During this period there appeared one of the greatest toys that a boy could ever have asked for. Not only was it fun, but it irritated adults to no end. The "pea shooter" was a plastic tube about an eighth of an inch in diameter and about nine inches long. The ones I remember were opaque and of a bluish green color. They were perfect for use as a blowgun with dried peas.
Ammunition became a problem after the first few days of widespread peashooter use. In desperation, one could, and often, did use split peas when the stores ran out of the others, but they did not have the distance and impact of the whole ones and were generally considered unsatisfactory by the peashooting elite.
Field position was an important consideration in using one's shooter. It was important to situate oneself near an alley with back yard fences that you could scramble over, because the older boys and the drivers of vehicles were as likely as not to give chase on foot after being pelted.
If caught, one could expect to receive a painful slap on the ear. Although one's hearing would return to normal after a few hours, I do believe that there were some long range detrimental effects to the ear drum. It seems now that the older I get, the worse my hearing becomes. I never could run very fast.
There were certain people that you never, ever bombarded with those spit covered green peas, including nuns, priests, policemen and those bullies who would hold an eternal grudge and eventually get their revenge months or even years later. (You know who you were!)
Peashooting was an exclusively outdoor activity. One would have thought that sitting in the balcony of the Strand Theater would have been an ideal location for spraying peas at the kids below during the Saturday matinee, but no, I can't remember that ever happening. Many other things including candy wrappers and even the candy itself were the preferred projectiles in that situation.
Copyright © 1997 by William W. Simons