Uproar On Churchill Avenue

Summer 1969

Woodstock and the first lunar landing are just a few months away. It is a time of contrasts and change. Of wars, demonstrations, and riots. Of unbridled creativity, cultural change, and free love. It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

We’re drawn to a tree-lined neighborhood in an idyllic suburb near Stanford University, and then come to a modest white stucco house where a five year old boy is swimming the backyard pool. His mother, now very pregnant with her second child, is busy inside.

The pool is always fun on a warm day, even when the water is a little cold. But the boy eventually gets tired of the pool and climbs out, fingers like prunes. He makes a half-hearted attempt to dry himself and then, opens the back door. Maternal instincts about soggy, messy carpets are instantly activated.

“You can’t come in the house with your wet clothes on!”, she proclaims.

“OK”, says the boy, somewhat reluctantly. Mother must be obeyed. And he is a good boy, so he complies.

Mother is mollified by this, and resumes her activities, secure in the knowledge that no pool water will breach the perimeter of THIS house.

The boy gets an idea.

One Minute Later. The gate to the front yard — and to the free world — opens to reveal the boy on top of his bicycle, ready to roll. Now it is rather common to see children on bicycles, but this is no ordinary ride, as you will see. The boy gleefully takes off on a tour of the neighborhood, unaware of his appointment with destiny.

He rides up an down the street, over familiar sidewalks, under the shade of trees, by houses of various styles and colors. The warm, fragrant air feels good. He encounters a gaggle of cyclists on expensive 10-speeds, who pretend to ignore him. He is only a child and they are grown-ups. Still, life is good and he is enjoying this halcyon moment in time.

Not for long.

Five Minutes Later. The phone rings and mother answers.

“Hello?”

“Hi Carol, this is your neighbor. Are you aware that your son is riding his bicycle naked?”

(silence)

“No…” (stunned)

“I just thought you should know”

“OK…”

(click)

Mother goes into action. She yanks open the front door and yells to her oblivious offspring, who is apparently a free-spirited exhibitionist now.

“Chip!”

(even louder)

“CHIPPER!”

(sound of a bicycle coming to a screeching halt)

“You come home RIGHT NOW!”

The boy, momentarily frozen with fear, turns around, reproachfully. He makes a beeline for the house, in record time. He searches his memory for any recent infractions that would warrant an outburst of this magnitude. He can find none. And now he is home.

“What were you doing riding your bike without any clothes?!”

“You said I couldn’t come into the house with my wet things on and I was getting cold, so I went for a bike ride.”

(more silence — it’s been one of those days)

“Put. Your. Clothes. On.”

Magically, the boy once again clothed, respectable, and decent.

Two months later in upstate New York, the spirit of rebellion, fueled by drugs and live music would prompt more bouts of public nudity. But Churchill Avenue had seen quite enough.

And now you know where streaking comes from.

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