The Boy Scientist

by Dave Schuler on June 7, 2014

The pictures in this article about kids’ chemistry sets of days gone by really took me back. I sold greeting cards door-to-door (something else I can’t imagine an eight-year-old of today doing) to get a chemistry set very much like the last one pictured. In those days any money I didn’t spend on books I spent on science kits. A few years later it was on back issues of Astounding or Galaxy.

My parents could never really understand my interest in math or science. They’d never really encouraged it, just stood back and watched in amazement. I blame Captain Video.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

CStanley June 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

While my parents weren’t completely traditional in encouraging gender roles, it was my brother who got the chemistry sets. But I used to sneak into it, and always begged him to let me in on the experiments (which he often did.)

Re: selling greeting cards door to door- nowadays the kids do this but it’s always for school fundraisers.

Dave Schuler June 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

For reasons not entirely clear to me none of my siblings was as enterprising as I. I got movie tickets for sending in cereal boxtops, a chemistry set and an encyclopedia for selling greeting cards, and ran a lemonade stand to get money to buy books. For charitable purposes I also organized a “carnival” with games and prizes, drafting my siblings to work the booths. IIRC we raised what would be the equivalent of several hundred dollars in today’s money for charity that way.

I have a vague recollection of having sold peanut brittle for the Cub Scouts. Haven’t thought of that for the better part of a century.

My childhood was in the day of stay-at-home moms. It was the norm even in poor neighborhoods. My mom although nominally a fulltime wife, mother, and homemaker also occasionally substitute taught and tutored. My dad held two jobs for a while in my young childhood. He was an associate at a big law firm during the day and taught law school at night.

PD Shaw June 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Sounds like Dave was quite the little lawbreaker.

Dave Schuler June 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

I grew up in Missouri. Practically a state of nature.

Guarneri June 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm
Jimbino June 7, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Yeah, I was a lawbreaker too, selling greeting cards door-to-door at 8 on the Chicago Southside. Kids can’t do that nowadays.

Rearing a kid in Amerika today amounts to child abuse. It would behoove smart parents to move to those places in the world where kids can still go free-range.

CStanley June 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

For charitable purposes I also organized a “carnival” with games and prizes, drafting my siblings to work the booths. IIRC we raised what would be the equivalent of several hundred dollars in today’s money for charity that way.

We were in the heyday of the Jerry Lewis MD telethon era and we threw a whiz bang of a carnival every year to get donations. We kept trying to make it bigger each year ( I think $250 or so was our best year, not bad for early 70′s.) I remember thinking one day we’d be invited to go on camera to give the money personally to Jerry LOL.

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