Friday, October 6, 2006

St Thomas Academy finds it difficult to keep a Tradition going

St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights is learning that some traditions are hard to start. Shooting off a cannon at football games is one of them.

School boosters had hoped that every time the football team scored a touchdown this season, they would fire a cannon — only quietly, unlike last year.

For last year's Sept. 30 homecoming game, the Fathers' Club hired a local group of Civil War re-enactors to fire blanks (2-pound black powder charges) from a 2-ton cannon. It was a hit with students and fans at the game.

"To a person, the kids and fans loved it," said Tim McManus, father of the team's quarterback.

The problem was, nobody from the school had tested the decibel level beforehand.

"It jolted you," said Mike Byrne, the school's assistant headmaster. "We weren't even thinking how loud it's going to be. It really surprised us, too."

The deafening noise shook windows in the press box and sent a huge plume of sulfuric white smoke over the football field. It also may have rattled the opposing team. The home team scored seven touchdowns on the way to an easy victory — that's seven blasts between 7 and 10 p.m.

"The other team was shell-shocked in a lot of ways," Byrne said.

Shell-shocked, however, also could describe the reaction of residents for miles around the campus, which is northeast of the Interstate 35E-Interstate 494 interchange at 949 Mendota Heights Road. The college preparatory school has 695 students in grades seven through 12.

Alarmed neighbors, who were not warned of the school's plans, flooded police with 911 calls. The blasts rattled windows in homes a mile away and could be heard for several miles. Some thought a plane had crashed; others feared a deadly explosion or other disaster.
This year's problem is a missing cannon .

The Fathers' Club — a school booster group at the all-male, Catholic military school — tried to buy a smaller, less noisy cannon from Argentina. They had hoped to have it by the first home game Sept. 8.

But the cannon hasn't arrived, and Richard Chapman, treasurer of the Fathers' Club, is out $3,000 that he fronted for the purchase. "It's unbelievable," Chapman said. "I'm still trying to get $3,000 back from Argentina."

Chapman suspects he fell victim to a shady middleman in Florida. Chapman placed the order through a broker in Texas, then waited and waited for delivery. Two weeks ago, the Florida supplier told Chapman that the cannon mistakenly was shipped to a school in Texas.

Chapman has since received assurances that he will get either the cannon or his money back, but he's seen nothing yet. This week, in frustration, he canceled the order.

"I'm out three grand, and we don't have the cannon," Chapman said. "I'm not thinking we're going to have a cannon, not from these brokers." [....snip] St Paul Pioneer Press

Just a thought. As I recall, Father Spors, my high school chemistry teacher, didn't trust us with explosives. A wise decision. But wouldn't you think that somebody in the Chemistry department or the Fathers' Club at St Thomas might have thought about a using a one pound or smaller explosive rather than "shelling" out three grand for a special cannon from Argentina. One would think that innovative thinking would be what you get for all the $$$$ that are spent for tuition over there. But maybe three grand is petty cash to them.

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