Gutter Fun – Tracking History

Open Fire Hydrant Stock Photo

By Thomas A. Bergbauer, Retired Courier-Post Editor

While driving not too long ago I noticed two youngsters playing in water at the curb of a street. Immediately I had flashbacks of water running down the gutter of my old city street in North Camden.

They were draining the fire hydrant at the corner and it was a great time to sail your favorite model boat during a warm summer evening. Flushing the hydrants was a regular routine in the city. The reason for this, according to my good friend and former fire chief, Bob Shapleigh of Haddon Heights, all fire hydrants should be “flushed” once a year. He says it clears rust and debris from the pipes.

Water running in one direction over a period of time from rusty stalagmites can cut down water flow. When flushed they try to use hydrants that can reverse water direction thus breaking down the stalagmites. I know one thing, it turned the tap water rusty in the house for a short period of time.

However, getting back to the to the water, I was not the only kid on the block with the same idea. Hoping they could make it in time before the man closed the hydrant, the kids ran into their homes to get their favorite sailboats and the race was one. Starting where the water was gushing from the hydrant each did put their boat in the water one at a time watching it as if floated down the street, bobbing and weaving as it was pushed along by the gushing water. I guess you could say that this was the inner city kids version of today’s white water rafting on a small scale. As the stream narrowed near the other end of the street, you would grab your boat and run back to the hydrant to repeat the process. Some kids would attach a string to their boat to help guide it along. This would go on an on until the man draining the hydrant would turn it off, much to the dismay of all of the young would be sailors.

Some of the kids also loved to walk barefooted in that water. It had s great cooling effect on your body during those muggy summer evenings.

Our imaginations were certainly creative. They had to be. We lived in an age that lacked television, video games and computers. We had to use our creative juices to survive the times.


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