The summer my older brother Don went to Boy Scout camp was probably the loneliest summer I have ever spent. I remember the night before he left we were in our bedroom. We shared a small bedroom with double bunks and a single dresser. I was hanging over the edge of the top bunk, watching him packs all his gear into a duffle bag. I recognized it as the same one my father kept our pots and pans in for camping. Item by item he put things into the bag. Pants, socks, underwear, his official Boy Scout mess kit, sweater, rain jacket and a small orange Murray-Erinsmore pipe tobacco tin which contained a string of two-inch firecrackers.
Things he would not need right away were stowed at the bottom. Those things he figured he might need right away or most often were put in last. Everything in its place. The tin was strategically placed inside the rolled-up sweater, right in the middle. He obviously had plans.
One other thing he packed was his harmonica. A well-played Hohner Echo in the key of C that he kept in an old flannel Crown Royal bag. I watched as he buried it deep into the duffel bag so that it wouldn’t get damaged. It was his pride and joy. He use to play it all the time. One of my favourites was a tune called Moody River, which was a big hit at the time for Pat Boone.
Although he was only gone for two weeks, I missed him. I was also green with envy. When he returned he regaled me with all sorts of stories of camp life. However, no matter how often I prompted him, he never told me what he did with the fire crackers.
For Christmas that year, my brother gave me two very special gifts. One was a carving of a fish that he had crafted at camp. The other was a Murray-Erinsmore pipe tobacco tin that contained half a dozen two-inch firecrackers. Both had been carefully wrapped in red tissue paper and strategically placed under my pillow some time during the night of Christmas eve.
That spring, on the evening of Monday, May 18, 1959 to be precise, I used three of the firecrackers my brother had given me for Christmas. The third Monday of May being Victoria Day. Back then it was also know as “Firecracker Day.”
Shortly after supper, I place one of my firecrackers in a metal pipe that supported the rickety old wooden fence in front of our house. Upon lighting it and letting it drop to the bottom of the pipe, the firecracker went off with a resounding bang. The paper surrounding the powder came shooting out of the pipe. Encouraged by such a display of sound and fury, I proceeded to tie two fire crackers together by their wicks, lit them and let them drop. They went off with an even more glorious bang.
The problem was nothing came shooting out of the pipe – nothing at first that is. A minute or so later, smoke started coming out and, before I knew it, the fence was on fire. I went into the house to inform my father of my exploits but it was too late. By the time he came outside to investigate the fence was pretty much toast – burnt toast. We got a new fence that summer.
For the rest of the year I tried hard to be good. As I recall, that was the year I had hoped to receive a Daisy Spittin’ Image BB gun for Christmas. It never happened. I did, however, receive a well-played Hohner Echo in the key of C from my brother.
I still have that harmonica kicking around somewhere. I also have a Murray-Erinsmore pipe tobacco tin that contains two two-inch fire crackers. Like my brother, I never have and never will tell a soul what I did with the other two.