Can one even buy a full-fleged chemistry set anymore? Probably too dangerous to let young boys anywhere near an alcohol lamp and test tubes these days. (I do rmember trying to make gunpowder -- unsuccessfully! Now we hide the Pseudoephedrine behind the counter.)
I'd hate to think what would happen to us today if we played "Cops and Robbers" or "Army" or "Guns" the way we did when we were little in the 50s. One kid down the street would bring out a real Japanese rifle his father brought back from the Pacific in WWII. We all fought over it to play with it. I don't remember if it had the firing pin, but there wasn't any ammo anyway, so it was safe. Lots of fun working the bolt and the rear sight with the elevation.
Other times we'd get under the picnic table, put the two benches on one side on top of each other, and pretend it was a tank or a bunker. I even carried an old bumper jack as a machine gun. This was a time when COMBAT! was a popular show on TV.
Actually, years before that, in Kindergarten, I was told to stop what I was doing because I was making too much noise -- I was running around using the drum that had fallen off of a toy cement mixer, spinning it in my hand and making machine gun noises. I think it was the total noise more than the machine gun sound. I also doubt the Boys Club I went to during the summers would even have BB guns for target practice any more. Of course, some of the ADHD kids today probably wouldn't listen to the safety instructions.
By the time the late 60s and early 70s and the Draft rolled around I had worked all the military stuff out of my psyche, and was looking for some of that Free Love. Those were the days ...
<2ARANT>Nowadays, here in the Peoples' Republic of Maryland, a kid (can't remember if he was in Kindergarten or 1st Grade) was sent home when he bit his Pop-Tart into the shape of a pistol. Never mind all the instructions for much more dangerous things available for older children on the Web these days; we have our scapegoat. We will loosen up restrictions on Pot and tighten up on restrictions for self defense.
@mhrackin: The resulting huge fireball sparked MANY UFO reports...
OMG .... that must be something that lives on in your memory ... of course it's not something I'd want my son to do now -- times have changed -- to many things in the air -- hightened sensitivity with regard to nefarious activities -- but it must have been fun at the time.
Yup. Our most spectacular stunt involved a 2-meter diameter weather balloon we inflated with LOTS of H2 one night! It had a slow time-fuse in the neck that we lit just before launch (this was less than 5 miles from Newark NJ). The balloon attained an altitude of near a km at the time the prevailing winds brought it over Newark (not the airport!). The resulting huge fireball sparked MANY UFO reports (this was about 1959-60 when UFOs were frequently in the news). We did build around that same time a 100% home-made rocket about 1.5M long, 40cm ID AL tubing, but we never had the nerve to launch it (earlier experiments on a smaller scale mostly ended similarly to yours, and since our "remote launch" technology was primitive (Nichrome wire igniter, wired to a switch/battery), nobody wanted to be that close when it was fired up!
@mhrackin: ...before the "nanny state" outlawed all the fun stuff...
I know exactly what you mean -- if you had stopped me and my friends on my way to the local woods and looked in our backpacks when we were 16 or so, you woudl have found enough homemade "things that go bang" (so as not to trigger the thought police) to have triggered a major alter these days.
The thing is that we really were good kids -- the thought of using our creations to do anything wrong simply never struck us -- all we wanted to to was experiment -- the worse we ever did was move relatively large bolders from one part of the forest to another -- I prefer to think of it as practicing landscaping techniques in a reasonably "robust" manner.
As someone who's old enough to have gone through that phase long before the "nanny state" outlawed all the fun stuff, four words: FILM CAN HAND GRENADES. I can finally talk about those since my baby brother let the cat out of the bag on his Facebook page. At least 95% of all the things my friends and I did in the name of "learning about science" are either impossible to even attempt now (because you can't readily obtain the raw materials), or would result in a spectatcular juvenile criminal record! And people want to know why so few go into Engineering these days! They've eliminated all the FUN stuff that drew one in the first place. I still have scars....
@Stargzer: I remember, maybe 4th grade or so, my best friend Pat and I make a rocket...
My mom tells the tale of when I was about 10 or 11 and she came to pick me up from a friend's house and my friend's mom said something like "please don't bring him back" and my mom asked why and she was shown into what was left of the garage -- we'd built a rocket out of an 18" long 1.75" diameter steel tube and chained it to an upside down bathroom weighing scale and chained the weighing scale to his dad's workbench and put a mirror underneath it -- the idea was that the rocket would lift the weighing scale off the bench and we could use the mirror to read the value on the weighing scale to determine the thrust of the rocket.
Unfortunately the rocket immediately broke loose and spent what felt like 100 years ricocheting around the garage before exiting through the roof (we were in our "command bunker made from wooden crates).
Now, did he make the panels hights in increments of 1.75" rack-mount units? The would be the ultimate in obsessive realism!
I remember, maybe 4th grade or so, my best friend Pat and I make a rocket out of coffee cans, "liquid solder" (some sort of metal-based glue for metal), pieces of old light bulbs and other random electrical-looking components found smashed in the street to serve as the "electronics," and mixed our own rocket fuel from paint thinner and whatever other flammable liquids his father had in the basement. We were rather upset when his father wouldn't let us try to launch it!