Skip to comments.The Chemistry of Christmas
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.
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!
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.
Silver and Gold and Christmas trees...
And Bumbles Bounce!
The Man Who Changed How Boys And Toys Were Made:
The Life And Times of A. C. Gilbert,
The Man Who Saved Christmas
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.
Thanks for taking me back into the book of old memories!
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.
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemistry_set
Not all things were better in the past, but this was.
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.
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.