As the years passed and we became older, we were no longer attracted to the joys of Lancaster Lake for the same reasons we were when we were younger. Such things as bailing out the rental boats for a free boat ride just didn’t cut it any more. Unfortunately though, some of the things that DID attract us were of the kind that frequently get teenagers into trouble. One of these was using the lake as a base camp to sneak next door into Kennedy’s Sunland Swim Park and help ourselves to leftover beer.
In the evening, after closing to the general public, the swim park was sometimes used for company picnics or other outdoor private parties. These events frequently featured keg beer and, after a party was over, there was usually some left over in the bottom of the kegs. It seemed a shame, to me and my gang of friends, to allow all this beer to go to waste.
The fact that it was just left sitting there, outside and unguarded, all night long when the parties were over, was too much of a temptation to resist. In my mind’s eye, I can still see us slipping into the swim park from the Lancaster Lake side, filling our empty pitchers and mason jars from the kegs, and then sneaking back to drink the beer at our secret hiding place on the shore of the lake.
I don’t remember now if there was definitely a connection between all this beer and the time we shot one of the guns in Grandpa Lancaster’s museum collection across the lake, but it seems rather likely there was. More of a cannon than a rifle, the old gun was big enough to bring down an elephant, or perhaps even a woolly mammoth –– if they were still around. We often wondered if the old gun could actually be fired and were determined to find out.
It was late when one night when we finally got up enough nerve to take the gun down to the shore of Lancaster Lake and load it with some ammo. Out of fear that the gun might blow up, most of us were afraid to be the one to actually hold the gun and fire it. Eventually though, the bravest of our lot picked it up and pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t blow up in his hands, but the recoil knocked him over backwards. (One of our group later swore the bullet was big enough for him to see it crossing the lake, even in the dark.)
But that wasn’t the worst of it. The explosion was so loud it sent a shock wave all over the Sunland-Tujunga Valley, and it wasn’t long afterward before we started hearing sirens. From the way they were wailing away, we knew police cars and fire trucks were headed in our direction. We retreated to our lakeside hiding place.
But an unexpected thing happened. The fire engines and police cars drove right past the Lancaster Lake’s entrance and into the trailer park next door. Soon we heard loud shouting coming over the fence, and from what we could hear it was obvious someone in the trailer park had called the fire department because they thought a butane tank in one of the trailers had blown up. I mean, the explosion was that loud. Policemen, firemen and everyone else in the place were trying to find the gutted remains of someone’s hapless trailer. And, of course, they never did.
In fact, the true source of the “explosion” never was discovered at the time . . . and it is only now, after the passage of nearly 70 years, that it’s being publicly revealed for the first time. As for the names of those involved, they will forever remain a secret. Our gang made a pledge of secrecy to never tell each other’s names, and I still feel honor bound to comply, even after the passage of so many years, and even if the fellow miscreant who actually pulled the trigger is now pushing up daisies.
In any event, it wasn’t long afterward that Lancaster Lake was filled in and the possibility of making new memories of this kind were buried forever, right along with everything else.
Some readers may think that’s a very good thing, but regardless, it is with the telling of this final, rather inglorious experience, that my memories of good ole Lancaster Lake have come to an end.