It’s time for another post about my father’s childhood. Growing up in the 1920’s during the depression, my dad and his friends entertained themselves somewhat differently than today’s youth. Sometimes they would choose sides and have rock, dirt clod, or pinecone battles. Someone always got hurt, unless a concerned adult broke it up first. Any adult could stop the battle — back then young people did what an adult told them to do.
Now, rubberband battles were very safe. No kid went home with a bloody wound from getting shot with a rubberband. A lad might have a small welt from someone sneaking up behind him and shooting him point-blank on the back of his neck. Even getting hit in the eye wasn’t that bad, because a rubberband that is shot from a rubberband gun doesn’t travel with much force.
The rubberband gun was a small piece of wood with a clothespin attached to the back end to hold the rubberband. (For the younger reader, a clothespin is a small clip for fastening washed clothes on a line for drying.) In my father’s time, all clothespins were made of wood. The rubberband was stretched across the front end of the piece of wood to the clothespin. The shooter aimed the gun and pressed down on the clothespin to release the rubberband. The rubberband would travel fifteen to twenty-five feet, depending on its elasticity.
Then there was the rubberband machinegun. This was a little longer piece of wood with five or six notches cut along the top of the wood. A string was attached to the front and stretched to the back of the piece of wood. To load the rubberband machinegun, one would stretch a rubberband from the front of the wood to the first notch and on top of the string. Then he would stretch a second rubberband in a like manner to the second notch, and so on until all the notches had a rubberband. By pulling up on the string, the shooter could release the rubberbands one by one or all together depending on how hard the string was yanked up.
My dad escalated things with a rubberband cannon. Instead of a rubberband, he used an old inner tube from a car tire. Dad and friends stretched the inner tube over a wooden two-by-four that was fastened to a tricycle. A piece of rope fastened at the back of the board released the inner tube when the rope was pulled up. As Dad and two friends pushed their cannon along, one of the enemy jumped out from behind a tree and fired two pistols at them. The cannon triggerman yanked on the rope. The inner tube flew through the air and struck the enemy across the face with enough force to knock him down. The youth sat up a little stunned with a red welt across his face. Fortunately, the red faded away before he returned home and no one got into trouble.
A meeting was held, and the use of a cannon was disallowed in future battles.