FHWC 2013 Day 21: Typical Boys (Part III)

FHWC2013JoinMeI have written twice about my father and his older brothers growing up during WWII without a father; and whenever they played together, something ALWAYS went wrong!

This is another one: but it occurred sometime after the war ended.

Jack and my father, Danny, were wandering in open fields within the City Limits, parallel to the railway lines.  Finding flattened pennies on the rails was not as exciting as it had been — they needed something more.

“What’s that?” Danny asked, pointing to a small shed near one of the railway lines.

Investigating — AKA they broke into it — they found odd-looking lumps of white metal (the size of key limes), each with two C-shaped clips on the underside.  The crate that held them had “Canadian National Railway” painted on it.

“I don’t know,” Jack answered, “Let’s take them home to Frank, he’ll know!”

They rushed home after filling their pants pockets and carrying the remainder in the folds of their shirt tails.

In the basement, they all hovered around as Frank looked over their treasure.

“It’s called a torpedo,” he said. “It gets clipped on the rail in groups of three to signal  oncoming trains, so when the train runs over it, they hear BANG … BANG, BANG! And they stop because something is wrong up ahead and they wait for further instructions.”

“Can we make it work?” Howard asked.

“Not without some form of power supply,” Frank answered.

“What about the light socket?” Jack chirped, pointing overhead.

“Once we take the light out, we won’t be able to see.”

“Would my train controller work?”  My father was offering the control device to his model train. 

“Yeah, Danny! It would!” Frank said excited.

“But I get to pull the switch,” my father added, “Or you can’t use it.”

Disappointed the little guy was catching on so fast, the older boys agreed and started gathering what they needed:

  • Gramma Emily’s galvanized steel wash tub: to hold water and submerge the torpedo (to muffle the explosion); and,
  • some wire to connect to the two clips of the torpedo and to the pair of screws on the train control

When everything was ready, Frank signaled my father to pull the switch.  There was a faint hum and then FLOOSH!

A massive mushroom cloud of raging water burst from the wash tub, emptying it.  The water struck the rafters with such force it spread out and fell back to the floor ten feet away from the tub.

“WOW! That was — [Crackling noises] — neat-o! Let’s do that –“


“– again?” my father trailed off.

In their rush to have fun, the boys did not bother to investigate placement of the wash tub.  It was situated immediately below an incandescent light bulb.

“Jack,” Frank ordered, “Go get a light out of the bathroom — we don’t need two. Danny unhook the wires from your controller and we’ll hook up another one.  Howard, move the tub and get another torpedo.”

Jack leapt up the stairs three at a time and was gone before my father got the wires off his controller. He no sooner finished, when Howard looked worried.

“Uh, oh,” he said, signalling his brothers to come look. “What do we do now?”

“Maybe she won’t notice,” a little voice squeaked.

“Put it back, Howard, lay the washboard in it. Danny, put your controller back with your trains. Jack, do you remember where you grabbed the wires from? Put ’em back. When you’re done, we need to clean up this water then ditch these torpedoes.”

Nothing more was said for days — three, I believe my father told me — until Grams went to do the laundry.

After carrying her basket downstairs, she grabbed her scrubbing board and placed it in the basket.  She then reached for her galvanized steel wash tub, to fill it with water, when she peered into it curiously.

Some odd thing had made contact with the bottom of her wash tub … something that left a hole the size of a grapefruit!

Grams didn’t ask what had happened to her wash tub, or who did it — she didn’t want to know, but the boys lost their allowance for four months to pay for a new one!



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