I don’t ever remember my mother telling me I was going to put my eye out while doing something stupid. It wasn’t that I was exceptionally brilliant, my mom and dad just wanted me to learn things that would stick with me. Plus, I grew up in the barbaric age when we had real BB guns that were not considered lethal weapons, chemistry sets that could cause minor explosions, and this really vicious game called Hawaiian Punch based on the old fruit drink commercials. Allow me to elaborate for those of you who have grown up in these safer, more sophisticated and enlightened times. (By the way, safer, sophisticated and enlightened is really boring!)
My parents bought me a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. It was great! It could hold a million BBs. It had this really cool “one-pump and ready” action. It had no power whatsoever. The mighty armor of an empty aluminum beer can could stop the speeding BB in its tracks. It usually made a really good dent in the can though. To be fair, if you held your mouth just right, aimed at the exact spot you had already hit seven times, and had a really good tailwind, you might actually penetrate the side of the empty can. When you pulled the trigger, you could see the BB in flight. (I really wish I was making that part up.) It didn’t even hurt when you got shot with it according to my brother who thought it was a mosquito bite. Someday I really should tell him it was a BB. There was something that the Daisy Red Ryder could do that astonished my parents, the neighbor across the alley, and yours truly. Did you know, if you miss a shot that goes over the fence, one little BB from an underpowered Red Ryder can destroy a sliding glass door? Who knew? But I didn’t put out an eye.
Now let’s look back at those thrilling days of yesteryear when chemistry sets were considered an educational instrument and not a terrorist toolkit. It came with a little glass jar that was to be filled with rubbing alcohol, and a cloth wick that was meant to be lit. My dad even gave me one of his Bic cigarette lighters from the days when cigarettes were socially acceptable. (Does anyone else remember when your parents would send you into the store to buy their cigarettes while they stayed out in the car smoking?) I would light that burner up and dissolve all kinds of chemicals from my kit, following the directions in precise detail, to make a gelatinous substance that could be placed around an ant hill and lit. It was Napalm, Jr. And it was perfectly legal to play with it. Now, if the neighbors saw a kid cooking with chemicals in the garage, the ATF, DEA and Homeland Security would be onsite within ten minutes. I’m pretty sure I had everything needed to make meth if I had known what it was back then. It wouldn’t work today anyway. The chemistry set didn’t have batteries so the kid would have no clue how it worked.
Then there was the most violent of all clay-based board games – The Hawaiian Punch Game. There was an old cartoon commercial that we saw every Saturday morning about Hawaiian Punch – fruity drink that contained 5% real fruit juice. At the time, that was a big selling point. We never asked what was in the other 95%. Most likely sugar. But the cartoon had these two characters. One would ask, “How’d ya like a nice Hawaiian Punch?” The other one would say, “Sure!” Then the first one would punch him and send the second guy flying. (I think that would get a TV-MA rating these days.) The game was simple. You had these clay characters that looked like the cartoons from the commercial that were made in a mold. As you moved these little guys around a board, to goal was to try and avoid a punch spot. If you landed on a punch spot and someone else got a punch on their spin, there was this big hand that they could use to squash you opponent like a bug. As long as your blob of clay still fit in the square when it landed on a measuring space, you were still in the game. It ended when the last person was out thanks to being pummeled by their friends and siblings – not unlike real life with my brother. For the record, you cannot win the game by preparing your character a week early, and then baking it in the West Texas sun. When someone smashes it, it shatters.
So you can see that things are much different today. We do not condone those kinds of violence in our society. However, there is something to be said for the skills we learned as kids. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to play Call of Duty where I will shoot the bad guys, make a couple bombs, and stab people who get too close.