I guess we all got inspired by those episodes of "The Little Rascals" we often watched on "4:30 Showtime", a Youngstown Television Kid Show. Hmmm...or was it "Our Gang Comedies"? I could never keep the two straight. I do remember Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Froggie, Weezer,and others getting into all kinds of adventures.
The episode of The Gang exploring a cave for hidden treasure was a good basis for our Band of Pre-Teen Mischief Makers to explore the Storm Sewer System of Struthers. From Fifth St.Park,a 5 ft.drainage pipe emptied in a creek. This was our point of entry. Some of us had candles or flash lights, the latter usually swiped from the family car's glove compartment. We traveled about 100 yards and turned right into a huge concrete cavern that was maybe ten feet below the streets. Definitely no treasure chests here! An occasional rat or Raccoon scurrying by was enough to make us head the other direction until we were sure it was gone. The Sewer went all the way out to the Fifth Street Plaza and then narrowed into a 24 inch line.
We heard a couple of guys used Mechanic's Creepers taken from their Dad's garages to go through that smaller line all the way to Hamilton Lake. I doubt that was true, but ten year olds never confirmed their sources. Whatever another kid told you was considered Gospel. Every block or two, a vertical shaft went up to street level. Steel bar ladder rungs were cast in the concrete walls to enable you to climb in and out of the sewer. The trick was to NOT lift a Manhole cover up from the inside if you heard traffic coming! More than once, I remember a kid almost getting picked off by a car speeding by.
As it was stated in many Gangster Movies in the day, "The Jig was Up!" Some Do-Gooder,Busy body,Concerned Citizen would call the Police to say we were in the sewer. Of course, In Struthers, this was right there below a National Emergency. Two cruisers with sirens blaring, promptly showed up. One of the cops who was much too large to fit through a manhole, yelled down for us to,"Come up out of there!" We recognized his voice and knew who it was. Much to my horror, one of my co-conspirators replied, "Come and get us, Fat Ass!" I had visions of guns blazing and trying to escape a hail of bullets! Now what the heck do we do? Run like Hell! That's what you do!
David Jansen would have been proud of these Fugitives! We back-tracked through that sewer system as fast as our little legs would carry us! Rats, Raccoons, flashlights, candles, and ten year olds all came tumbling out of the outlet pipe and into about three feet of water in the creek. After we beat the snot out of The Big Mouth in our gang, we all headed to our respective homes for a hot bath with plenty of soap!