When we were in second or third grade, my friend Clinton adopted a secret persona called The Silver Striker. Sort of like classic radio’s The Shadow, but younger and not broadcast. The name was likely inspired by the striker tool used to ignite the burners on his family’s hot air balloon. He had a calling card, a hand-written note with a logo and the Silver Striker name. His capers were generally mild, but sometimes outrageous, although if pressed the only one I could specifically recall was his last, which came on the last day of grade school.
The last day of grade school was a pretty big event in our childhood, and Clinton wanted to celebrate it with a bang. His plan was to bring railroad flares he had found in a caboose to school, and light them off in strategic areas of the school in a sequenced manner. It was an audacious plan, but one he prepared well for, with diagrams, surveillance, etc. I remember not knowing for sure whether he was serious until the moment I heard shouting in the hallway. I can’t remember exactly what I had been doing, being all caught up in the delirium of the final bell, but I do remember emerging into the hallway to see Mr. Starkey, the janitor, holding the burning flare in his hands as he was taking it outside.
This obviously meant Clinton was serious, which meant his next goal was to lite a flare by the other exit on the northeast side of the school. I pushed my way through the throng of frenzied kids, who seemed to take the presence of the flair and the basic flaunting of authority it represented as carte blanche to start shrieking and running through the halls. Once outside I started across the playground to the other exit, but almost immediately I saw Clinton barrel around the corner in a dead sprint for the gate, which happened to be virtually on the other side of the block.
It is quite safe to say that’s the fastest I had ever seen Clinton run. I vividly remember his Mork and Mindy suspenders in the sunlight as he streaked past. I expected to see a mob of teachers and Mr. Starkey round the corner after him, but they never came, and things kind of petered out after that. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure he ever officially attributed that to the Silver Striker; he might have been done with that by that time. I’m still amazed at the audacity and sheer recklessness of the stunt, and I viewed it at the time as a quite impressive accomplishment.
It’s a good thing that happened before he found the quarter sticks of dynamite in a caboose a few years later.