It was a hot humid mid-July day and the five of us were going for a swim at the little Mystic; provided it was high tide – swimming was out of the question at low tide on the river. We swam most of the time on the Terminal Street side of the Mystic, we had an abandoned slide, a rope that we could swing out on and no life guards blowing their whistle and shouting at us “No diving, no cannon balls, no running!” At the Mystic we looked out for of each other and we were all good swimmers. Our parents knew we could all swim and some of them had swum in the Mystic River when they were young, so they did not have a problem with us swimming there
We were about ten and eleven years old and when we got to the pier we would leave our towels and clothing on the pier and dive into the water. On this day there were some other kids swimming on the other side of the river from the Glendale coal wharf, they were all laughing and jumped into the water. We were about to take the plunge when one of our guys shouted. “Look! “ He pointed to the other side of the river to a bunch of kids approaching the Glendale pier. “It’s the Ha, Ha gang!”
We all knew about the Ha, Ha gang, they thought everything was funny, if you fell down and scrapped your knee they would all laugh, “Ha, ha, ha.” All of the merchants around the town knew them. The Ha, Ha’s would go into a store and create mayhem, get thrown out, stand outside, point and laugh at the merchant. We never knew any of their names, first or last, all we knew is that they were from Charlestown, but we did not know where in the town they lived. For that matter we did not know where they went to school. One of our kids said very seriously. “That they were not allowed in any school”.
The Ha, Ha’s approached the edge of the Glendale pier and were pointing into the water below, gave their usual laugh and were mocking the kids in the water. Then they picked up the belongings of the kids that they had left on the pier and ran off laughing. We found out later that the Ha Ha’s didn’t steal anything; they just tossed all of the clothes and sneakers around Medford Street.
A week later we were back down at the little Mystic and the same guys were swimming on the other side at the Glendale pier, and they shouted to us “Do you have any smokes!?” We replied “What!?” “Do you have any smokes?!” They shouted back. We looked at each other and started laughing, we didn’t smoke, but we shouted back. “Yeah, we got a whole pack!!” And they all started swimming across the Mystic.
On our side of the river, there was a hole in the middle of the pier with a ladder leading to the water and, it was the only way to get back up onto the pier. Right beside the hole was a barrel filled with trash that had been there for a long time. As the kids from the other side of the river started climbing the ladder and out of the water one of our guys tipped the barrel, spilling the trash all over the kids on the ladder. As we ran away we could hear them scream as they all jumped back into the water.
A few days later we were at the Bunker Hill pool and the “Barrel Gang” as we now called them, came into the pool. The kid that had tipped the barrel of trash all over them was laughing and whispered. “Here they come, don’t touch them they still smell.” The five of us stood together and as they approached, they started shouting. “Yeah, thanks a lot for the garbage you tossed on us, thanks a lot! “ We looked at them with our altar boys faces and told them “ It wasn’t us. It was the Ha, Ha’s.” and explained “When we saw them coming, we ran.” We were very trying to be convincing, looking at each other and shrugging our shoulders. Just then, outside the fence of the pool, the Ha, Ha’s were looking in, pointing at the “Barrel Gang” and laughing at them. “See!” We told them. “It was the Ha, Ha’s!” We could see the look of fear on the faces of the “Barrel Gang”, as they all ran to the locker room. We figured that they must have been going to get their clothes before the Ha, Ha’s got them.