Monday, December 27, 2010

The Jordan H.S. Match Gun Incident

Thanks everyone for the great Christmas messages, posts and comments. I very much appreciate them all. Now it's time to share some more stories from my dysfunctional and crazy childhood. This one was posted shortly after I started my blog and I don't think anybody outside of my family read it and/or commented.  

There is a way to make a “match gun” using a wooden clothes pin and a rubber band. I don’t remember who taught me how to do it, but I experimented until it worked. It had to do with taking the clothespin apart and reassembling it backwards. The rubber band is there to hold one end of the clothes pin together. The match (a wooden kitchen type), lights as it is shot out of the clothespin by one end of the spring. I just found the above picture on the Internet, and it looks pretty close to the ones that we made. Yes, we were evil wicked children...

I don’t remember the exact year, but I think it was 6th grade. It was mid-summer and very hot. Kenny Meeks and I were walking down Myrtle Avenue in North Long Beach, along the backside of Jordan High School where the athletic fields are. We were having an ongoing “war” with our match guns, shooting them at each other. I suppose it could hurt if one hit you in the eye, but we were young and didn’t worry about it at all. I shot one at my friend and it zipped right by his head. We continued on our merry way until we noticed smoke coming from the area we just came from.

We hid our match guns and ran back to where the smoke was. I guess the match that whizzed by my friends head went through the fence and caught some grass on fire.  As we looked through the fence it was very obvious that it hadn't been watered all summer. It was brown and dry and starting to burn. The fence was too tall to climb over and there were no gates on that side of the school. There was only one option remaining and we took it. We start running! The match guns were forgotten. What match guns anyway?

We end up at our original destination which was the local junior high school to play bombardier in the gym. A few hours later we walked by the high school again on our return trip. A patch of grass about the size of half a football field was burnt. We couldn’t tell if a fire truck had been called to put it out or not, but because there was nobody in the area, we assumed the fire just burnt itself out.


Several years later I attended that high school. Every time I was in that area I thought about the fire and the match guns, and just how little supervision I had as a kid.  Of course with my mother, having little or no supervision was a good thing...

51 comments:

Sarah said...

Wow, I've never heard of a match gun. You are lucky more damage wasn't done and that you weren't caught! Do you think someone found the match guns you left behind?

Chuck said...

Merry Christmas Pat! I think my friends and I tried to make something simliar that we had heard about from some older kids in school. We ended up just holding the match head against the striker paper on the box and flick with our fingers kind of field goal style. It accomplished the same thing...setting grass and trees on fire (and occasionally someone's hat). We were a little bad too.

Dawn said...

Hehe....Sorry. Too funny.
I have 3 boys, I'm allowed to laugh!
(Sense of relief here as well:)

I AM glad you...or nothing else was hurt any worse.
But....still funny.

Bossy Betty said...

Yikes! I can see this happening to just about any kid out there. I think we all had our share of scares like this. Luckily, this fire didn't get out of control. Great storytelling as always, Patrick!

Tracy said...

OOOpppsss....and you are right, we didn't have much supervision back then becuase we didn't need it really. Our intentions were purely fun and light-hearted; NOT the destruction that many kids cause today...which is a very sad state!
Does your mother know to this day what happened?
I got kicked out of Sunday school in 7th grade and it was only a few years back my mother actually found out about it! :)

TS Hendrik said...

Geez, I would have been freaking out about repercussions.

I never made a match gun though I was quite fond of using clothes pins to make rubber band guns.

baygirl32 said...

You know I had never heard of a match gun until now. I guess its lucky that you guys never caught each other on fire

Oilfield Trash said...

That is an awesome story.

I also have some great stories like that.

Jerry said...

It sounds like the time a friend and I were playing with matches in a field and, of course, caught the darn thing on fire. The fire trucks came and a fire investigator wanted to talk to me. My mother wouldn't let him, because I would never do something like that.

I fessed up to my mother forty years later.

Talei said...

Hi Pat, hope you have great Christmas! And I've never heard of match guns either! ;)

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Good thing it wasn't worse. It's amazing how quickly and unintentionally kids can start fires. Ten years or so ago, I found a small fire in the back of my apt. complex. A six year old 'latchkey kid' rubbed sticks together then scrammed. I put it out, then had a word with his mom. xo

Georgina Dollface said...

Guns that shoot flaming matches!? Never saw one as a kid and that is probably a good thing. Reading this made be both glad and envious that I wasn't born a boy. Great story, thanks for reposting it!- G

Jimmy said...

Never had a match gun myself, just may have to build one but then I'd probably get myself into trouble.

Yes Sir it is amazing what we did as kids and the thing is that we were all very lucky on the outcome of a lot of the things we did.

Glad you didn't get caught because the evidence in your pocket could have done you in.

Pat Tillett said...

Sarah - One of man's greatest inventions. We didn't go back for the ones we "ditched," but we did make more.

Chuck - Thanks! Merry Christmas to you also! We were doing that exact same thing with matches when another kid told us about "match guns."

Dawn - I'd say in the overall scheme of things, this was one of the milder incidents...Thanks!

Bossy Betty - Thanks Betty! We had a lot more time to get in trouble back then.

Tracy - Well, speaking for myself only, I could have used a lot more supervision. But we really didn't have anyone filling that role. My mom is long gone, but she never knew.

Tim - Oh yeah! You already know about my mom, so there would have been huge repercussions. I'm surprised she didn't find out anyway through her network of "spies."

baygirl - It wasn't for lack of trying! It's amazing how few outdoor adventures kids have these days...

Oilfield Trash - I'll be checking out some of your old posts looking for them! I have a lot of them also. Thanks!

Jerry - You had your mom "fooled!" My mom knew we would do "something" like that. She would do worse!

Talei - I did have a great Christmas! I hope you did as well.

Robyn - Good thing you found it before it grew. I did think about burning down our house once, of course my mom was in it at the time... Hope your holidays are going well!

Pat Tillett said...

Georgina - I wonder who the first genius kid was that invented these things? It wasn't just boys! I knew a girl back then who was just as wild as tough as we were. Thanks!

Jimmy - You'r right Jimmy! Very lucky! But as you know, once my mom got involved, it would have been a entirely different matter. Thanks!

Lynne H. said...

Well I never made a match gun, but my tomboy self did manage to set an entire field of dried grass on fire. Yup!!1 Lied about it and watched when the fire dept came. Finally told my Mom years later and she looked at me like I had confessed to being Ted Bundy. LOL..
You were something else Mr. Pat!!!

I love (even though sometimes painful) these peeks into your past.

Esther Montgomery said...

What a clever trick with the peg!

When I began reading, I didn't realise you were firing lighted matches!

Esther

John McElveen said...

OMG! I remember making rubber band guns like that to kill Skeeter Hawks, Flies and other suitable game--- BUT MATCHES???

We don need no stinkin matches!

That is sheer genius!

Thanks for sharing!

John

Vencora said...

match guns! why didn't i ever thing of that before? fun times will soon be had . . .

Brian said...

That is quite the story Pat! I still use your option myself, when in doubt...RUN!

Leovi said...

When I was little we used the tongs to make guns too. But we used grains of white beans or small stones as ammunition.

Pat Tillett said...

Lynne - Every good tomboy must have matches with them at all times! I had a long talk with my younger brother last night and we really dredged up some other memories that we'd forgotten about. Gonna be some more childhood posts coming! thanks Lynne!

Esther - Oh yeah! wouldn't be fun if they weren't on fire! Thanks for commenting!

John - Step it up a notch! If injury or major damage isn't part of the deal, it wasn't much fun!

Vencora - It's never too late to be a delinquint!

Brian - Thanks! Running is always a good choice!

Leovi - That sounds like fun, but we went straight to bb and pellet guns...

Ginnymo said...

Never heard of those. Good thing or us kids would have been making them also. Yes. Me too. LOL Have a great New Year Pat. Hope you are doing well these days. I am.

John McElveen said...

LOL!!!!!

J

Pat Tillett said...

Ginny - You know what they say about idle hands, well we had 'em!
Glad to hear that you are doing well!

John - Thanks! Always up to no good, us Tilletts...

Copyboy said...

It's amazing. Of all the schools you went to it had to be the school of hard knocks. :) Merry post X-mas.

James said...

I think we would have been friends if we grew up in the same era/area. That story sounds like many of my own from 1970's Orange County. :)

Clarissa Draper said...

That's such a cool gun. I'm going to show my son how you made it.
CD

The Retired One said...

Whew...good thing the wind didn't kick up harder or it could have been a real disaster. But you know, as kids, we never think ahead that far and we are invincible.

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

Great story Pat- I am so happy that my monkeys don't know how to make guns like that- or that we even have any clothes pins- (HOA- no clothes line)
Happy Holidays!

Cheeseboy said...

Holy smokes! You are very fortunate. My friends blew up a sewer and got in deep deep trouble with the cops.

Also, match guns? I did not know any such thing existed.

soft nonsense said...

Well now I know what I'm handing out to the neighborhood kids this year for belated Christmas.

Pat Tillett said...

Jesse - It was the only school I excelled at! Hope you had a nice holiday also!

James - You better get to posting some of those stories! during that time period, I was up in Long Beach.

Clarissa - LOL...Don't let him use it in the house!

Joan - You are so right and sometimes we didn't think at all!

Ren - In this day and age, I'm sure some kids have never even seen a wooden clothes pin!

SN - I'm sure their parents would really appreciate that!

SquirrelQueen said...

Never heard of a match gun and probably a good thing, my friends and I would have had to give it a try (and we were the 'good' kids in our town who never got into trouble).

Icy BC said...

Oh that was a fun memory from childhood, though a bit dangerous.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year!

Jhon Baker said...

ah yes, match guns - we used to shoot each other with bb guns, dart guns and whatever else would inflict damage and hurt the opponent. luckily I was always a good shot - that said, I would never allow my son to do these things and it is a wonder how we were never permanently damaged in anyway. I did have a BB stuck in the palm of my left hand until an MRI scan got that bugger out for me... that hurt.

Rek said...

This definitely earns you a place in The Non Review's naughty list...pity he's closed it now...happy new year... :)

Pat Tillett said...

SQ - I never told my kids about it, that's for sure...

Icy BC - Yep, one of the few! Happy New Year to you also!

Jhon - We also used all of those weapons. I have an old blog entry titled "back yard surgery." It related to the bb we had to remove from my friends neck before he went home. It's under childhood stories I think. The MRI removal sounds pretty painful!

Rek - Thanks! We usually only hurt each other...

Budd said...

I think we all have match gun incidents in our past.

Pat Tillett said...

Budd - Yep, that or something else that could be used as a weapon!

Sarah said...

Oh my gosh, these are dangerous!! If I'd lit something on fire like you did, I would've run away too as a child, believe me!

John McElveen said...

Pat-- Thanks Dude! I set the Dog on Fire!!!! She was no MATCH for the new gun!

Wife is not speaking to me....HEY--that's a GOOD thing LOL!!


J

Pat Tillett said...

Sarah - Believe me, it wasn't the most dangerous thing we did either!

John - then Sir, you are a maaster craftsman!

Powdered Toast Man said...

all boys are pyros. I think its in our blood.

Pat Tillett said...

PTM - Isn't that the truth! Everyone I knew seemed to be...

tapirgal said...

I love this post for many reasons, but I caught a bug over the holiday and didn't get online to comment. Several reasons: We both grew up in Southern California not that far apart, and I think we're a bit over a year apart in age. That means that we both have certain memories of time and place, and some of your descriptions, especially in this post, really bring the era home for me. I don't know what time of year your story took place, but I can almost feel the dust and the Sana Ana winds. I can certainly see the weedy lot. We had a quite a few of them, too. I never lit any on fire, although I did a number of crazy things that began completely innocently, which is another thing I like about this story. Innocence turns to high adventure, nobody gets hurt, no property is seriously damaged, and there is a result that you can see later and be reminded of a moment that is exciting . . . has high drama for a kid, and is basically harmless. It's a perfect story. I also remember the lack of supervision at that time. It simply wasn't necessary where I lived. And, my family's dysfunction had a lot more normalcy to it. Nice job. Your blog has been an inspiration this year.

Pat Tillett said...

Tapirgal - I totally hear you! These days, it's hard to get kids out of the house. You are right about the heat and Santa Ana winds. This story took place during the summer. The fire took place just a ways off of Atlantic and Artesia in North Long Beach. A great place to grow up back then (not now though)...We used to have a blast exploring the LA river bed also...

Francisca said...

Great story, Pat. No amount of supervision can stop shit from happening, and I am SOOOOO glad my childhood was free of all the fear I read in parents (or adults generally) today. Perhaps I felt a bit more invincible than I actually was, but I've lived to tell about it. And it was a fantastic FREE and FEARLESS ride. Hmmm... it still is.

Pat Tillett said...

Francisca - That is so true, if a kid plans on doing something, it's going to happen. I'm pretty fortunae to have survived my childhood. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

nice story. you were very lucky the fire did't get out of control

Pat Tillett said...

Anon - Thanks! We were pretty lucky about that.