The Great Stink-Bomb Escapade

December 7, 2010 at 5:25 am (Uncategorized)

My grandfather Bevilacqua was a strong, stern, somewhat humorless man who served as an excellent early mentor to me. Unfortunately, he passed away much too soon at age 59, just after I graduated high school. Had he lived longer, I think that he would have had a profound influence on my later life.

Grandpa Bevy was also a very talented person. The basement of the house on Summit Avenue in Cedarhurst that we shared with him and my grandmother (Nonnie) attested to that. On one side, was an electrical shop where he repaired TVs, radios and other electronic equipment. He was an excellent photographer too, and maintained a full darkroom right near his shop. When I first started taking photos with a Brownie 620 camera sometime during my elementary school days, Grandpa would develop them for me, and then critique my work. In addition, he was a very good musician, and played the electric guitar and banjo.

At some point he tried to get me to learn Morse code and become a “ham” amateur radio operator. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much interested in that at the time. Ironically, I later became a radio operator in the Army, taking easily to the skills and knowledge he had always wanted to teach me.

When I was five or six years old, Grandpa ran the sound system at Yankee Stadium for a short time. I don’t remember this, but I understand he often wanted to take me along when he worked there. Apparently I had no interest in baseball yet, and never wanted to go. For decades afterward, I kicked myself repeatedly for having missed an opportunity to meet some of the ballplayers who would later become my idols.

Grandpa Bevy was an inspector at the Republic Aviation plant in Farmingdale along about the time I was eight or nine. At that age I was blessed with a developing sense of humor and a blossoming penchant for playing practical jokes. These were probably not attributes that I acquired from my grandfather. Maybe I would have been better off in life if I had inherited more of his talents.

Anyway, one day after school, I picked up a box of stink bombs at the candy store that were designed to be loaded into cigarettes. Anxious to test them, I found a pack of Grandpa’s Camels lying around that night, and pressed one of the little black “loads” into the tip of each cigarette. Chuckling to myself, and quite satisfied with my underhanded maneuver, I replaced the pack and awaited the results.

When I got home from school the next day, Mom warned me that Grandpa was on the warpath. Apparently he had been called into the office at Republic, where he was introduced to some prominent people, including two Air Force generals and several high-ranking company executives. As you’ve probably guessed, Grandpa offered them all a cigarette. When they lit up and a noxious, foul-smelling cloud began to fill the room, poor Grandpa had a lot of explaining to do! Thankfully, he was able to talk his way out of trouble by describing what a practical joker his grandson was. In the end, the dignitaries actually found the incident quite amusing!

Well, I made myself scarce for the rest of the day, fearing my grandfather’s wrath. But truthfully, he was never angry with me. In fact, whenever anyone subsequently mentioned the subject, it always brought a smile to his face. And I think the success of that escapade encouraged me to continue refining my skills as a practical joker for years to come, much to the chagrin of my family.

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