Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
During the late 1930s and early ‘40s, a carnival came to Marysville almost every summer. Sometimes it set up in the playground just east of Walnut Street along the railroad track. Other times it used the Union County Fairgrounds.
In 1942, when I was 10 years old, I went to one of those carnivals with a friend of mine named Bill Porter. We wandered around and watched people throw darts, pitch pennies and things like that. There was some big kid, a high school boy, who was throwing baseballs at some stuffed animals that looked like lions. He was really good, and he won a beautiful plaster statue of a lady in a swimming suit.
Then we saw a tent that had quite a few people going in and out, so we poked our heads inside to see what was going on. They were selling a lot of really neat things; gag gifts and things like that. Bill and I looked around, and in only a few minutes I found something that was called a “dribble glass.”
It looked a lot like the water glasses in Butler’s Restaurant, but it had tiny holes drilled not far below its rim. When someone drank out of it, the liquid would seep through the holes and drip down the drinker’s shirt or blouse. Wouldn’t that be a great trick to play on my sisters!
I was going to buy one of those glasses, but before I could, I saw something even better. It was tiny packets of explosive cigarette loads. I had seen those things used in a comedy at the Avalon Theater. I thought it was really funny. I wanted to get a pack of them to pull that trick on my dad. Can you imagine that? He lights a cigarette, and it blows up in his face. That would be hilarious. So I bought the cigarette loads, instead of the dribble glass.
The next day, I couldn’t wait to try them out. I thought I would slip one into the end of one of my dad’s cigarettes. However, the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that would not be a good idea. I don’t believe he would think it was funny. So I just put them inside a little box on my dresser and forgot all about them.
Now, fast forward a couple years or so when my brother in law, Jack Griffith, got out of the Army Air Corps. He and my sister, Maryann, moved back to Marysville. Sometime during that summer, they decided to have a party on a Friday night. They invited a bunch of their friends, many of whom were other veterans who had returned from the war, along with their wives.
The day of their party I stopped in to talk with my sister. She was getting everything ready to entertain, and I noticed a small china dish full of cigarettes on an end table. Wow, wouldn’t this be a great place to use my cigarette loads! So while my sister went to several stores to purchase things for the party, I went home and got my cigarette loads, took them to their apartment and loaded several of the cigarettes.
I thought to myself, this has got to be the greatest practical joke I ever played on anyone. Wouldn’t it be funny if several people lit some of those cigarettes at the same time? Pow! Pow! Pow! What a great trick to play on Jack – just like the comedy I saw at the Avalon Theater. I wouldn’t be at the party, but I would certainly be there the next morning to hear how everything went.
So on Saturday morning, right after breakfast, I went to their apartment. When I entered, I saw Jack lying on their sofa, and there was a sizable gauze bandage covering his right eye. “What happened to you?” I asked.
He explained that one of his guests had apparently put a cigarette load in a cigarette, and it exploded when he lit it. When it exploded, bits of tobacco shot into his eye and damaged his eyeball. There was no hospital in Marysville then, but one of their guests was a nurse and she bandaged his eye. He didn’t know if the damage would be permanent, but he had an appointment with Dr. Zaugg in about an hour.
Oh, man, I was crushed. What a stupid thing I had done. If there was one person in the world I wouldn’t want to hurt, it would be Jack. He was like a brother to me. But there was nothing funny about this. If only I had bought that dribble glass instead of the cigarette loads.
I told him that it was not one of his guests who put the load in the cigarette. I was the one who did it. Then I told him how sorry I was. I told him that I had just wanted to play a trick on him.
Jack was never the kind of guy to get angry. So I was not surprised when he simply said, “Well, if you have learned a lesson from this, I guess it is all worthwhile.”
I assured him that I had, indeed, learned a lesson, “That’s good,” he said. Then he stood up, ripped off the bandage and said, “Now let’s go to the swimming pool.” The whole “bandage” thing had been a hoax. It was my prank, but Jack got the last laugh. I didn’t mind at all. I was just glad that his eye was OK.
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