Posted by: patwogan | August 10, 2009

Firecracker Incident

My ninth grade math class was on the third floor of the Junior High.  It overlooked the gymnasium and the metal covered bicycle racks.  The field for outdoor physical education was just down a pathway between the two buildings. 

I sat in the back row next to a bank of windows.  My “friends” sat back there, too.  The math teacher was a man who did not keep very good discipline and ran a rather loose classroom.  As I remember, there was quite a bit of conversation that went on during class, and on my part, very little learning of mathematics. 

The incident I am writing about took place during “senior week”.  Our Junior High was adjacent to the Senior High School and the whole complex covered a couple of blocks.  The seniors were always let out of school a week earlier than the rest of the school.  On this particular day, they were driving their cars around the two buildings, honking horns, and generally letting the rest of us know they were free from the confines of education.  I would imagine that the rest of the us had also quit learning for the year as school was almost out.  We were looking forward to summer vacation and freedom.

As I remember the conversation that led up to the incident, it went something like this.  A boy that I had a big crush on brought up the subject of firecrackers.  He told me another one of my friends had a firecracker.  Since I sat by the window, would I throw the firecracker out if he lighted it and gave it to me.  Frankly, because of the crush I had on him, I would have jumped out the window myself if he had asked me.  So , of course, I said I would throw the firecracker.  The first boy gave the firecracker to the second boy who lighted it and handed it to me.  I threw it out the window.

Now, keep in mind, all this went on while the math teacher was teaching…or trying to teach. 

The firecracker…a black cat type…landed behind the sheet metal covered bicycle rack and exploded with a loud bang made even louder by the bicycle rack.  The girls’ gym class was playing softball in the field by the building and needless to say, the explosion caused chaos.  Girls were running and screaming, not knowing what had caused the explosion.

Soon the Principal appeared at the door and asked if anyone knew anything about it.  I confessed that I had been responsible for the incident.  I knew I was in BIG trouble.  I didn’t have to confess and probably had I kept quiet  they might never have known.. The math teacher certainly didn’t know anything about it.  But my conscience wouldn’t let me be quiet…so I confessed.

The Principal took me with him down to the office and told me what a horribly dangerous thing I had done, etc.  He threatened to call my Mother and even dangled the threat of expulsion from school before me.  I, of course, was in tears by this time and begged him not to call  Mom as she had enough trouble right now without having to deal with a criminal daughter. 

While we were having our “conversation” the two boys who had been involved with me in the incident, came down to the office and confessed their part in the scheme.  I didn’t hear what the Principal said to them as each of us was dealt with individually.

I don’t think he called my Mother.  I imagine he realized that I had learned my lesson and that he would have no further trouble from me.  And he didn’t. 

A small postscript to the story.  The teacher, who was a first year instructor, was not back at the Junior High the next year.  I felt guilty about that, thinking it was my fault.  As I look back from the perspective of having been a teacher, I know it was not my fault.  I might have been a symptom, but the cause was he didn’t keep discipline and was not a good teacher.

Twenty years later I was working in another town at a drive-in banking facility when a man presented a check to me to cash.  He asked if I remembered him.  I did.  It was the boy who had the firecracker.  He reminded me of the incident, one which had also stayed in his memory for years.  We discussed it and reminisced about our stupidity at the time.  We were able to laugh about it then, but believe me, it was no laughing matter at the time.



  1. So, was he a cutie when you saw him years later?
    This was funny, mom. Hadn’t heard this one before.

  2. Now that was a great story! I see where your daughter gets her gift from!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I am very proud of my daughter.

  3. Wow! I love your blog and the way that you write. Your daughter must be very proud to have a mom who also blogs! You are indeed a very cool person!

    Kristen told me about your blog on twitter and I have to say that I need to sit down this weekend and read every one of your posts! I just love your blog!

    You are doing a great job! 😀

    • Thank you for responding to my blog. I am very proud of my daughter also.

  4. “criminal daughter” Interesting how you perceived the influence you had on the teacher’s future. Also find it interesting how the perspective you have is actually from a teacher’s view. The student body was probably envious of your delinquency and wishing they had your courage to do the deed and the guts to stand up to the principal—except for the tears.
    Loved it.

    • This is one that I really didn’t want to tell because I wanted you all to think I never did anything wrong. It is hard to tell kids to behave in school when I didn’t.

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