John Peterson’s The Secret Hide-out was absolutely one of my favorite books growing up — and with good reason. As I’ve noted on this blog before, I and the other boys on my street placed paramount, enduring importance on whatever iteration of our “club” that we had going — whether we had a viking club, an explorer club, a “ninja clan,” or whatever. (Did other groups of boys act like this? I honestly wonder. The human instinct for affiliation ran pretty strong at an early age for me and my neighbors.)
Anyway, this book was a goldmine for a second grader with our particular brand of preadolescent tribalism. It was about a trio of boys who find a mysterious “club handbook” behind a stone at two of their number’s grandmother’s house. The handbook outlines club minutes, membership tests, and the location of the titular secret hideout — along with instructions on how to craft the masks, spears and shields — and with whistles made out of paper. (I swear to you that those whistles were easy to make and that they really worked quite well.)
Anyway, The Secret Hide-out was a 1960’s book that my brother would have brought home from school in the 1970’s — probably from one of those Scholastic Books fairs. It wound up in my hands by 1980 or so. I am by no means the only person who remembers this book; it was a favorite for a lot of people. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s even a sequel, as it turns out — Peterson wrote Enemies of the Secret Hide-out a year later. This time out, the Amazon description informs me, there is a rival club of boys who try to appropriate the clubhouse. (I know from boyhood experience that such conflicts were entirely common.) I might have to hunt that one down someday ona lark.