Everyone needs a clubhouse! You can build your own backyard shelter, retreat, or clubhouse even if you have never built anything before. The clubhouse above was built in 1959 by three kids aged 8, 9 and 11, with no money or help from grownups! I know; I was the 11-year-old who took this picture. I'm sharing here what I have learned since then.
Readers of all ages are welcome to comment with their own ideas, pictures or stories.
To help you on your way, I've written a book titled "Keep Out! Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse", which is available through bookstores or at Amazon.com . Many of the items I post here are also in the book.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Clubhouses are for Grownups Too!

If you built a clubhouse when you were a kid, you can do it again! A small hideaway in your back yard can be built for very little cash, especially if you consider using recycled windows, doors and perhaps siding and flooring. If it is 10 by 12 feet (120 square feet) or less on the ground, you can probably (but not always) build it without a building permit. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clubhouse from the air, 1963

In January, 1963, we had some high tides and the beach had washed out, so Sunset Beach and Surfside were in the news. One morning an airplane flew over our neighborhood and took this photo:

See the surf!
See the houses hanging over the surf!
See the Pacific Coast Highway behind the houses.
In between is our neighborhood, my whole world for a while.

Click on the picture to make it bigger...

If you look just across the street (to the right) from the water tower, you'll see a fenced yard with a car in it. Next to the car is a little gray box-- our new clubhouse built against the fence. It was probably a school day otherwise we'd be playing there, or else watching the waves hitting the houses!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

After a Summer of Adventures, Another Clubhouse

Eventually we built our clubhouse, but not on schedule - it went unpainted until the next year...

When school started again, we settled into the routine of classes but continued to hang out together after school, usually at Kathy's house. One day we wandered out to a fenced-in back lot that was full of lumber and wood scraps. Kathy's parents used the lot to store leftover materials from a large addition they recently built for their growing family. The yard was a weedy mess but we decided it was a perfect place for a new clubhouse!

The best location was a spot next to the fence, where no lumber was stored, but where a huge pile of cut-off blocks and scraps of wood had been tossed during the construction. We spent a Saturday clearing it all out, and we saved a few usable boards that weren't yet termite-eaten! We had a clubhouse site!

So every day I went back there after school, and with Kathy or Chris we started building. As the construction progressed, I drew the schedule-of-progress, above, and another after-the-fact plan, below.

The parents whose yard we used let us build our new clubhouse against their fence,
the line at left, which saved us a lot of wood.
Some of the stored lumber, none of which we were allowed to use, can be seen on the right.
However, I couldn't help assembling some iron sewer pipe pieces
 and then including them in the plan!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Expeditions

After the clubhouse was trashed, Chris and I teamed up with the girls who threw the rocks that day. We'd actually known each other for a while so why not? It turned out that the four of us were good at organizing day-long expeditions. We packed lunches and a first aid kit, and were drawn to forbidden or not-for-children destinations, and there were plenty of them.

Our parents routinely told us to "go outside and play!" right after breakfast and were content if we remained outside until dark as long as we let them know where we were...and we took a few liberties on that one. For instance if we told them we were going on a hike to Tin Can Beach, we neglected to add that we would be taking a detour to the old World War II gun emplacements nearby.  Tin Can Beach, a mile away toward Huntington Beach, was two miles of open sand littered with old bottles and rusted cans from years of people camping and squatting there in tents or cardboard shacks, sometimes all year! Now it is known as Bolsa Chica State Beach - all cleaned up and mostly parking-lots. About a half mile inland was a fenced-off group of abandoned concrete bunkers, tunnels and gun turrets (no guns) that the Army installed to defend against Japanese warships. That was our real destination!

We walked the length of Sunset Beach, then wandered up to and easily under the barbed wire to find a natural wonderland of grassy fields, old eucalyptus trees and singing meadowlarks, and then the bunkers. We had heard they were very dark inside so we brought flashlights and made our way through the tunnels. All we found was grafitti and trash, but it was like another world - and creeeeeepy!

Satisfied, but still nervous, we made our way back to Tin Can Beach and ate our lunch!

We conquor the bunker!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chris and I Start Building

In 1959 I was 11 years old and decided I wanted a real clubhouse made out of wood. My friend Chris did too and we spent several weeks building this one, our first sucess, at least for a while. I borrowed some tools from my mom and neighbors gave us the fence and the white cabinet doors that made up some of our walls. The rest of the wood we hauled in on our wagons. Chris and I also found lots of stuff in the alleys to furnish it, including an old car seat for a couch, a teapot and a mantel clock. I drew the plan below after we had been in it a while.

Since we built it on a vacant lot, it soon became a target of other kids in the neighborhood. Some girls we knew did NOT like the "No Girls Allowed" sign we put up by the door, and they attacked us with rocks one day until we promised to take it down! One day I noticed that the old clock I'd found looked a little funny, and when I picked it up it crumbled into pieces. Later, a kid named Brian cheerfully admitted he blew it up with a cherry bomb, then put it back together! A few weeks later Chris and I found the clubhouse totally wrecked, by a certain gang of 3 boys who lived several blocks away...  To be continued.