In 1980…


In 1980, the sleepy Pennsylvania borough of Shillington sat nestled in the gently rolling foothills of the Allegany Mountains. It was the sort of bedroom community where neighbors were friends, children played outside from dawn to dusk, and if the dog wandered too far from home, the local policeman would load him into his cruiser and drop him off at supper time. It was the sort of community where doorbells were replaced by a simple yoo-hoo and lunch was served by the nearest parent.

301 chestnut

In 1980, at the edge of the woods on a wide sloping lawn, sat the 1916 home of Camp Brown. It was the sort of place with a tire swing, a tree house, and a tennis court; where kids would show up unannounced and stay for the day. It was the sort of place where the basement boasted a ping-pong table, a jukebox, and a floor to ceiling blackboard with colorful chalk.


In 1980, a gaggle of friends, ranging in age from 9 to 14, gathered together in the basement of Camp Brown, danced to “My Sharona” and “YMCA”, and played fierce games of ping pong. It was the sort of day where imaginations ran rampant while the house creaked and the wind blew and The Shining played at the local movie theater.


In 1980, a dog barked from somewhere up above. It was an unexpected bark, the sort of bark that froze the bones and hastened the heart. We knew someone or something had entered the house unsolicited.

Looking around the room for weapons, we grabbed two ping-pong paddles and an unopened pack of balloons. We formulated a plan to scare off the evilness which had just invaded the building.

We blew up the balloons and announced to our creeper that we had a gun in our possession. Inching along the wall and up the tiled steps towards the kitchen, we fired the gun—stepping on balloon after balloon—knowing the sound would frighten anyone waiting at the top of the stairs. Blowing, tying, popping: our advantage was our weaponry.

blowing balloon

We burst through the closed door and into the hallway. We scrambled to the end and jumped into the kitchen, each of us pouncing on a balloon simultaneously, creating a deafening noise that scared off ghosts and ghouls, and anything that didn’t belong.

Our battle proved successful. The room was empty save a dog and a half-eaten plate of birthday cake. With a sigh of relief, we divvied up the rest of the dessert and ate. Because, in 1980, a gangly group of school-aged friends had balloons and weren’t afraid to use them.

alison and cake

#1980 #shillington #homealone #theshining #basement

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