Monday, February 22, 2021

You Can Pound It With a Hammer


A popular ad on TV when I was living in Tampa, Florida at the age of nine or ten was a commercial about the last paint job anyone would ever need for their house, place of business or tar paper shack out in the swamp. It was called Armorlite I think. (For purposes of the story, we'll just go ahead and call it that.)

In the break between prime time shows like "Leave it to Beaver," "Perry Mason" or the "Jack Benny Show", a salesman with a snake oil slick voice contended the greatest paint in the world now existed. His convincing baritone demeanor insisted we were fools to not immediately book a crew of Armorlite professionals to apply this fantastic new product on our beautiful homes and businesses.  Armorlite would last forever and a day and was guaranteed for that long.  Lifetime worry-free paint job. Nothing better in this or any other Universe.

Visual proof action videos ensued of a burly guy pounding the paint with a hammer while the slick salesman overdubbed,"This paint is so rugged you can pound it with a hammer."

Scene then switched quickly to hurricane force winds driving obstacles at the newly applied paint and when the happy homeowners emerged from their hurricane ravaged homes, the paint was just fine.

The commecial blitzkrieg lasted a long time.  Long enough at least have an impact on the conversations of two bored ten year olds scuffling heel first back towards Johnny C's house. Reaching his house meant we had to pass our favorite hobby shop, the name of which escapes me now.

Johnny noticed the Ford Econline van parked next to the hobby shop and all the ladders leaned up to the back of the concrete block building.  On those ladders were guys with spray guns spraying some god awful smelling liquid on the rear wall. 

Whenever time was not pressing, we always gave the hobby shop some solid loitering time.  We'd walk around inside fingering cool hobby stuff until Gruff hobby shop guy booted us out.  He was gruff, but not an asshole.  I actually liked the guy. 

He finally told us it was time to move along.  Before we left, Johnny C asked him, " Are those guys painting with that new paint we see on TV? My dad told me they had painted the garage where he twists wrenches. The smell here smells just like Dad's garage."

Gruff hobby shop guy nodded confirmation and we exited the store.

Outside we stopped and watched the men as they painted one section, finished, moved all their scaffolding and ladders and began on a new section.  The two of us watched for some time, often bothering whoever would listen with questions like, "Can you really hit it with a hammer?"  Or, "How long does it take to dry" and "Will the smell go away".  The Armorlite pros eventually became weary of our questions and told us to beat it.

Both Johnny and I forgot about the hobby shop for quite awhile.  One of us must have seen another commercial and connected dots that led the two of us to make an early in life bad decision. At some point after school one day, either Johnny or I suggested we test the paint out on the hobby shop.

"Cool. Let's do it"

One of us surely said something akin to , "But we don't have hammers."

I can remember talking while we walked in the direction of the hobby shop.  We were both pumped and seriously considering how this test would unfold.  Neither of us wanted to go home for hammers we might lose and then all Hell would break loose. So we decided to use rocks.  

Rocks were like hammers.  I had actually relied on rocks several times to help construct various forts in trees, in the pucker and one really cool fortification on an island in the mangrove swamps that rimmed Tampa Bay just to the south of my house.

We walked the last so many hundreds of yards looking at the ground and collecting rocks we thought might suit the job at hand.  You just don't get accurate throwing results from just any rock.  A good throwing rock has to fit the palm just so.  The weight, heavy enough to have some impact, but no so big it was tough to throw.  A lot to consider when choosing decent rocks to toss.

We approached the store from the rear.  The plan was for one of us to throw rocks and the other to judge the result.  And then we switch out and do it again and again and again until we ether proved the commercial or debunked it.

The paint was some rugged.  Throwing small skipping type stones appeared to have no impact.  Frustrated now that my pockets were empty, I grabbed a brick from over near the dumpster. The brick chipped the Hell out of that wall.

Johnny and I decided the test was incomplete.  One chip does not mean much, especially since we went over kill and heaved a brick at it.  Surely they did not mean bricks.  We left the immediate area and sought more rocks a little larger than skipping rocks but still smaller than a brick.  

As it turned out, rocks just shy of half brick size could chip the paint nine times out of ten.

That's when this comedy stepped up its game.  The store owner appeared.  

I remember stopping in mid throw when he asked, "What the Hell are you two doing?"  Johnny and I dropped our rocks and turned to face him. Glaring at us, he again said, " Well, what are you doing?  I just had the store painted. "

Retroactive awareness does nothing to address current problems self inflicted out of stupidity.  I immediately understood that trouble was here and I was in the middle of it. Understanding trouble was not going to help going forward.  But I tried to mitigate its damage with an explanation.  

"Uh, we were testing the paint to see if the claim was true."

"What claim?"

Johnny spoke up. "You know, the ad on TV that claims you can hit the paint with a hammer and not damage it."

Gruff hobby shop guy walked over to the rear wall to look at it.

"Jesus Christ.  You kids destroyed the paint job"  He turned toward me.

Funny how when it really counts, adults never seem to understand the logic of children. "What is your name and phone number?  I will be calling your parents.  And don't even think of lying to me.  And don't even think of running.  I will catch you."

I squirmed uncomfortably under his glare.  I turned toward Johnny to seek some support.  Johnny had turned tail and all I saw was the back of him disappearing in the distance. I would have to take the hit alone or run away like Johnny.  I chose to stay.  I think it was because of the stressed sound of the store owner's voice. I knew we had really screwed up.  

I looked at the store owner and he looked at me.  I remember giving him my name, phone number and address before I also turned tail and ran home.

I had found serious trouble and dragged Johnny along with me.  I did not give up his name to the store owner.  My parents figured "the other kid" had to be Johnny.  It only took one question from Dad and I was spilling my guts.  I had learned by that time in my short life that my father valued truth above all else. Lying was a betrayal.

Johnny's father refused to help pay for repainting the rear of the hobby shop.  Dad fronted all the money and I was out my allowance for the better part of the next year.  There was grounding and a month's worth of disgusted looks to bear, but over all I thought my parents handled it well.  

Johnny showed up at school on the following Monday with a black eye and serious bruises on his arms.  He often showed up to school damaged in some way.  I would find out later his father hit him and his older sister quite often.  

I was not allowed in their house after that nor was I allowed in the hobby shop ever again.

Later .....................................................


peppylady (Dora) said...

I now wonder what their story end up being like years later.
Coffee is on and stay safe

The Blog Fodder said...

You did right. Johnny had enough troubles of his own. And the ad did say hammers not rocks

PipeTobacco said...


You DID use logic and the scientific method in your actions.... but it still got you punished. :)