THERE WERE SOME 15-YEAR-OLD COUSINS IN Claremore in the mid-sixties that had use of one of their dad’s garage/workshop. The dad was a classic do-it-yourselfer and had all necessary tools, supplies, and materials for most any job.
He built his own camper trailer, made his own water skis (harder than you think), and formed his own fishing sinkers (by melting lead with a propane torch and skillet). He tied his own fishing flies, rolled his own cigarettes and reloaded his old shotgun shells. It is the last of those we consider today.
It came to the attention of the cousins that reloading those shells would require gunpowder. Access to gunpowder, it seems, provides a whole array of possibilities for bored teenage boys loafing after school.
Sulfur. Charcoal. And saltpeter. Those were the necessary ingredients in uncle’s recipe.
This knowledge had no use, however, when those chemicals were not available.
It was determined these necessities would only be available at drug stores. The group spread out, scouting Rexall, Gentry, and Collins drug companies. Rexall, it seems, was the best starting place, since it had little tins of these items lying forgotten and dusty in a glass showcase up front that the clerk was happy to sell. It also served a very good root beer for 5 cents. So, very small quantities of each were available at first. The cousins mixed these chemicals carefully in the same pan used for baking fishing leads.
Since the power of these chemicals in any given mixture was unknown, the boys used a dynamite fuse to light the powder. In most mixtures, the fuse actually put out more fire than the powder, but the scientific method learned in Mrs. Brooks’ eighth-grade science class was in full effect.
They decided, as a way to avoid inquisitive druggists, that each of the three boys would go to one druggist. We didn’t know the old man at Rexall, but everyone in town knew Bud Gentry at Gentry Drug and Scotty at Collins Drug.
Each would buy one chemical only, then they would rotate. In appearance, this looks remarkably like the modern methods of accumulating Sudafed for use in other recipes.
The quantity of needed materials now procured, it remained only to find a use for the new mixture.
What could go wrong?