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Tsunami on Flamingo Street

Rick Ryckeley's picture

After being a firefighter for the last 27 years, you’d think I was a big tough guy. Nope, just a big old softy. Case in point, I even had a rubber ducky back in the day.

Yep, Quack would still be in my possession if it hadn’t been for the tsunami that hit 110 Flamingo Street the summer of my eighth year.

The giant wave not only carried off my prized ducky, but a waterlogged Bubba Hanks and a very surprised guest to our pool party along with it. Just how could such a thing happen five hours from the nearest ocean? Well, that’s the end of the story; here’s the beginning.

Although Neighbor Thomas did have an in-ground pool, it was down for the summer due to much needed repairs. With the walls cracked, diving board broken, and sliding board tilted to one side with three steps missing, repairs to Thomas’s pool were definitely in order. ‘Course the sad state of the pool could’ve been the results of having us for neighbors.

After two summers of trying, no one ever did make the bike jump across the deep end. Why the deep end? No one wanted to crash into the shallow bottom. Our jumps always came up short – bikes slamming into the concrete side before sinking to the bottom 13 feet below. Luckily, such crashes stopped us from hitting the deck around the pool and fence just on the other side. We could’ve been really been hurt.

And no, double jumping Bubba Hanks off the end of the diving board isn’t what broke it. Double jumping Bubba Hanks off the end of the diving board while he held onto a watermelon was.

Don’t ask what happened to the watermelon, I promise I’d never tell. Let’s just say it was also the summer the entire pump motor mysteriously burned up and had to be de-seeded and replaced.

And yes, a bike can be ridden down a water slide with the brakes on. Didn’t say it was smart, just said it could be done.

To be honest, all those gouges and cracks in Thomas’s slide didn’t come from our bikes. It was Older Brother Richard’s homemade skateboard that really caused the damage. Looking back, guess we should’ve replaced that broken wheel a whole lot sooner.

Seems two years of us being next door had indeed taken its toll on Neighbor Thomas’s pool.

With the fear of us four boys terrorizing The Sister all summer indoors as motivation, Dad wisely broke down, grabbed his truck keys and headed out the door. The local hardware store had above-ground pools on sale.

Before leaving, Dad had to drain the bed of the pickup truck. Older Brother James had lined the bed with heavy plastic, filled it full of water, and was floating on top of a blow-up raft when Dad came out. The wave James rode, as the tailgate let down, was just a preview of what was soon to come.

It took all weekend for Dad to construct the four-foot-tall pool on a bed of sand and fill it full of water. It took another week for him to replace the sand under the pool and fill it full of water again.

I’m not admitting anything, mind you, but it seems the rubber stopper can indeed be pulled out of the bottom of a pool using only the toes of the left foot, allowing all the water of a 24-foot above-ground pool to drain out overnight without anyone realizing it. Twin Brother Mark lost two bets with me that weekend.

Dad went to work and left us four boys alone in the backyard — all Saturday, outfitted with a flimsy ladder and no diving board.

We first invited all the kids on Flamingo Street except, of course, Down the Street Bully Brad. Then we quickly replaced the flimsy ladder with an eight-foot stepladder. We’d promised Dad no one would dive into the water. Never said anything about belly flops. And the belly flop king on Flamingo Street was none other than Bubba Hanks.

Bubba’s belly flops off the middle rungs were impressive. With us all on floats, we had our very own wave pool 47 years ago! After lunch, then came the double-dog dare: a belly flop off the top rung.

I learned valuable lessons that day. First, Dad get three times as mad when he has to fix and fill a pool three times in one week. Second, belly flops off an eight-foot stepladder into four feet of water will make a wave large enough to collapse the sides — especially when your dad forgets to install the very important top brace.

Lastly, the ensuing giant wave created when the pool walls collapse washed away three things that day: Bubba Hanks, who we found. A rubber duck called Quack, who we sadly didn’t find. And one unsuspecting Bully from down the street and his bucket of water balloons. Seems he was sneaking up from the woods to attack us right when Bubba did his now famous Tsunami Flop.

And now you know why The Wife won’t let me have a pool. But she did buy me a little rubber duck. I think I’ll call him Quack.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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