2010.05.26 Springing into danger

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I always wanted a chunk of uranium when I was a kid. And better yet, I wanted a Geiger counter so I could find my own uranium and get rich.

This urge was probably an offshoot from my mineralogy kit. It was a wonderful thing to have spread across the dinner table.spring_shoes.jpg

The kit was housed in a metal container that unfolded into three panels. One third contained various rock samples. The other sections had acids for testing and tools for scratching and rubbing, plus a bunsen burner. All the stuff a kid needed to learn about rocks.

Or so I thought. I don’t think I ever could identify anything I found except limestone, but I didn’t need a mineralogy kit for that. Just a little vinegar would do. Vinegar was probably one of the acids in my kit.

When I drove to the track meet Saturday in Hillsdale, I listened to the radio show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and heard mention of the 10 Most Dangerous Toys.

Number two on the list of the all-time dangerous—just after Jarts lawn darts with 6,700 reported injuries and four deaths—came the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab.

This could have been a happy Christmas for me; it came with a Geiger counter and four uranium-bearing ore samples plus three other low-level radiation sources.

An electroscope, a spinthariscope, a Wilson cloud chamber—pretty elaborate for fifty bucks and a great way to foster a new generation of contaminated scientists. There was even a comic book called “Learn How Dagwood Split the Atom.”

It’s time on the toy shelf was quite brief, however, and not available by the time I had an interest. Ah, those simpler, fool-hardy days of the 1950s.

Number six on the list also comes from the 1950s—the Bat Masterson Derringer Belt Gun. I remember this item. I don’t think I owned one, but I’m sure there was one in the neighborhood. Bob Ackland? The Bryner boys? John Bancroft?

There was a little cap gun built into the belt buckle. All a kid had to do was puff out his stomach and a little gun would pop out and fire off a cap. Supposedly there was a problem with flesh burns, although I don’t recall any incidents.

You might remember these words: “Every boy wants a Remco toy...and so do girls.” The company made an impressive array of toys that boys wanted, including the 1961 item called the Johnny Reb Cannon. This one made the Most Dangerous list.

It fired hard, plastic cannonballs with a spring mechanism and has been described this way: “Any aspiring secessionist need only pull a lanyard.” I suppose there were some ophthalmological issues.

I’m surprised by the absence of Satellite Jumping Shoes. They’re certainly a candidate for the dangers list. I had a pair when we lived on East Street South, which means I must have been five years old. I suppose they came from Art Ellison’s Western Auto store.

These were metal red shoes mounted on enormous springs. They had leather straps and an adjustable length slider that was held in place with a thumbscrew.

Put ’em on, strap yourself in and take a leap. There was no way to know which direction the rebounding spring would take you. Into the wall, down the porch steps, always against the sidewalk. There was no control, at least not for a clumsy five-year-old.

I liked the things. I liked the idea of bouncing around on the moon. But try as I might, I could never master the shoes for more than a couple bounces before I shot off onto the grass, if I was lucky.

I suppose somewhere there were kids who could bounce right down the block with ease, but I’m guessing the other 99 percent required frequent bandaging.

On eBay, where everything is available, it’s possible to buy a new pair, unused, still in the original box. From my recollection, I think that might be the best place for the Satellite Rocket Shoes.

  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
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    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
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    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
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  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
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