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The Glories of the City Dump

May 5, 2014

First posted 3/12/12


It's time for spring cleaning, and this always reminds me of a favorite childhood trip.




When I was a kid there was a place that affected me like metal drawn to a magnet, our town’s very own Disneyland—the City Dump.


Like many boys, I looked forward to our annual trip to this place of riches and enchantment. The visit was preceded by Mom telling Dad it was time to clean out the garage because it was getting difficult to squeeze the car inside. It was a mystery to me how she knew this since she didn’t drive, but before long Dad would be cleaning out the garage and borrowing grandpa’s old pickup for the journey to junk nirvana.


A trip to the dump was anticipated like Christmas morning. I usually brought along my best friend, Ricky Delgado, who loved the dump almost as much as I did, not that Ricky looked forward to Christmases. His dad was usually incarcerated during the Holidays and Ricky had to settle for a package arriving from The Farm, a polite term for prison. Ricky’s dad was good with his hands and the Delgado kids would be treated to an assortment of handmade leather goods. Many times I’d watch Ricky fondling a new wallet embossed with the noble profile of an elk or lion and wish my Dad was an alcoholic so he could go to The Farm and make me a cool wallet.


When the time neared for our annual trip, Ricky and I would talk about the dump for hours, fantasizing over items we hoped to find on our next trip, things like Nazi flags or Civil War bayonets. Maybe we’d find a magic lamp with a genie inside, or a golden Spanish doubloon or pieces of eight, not that we ever found anything valuable. Once I found a mayonnaise jar filled with polished agates and Ricky found a broken water rocket he thought he could fix, but it was the quest for riches that attracted us most.


There were bottomless craters with castoff treasure beside mountain-size piles of discarded booty. A cloud of seagulls hung perpetually over the place and added to the unique smell, the third best smell on Earth, right behind bakeries and pet stores, a delightful smell that stuck to us like caramel on an apple. Dad had his hands full keeping me and Ricky from hauling home more stuff than we started out with.


When we returned home, Mom would send Ricky home and order me into the shower to wash off what she called, “The stink of the Dump.” I’d toss my clothes in the hamper beside the washing machine, but before stepping into the shower I’d give my shirt one last sniff.


A year would pass before I’d get another dose of this scent of paradise.



People throw away all sorts of great stuff, so I can understand why you were excited. I don't go to the city dump these days, but someday, I'm going to find the Secret of Life in a dumpster.
By: Katy Anders on May 5, 2014
If only dad was an alcoholic so I could get cool the way a kids mind works.
By: Cranky on May 5, 2014
There you go again ... bragging about your privileged upbringing! But seriously, it sounds like a lot of fun. We didn't have a dump; we went to the old cement factory down by the parkway. Loved to play in the piles of sand and climb over the stacks of cement blocks -- and I'm sure, like you, we got plenty of exposure to toxic waste!
By: Tom Sightings on May 5, 2014
Your childhood remembrances are always the very best reads. I love you and Ricky's adventures. Smelly or otherwise. Great story.
By: Oma Linda on May 5, 2014
You find the child in all of us. You have a wonderful memory to recollect your childhood memories.
By: Daniel LaFrance on May 5, 2014
what a great boys' paradise!
By: TexWisGirl on May 5, 2014
Are you a hoarder? I dislike hoarder homes. I throw out so much stuff. Minimalist is my motto.
By: Michael Offutt on May 5, 2014
ahhh the dump! By the time I was 10 we were living in the Bay Area and my dad and I would go to the dump in Palo Alto ( I think that's where it was ) and get rid of stuff and also feed the ducks! I'd take all the bread scraps saved up and toss them to the ducks and geese and of course sea gulls! It was the second best thing after going to the hardware store! Thanks for sharing your ever fun memories!
By: Kathe W. on May 5, 2014
The first time I was ever at a dump was when I had my own house and was already in my 30s. I DID enjoy it. But I couldn't wait to shower! Your mother would have been proud of ME!
By: Mitchell is Moving on May 5, 2014
My children would have loved to be able to do that!
By: mimi on May 5, 2014
Boy did this bring back memories. I lived on a private lake that had its own dump. When my best friend and I would get the blues, we would hike down the road to rummage in the dump bringing home treasures that often our parents had dumped there the previous week. Good to know we weren't the only dump diggers.
By: Akansas Patti on May 5, 2014
You nailed the odors from the dump. It's one of those smells you can never forget. Here it is illegal to pick up stuff at the dump so no fun here.
By: red on May 5, 2014
Your story brought back one of my childhood memories, too. Great telling!
By: Pixel Peeper on May 5, 2014
If my husband were to go to a place like that, he'd definitely come home with twice as much as he went there to dump. He loves "fix it" projects, and even something he can't fix will be kept for the day he'll find one he can fix and needs the first one for spare parts. Thank goodness there are no dumps around here...
By: Lexa Cain on May 5, 2014
Your really would have envied the caretaker of our dump. He had a little shack with a cot in it, right there on the premises. And he got first crack at all the treasures.
By: Val on May 5, 2014
I've never been to a dump. I've missed out on so much in life. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on May 5, 2014
What a great memory- I can almost smell the Stink of the Dump~
By: Shelly on May 6, 2014
Funny, as I was reading, I was thinking "Good God, what about the smell?" Maybe that's why I've never seen a female garbage collector. It's a guy's paradise, a gal's hell. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on May 6, 2014
come and have a rummage in my garage - you'll be in dump heaven!
By: Glen on May 6, 2014
The innocence of you, wonderful tale!
By: John on May 9, 2014
I was the same way about the dump when I was little but nowadays you can't get me anywhere NEAR that place!
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on May 9, 2014
A great post and a great memory! Thanks for sharing it, Stephen :)
By: Sharon Bradshaw on May 10, 2014

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