Last Call SF is proud to present a story of growing up in the 1970′s in San Francisco’s Sunset District, written by special guest Marc Roper. This Story touched my heart, and I hope it touches yours too. If you have an SF story you’d like to share please feel free to send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a link in the comments!
Photo by Breathtaking Photos
CITY KID by Marc Roper
I lived just above Herbert Hoover Junior High on the top of 9th ave where it dead ends into 12th ave. My parent’s backyard opened onto the 4 acres of open hillside above the school yard. There were loads of kids in the neighborhood back then and we used to have mega dirt clod wars and other adventures all over tha hillside and in the trees down by Forest Hill. Sliding down the ice plant on pieces of cardboard, digging giant holes, stealing wood from construction sites to build skate ramps or tree forts, getting chased by big scary dogs, playing hide and go seek with 20 other kids with a 4 acre “in-bounds” could go on for hours. On Saturdays we’d say goodby to our parents around 8 am and not see them untill diner, J.P Murphy playground had free lunches. No one cared, we were wild feral children getting into all sorts of mischief. There were perverts and child molesters and bigger kids who’d steal your stuff or beat you up just for fun same as there are now but no one made a big deal or tried too hard to protect us from bad things. We fell out of trees, broke bones jumping our bikes off ramps and got hellacious road rash skateboarding. Scabs and casts were badges of honor, rewards for heroic child daring do. When Rick Mock fell fifty feet off the rope swing above Laguna Honda reservoir and broke three ribs he was an instant legend because only he was brave or stupid enough to actually climb one tree to swing from another, swinging past horizontal into kid history.
There were no “playdates” or structured supervised recreation. We developed survival skills or paid the price. Stories of kids who got hurt were our epic poems, legends and life lessons. The too friendly older guy who lived two blocks over and tried to fondle Jeff Burk’s ass got his house egged every weekend for months untill he moved away, it was kid justice, we got in fights with each other but also watched out for each other. There was safety in numbers. There was also danger in numbers. One day my friends older brother who was sort of an Irish gangster got shot in the head a block from where we were hanging out. He hung out with a harder bunch of teenagers who got into that sort of trouble. We NEVER told mom and dad what we did, ignorance was parents’ bliss and our freedom. What happened outside stayed outside.
It wasn’t just trees and empty lots either, the concrete and pavement offered another kind of play too. All that mattered was there were kids around and freedom to do as we pleased. When skating first hit in the mid seventies everyone first got cheap plastic skate boards (Rolling Stars) with real urethane wheels from Consumer Distributors and we’d ride down to 9th and Judah in packs and took the 6 Masonic (now 6 Parnassus) back up to the top all day long. Later on we graduated to the first wooden boards, I had a Santa Cruz with Bennet trucks and OJ wheels. The bus was a nickel and transfers were good all day as long as you were going in one direction, we only needed to go up. We explored every route downhill from Cragmont and Quintara. 9th ave, 10th ave, Turtle Hill, bombing the steep part of Ortega or taking it easy on the backside. The hill was like one big skating resort and the number 6 was our chair lift. I still have a scar on the top of my head and on my right hand from the time I went through the windshield of a parked car while bombing 10th ave. I woke up in the front seat to my friends pulling me out by my feet through the windshield while laughing and begging me to run before someone saw and got us in trouble. I think I told my mom I cut myself on a broken bottle in the playground.
Anyway… there are few kids in The City these days, schools are being closed and consolidated. It is too damn expensive for a regular working class family to own a home here because every time someone wants to build more housing a bunch of NIMBY neighborhood “IN-activists” throw a hissy fit cuz they want to “preserve” the neighborhood character and their parking spaces. I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. This is my home.