Wednesday, May 3, 2017

An Explosive Incident in Mrs. Carter’s Ancient History Class

Bill, when i saw your cannons, it made me remember  in 1974.

It was winter, and it was time for the history projects, which were a large part of our grade. As i was a middling scholar at best, i decided to make up some ground with an excellent project—a papier mache Mount Vesuvius, complete with live eruption. This was convenient, as my brother and I were fairly serious pyrotechnicians, and made our own gunpowder, etc.

So, i made a 4 x 4 foot wooden base, fashioned a chicken wire frame above it, papier mached it, painted it, and brought it to school, complete with my 6 feet of homemade fuse, and one pound of specially concocted blackpowder in a metal Wilson tennis ball can. The entire eighth grade gathered on the front terrace, by the cannons, and i commenced ignition. As the fuse was homemade, it burned slowly-too slowly, in fact, given the cold weather and Mrs. Carter’s (God rest her soul) impatience. She said “Come on, Smith, let’s go” and the last thing i remember is nothing.

Apparently i had taken a stick and flipped the fuse into the mouth of the volcano, and it blew. It blew me four feet vertically and fifteen feet or more horizontally, such that both my thighs were severely bruised by the cannons as i flew over them. The backs of my elbows were badly burned (apparently i had tried to turn and run) and my hair was completely singed. The only thing anyone knew to do was to send me to the showers. i barely remember this. Someone came down and told me my mother was there to pick me up. Mom couldn’t understand what had happened, and apparently i was yelling because i was temporarily deaf. I may have missed the next day, or came in late, with my burned hair.

Mrs. Carter had had to take a nitroglycerin tablet for her heart after this, and from then on, only called me “BamBam”. Mr. Bennett was out sick that day. From his home, one mile away, immediately called the office, thinking a bomb had gone off at school. It had. I still have cartoon drawings that people had sent me in class through the years there of their impressions of my flying through the air over those cannons.

I’m going to say i got a 100 on the project, although my memory could be impaired on that as well...

submitted by David Smith '78