Our next-door neighbor, Mike Harper, was kind of a surfer dude in attitude… blond, rowdy and always looking for a good wave. He didn’t make it to the beach that often, but could skateboard down a hill like no one in the neighborhood. He also had a cool blue Schwinn Super Deluxe Sting-Ray bike with the chopper style handlebars, stick shift and a 30” sissy bar in the back.
That’s not all he had.
Mike was older than us by a couple years, but seemed to relish the role of mentor and educated us, and fostered our corruption. He exposed us to the sins and vices of the adult world. In a box hidden under his bed, below a stack of comic books, he kept his contraband, mainly stolen cigarettes and nudist magazines. We puffed on cigarettes that tasted horrible and made us cough. But you eventually became acclimated to the harsh, hot inhales and enjoyed that aromatic, soothing flavor they talked about in the commercials.
Believe it or not, in the early Sixties, you could watch — The Flinstones, the Flinstones… for God’s sake, light up a Winston or pitch beer during the commercial breaks. It was disconcerting to see Fred and Barney leaning back against a prehistoric rock relishing their smokes like it was devil weed. They did this while Wilma and Betty worked their little cartoon asses off in the yard. Even Wilma lit up at the end of the commercial while Fred sang the Winston song: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” That was until Pebbles was born in 1963 and it was deemed inappropriate. In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General declared smoking was harmful to one’s health. I don’t recall getting that message, but apparently Fred and Wilma did. After that the Flinstones were hawking Welch’s Grape Juice.
We didn’t give a shit; it was boss.
The magazines we were exposed to were down right obscene by the standards of that time, but mildly PG in comparison to the explicit triple‑X stuff available in today’s magazines. Mike somehow obtained a variety of skin magazines; the classiest was a monthly issue of that year’s Playboy. We smoked the stale cigarettes like filthy fiends as we drooled over the sun-kissed boobs of voluptuous babes posing proudly as they displayed their wares. … The photography was quite excellent as were the thought provoking articles ‑ha, ha. I was taken aback to find an interview of the Beatles in that issue, but was too preoccupied at the time with the excellent photography elsewhere in the magazine to read it.
The other magazines, exhibited pictures of very average unattractive people in nudist colonies. There was usually one nice looking girl, au natural, but somehow she didn’t seem so sexy with her hairy armpits. Maybe it was a French colony. Most of the magazines chronicled nudists frolicking about near a beach or posing awkwardly by a clump of shrubbery. They actually weren’t totally nude all the time. Some wore sneakers or sported just a hat or a tied-on apron if they were cooking by the grill. That could be dangerous because these women were extremely hairy; something you never saw in Playboy. It was gross to see naked men, even worse playing badminton or hanging around with their naked kids. We flipped quickly through those pages to find the best looking babe. Between the cigarette smoke and the contraband magazines we were left dizzy by the experience.
Since I’m on the subject of titillation, there was another kid, who lived behind us. I’ll call him Skip, because I don’t remember his name or really want to. He was obsessed with Sears catalogs in a rather unhealthy way. Not having access to the tantalizing illicit magazines Mike managed to get, Skip settled for black and white photos of women in lacy lingerie, silky panties and bras. Inside his closet, lit by a lamp he pulled inside, was a gallery of torn pages from the catalogs taped to the back of his closet doors. A vast array of women in girdles, panties, nylons and torpedo bras festooned the doors. It was pretty creepy. Having gone through puberty, Skip offered to impregnate my sisters if I could talk them into coming over. I declined that and any future visits to his house.