JULIE STAFFORD: Small town gangs


By Julie Stafford • Last Updated 10:58 am on Friday, January 20, 2012

Julie Stafford

When I was a kid, I belonged to a gang.

Not the carry guns, sell drugs kind of gang. We were more of the rag tag toilet paper houses, pull practical jokes, play baseball on a warm summer day kind of gang. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but our group consisted of my brothers on most occasions and a handful of the kids who lived down the street.

This week I was reminded of those good ol’ days when I went to an event and, for the first time as an adult, got to talk with a now retired probate judge who lived down the street from my family when I was growing up. His house was a toilet paper target on several occasions and I still have fond memories of being chased down the street by their family dog, diving into a bush in front of my grandmother’s house and hoping like heck the judge wasn’t following too. In hindsight, we may not have been the smartest group of kids in town. It felt good to apologize, even though it was 30 or so years late.

Another one of the tricks we pulled on a regular basis was something we called “The Purse Trick.” It involved putting one our mother’s old purses in the middle of South Street, clasp open, Monopoly money strewn about. The cool part was that the bag was attached to fishing line and reel. We’d all lay on our bellies under the bushes in our fellow gang member’s front yard and when a car slowed to a stop to pick up the purse, we’d reel it in causing confusion and frustration on the driver’s part. This joke got us listed in The Daily News police blotter a time or two and earned a stiff warning from then Police Chief Jerry Sage.

All three of my kids have more of a conscience than I did at their age — I think. I’m fairly certain that toilet papering someone’s trees would be a no-no in their books not only because it would cause extra work for their victim in the morning, but there’s also the issue of wasting paper and its impact on the environment. That’s a biggie in our house.

Where we lived in Colorado, everywhere you wanted to go was a drive away. It didn’t really lend itself to this kind of “gang” activity. And so I was glad on Monday — when kids didn’t have school — that my son went to the bowling alley with a group of his peers, then walked to Meijer and ended up at The Club Fitness. Not exactly the shenanigan-filled mischief I was involved in, but still a taste of what it’s like to live in a small town.

Julie Stafford is publisher of The Daily News. She can be reached at juliestafford@staffordgroup.com or (616) 548-8260.

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