The day there were UFOs in Olney

bulletin

Mike ‘Meak’ Carlijn
The book cover

Mike “Meak” Carlin grew up in Olney and spent a lot of time in “The Yard” – the courtyard of Lowell Elementary School, at 5th Street and Nedro Avenue.

“So many jokes were made on that schoolyard,” Carlin recalled. “It was all very innocent and childish.”

Carlin and his friends were constantly pulling pranks, and one day in 1977 he decided to publish some “fake news” in the popular weekly neighborhood newspaper, the Olney times. He visited the 5th Street office and handed a worker a sheet of paper showing that two of his friends had finished first and second in a fly-catching contest.

To his delight, the news was included in the newspaper’s ‘Roving Reporter’ section, spurring him to top his successful prank.

The National researcher He thought he had printed stories about UFOs, so why not report a UFO sighting in Olney?

So he and a friend visited the office and reported seeing three cigar-shaped UFOs flying in formation over The Yard, hovering in place and then speeding away.

Carlin was overjoyed when he read that week’s issue. The headline on the front page said it all: Olney Boys See UFOs.

“They bit it,” he said. “It was very funny.”

Carlin has written a book about growing up in the neighborhood in the 1970s. It is called Olney Boys See UFOs and is dedicated to his beloved uncle, Dominic D’Adamo, or Uncle Don.

“It’s a memoir about growing up in Olney,” he said, pronouncing it AHHLL-no.

Carlin, now 62, grew up at 5841 N. Lawrence St., near The Yard. He graduated from St. Helena Grammar School and Cardinal Dougherty High School (class of 1979).

“It was a super tight neighborhood,” he remembers. “It felt like a small town. Olney people are fatter than thieves.

Carlin said he enjoyed writing the book about the events of 19120. He wrote some of the content on a blog and on Facebook, but decided to turn it into a book during COVID.

“I really wanted to do this thing right,” he said.

For the book, he interviewed 37 friends, including sports comedian Joe Conklin, who started out as a seventh-grader on a show in St. Helena posing as Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Howard Cosell, Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill.

The comments from those 37 friends make up a large part of the book, because they are written in bold and larger type.

“These guys are legendary within their families,” Carlin said.

The content is mostly light and full of kids from that era and all their nicknames. Billy “Ears” McGinley was responsible for spreading the nicknames, the author said.

The book mentions Sister Walburga and the tough nuns at St. Helena and going home for lunch. There’s also talk of sports in The Yard, seeing a streaker at 5th and Nedro during the Flyers’ celebration of the Stanley Cup winning in 1974, the time Carlin the prankster disappearing red ink on the white jacket of a girl spray-painted, a racing bike crashing into a driveway, an angry Fairhill Street resident named Mr. Stevers taking the boys’ hockey net to his house, and a Presidents’ Day weekend incident when two of Carlin’s friends threw snowballs at an Abraham Lincoln impersonator on 5th Street.

There was a time when Carlin and his friends decided to call the police on their own friends while playing basketball at Lowell Elementary School when it was closed for the summer. They watched as some of them were thrown into a paddy wagon and placed in a holding cell at the 35th Precinct.

“Those are some funny Olney s… right there,” Carlin wrote about that episode.

And Carlin, that one Bulletin paper route, wasn’t done with the UFO storyline yet. Later in 1977 the Olney times – which closed in 2008 – reported that two boys saw a UFO near Fisher Park “drawing energy from the electrical wires of the railroad.”

“Mic drop,” Carlin wrote in the book.

Carlin and his friends spent almost all their time in Olney, but occasionally took road trips on the Y bus to shop and cause mischief at stores – Gimbels, Arthur Treacher’s and others – on Cottman Avenue, from Castor Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard.

Carlin and his wife Rose have four children and five grandchildren. The family lived near Front and Spencer streets for 13 years until 1998, when they moved to Lansdale.

“My kids had the Olney experience. They probably have their own book in them,” he said.

Carlin markets the book himself. Former residents of Olney enjoyed the book and he wants to reach all the people who have left that neighborhood for the Northeast. He has participated in some book signings and author events. The book is also in 15 public libraries in Philadelphia and Montgomery County. There is an “Olney Boys See UFOs” page on Facebook, and an audiobook is in the works.

The first author had a great time telling all those wild stories.

“I’m along for the ride,” he said. ••

The book is available at amazon.com.