don't want me telling you about what I wrote last summer - one of the things I hardly see anymore are kids getting soaked under the fire plug. For those of you scratching your heads, that's what is called a fire hydrant. When summer came around, we could not wait to find someone who had a hydrant wrench and could open the plug for us. Once they had it opened, they'd hide it in someone's house and we'd all have some fun for an hour or so, or as long as we could before the cops would come and turn the water off. And this wasn't with a sprinkler rig attached, this was with the fire plug opened full bore! The only thing close to a sprinkler in those days was someone pressing their butt up against the opening and causing the water to fan out in every direction. The only friction we'd ever get besides the cops was a neighbor who would complain (maybe he called the police) and said that the water would flood his basement. Every kid on the block and from other blocks would be out there having fun.

Somewhere in the 80s, someone got the idea that it wasn't a good thing for kids to be doing such things. It was easy to say that it didn't matter, that we were adults and there were more important things to do than play at the fireplug. But still, a part of our heritage started to disappear. Kids were told that it created a danger for firefighters because the pressure dropped low when the hydrant was opened. Why not use one of those sprinkler caps instead? You could get them at the local firehouse and no one would have to worry ever again about low pressure or water levels in a drought year or kids getting swept under car tires by the tremendous pressure of the hydrant. Hey, we never met one kid who that happened to, but then again we would always open them on side streets like our own Chadwick Street, not on the more well-traveled streets like Shunk Street or Oregon Avenue. We did have common sense! But still, the Eighties were the beginning of the end for that summer ritual of cooling down with water that didn't pass through the meter at home and everyone enjoyed.

This summer, I think I've seek kids using the sprinkler cap on a fire plug all of one time. Not once did I see a fully opened hydrant. Granted, it hasn't been a very hot summer like most are (please explain, global warming advocates), but it's been warm enough to go out in the street and get wet. Where are the kids at? Parents, let your kids go out and have some fun! I've been thinking about posting this for a week or so, then my brother who lives in Blackwood, NJ was telling me today that he doesn't see any kids around on the street, let alone under a hydrant. I just knew I had to post this. Anyhow, he said something that makes sense. When kids of today get older, what are they going to talk about when they reminisce about their childhood? "Hey, remember summer, when we got out of school and..." And what? And waited for the back-to-school sales in August so we could buy our pencils and copy books and uniforms? Get out there and do something already! You've got approximately six weeks left before the bell rings again. Go out and find someone with a wrench and have some fun, or do what some of the kids did and one out of a pipe wrench and section of pipe. If someone asks what you think you're doing, tell them an old coot with a blog told you it would be a fun thing to do. Just hide the wrench so they don't take it away and you can turn the hydrant on again when they leave.