Mounting Evidence that Explosives Used to Get People High

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Willie Mays may have thrown off Charlie Brown in the spelling bee, but the two-time National League MVP left kids in no doubt about the dangers of blasting caps. Derek Zona sends in this PSA, in which the multiple-Golden-Glove-winning Giant warns our nation's youth to stay away from these strangely attractive small explosives. If you don't remember the threat discarded blasting caps once posed to American children, you may have been surprised by the discussion of it in my controversial one-minute-magazine post from the other day, but apparently the United States was once the postwar Cambodia of the northern hemisphere, or something like that.

My questions: How widespread was this problem, how widespread was the hysteria, and what was compelling kids to play with blasting caps in the first place? The Institute of Makers of Explosives provides this helpful sketch of the Don't Touch campaign:

The Boy Scouts of America, in connection with their participation in the program, proposed the use of actual examples of blasting caps for Scoutmasters to use in their safety training. This led to the production of the first detonator display board in 1947 on which were mounted various nonelectric and electric blasting caps.

When the program began, hundreds of children were being injured or killed each year. Over the years, the injury rate has been drastically reduced, and for the last 10 years blasting cap injuries to children have been in the single digits in the United States.

There's also this useful advice from whatever blasting cap enthusiast wrote Wikipedia's entry:

Proper recommended procedure is to position the crimping tool and tighten it up, then hold it behind yourself slightly below waist level while actually crimping. While embarrassing, minor injuries to the buttocks are the location least likely to cause serious or permanent incapacitation.

Finally, here is another "Don't Touch Blasting Caps" PSA, which garners the following review:

Andy Williams will save us all!
A guy who drives around in a red station wagon with the words EXPLOSIVES on it drives around all day waiting for the next blasting cap danger. He gets a call about a blasting cap in a garage, and comes just in time as some kids were about to enter it! So, this is almost like Guardiana, except with a disco sound track, and an Andy Williams look-a-like, When the kids ask to see a demonstration of blasting caps in action, Andy says to one of the kids to plug in the television set he has in the back on his station wagon, which of course made me wonder what ELSE he has stashed back there.

Free association: However laudable Andy Williams' attitude toward proper handling of industrial explosives may have been, his support for trigger-happy chanteuse Claudine Longet demonstrated that for the Bard of Branson, as for too many Americans, firearms safety was just a big joke.

NEXT: Return of Little Big Man

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  1. Willie Mays should have a good sit-down with Vince Coleman.

  2. “While embarrassing, minor injuries to the buttocks are the location least likely to cause serious or permanent incapacitation.”

    So, was this the origin of the phrase, “I’ll bust a cap in yo’ ass”?

  3. I remember this craziness; problem was I could never find any of the damn things to play with.

  4. Well, when I’m playing with my crimping tool I always keep it behind my buttocks, and I’ve never regretted it.

  5. Well, when I’m playing with my crimping tool I always hold it behind my buttocks, and it works like a charm.

  6. What the hell is this article about? I suppose the links aren’t optional reading?

  7. Somebody needs to do more research on how this molehill got made into a mountain. It reminds be of the Thurber short story, The Day the Dam Broke.
    (It didn’t break, really.)

    BTW, I remember the ’50’s and the latter part of the ’40’s.

  8. If anyone needs me I’ll be on that AMA thread from yesterday guzzling corn syrup and lamenting my lost innocence.

  9. I remember these PSAs well, along with the “don’t play in the abandoned refrigerator” messages. But for the PSAs, I would never have known about blasting caps, and they set me to looking for them. I never found one.

    Child molestors are the blasting caps of the aughts.

  10. I remember a blasting cap PSA that featured Flipper. The kid would reach for the cap and Flipper would pop out of the water and start jabbering in dolphinese. The kid would toss the cap to Flipper, and the dolphin’s head would explode.

    OK, that last part I made up…

  11. … for the last 10 years blasting cap injuries to children have been in the single digits in the United States.

    Hands up. Who else found this funny?

  12. Here’s the fart recalling his youth.
    Cherry Bombs and M-80’s, back in the day, made blasting caps like popping a paper sack.

    alkali,
    I found it funny.
    Did you get blood blisters from accidentally exploding ordinance in the fingers around xmus time?

  13. it makes me sad to think that kids these days will never have the halcyon fun of the late 70s, when any enterprising kid could methodically empty the powder out of tons of shotgun shells, pack them into a plumbing fitting and then blow stuff up. not to speak of my brother’s learning how to make plastic explosives and timed bombs (with the mickey mouse clock, just for effect) from the anarchist cookbook. good times. I’m sure we’d all be in gitmo nowadays.

  14. I have a couple of blasting caps that my dad had as a souvenier from his mining days in the late 40s. He said that miners would routinely walk off with caps or dynamite in their lunch pails, for later recreational use. (usually in conjuction with large amount of alcohol)

  15. I grew up not near where blasting was done often–such as a mine or a quarry–but I was near an abandoned DuPont WWI powder plant.
    We occasionally found some chunks of powder, I guess originally for artillery, that we burned. They seemed soggy, but burned with a faint zzzzing sound.

    Chunks of sulphur were more fun to burn. A beautiful blue flame and an asphixiating smell.

    Most fun to burn was C-4, which burns like a blowtorch. This was everyone’s hobby in VN. Actually, not a hobby. They would heat C-rations. But the heat was far too great for me, the gourmet.

  16. I grew up not near where blasting was done often–such as a mine or a quarry–but I was near an abandoned DuPont WWI powder plant.
    We occasionally found some chunks of powder, I guess originally for artillery, that we burned. They seemed soggy, but burned with a faint zzzzing sound.

    Chunks of sulphur were more fun to burn. A beautiful blue flame and an asphixiating smell.

    Most fun to burn was C-4, which burns like a blowtorch. This was everyone’s hobby in VN. Actually, not a hobby. They would heat C-rations. But the heat was far too great for me, the gourmet.

  17. Ah, M-80s; now that made for one cool Halloween…

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