Happy Halloween! It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year already. 2011 is ten months old and fading fast! 2012 is just around the corner. Oh well, time flies when you’re having fun!
I’m sure we all have a favorite Halloween memory or two stashed away in the old memory bank. I have two! Actually I think I have two. One is a definite Halloween Night adventure, involving a massive egg war between two groups up near the Azusa Greens Golf Course. Man that was an incredible night! But I’ll have to save that story for another time.
The incident I’d like to write about didn’t happen on a Halloween Night but I believe it occurred around Halloween because it involved a mask. Yes, the infamous Angelino Street, ‘Ralph’ mask, the crazed looking, long haired wild man with the bongo lips! Of course now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not really sure that it even happened around Halloween, All I remember for sure is that it was a dark, chilly evening and a very scary one!
A group of us were hanging out at my cousin Dave’s house. He lived on San Gabriel Ave in Azusa which was a very busy four lane, southbound, one way street. His house was right at the corner of Third St which had a traffic signal, the perfect spot to pull a little prank and have some fun at other people’s expense. Why not? Let’s see if I can remember who was there that night, okay there was Dave M,, Ron N., Paul M., Brian M., his brother Mike(Kiko), Rudy G., Dave Ramirez and myself. Actually there may have been a few more of us but I’m not sure.
What we would do is, take turns putting on this long dark coat and the Ralph mask and stand in the shadows by the side of the road facing away from traffic with our thumb out, waiting for some unsuspecting soul to pull over so we could scare the hell out of him! The rest of us would hide and watch. Believe me, plenty of people stopped and their reactions were priceless! They were Kodak moments before Kodak had even coined the phrase. You have to remember this was 1971 and hitch-hiking was a very popular form of transportation. I used to do it all the time before I started driving. It was cool.
After a couple of hours of rip roaring laughter and everyone had had a chance to play hitchhiker, we grew tired of our game and decided to head over to the Road Runner Coffee Shop for some eats. On our way there we stopped at Don’s Union 76 so Ron who worked there could pick up his jacket.
So there we were about eight guys in three or four cars pulling into a closed gas station late at night looking rather suspicious. Then instead of Ron just going in and getting his coat, we all got out and were wandering around outside while he went in. A couple of the guys followed him in to use the restroom. In the meantime I decided to run across the street to In n Out to grab a coke. Someone went with me I think it was Dave M. but I could be wrong, hell we’re talking 40 years ago! In n Out was pretty busy so we had to wait at the walk up window for a bit. I wound up getting a coke and fries.
From across the street we could see the gas station clearly. Some of the guys were inside messing with the two snack machines and Ron was on the phone. The other guys were messing around outside. Someone had pulled the ‘Ralph’ mask out and was running around with it on. We were cracking up.
We were making our way back and were about halfway across Azusa Ave when the first police car came rolling in. We picked up our pace to see what was going on and just as we stepped up on the curb another unit southbound onAzusa Avecame hauling ass down the street and made a screeching turn into the first driveway of the station. Not realizing that we were what was going on I hurried toward the police car. When I was about six or so feet from the car I called out “What’s going on?” With that the driver’s door flew open, Everything went into slow motion mode. The door opened and the officer swung his legs out. In his arms was a shotgun! I distinctly heard the sound of the cocking handle being slid back loading a round into the chamber. A moment later I was looking down the barrel as the gun was pointing directly in my face!
Hell, I’m surprised I didn’t scream! Maybe I did but none of my friends said anything about it afterwards and you know they would have never let me forget it if I had. I do know that I immediately stopped in my tracks and my arms flew skyward, jettisoning my coke and fries high into the air! I was scared shitless! It was my first and last time staring down the barrel of a gun.
As the policeman waved me over to the front of the station, other cops, guns drawn had corralled the rest of the guys as well. Soon we were all against the wall arms and legs spread being ordered not to move or speak as they began patting us down. wondering just what the hell was going on!
By this time there were at least three patrol cars, an unmarked car, and a few off-duty cops in their personal vehicles on the scene. The call had gone out that something big was going down and we were it! Two officers had taken Ron off to the side and were talking to him. Two other had pulled Paul off the wall and were talking to him as well. I took a chance and glanced over to where they were standing and saw Paul with his hands behind his back. My first thought was “They’ve got Paul in cuffs!” However I hadn’t thought it, I’d said it out loud.” The cop with the shotgun was right on me telling me to shut the hell up. Soon one of my buddies, who had a hell of a time standing still and was always moving under normal circumstances, began nervously moving around. The cops were right on him with warnings about keeping still. One of the guys said something to the cop like, “he just needs a cigarette.” The cop’s response didn’t set well with anyone. “He’ll have plenty of time to smoke in jail.”
Yeah it was a hell of a night. It probably took about twenty minutes to get the whole thing sorted out. I think the owner had to come down and clear us or maybe he was able to do it by phone I don’t recall. All I know is we were finally able to get off the wall. It was all a mistake. Turns out Paul was never handcuffed either, he was just answering the cop’s questions while holding his hands behind his back. Yeah it was one bizarre night. One of the cops told us that they’d gotten call from someone who had driven by to report a robbery in progress. Dispatch had issued an alert immediately.
Well we continued on to the Road Runner that night and sat there for hours eating and drinking coffee and talking about our big adventure. Eventually we could even laugh about it. But we weren’t our usual happy, jolly, selves. We were all a lot quieter than usual, more introspective, but then what else would you expect it had been a hell of an experience. To this day I can remember the sound of that shogun cocking and looking down its barrel. Yeah that was really something! I was so scared.
Later we learned that the person who made the call to the police was a good friend of ours. In fact she was Rudy’s neighbor! She had driven by the gas station saw the guy in the mask and people inside the darkened station and actually believed it was a robbery! Oh well, I imagine it probably did look like a robbery! There’s one other thing I’ve always wondered about since that night, just how high in the air my coke and fries went! I mean my arms went up like they were spring loaded!