Friday, February 13, 2015

Scientific Horizon

No secret here: I was a lousy athlete as a kid.

The only sport I really put any effort to was Little League, and that was a disaster. I was relegated to right field every game, where I would routinely collapse under the pressure of the one ball that would come my way, drop it, lose the game and walk home dejectedly.

I've written about it before, here.

As a result, I was severely lacking in the trophy department.

My older brothers distinguished themselves on the football team, the baseball team, the swim team. Their medals, certificates and trophies were proudly displayed in their rooms, gleaming pride on a daily basis.

My room had old movie posters and Disney sketches.

That all changed, however, thanks to Johnny Horizon.

Johnny Horizon was a late-1960s ad gambit designed to ride the crest of the anti-pollution movement. Square jawed and rugged, Johnny looked like Chuck Connors from The Rifleman, and no American worth his salt would dare cross him when he advised that their crumpled McDonald's bag was better off in a trash can than tossed on a sidewalk.

By the early 1970s, though, Johnny seemed to have moved on. Which is how he crossed paths with our family.

Johnny's marketers put together a kid-friendly kit that enabled Junior Conservationists the opportunity to monitor pollutants in their neighborhoods. I guess the point was for us to take the results to our businesses and get them to stop belching toxins into our air.


My ever-budget-conscious mother spotted one of these kits in the bargain bin at our local Hobbyland. With the price thrice reduced, it hit her sweet spot and she purchased it.

I'm not sure where the idea came to use it as Science Fair fodder, but use it we did. The kit had flasks and nozzles and pH strips and the like, all for determining the levels of icky things in the soil, water and air.

This gem was passed down from my siblings to me. And in what I believe was 4th Grade, I entered the school Science Fair with the intent of proving just how dirty our little burg of Havertown really was.

I worked through each experiment, followed the directions and captured the results. With mom's help, we "fudged" a few things, not wanting to make it look like the source of all our data was a store-bought kit, nor that our marching orders were coming from Johnny Horizon. Not that we believed anyone remembered him, but still...

Tri-paneled board fully decorated with charts and graphs -- and full of startling insights like, Hey! Darby Creek smells because there are bad things floating in it -- I submitted my entry.

And lo and behold, I walked away a winner.

Well, Johnny and I walked away winners. With help from mom.

The really interesting thing is that now, at age 52, that trophy still sits on the dresser in my bedroom.

While my brothers' trophies faded away in numerous yard sales past.

Maybe its singularity made it more a treasure.


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