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As I See It

Cherry Bomb Powerful Firework In The Old Days

By Billy McCord

Because of my intense interest in and my having worked in the field for thirty years a number of my columns have dealt with education. As I was driving through the community of Sarepta last week I tried to see the old schoolhouse where I attended through the 7th grade. The school at Sarepta had no equipment and supplies that schools now have, teachers taught two grades in each room and they did not have an aide. I never had a course in phonics and could read well, so I am told, in the second grade. I sometimes wonder why?

Now science was another matter. Some students in the school dreamed up some top level science experiments. I will share one such experiment with you.

In order to understand this top notch experiment you need to know that the school burned coal for heat. Each room had a coal burning heater in the center of the room and there was a large pile of coal outside. Each teacher was responsible for getting the heaters going in their rooms and students were selected to bring in more coal for the day and an ample supply for the next morning.

During our science classes the mining of coal was discussed. The teacher discussed the composition of coal and the many gases that got caught in the crevices of the coal. She discussed the dangers of coal mining and how sometimes these mines would explode killing those men who were in the area. It was an interesting study but just perhaps the collected gases in the coal could be made a little clearer for both students and teacher.

One day the teacher selected three boys to go outside and bring in some coal for the heater. I do not know their names and even if I did I doubt I would print them in this column. I understand that the 5th Amendment to the Constitution which protects citizens from self- incrimination is still a good defense. Anyway the boys carefully selected some good chunks of coal and made sure that one piece had some deep crevices in it. This had to be the perfect place for the gases to be hidden. Now I don’t know why but it was discussed that maybe a cherry bomb inserted in the largest crevice just might make the gases more powerful. One was inserted and the coal taken into the room.

The three carefully watched as that piece of coal was placed in the heater. It was not long until a giant explosion occurred. The heater had a crack from top to bottom and somehow the exhaust pipes came tumbling down. Using gloves one of the men in school put the pipes back up and had to ignore the crack in the heater. The teacher asked how this could have happened and she was reminded of the gasses in the coal. Surely that must be the answer. I do not know whether or not she believed this story but she at least pretended to. By the way a cherry bomb in the 50s was one powerful firework. They have since been prohibited and I suspect for some good reasons.

Let’s see to it that our teachers have the supplies they need and not leave it to the students.

Billy McCord is a retired school administrator and an Elder in the United Methodist Church. He is Pastor of the Shady Grove UM Church in Calhoun County and a member of the Calhoun County School Board. Contact him:

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