Thursday, March 18, 2010

story: Riley Park in 1980

I grew up in East Vancouver... born and raised! I lived a few blocks from the PNE grounds and attended Templeton High School (1982 grad).

I got a kick out of the teams that visited our school for our home games - they were bewildered by the bullet holes in the doors leading to our gym. In hindsight, the holes were probably just some sort of random vandalism, but perpetuating the myth always seemed like good fun.

Like every other neighbourhood group of kids, we hung out in our local park playing some sort of sport in the day and hanging out there at night - all innocent components of youth and life.

We had always heard about other parks and the inhabitants that claimed them as their own, but the one that seemed to resonate with the most fear and wonder was the Riley Park Gang. I'm not sure who first told us about these guys, but as the passing days advanced, the legend just continued to grow.

By the time I had actually made my way over to Riley Park for a game at the rink (probably 1981 or 1982), my fears and curiosity were at their apex. After exiting the rink with a friend from my hood (also acutely aware of the legend), we caught site of a bunch of shady characters drinking beer and carrying on at the far side of the playground... by the trees... WAY back there, sort of where the climbing rock is now. We watched the spectacle from my buddy's car... waiting for something big to happen. Waiting in the dark.

We were at Riley Park... in the devil's cave, watching the dark figures of evil moving through the trees and in and out of the playground equipment doing God knows what before they would start staging attacks on us from their hidden lair.

But... nothing happened.

Of course, looking back now, this was merely a mirror of my own park... but, this sort of analysis or reflection was missing in my youth.

And today, as I play with my young kids in that same playground, I always get a chuckle as I remember the fear I had of this incredible neighbourhood. I'm looking forward to seeing the faces of the upcoming Riley Park Gang... I hope they let me hang out with them at least once :)

by Clay Yandle


Anonymous said...

By the 80's the whole "park' thing was over since the baby boomers had grown up and the orientals were taking their places, and they were a different crew totally.

The real Riley Parkers would have been in their heyday in the 50's and 60's. They were vile scum. Never man to man, always 3 or 5 on one, 7 on 2, 9 on 3. Vicious cowards. Glad to see the Projects have been razed.

Anonymous said...

I know a guy who was one of the Riley Park gang. He now has changed and he's married had kids and he's a grandpa. His name is David Diewart.