The story of the Quarter Pipe

Maybe you haven’t heard of a quarter pipe. Wikipedia says that “A quarter pipe is a ramp used in extreme sports which resembles a quarter of the cross section of a pipe”

As you may have read here before, back in the 80s, my younger son, who was in his early teen years, was into BMX or Bicycle Moto-Cross racing. Another aspect of the BMX bicycling experience was to ride up a ramp or quarter pipe, turn around in mid air and come back down safely, we hoped, onto the ramp’s surface, and then back to level ground. The same thing could be done with a skate board.

Although other heights and sizes of quarter pipes can be built or bought, I was talked into building the six foot one. I used 2×4’s and 4ft. x 8ft. quarter inch plywood. The toughest part was getting the plywood to bend or curve properly. The best way to accomplish this was to place the plywood between two rows of cement blocks, run garden hose-borne hot water over the plywood and, with the water running, sit down in the middle, fully clothed. It was uncomfortable to say the least, but it worked.

I painted it park bench green, and put wheels on it. We set this weighty contraption out in our front driveway on busy North Road. Almost in an instant, kids were drawn to it like flies to honey. I called my insurance agent to get a million dollar insurance umbrella. Then the fun began. The kids tried it out, and it was generally a big success – except for drivers on North Road rubber-necking to the point of rear ending each other.

We would wheel it over to the side yard when it was not in use. One day, we went to get it to wheel it back onto the drive for another day of riding and jumping. It was gone! A trail crossed the empty lot next to our house to a neighbor’s drive, but the trail went cold right there. Someone had stolen our quarter pipe.

Since my son dealt a lot with Frankford Bicycle Shop in Girard, his mother went there and posted a sign on the shop’s bulletin board offering a reward for any information as to the whereabouts of our stolen quarter pipe. A few days later, we received an anonymous call from what sounded like a young boy telling us to go to McDonald and drive down a certain street. There we just might see our quarter pipe. He was not interested in a reward or divulging his identity.

We followed the kid’s advice. There was our quarter pipe in a back yard! From the street, we could see that someone had fastened some flimsy plywood skirting around its supporting structure and had painted everything pink. Since my design was unique, there was no mistaking it in spite of the disguise.

A visit to the McDonald Police headquarters was next. We said we wouldn’t press charges, but we wanted the quarter pipe returned to our place. The next day a pickup truck arrived in our drive with the pink quarter pipe. After the young adult driver and two younger boys unloaded it, the boys offered a well-rehearsed (and probably police-coached) apology to me and my spouse.

They explained that in order to take the quarter pipe, they had loaded it onto the roof of their dad’s station wagon. Imagine seeing this humongous, awkward load trundling down the road to McDonald! Considering the sheer bulk and weight of this monstrous wooden contrivance, to repair the damage it must have done to the roof of that station wagon would cost many times over the cost of building their own quarter pipe.

After rebuilding and repainting, the ‘pipe was back in business. After a while interest waned as the novelty wore off. I can’t be sure, but I believe I recall that we sold it for a bit of a profit. It was so easy to build and the materials were so inexpensive, one would think that even the slightly handy could have built their own. However, the builder would have to be willing to sit down in hot running water.