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The Chemistry of Christmas ^ | December 25, 2017 | Colin McNickle

Posted on 12/24/2017 9:25:57 PM PST by Kaslin

“I asked Santa to bring me a chemistry set this year,” I told my third-grade best friend at Hilltop Elementary School in rural Colerain, Ohio, a few weeks before Christmas 1966.

He, the suave-beyond-his-8-years buddy who lived over the hill from me on Sharon Road, flashed a quizzical look but remained silent.

“What, you think I'm too little for a chemistry set, don't you?” retorted I, who also fancied Superman and Davy Crockett outfits that year and more than a few new Matchbox cars.

“No, I want one, too,” he said, confessing his equal admiration for the Skil Craft set (but only in the trifold metal case, mind you) that I had found in a catalog. His voice trailed off as he measured carefully in his young mind what his developing reason would force him to blurt out next:

“You don't still believe in Santa Claus, do you?” he asked, getting to the nub of the rub, throwing the niceties of the season (if not my very belief foundation) out the window of the classroom, freshly decorated with paper chains, their links made of alternating green and red construction paper.

“Of course I do,” I shot back, with just enough lack of conviction to give me wiggle room if — somehow, some way, O Holy Night — he happened to be right.

“So, who do you think brings all those presents?” I asked, in a tone that was a combination of bluff-calling and pumping for the supposed real skinny.

“Who do you think?” he mocked what he saw as my naiveté. “It's your mom and dad and your grandparents and aunts and uncles,” he said with an air of authority trumped only by the real authority, our teacher, calling for all to clean up their desks in advance of the day-ending bell.

It was a short but soul-searching bus ride home that afternoon. The coolest kid in the class and my best friend had just shattered my world. No Santa Claus?

“Impossible,” I muttered to myself. The proof was everywhere. There was the Santa at the Stone & Thomas department store in nearby Wheeling, W.Va., every Christmas. Most of the things I asked him for were found under the tree every Christmas. Heck, he was even on the local TV channel every Saturday morning and called me — me, personally — his “little apple dumpling.”

I called my buddy that night, just after dinner on the red rotary-dial phone that hung on the wall over the desk just off the kitchen, to confront him with the evidence. Mom, finishing the dishes, heard my proofs but also my doubts when, one by one, my friend rebutted my Santa testimonial.

“Well, maybe there really isn't a Santa Claus,” I conceded as the phone call ended.

“You know,” Mom said, “Santa knows where we keep our coal and there's always a bucket of clinkers next to the furnace ... .”

Christmas Eve was the longest longest night of the year in 1966. The manger light, left on all night, was brighter than ever. The room was hotter than ever. Sleep, when it came, was fitful. Doubts raged.

But morning indeed dawned and, as per usual, the living room was packed with presents. There even was the Skil Craft chemistry set (in the trifold metal box, of course) with a “From Santa” on the name tag.

Still, I was skeptical. Until I called my buddy to see what he got for Christmas, that is.

No chemistry set.

Proof positive, my 8-year-old mind confidently concluded, that there must be a Santa Claus.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: christmas; santaclaus

1 posted on 12/24/2017 9:25:58 PM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

When I was a bit older than that I was ordering chemical supplies from catalogs. Turned the downstairs utility sink and bar into a pretty good mad scientist lab. I still wonder about how the pipes held up after we sold that house...lots of concentrated sulfuric acid went down that drain!

2 posted on 12/24/2017 9:35:43 PM PST by 6ppc (It's torch and pitchfork time)
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To: Kaslin

Part of the fun of Christmas as second oldest of nine was being in on the whole Santa thing for the younger kids, when we were finally old enough to have otherwise become jaded ourselves.

3 posted on 12/24/2017 9:38:52 PM PST by Robert A Cook PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Kaslin

Silver and Gold and Christmas trees...

And Bumbles Bounce!

4 posted on 12/24/2017 9:49:21 PM PST by HLPhat ("TO SECURE THESE RIGHTS" -- Government with any other purpose is not American.)
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To: 6ppc
I recall my older brother's Gilbert Chemistry Set. It was truly glorious to play with. Ahhhhhh... the 50s.

5 posted on 12/24/2017 9:57:00 PM PST by Daffynition (The New PTSD: PRESIDENT-Trump Stress Disorder - The LSN didn’t make Trump, so they can't break him)
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To: Kaslin
The Man Who Changed How Boys And Toys Were Made:
The Life And Times of A. C. Gilbert,
The Man Who Saved Christmas

6 posted on 12/24/2017 10:22:20 PM PST by Vlad The Inhaler (United We Stand, Divided We Fall. Remember That Diversity Is The Opposite Of Unity.)
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To: Daffynition
You are right. Actually, my first set in 1948 was a Gilbert, and it had KNO3 in it, with instructions of how to make something that ignites and flashes very satisfactorily, probably with sulfur and charcoal. That got used up very quickly, and I was sad when it was gone. Later on, we moved to a larger town with a real drug store. That Christmas I was given a much larger Chemcraft set, but guess what? No potassium nitrate! Boy, was I chagrined! Then I thought of going to the drug store, and sure enough! I could buy KNO3 (saltpeter) a bottle at a time. The druggist was a bit cocerned, but I told him it was for my chemistry experiments and knew it wasn't for sprinkling on food. So I happily went on with mixing up my ingredients, trying to reproduced the forgotten proportions from the Gilbert year. But all I got was a choking cloud of sulfur smoke, without the bang I was hoping for. It did finally turn out that I got PhD in chemistry, though.

But Gilbert started it all, of which company I also got an Erector set another year, which occupied me hours and hours. My first degree was as an engineer . . . Today, I don't think kids would be allowed to have or buy the stuff that was not troubling back in the early 60s.

7 posted on 12/25/2017 1:03:54 AM PST by imardmd1 (Fiat Lux)
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To: Kaslin

Thanks for taking me back into the book of old memories!

8 posted on 12/25/2017 1:06:50 AM PST by imardmd1 (Fiat Lux)
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To: imardmd1
I love your story. So many of us who grew up with jack knives in our pockets, Gilbert sets and no bicycle helmets made it OK.

Whenever my brother was away from home, I'd play with his chemistry set and he would come home and yell at me...that I was using up all the chemicals.

Turns out, he was marking the bottle with a line on the label and *showed me* how he knew I was *touching his stuff*! Good times.

I recently found a Gilbert set at an estate sale. It was primo; looked to me that no one used it, all the pieces were still in tact. I bought it for my neighbor, who *remembers when* and was tickled pink to have a relic from his childhood.

I still have my bro's Erector Set; it's apparently worthless b/c it has missing parts; that's b/c it was used a lot.

9 posted on 12/25/2017 1:49:31 AM PST by Daffynition (The New PTSD: PRESIDENT-Trump Stress Disorder - The LSN didn’t make Trump, so they can't break him)
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To: Vlad The Inhaler; imardmd1; Kaslin; Daffynition; blam; TigerLikesRooster; SunkenCiv; ... , and have contributed a lot to the development of our science based society, today our kids are overprotected and the chemistry sets have lost much of their inspiration when the most interesting experiments are deleted.

A history of decline:
Around the 1960s, increasing social distrust of chemistry, safety concerns, and government regulation began to limit the range of materials and experiments available in chemistry sets. In the United States, the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act of 1960, the Toy Safety Act of 1969 and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, established in 1972, and the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 all introduced new levels of regulation. The popularity of chemistry sets declined during the 1970s and 1980s. The A. C. Gilbert Company went out of business in 1967, and the Porter Chemical Company went out of business in 1984.
from the

Not all things were better in the past, but this was.

10 posted on 12/25/2017 3:27:47 AM PST by AdmSmith (GCTGATATGTCTATGATTACTCAT)
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To: AdmSmith

The demise of the chemistry set seems to have been replaced by the Space Program, generally during that period. And we all know where that went.

Now we have home-grown meth labs. GEESH.

Kids today make Goop and Slime. Lord save us.

11 posted on 12/25/2017 4:38:44 AM PST by Daffynition (The New PTSD: PRESIDENT-Trump Stress Disorder - The LSN didn’t make Trump, so they can't break him)
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To: 6ppc

You and me both. I outgrew my “toy” chemistry set as soon as I found out there was nothing in it that exploded. That sent me searching for other sources for my reagents.

12 posted on 12/25/2017 6:56:54 AM PST by IronJack (A)
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To: imardmd1
Yes, a chemistry set got me started, too. But then the atomic bomb happened, and I became a physicist instead.
13 posted on 12/25/2017 10:39:08 AM PST by JoeFromSidney (,)
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