May 23, 2018
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The misadventures of a curious child

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff

When I was a child, there was an attic hatch in our bathroom. Since I was a latchkey kid and someone (who did not know any better) left a stepladder in the house one day, it was a natural thing to go up in the attic.

A whole new adventure was at hand, and I did not have to go anywhere.

The attic was a wondrous place. There was the chimney and rafters and a lot — well, a little — rock wool insulation. A little rock wool insulation in any attic in the 1960s was a great energy conservation step.

Another time, Mr. Luna, a family friend, came over to replace our gas hot-water heater. When it was time to unhook the plumbing, it was discovered that the galvanized water lines were occluded with rust. This was on a Sunday and a major replumbing job was at hand.

A trip to the local hardware store got a bunch of half-inch copper tubing and some fittings. Both the hot and cold water lines had to be replaced. The project went on late into the night.

The next morning, I discovered that Mr. Luna had left his propane torch. He also left the striker for igniting it.

As an observant young man, I soon had the torch operational. Fun times were soon to be had.

The logical thing to do with the torch was to try to melt glass. An old soda bottle was soon deforming into magical shapes. That was a special day. I had many second-degree burns to show for it.

Then there was the time Mr. Luna came over to reroof our house. He let me up on the roof with a shovel to help remove shingles. I was actually on the roof.

God bless Mr. Luna! He was a great guy. Not all my childhood activities were so safe.

I used to collect old radios and TVs. Some would work and the rest were taken apart and parts were duly saved for future use. (Note the trend here.)

Have you ever noticed how some electric plugs have two prongs that are different widths? That is the way that we are protected from faulty wiring within an appliance. As a naive youth, that was something that I did not understand, so I would file or force the plug in any way that it would fit into an extension cord.

This led to great hilarity one time when I had an old TV plugged in (with the plug’s polarity in reverse) and its built-in rabbit ear antenna touched a gas pipe in the basement. Fantastic sparks flew across the room. That seemed like an odd occurrence, so I had to check to see if it would happen again. It did! I did not try for a third time. I ain’t stupid!

The last “why is he still alive” story is also electrical. I learned about fuses early.

I had an old phonograph without an electric plug. There were three wires. I had a plug with two connections for wires. It seemed then to be logical that one wire would go to one connection, one wire to the other and the third wire split between the two. I was 6 years old.

Of course, I had to plug it in. Once again, hilarity ensued. There was a big black mark on the outlet and all the lights in the house went out. I seem to think I changed the fuse, but I am sure that my Italian mother changed it. I am also sure that was a time I learned some new Italian words. I probably watched the fuse-changing operation. That little bit of knowledge came in handy for the future.

I was a happy camper when we moved to a house with circuit breakers.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at

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