When I was a kid, we had a neighborhood park that we hung out at. We played baseball, football, and frisbee when the weather was nice…except for football, you can play that even though the weather is not so nice. Every now and then, we would get cut by something in the ground and it would usually be some unidentified piece of metal that somehow worked its way to the surface…or we worked our way through the dirt down to the metal, either way, it hurt. I’m not sure if our park had an official name, but we called it Dumper Diamonds.
Our park used to be a dump. Across the railroad tracks was an American Motors plant so I think this used to be their dumping ground, thus the metal parts working their way to the surface. All they did was flatten the dump, pour some dirt, and grow some grass. Then they built a small playground and a baseball diamond complete with a home run fence in left field. If you hit it into center or right field, you had to run out the home run. Since we only had a handful of players to play, we generally just used left field.
We lived about 2 blocks from the park so a pick-up game of baseball usually went like this:
1ST KID: Want to play baseball?
2ND KID: Yeah.
1ST KID: I’ll get my brothers and the Smith kids.
2ND KID: I’ll get Ski and Wicz.
Then we would walk the 2 blocks and collect as many kids as we could along the way. Sometimes we would get a dozen kids, sometimes only 4 or 5. No matter how many kids would come, we always played. Baseball was relatively safe at the park and there were fewer protruding pieces of metal surfacing. Of course, we played with a hard ball so occasionally, a younger kid would misjudge a catch and get hit in the head (not funny, but then again…).
Football was the dangerous sport for us. We always played tackle and since it was a neighborhood pick-up game, we obviously didn’t wear pads or a helmet. Somebody was always getting crunched or like I mentioned before, a piece of metal would cut them. Once the metal was discovered, we all joined in to extricate it from the ground, spend a few minutes discussing its potential use, then discard it over the fence by the railroad tracks. As a secondary precaution, we always looked at the cut on the kid that discovered the metal, discuss its depth and length, decide if stitches were needed, then either continue the game with the kid or convince him to go home because he was bloody. Usually, we would just continue to play.
Dumper Diamonds was the site of my first broken nose (I’ve had three) and like any typical boy, I was very proud of it. What had happened was, I was running behind a kid that was running with the ball. I managed to get close enough to try a diving tackle from behind. I dove forward and helped his heel ram right into my nose. To make it more awesome, I was wearing a formerly white t-shirt that day…I say formerly because we had been playing for a while and it had a few grass stains. Anyway, the way my nose bled left little doubt in the other kids that I broke it. For me, it was the stars floating around that told me I took a good hit.
Of course, my nose passed our stitches rule and I continued to play. By the time I made it home, my nose, face, and shirt looked like I had survived an auto wreck…barely. My mom wasn’t too thrilled. My dad, however, had a different reaction.
DAD: Did you make the tackle?
DAD: Good boy.
Dumper Diamonds was also a good place to hang out at night as juvenile delinquents. If we went to the middle of the park near the railroad fence, we could see almost 100 yards in every direction. Even if the cops drove into the park quickly, we could easily jump the fence and scatter in the woods beyond the tracks.
So, as you have read, I spent a good part of my childhood in a metal protruding park called Dumper Diamonds because it formerly was a dump. I’m not sure what exists there today because a freeway was built after I grew up and left, but I still imagine if we dug deep enough, we would have enough parts to build a Javelin or something cool like that…of course, there is a chance we would only get a Gremlin or Pacer, but even those are considered classics now…I think.