THE BADDEST GUY I EVER KNEW
THE BADDEST GUY I EVER KNEW
This is perhaps the hardest story I have ever written, because it is just so unbelievable. Here I was a 14 year old kid in 8th grade, in a sweet loving family. Mowing the lawn, playing with my three younger siblings skateboarding and surfing Palos Verdes cove, Torrance beach and Redondo break water. My parents had no idea this stuff was going on and to this day, they have never seen that shot gun (even though I still have it). Everything that I say here happened over a two year period (1959 – 1960) plus quite a few things that are too minor to mention. Believe it or disbelieve it as you wish.
The baddest guy I ever knew was only fourteen years old, I met him in eighth grade. Bruce Borazco looked and acted like Fanzi in the Happy Days TV show; cool, but tougher. He wasn’t a surfer like me, but I liked him because he was always doing adventurous and sometimes dangerous, fun stuff. I didn’t hang out with him all the time, but in between my other surfing adventures. He lived in my neighborhood. His father had machine tools like lathes and drill presses in their garage and Bruce knew how to make things like firecracker pistols and different inventions.
The year was 1960. I remember the popular songs then: Venus, by Franky Avalon, Alley OOP, Poison Ivey and It’s Now or Never, by Elvis. There was no Beach Boys band yet. We lived in South-West Torrance, just east of the elite surfing community of Palos Verdes where the popular TV show Sea Hunt was made and west of Lomita, Wilmington, and San Pedro, the toughest areas in LA at the time. My surfing friends and I surfed mostly at Torrance beach at a spot called “rat-shits”. We also surfed Palos Verdes Cove and Redondo Beach Breakwater.
Next to our neighbor hood in Rolling Hills was a cattle ranch called Chandlers. Everyone knew to stay off the ranch property because the cowboys patrolled on their horses and would chase you down and kick you out. That didn’t stop Bruce; we’d hop the fence and sneak like Indians across a wide, barren, sloping pasture until we’d reach a ravine that led up into a deep canyon. Once in the canyon there were a lot of trees and bushes for cover. We found a small natural cave in the canyon wall and spent hours digging it out to make it much larger inside. We had a couple of folding chairs, candle ledges and a sleeping area (although I don’t remember ever sleeping there). We fortified it against potential enemies by making “cement bombs”. Bruce procured several bags of cement from which we made at least 50 tennis ball size projectiles. Next, we dug several 6” diameter tunnels at an upward angle into the walls of the cave. When loaded into the “magazine” tunnels, the cement balls would roll down and rest against a wooden stopper waiting to be used one at a time as ammo. In Bruce’s garage, we made a giant sling shot which we mounted chest high on a two inch pipe in the entrance of the cave. The cave entrance was about four feet up the canyon wall and offered us a commanding view down the canyon. You could put one foot up against the two inch pipe, pull the quadruple bungeed, cement bomb loaded sling shot back and hurl those cement bombs fifty yards down the canyon. You have to understand; Bruce saw life as us against them. I didn’t know who them was, but I didn’t want them to take away our cave so it seemed like a fun idea to me. When we left our cave we’d push a giant tumbleweed into the entrance which made it undetectable.
I’ve never been the follower type, but I have to admit that Bruce was so quick to come up with schemes and plans that I usually ended up following him around just because they sounded fun. Late one afternoon we were walking home from the cave. As we were crossing the danger area of the sloping pasture, we ran into a Chicano girl that I recognized from school. She hung out with a tough Mexican gang and looked pretty hard core. She wore a tight black skirt, and a tight sweater with one of those 50’s bras that made her tits point straight out like body armor. She was looking for her younger brother. Bruce said: maybe he’s in the canyon. She said: “Oh ya, show me”. So we turned around and led her to the canyon. When we got into the canyon, Bruce grabbed her wrist and said “Let’s take her to the cave and rape her.” I had absolutely no idea what the word rape meant, so I said: Ah,… OK. She seemed to know exactly what he was talking about and even had a certain provocative smirk on her face like she found the whole idea exciting. She didn’t act scared, but had a look in her eyes like “let’s see if these guys have the balls to do this”. Bruce was talking dirty while he led her by the wrist toward the cave. As we approached the cave I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with the situation. I just didn’t like taking a defenseless girl captive no matter how tough she was acting and I wasn’t sure how anything but a bad situation could come of it. I also knew of a time a few months previous when Bruce had locked a guy in his garage all day for snooping around in the garage while Bruce was out taking a piss. I said; Hay, wait a minute we can’t show her our cave, she’ll bring all her friends up here and our secret will be ruined. Let’s forget this whole thing and just go home. Bruce was on a mission, but he quickly realized I was right so we led her back out of the canyon. As we crossed the pasture, her older brother, who was also out looking for the brother, came charging towards us. She yelled out something in Spanish. Man was he pissed, He was a few years older than us, but not really any bigger. He said he was going to get his Mexican gang and track us down. We gave him back a lot of bull shit and we all went on our own ways.
His gang had a tough reputation, so we went back to Bruce’s house to make weapons. We took two baseball bats, sawed them shorter, and reshaped them on Bruce’s lathe. Next, we screwed wood screws in all around the club end and sharpened the screws with a grinder. These clubs would make hamburger meat out of anybody.
Bruce’s older brother belonged to a rough motorcycle gang out of L.A. and had two bitchen bikes in his garage. One was a 650cc Triumph and the other was a big Harley Hog. He also worked in Hollywood movies as a biker bad guy, so he was often gone for weeks at a time for movie shoots. Bruce learned a lot of things from his brother and one was: when trouble starts, if you turn away from a fight, it only gets worse.
Bruce wanted to go on the assault. After dinner, I just said to my parents, I’m going over to Bruce’s for a while, see you later. That night we each put on one of his brothers leather jackets with Motorcycle gang emblems so we could conceal our spiked clubs. We walked the mile or so down to the Food Giant market at PCH and Crenshaw where the gang usually hung out. As we cruzed around in the market, the word was soon out that we were there. Bruce suggested that we go outside and walk around to the back parking lot where the trucks unload because he wanted to face the opposition. Soon we were facing about a dozen Chicano gang members. We instinctively backed against the side of the building to prevent an attack from the rear. When we pulled those spiked clubs out from under the leather motorcycle jackets, their switchblades were flashed into position. I was thinking: what on earth have I gotten myself into, and prepared to start swinging my club.
Those guys were tough and had a macho image to keep, but to be honest we looked even gnarlier. We were each six feet tall, about 6 inches taller than those guys.
At the sight of the sharpened spikes, their attitude mellowed perceptively. The girl’s big brother said: What did you do to my seester? Bruce said: Nothing; ask her. All eyes turned to her. She had a look of power in her eyes as she realized that she could now set off a flurry of macho, testosterone laced clubbing, stabbing, bloody fucking mess all in her honor. She paused…slowly took a deep breath, stuck out those “missile” tits, then said: Well maybe not so much, we just went up the canyon looking for Sanchez, then we came down.
Her brother recognized the motorcycle gang emblem on our jackets; he wasn’t quite as “peesed off” as a few moments ago. He asked if we were in that gang and Bruce said: Ya, along with my brother. Her big brother said: Well, we don’t want no fucking gang warfare. Bruce said: Ya, so maybe I won’t tell them about you. What’s your beef anyway we were just helping to find your brother. The whole thing was over in a few minutes and we just walked home.
I never could have pulled that whole episode off, no way, no how, but Bruce had this confident, edgy, Fonzi personality that just helped him get through this kind situation. Of course if I hadn’t met him, I never would have been in that situation.
A few months later, I got a phone call from Bruce: Get over here quick; I’ve got a gun. I couldn’t understand the excitement; we had already made firecracker pistols out of galvanized pipe that would blast a “steely” marble into a cinder block wall. (I realize now that I am lucky that I never blue my face of with one of those things). Like me, many kids actually had there own 22 caliber rifles in the 1950’s. They were sold by mail order in Boy’s Life, the official Boy Scout magazine. Hunting was considered a natural male activity throughout 50’s America.
When I got to Bruce’s, he was busily polishing his new weapon. This thing was the meanest, ugliest sawed off shotgun imaginable. It was a big, fat barreled 12 gage and it was exactly 12” long from end to end. The barrel was only 3” longer than a 12-gage shell. He had found it in the garage trashcan. Apparently, his brother had sawed it off and decided that it was just too dangerous and threw it away.
photo of the actual gun
I guess no one would mess with Bruce now. He was knowledgeable enough to know that his sawed off shot gun was very illegal and he realized that he couldn’t just go out in his back yard and plunk around with what looked like a cannon. This gun was so short that you could put it into your blue jeans pocket and just have your T-shirt hang over it so that no one would even see that you were carrying it. Besides, who would suspect a 14 year old of having a sawed off shotgun in his pocket?
The next day we walked right down to the sporting goods store and bought a box of 12-gage shot gun shells. In those days, any kid could walk into that store and buy ammo. What we didn’t know is that shot gun shells come in Different “loads”. You buy a lighter load to shoot birds so you don’t just disintegrate the body. Bruce had no idea about shot gun shells and picked up a very powerful box of “buck shot”, but he still needed a place to shoot his new toy.
There was a desolite canyon a few miles from where we lived in Rolling Hills next to Crenshaw blvd. It was rimmed by a chain linked fence and DANGER – KEEP OUT signs. The canyon was an abandoned decolite mining operation and was filed with old, rusted mining equipment and riddled with abandoned mine shafts. There was a creepy overwhelming silence down in the canyon because of the lack of human or animal sounds. We knew the mines well because we had spent hours exploring them. Our favorite shafts were the ones that were halfway up the canyon wall about 15 feet above the canyon floor. All the old access ladders had been removed so that people couldn’t get up into the mines anymore. We would tie a long rope to the KEEP OUT sign on the bluff above the shafts and repel the 15 or so feet down to the mine entrance. These shafts were interconnected and had a lot of ore car tracks and equipment to look at.
We repelled down the rope into the shaft. I thought the idea of shooting a shotgun in a mine was ridiculous because the concussion could cause a cave-in, so I volunteered to wait outside as look out. Bruce inserted one of the extra-powerful buckshot rounds into his sawed-off shotgun and marched unabashedly into the mine. A few moments later there was a deafening, ear ringing blast from in the mine. A great dust cloud billowed out from the cave in. Bruce came stumbling, coughing and sputtering out of the mine covered in fine white decolite dust. He was no longer holding the gun and just wanted to get the hell out of there. I said where’s the gun? He said he didn’t know and he didn’t what to know and didn’t ever want to shoot that thing again. I said: Well, can I have it? He said: Ya, if you’re crazy. I waited a while for the dust to clear and went back in the mine to find it in the dust. I took it home and hid it under my bed.
Later, I went back to the sporting goods store to learn a little about shot guns. I found out that you could buy less powerful shells and that you could even load your own shells. I discovered that you could make blanks by buying the center fire primers and inserting them into used, empty shells. I really didn’t want to shoot anything, but I did want to make a lot of noise. It turns out that a 12-gage primer spits out a 3 ft. flame at night and sounds like a 38. I used to carry this insanely illegal shotgun around and blow off blanks like any kid would light firecrackers.
Later, Bruce’s brother was gone for a few weeks on a movie shoot. One night, Bruce decided that we ought to cruse around on the 650cc Triumph chopper. I didn’t know that he could even drive the damn thing, but it sounded like a good adventure. We put on the leather jackets, and I brought the sawed off shot gun with a pocket full of blanks just for fun. We headed down PCH into Redondo Beach where the famous Light House bar was the big hang out. Since we were both big for our age, we could kinda pass for about 18 years old. We hung out for a while until we heard that there was a party back in Lomita. We cruzed the dark streets of Lomita until we found the party. Bruce parked the Triumph about 100 yards down the street from the party house so that no one would know it was ours.
The party was a back yard pool party, but the guys there weren’t the surfer types that I usually found at pool parties. They were more the tough Lomita Home-boy types and we didn’t know anybody. We put on our baddest tough face and made our entrance. I guess we were just putting out too much “stink eye”, because before long we had a bunch of them “up in our cool-aid”. The home boys wanted us out of there.
When they “got in our face” Bruce pulled out his spiked club and I did a quick draw with my trusty shot gun --- they did some serious backing up. I blasted off a blank round into the air. The flame shot out of the barrel and the concussion echoed through the neighborhood. I flicked the smoking shell on the ground and the homies were leaping over walls and bushes to get away from the two bad guys with the heavy artillery. Man, we thought we were so tough and that was so funny, but we made a quick exit anyway. As we were heading down the driveway, I spotted two kiddy tricycles. I absolutely couldn’t resist the ridiculous spectacle it would make to ride back in there on those tricycles. We each mounted one of the tiny tricycles and rode back into the party area. As we did a quick lap around the pool, I blasted a blank shot into the air as the homies looked stunned. We rode back out front and down to the Triumph and got the hell out of there.
A few months later Bruce heard that the seniors from Palos Verdes High School were having a party up at the old Elks Lodge. First, we parked the Triumph down the street from the party so we could check it out. It was the wildest thing I had ever seen. Guys were all over outside drinking beer and there was a loud band pounding out “surf music” before the world had discovered surf music. This time it was all surfers and surf chicks. I recognized some of the well known south bay surfers from the beach. The guys wore black track shoes with white Levis, and a long sleeve Pendleton shirt. That was the cool, hardcore surf look of the time. Everyone was way drunk and they were dancing the shimmy. The girls were shimmy’n there tits in the air and I was some-kinda impressed.
Bruce decided it would be a lot of fun to “mess with them a little” so we rode home to get some stuff. One of the objects that his brother had collected from the movie sets was a large hand cranked police siren. It was a 12” x 12” box with a megaphone like speaker and a big hand crank coming out the side. You could vary the speed as you cranked to make it sound just like a police car. Just before we got back to the party, Bruce put some red cellophane over the headlight on the bike.
As we approached, I cranked up the siren, man we sounded just like a police raid. It was so funny seeing all those way cool dudes scatter. We pulled up and laughed it up pretty big. Pretty quickly everyone saw what was up and the chase was on. We hadn’t really thought about the consequences of what we did, but we were smart enough to get the hell out of there. The problem was that we had multiple carloads of pissed, drunk seniors screeching around the corners after us. Man we didn’t know where to go, but we ended up heading south east on Palos Verdes drive with the procession of honking, screaming drunk, partiers hot on our ass. We made a left onto Crenshaw blvd. and headed for some riding stables that we were familiar with. We blasted up the driveway of the ranch house, past the stables and lead the wild procession onto the dirt riding road. Bruce figured that the only advantage that the motorcycle had was when we got off the pavement. We both knew the trail well because we had rented horses several times and had ridden the trail. We headed down the dirt road - riding trail at full throttle. We must have been doing over 60 when we saw the watering troughs up ahead. We knew that just beyond our headlight, the trail made a sharp 90 degree right turn. Bruce hit the brakes and nearly skidded over the 4 ft. drop off as we negotiated the turn. One after another, car after car everyone following us flew off the embankment. It was just like in the movies. Cars were sliding into the mud hole with horns blaring. I’ll never forget the sight of those muddied headlights. We didn’t wait around to find out what happened. We got back on Crenshaw and went straight home.
The next day there was a small article in the newspaper about the unknown police imposters on a motorcycle and the 6 cars which were driven over a steep embankment in Palos Verdes. At PV, Torrance and South High schools there was an intense search going on for the two pranksters on the motorcycle. Luckily, we were only in 8th. Grade. Bruce put the Triumph on ice.
That was my last ride on that Triumph. A short time later, my father who was in the Air Force was transferred to Norton Air Force base in San Bernardino. We moved and I never saw Bruce again. I wonder if he made it through “childhood” alive.
For several more years I took that sawed off shotgun up into the foothills of San Bernardino and blasted away at things. This next few sentences are so ridiculous, but they are absolutely true: I was only 15 years old when I’d carry it in my pants pocket, but since the latch had a tendency to come undone unless it was cocked, I’d hike up the canyons with the damn thing loaded and cocked. This was incredibly stupid and I’m lucky I never blew my nuts off. I liked to take an unsuspecting friend for a hike up into the canyons to “shoot my gun”. This cannon was so scary to shoot because the kick with a real shell in it would nearly knock you over. The sound and concussion were so deafening that you couldn’t hear anything but ringing in year ears. I’d blast off a shot and offer it to my friend who was in such shock that he’d just back up like I was offering him a poisonous snake.
A few years later, I took the firing pin out and threw it away. I still have that shotgun, but I no longer take it out of the house. Sometimes I just think about the trouble it could have gotten me into!
this is me 57 years later with the same gun.