1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Basement Gorilla

It’s a well known fact that every basement has a monster hiding in the shadows, waiting to jump out and grab you when no ones looking.

Our basement was a great place to play, if I wasn’t alone. Kathy–a neighbor one year older–and I performed perilous daredevil stunts in the family room. During our most dangerous trick, I wrapped my legs around her waist or neck. Kathy spun around and raised her arms in the air while I sailed around with my arms flung outward. We continued spinning until my legs began slipping or she got too dizzy.

“Don’t do that anymore,” warned Mom. “Your legs will slip off and you’ll crack your head open or break your neck again.”

Contrary to my mother’s warnings, I never smashed my head into the corner of Dad’s metal desk or against the cement block wall. I did whack a hand against the metal part of Dad’s chair and it hurt a lot, but Kathy and I decided not to worry Mom with the news.

Just like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, we kids got together in our basement and put on plays. The difference was we didn’t have a paying audience, or any audience at all. We did it for ourselves. I made up skits with additional input from the others. As the author, I always played the part of the beautiful girl first. The play repeated several times with slight variations, until everyone had a chance at the part they wanted or until we got sick of it. When Mom ventured downstairs we made her a captive audience of one. She became wise to our repetitions and made it clear she wasn’t watching multiple viewings.

The atmosphere of our basement changed when it became empty. Shadows settled in the corners and scary noises were impossible to pinpoint.

A few times too many, Mom sent me down to see if the washer or dryer cycle was finished, or to retrieve food from our big white freezer chest. Each appliance was around a corner, behind a wall, and not near the stairs. I closed the door almost, but not quite, all the way. My trickery couldn’t be witnessed, but a scream for help could be heard. I’d go as far as the bottom step, wait a minute, then yell that the laundry wasn’t done, or I couldn’t find the frozen food I was sent in search of.

Once again, I was sent to get frozen corn for supper. I went to the bottom step, waited, yelled I couldn’t find any, and returned upstairs.

“There certainly is corn. It’s in a wire basket on the right hand side,” said Mom.

I trudged back down to the bottom step and replayed the scenario.

“Mary Barbara, you never moved from the stairs! Get your hind end over to the freezer and get the corn your mother asked for, now!”

I looked at the top of the stairs and saw Dad’s eye peeking through the open crack in the door. Well, that was pretty sneaky.

I made Dad wait at the top of the stairs with the door wide open. We agreed that if Mom or Dad would continue to stand guard from now on, then I would get off the bottom step. David wasn’t big enough to protect me.

Why did I need a stairway sentry? The blame rested on an episode of Lassie.

Elizabeth Gordon - Guide to gorilla trekking/Huffington Post

Elizabeth Gordon – Guide to gorilla trekking/Huffington Post

The circus came to Timmy’s town and an escaped gorilla terrorized the community by creating mayhem, such as ripping clothes off clotheslines. Lassie found it hiding in a neighbor’s cellar. Dad could talk until he was blue in the face, if it happened to Timmy’s neighbor it could happen in our house on Dean Road. I was no match for a blood thirsty, bone crushing gorilla.

My perception of gorillas changed when I saw them at a game farm. But I still didn’t want one hiding in my basement.

I wanted a cute little tea cup monkey to carry around in my pocket, but a super-sized gorilla was too much of a good thing.

Lesson learned: Don’t look in the basement.

Related posts: Pandemonium Trail/Squishy Foot and Monkeys; Exposed/Carrot Attack

Now it’s your turn: What scary monster hid in the depths of your basement?


© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Good story. We didnt have a basement that held scary gorillas but we had a neighbor with a monkey that terrorized us children because he had a habit of showing us his razor sharp teeth when he became annoyed. That seemed to be all the time.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Your neighbor should have sent away for a cute tea cup monkey or a sea monkey family. They are each mentioned in ‘Squishy Foot and Monkeys’. I guess my mother knew what she was doing when she put the kabosh on my monkey purchases. I never did get one, but still love to watch them at the zoo.

  2. […] Posts: Chapter Three: Basement Gorilla; Chapter Nine: Attic […]

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