While combing through a box load of miscellaneous relics from the past, I came upon a Bohack's supermarket matchbook. Bohack's stores were a New York City chain that went the way of the dodo bird sometime in the mid-1970s. In fact, there was a Bohack's a block away from where I grew up. It operated for many years on the southeast corner of Tibbett Avenue and West 231st Street in the Bronx. And after the Bohack's brand fell by the wayside, a Sloan’s supermarket took over the spot, then a C-Town, and then a Sloan’s again. Today, a health and fitness club conducts business on this formerly hallowed ground.
The Bohack's matchbook find lit a fire in my memory bank. Bohack's is where a sixteen-year-old friend and neighbor, my fifteen-year-old brother, and yours truly, not yet thirteen, shopped for our August 1975 camping trip to Harriman State Park, which is an hour or so north of New York City.
My brother, a Boy Scout at the time, purportedly knew the park's terrain and various nooks and crannies from past scouting trips. He was, for all intents and purposes, our fearless leader. We had the Boy Scout's handbook with us, too. And since this adventure of ours wasn't choreographed as a survival mission, we brought along a box of Bohack's matches, just in case the rubbing of two sticks together didn't do the trick.
To make a long story short: Dad dropped us off in an undisclosed location—an obscure, dead-end road somewhere on the periphery of a picturesque village called Sloatsburg. This spot admirably functioned as our portal into the forestland, where we had every intention of spending three full days and nights camped out under the stars on some off-the-beaten trail in the woods, and not some sissy campground. Unfortunately, we neglected to consult the weather bureau before our excursion, and day two in the great outdoors featured the heaviest rainstorm of the entire summer. Luckily, we had our Bohack's bounty with us: hot dogs, bread for peanut butter sandwiches, and Milky Way bars for snacks. While drowning in a flash flood or mudslide was always a possibility, we weren't about to starve to death.
We also brought a radio with us, so we knew what was happening in the outside world. Yogi Berra was fired as the New York Mets manager while we were one with nature, and the rumors were that Brooklyn Dodgers great and Hall of Famer, Roy Campanella, was his imminent replacement, even though he was confined to a wheelchair. We had no cell phones. These devices were still a quarter of a century away from being in the hands, ears, and pockets of the hoi polloi. So, if anything, God forbid, happened to one of us, a long and meandering haul to find help would have been required. And worse still, if a Jeffrey Dahmer-guy turned up, we were toast and could have effortlessly been disposed of sans a trace that we lived and breathed, except perhaps for a few Milky Way wrappers.
It was unquestionably a simpler time to be both alive and a kid. Nowadays, it's hard to conceive of parents permitting their teens to experience such a walk on the wild side with or without a means of communication. Anyway, the footnote to this tale is that our respective fathers rescued us a day earlier than the scheduled pick up, surmising that the monsoonal rains had put a serious damper on things. Fathers knew best in this instance. And no social workers showed up at our doors, either, to place us in foster homes.
Thirty-five years have now passed since this camping trip of a lifetime. It was the one and only time that I bedded down on roots and tubers, slept under both stars and rain clouds, and employed a decomposing log—home to a colony of ants and community of roly-poly bugs—as a toilet seat.