My abbreviated career in science

Along about the age of 12, I received a Gilbert #10 Microscope Set for Christmas. It contained a microscope, test tubes, some dry chemicals and slides, both prepared and blank so you could make your own. My family apparently had high hopes for my intellectual development as a great aunt had gotten me Tales Of Land & Sea, by Joseph Conrad for my birthday the previous fall. Joseph Conrad at 12? That’s like handing an infant a Rubik’s Cube.

First things first. Fireworks were illegal in Indiana, so gunpowder was the first order of business for the chemicals. As this wasn’t a chemistry set, the results were dismal. Gilbert actually made Atomic Energy kits too. Can you imagine? If this stuff was around today, kids would be making miniature IEDs to blow each other off their bicycles. We had a whole lot more fun looking at things through the microscope and looking for things to view under it. Blood was cool as I recall and one of us was always getting dinged or scratched on something. A smear of crushed, glowing firefly butt was interesting too unless you were the firefly. River water was another biggie with all of the miniature monsters swimming into and around each other like they were in a pinball machine. In time, it became harder to find subject matter that we hadn’t seen a hundred times before. Ah, but the raging hormones of puberty were about to save the day.

When I was a kid, in the 50s, your sexual information, I hate to use the word knowledge,  came from older guys, teenagers, if they weren’t too cool to talk to you at all. When they did, much of what they told you was horseshit. Maybe they’d actually done it, but back then, most of what they said they knew or couldn’t admit that they didn’t know, they’d gotten second or third hand and in all probability, that was horseshit too but hey, you work with what you’ve got. They had you and they knew it. You’re going to broach this subject at the supper table? It was the great unknown to us. We just knew that something made waves of heat shoot up the back of your neck when girls were around.

If you’ve read this far, you probably see where this is headed but you can relax, I will not delve into the particulars of pubescent male sexual exploration.

Being told by one of your “mentors” that you had millions of little organisms swimming around inside of your balls was pretty damned spooky to me, mostly because of all of those cheap Castle Films monster movies that I was addicted to back then. My bullshit detector was vibrating frantically so I decided that this needed verification. After all, I had a microscope. The first available moment of solitude I had, I made my slide. I’m sure that eventually I’d have made a slide on my own and may well have concluded that I had worms. How do you explain to your parents that A. You think you have worms. B. Why do you think so? and C. Let’s see.

Eventually, I came to grips (pun intended) with the idea that I had all of these guys inside me just bursting to get out. Swept up in the throes of puberty, I took every available opportunity to oblige them too, eventually being able to crush a coconut like a hen’s egg with my right arm. I thought, this was way too cool to keep to myself. Big mistake.

The responses I got from my friends were, “What do they look like?”, “What do they do?” and finally, “Can I try it?” What have I done? Shit!

Most Saturdays, if we were inside we hung out at my house, watching TV as both of my parents were working and it wasn’t long until I was asked by one of my buddies to let him try it. I gave him a slide and explained how to put them on it. Naturally, everyone had to take a turn. In private, of course. They all thought it was pretty cool too. After the show was over and everyone left, I took out the trash with the slides in it and burned it. I never felt the same about my poor microscope again, despite the hours of enjoyment I had gotten from it. Of course, I had a new found source of entertainment. I gingerly put it in its case, put the case in my closet and didn’t touch it again for what I felt was a prudent period of time. Months. Lots of them.

Thanks to the teenagers’ code of the 50s, we had to find out a lot of things the hard way. The beauty of being naive is the joy of discovery.

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About wolfspringsstudios

I’m a retired graphic designer living just SE of Dallas. I enjoy reading, anything outdoors, nature, photography, dogs and motorcycles. Dislikes are wal mart, nimbys, football and nascar.
This entry was posted in coming of age in the 50s, innocence, midwestern humor, puberty and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to My abbreviated career in science

  1. Amongst all of the other junk I have around here, I still have my 1938 Gilbert # 6 1/2 Erector set and an American Flyer American Brownhoist model railroad crane.

  2. And they made an Atomic Energy Lab Set..

  3. Betty says:

    Love your story. I asked Jim if he was a participant but he said no.

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