It was 1978 and the summer between the 10th and 11th grade. We were living in the Sand Lake area of Anchorage, Just down from “four corners” and just off of Raspberry Road. A bunch of us guys who went to Dimond High School had taken to calling ourselves the “Sand Lake Boys”. We were told there was an older group of guys more my brother’s age, early 20s, that were calling themselves the “Sand Lake Boys.” Since we could never find anyone who admitted to being one, we wrote it off as an urban myth.
We were the “Sand Lake Boys.” It was me, Greg Ebbert, Mike Ebbert, Tracy Ebbert, Danny Scarpella and sometimes Jim Ross. We roamed the streets of Sand Lake looking for mischief to get into. We always felt sorry for the kids who lived in Brentwood like David Ziemer. Their parents kept them in the neighborhood, I guess so they wouldn’t get dirty.
That summer I was working for my father, who was a builder, hanging sheet rock so I could buy a car. It was a hard job, but after a while he trusted me with the taping, bedding, and texturing so it got a little easier. I worked my butt off — 12 hours a day, six days a week — and got off at 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. The first thing I would do is head over to my friend’s house and we would figure out what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.
I also had a new form of transportation, a Yamaha 175 Enduro. My first venture into motorized transportation, I did lack some of the essentials. In this case… a drivers license, insurance, a fully working exhaust system, and a license plate. But the guy who lived two houses down from us always claimed he flew his floatplane without a license so I figured I didn’t really need a license either. Especially when all I was doing was riding a motorcycle. And I was only 15, so what’s the most they could do to me?
I bought the Yamaha with my own money, however my dad said there were two rules that came with it.
First rule: if I ever got arrested, I was just to stay there. I was not to call home, I was not to ask anyone to come and get me. If I had gotten myself into jail, I could figure out how to get myself out of jail.
Second rule: if I got a ticket he was going to take it up to the mine and leave it there. He really didn’t care who paid for it. I think he was just looking for a way to give himself my motorcycle.
Once we all hooked up, usually at Greg Ebbert’s house, we would hang out, play poker (we used homemade chocolate chip cookies instead of money), and listen to music. The big bands at that time where The Cars, Queen, The Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac and of course Led Zeppelin. This was a great time to be a teenager.
After eating dinner (Greg’s mom made the best lasagna I have ever eaten) and hanging out for a while listening to music, we would all head outside, hooking up with the rest of the “Sand Lake Boys.” We would walk around the neighborhood, bored as any teenager would be. Sometime after about 11 o’clock we would go “tin canning.”
“Tin Canning” was a practical joke that we would pull on people who were driving through our neighborhood. You need about six pop cans and some mono filament line. For those people in Whittier… Fishing line. You take one end of the fishing line and you tie three cans together. Then go to the other end of the line and tie the other three cans to that end the line. You should allow yourself a lot of excess line.
You go out into the street and you find two mailboxes that are directly across from each other on opposite sides of the road. You place one set of cans in one mailbox, run the line across the street and put the other pop cans in that mailbox. At its lowest point, the string between the two mailboxes should sit about 12 inches above the asphalt. Then you hide and wait. Sooner or later a car will come along and will hit the mono filament line, pulling the cans out of the mailboxes, entangling the fishing line in the wheels, the bumpers, and the undercarriage. As they are going down the road, tin cans make it sound as if they’ve just gotten married. When they stop to see what has just happened to them, everyone jumps out of the bushes screaming and laughing at the top their lungs. Then everyone runs in different directions.
And that was pretty much the extent of our nighttime shenanigans. I know we were hooligans.
One time we set our trap and a guy on a 10 speed bike came down the road and we tried to stop him. I think all we did was scare him because all he did was go faster. He hit the string while he was looking back at us and never saw it coming… what a mess. The string was all in his gears and chain. But we helped him get it all off his bike. At the time all I could think was “this stuff is a pain in the ass.”
One Sunday afternoon we were hanging out, when Mike Ebbert said he wanted to go up to the Quick Stop up to buy some cokes and potato chips. He asked if I could give him a ride to the store on my motorcycle. I said sure. We went out, hopped on my bike, and headed off to the convenience store. We went in and got our stuff and then got back on the bike. We were headed down Raspberry Road with Jewel Lake behind us and Cranberry Road in front of us. During the wintertime, snow machines would ride on the trail, but was reserved for three wheelers and dirt bikes like mine during the summer.
About halfway down Raspberry, I heard over a loudspeaker: “You, on the bike… Stop the bike and get off.”
I looked over my left shoulder and saw two things: an APD officer in his cruiser, with his microphone held to his mouth, and my buddy Mike flipping him off. I knew right then and there this was not going to be a “stop and talk.” I knew our parents were going to have to pick us up at the Fifth Avenue jail. In my case I was going to have to stay there until my mother came and got me, and my dad now had a reason to take my motorcycle for his own personal use.
Mike then slaps me on the right shoulder. When I turn to look that way, I see him pointing across the potato field beside us. He starts jabbing at the air with his pointed finger. Suddenly, I saw where he was pointing. We took off across the potato field — where Linden Park is now — as fast as I could go. We knew there was no way for the police officer to bring his car onto the field trying chase us. The ditch between the dirt bike trail and the road was too deep and, if he tried, the soil in the potato field was too soft and the car would sink. We were heading toward two houses that had just enough room between them that a motorcycle could pass between. I saw my out! I headed for it!
We sped across the field and flew between the two houses. My knobby tires tore up the grass as we went. The police officer had turned on his lights and was racing to try to get to us before we came out the other side, but it was impossible. He had to go down Raspberry, turn right on Cranberry, turn right again on West 69th.
There was one more element to my plan.
When I had left the garage door open when I left home, and was hoping my mother had not put it down. We came around the corner and saw it still up. I killed the engine and quietly flew up the drive into the garage, kickstand down. I threw my leg over the back of the bike trying to get off as quickly as possible, nearly knocking Mike off the back of the bike. I hit the garage door button and watched as it started to slowly close. We had made it. Now it was a race between the garage door and the police car.
We hid down below the windows until we thought enough time had passed. Then, we slowly peeked out the glass. There he was, sitting in the middle of the road with his car turned off and his window rolled down… just sitting there. He got out of the car and turned in a slow circle with his hand cupped up against his ear. What in the hell was he doing?
It dawned on me: he was listening for my jacked up exhaust system, which was about three times as loud as it should be. I thought to myself, “I really need to get that fixed.”
After a few minutes the officer got back into his car and drove away. In about 10 more minutes Mike and I finally started to breathe again. Then the dull boredom of a summer Sunday afternoon returned.
My dad eventually got to take my motorcycle up to the mine. But it wasn’t because of anything I had done wrong, it was because I got my first car. It was a 1966 MG Midget. He was so impressed with how hard I worked all summer he agreed to pay half, which for him was a really big deal. I never ran from a police officer again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.
One of the best parts of living in Alaska is hearing the stories from the locals who grew up here. Have one to tell? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in a future edition of Alaska Nuggets.