Up, Up and Away!

In eighth grade Spencer Grond taught our class how to make hot air balloons out of tissue paper, glue, a metal coat hanger and some masking tape. Specific directions were handed out that we were to follow. So being an eighth grade boy I skipped half the steps so I would get my balloon done first. Alas, skipping steps just yields a wadded up ball of tissue paper which is not at all balloon like. It was the first time I learned that following directions could be useful.

Mr. Grond let us eighth grade boys find our way. He must have known a bunch of us were going to mess up. He had plenty of supplies for us to start again. In the end I learned how to follow directions. I learned how to make a ten foot high hot air balloon out of tissue paper.

We had to wait for a calm day to launch them. Our hot air was made with rags and gasoline. I doubt that was approved by OSHA. Some how we all lived, unburnt and happy.

Over the last 45 years I have made twenty more of those hot air balloons. When ever I would be babysitting kids on a rainy day we would go into our basement and make hot air balloons. I told them the directions and let them at it. Sometimes they needed to give it a go a second time. Eventually they got their balloon made.

These days the hot air is supplied by my gas grill. The balloon looks so cool lifting up a quarter mile into the sky. It tricks the eye into thinking there is a full size hot air balloon right over our neighborhood.

Five years ago out of the blue I called Spencer Grond. I told him, “There must have been fair more important things you taught me but making the hot air balloon was the one that stuck. I didn’t know enough in eighth grade to thank you for being such a good teacher. I just want to thank you now.” He smiled. We talked for half an hour.

Today it’s a rainy day in Beverly, Massachusetts. I am just sitting here thinking of tissue paper and scissors and the world’s most patient science teacher.

Tony Toledo, June 11, 2016


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