Bottle Rockets, Bazookas, and Broken Windows
I Remember Alex Kritzky and a Story He Told Me
By Brian V. Brunner ('64)
Powder Springs, GA - Sunday 4/8/2001
Part I - About Alex Kritzky
Part II - About how Alex made the bazooka
Part III - The Story Alex told me
Part IV - Thoughts of 1959-60
Part I - About Alex Kritzky
Who was Alex Kritzky? And why are there so many stories about him? Those are good questions and I wish I could tell you more, but I can only pass on my memories of him, and that will never be enough.
Alexander Kritzky was one of those few "Unforgettable" people who always filled a room when he was in one and always left a big hole when he departed. I can almost hear him now wondering why I set out to write about him. All I know is he was always building something or working on some personal project and having fun. You've read about the LWMA Navy, the Field Phone Warning System, all the master keys, and the flying squirrel he kept in his shirt pocket. You would think Alex was a friend to all the cadets at LWMA, and you would be right. I don't know anyone who knew him the one year I did, who did not like him. As you have seen in the other stories, Alex was not only friends with his classmates and those his own age, but he befriended most of the underclassmen, Derron Owens, who was in the seventh grade, and me, a lowly eighth grader, also.
I always thought that Alex was a sophomore during my eighth grade year, but I wasn't too sure. Alex's picture in 1960 yearbook is with the junior class; the same is true of the 1961 yearbook. I always assumed he would be a senior with the class of 1962, but that was not to be.
I remember my own joy at returning to LWMA in fall of 1961 after having to go to school elsewhere the year before. I was so glad to be back to where I felt I belonged. When I came on to the campus early that year with the other "old" cadets, I made it a point to be sure to see all my old friends from two years before. There were too many to name here, but I had great time visiting with them all. There were always friends that for some reason or another did not come back from one year to the next. Then I asked someone about Alex, and my joy became tempered, and I was saddened to find out, that not only was Alex not going to return, but that he was dead.
Alex was killed near Opelika, Alabama in the spring of 1961, on a motorcycle that he built from spare parts. He and another former LWMA cadet, Lamar Hall, were riding that day from Panama City, Florida to Camp Hill. William Kritzky '60, Alex's older brother told me last May (2000) that Alex and Lamar had both already dropped out of LWMA and were just going back to visit their friends. Bill told me that someone had pulled out in front of Alex and Lamar and the brakes on that motorcycle did not work. Now you know what happened to Alex and Lamar that day.
Note: Let me say here that I never knew Lamar Hall as his one and only year at LWMA was the one I missed in 1960-61. That is why I have not said any more about him.
Part II - How Alex made the bottle rocket bazooka
We all know that LWMA had a Navy and it also had an Air Force that will not be written about too much. I don't want to have too many stories about firecrackers and rockets and other explosives, but we all know that boys and young men in places like LWMA will at times, buy, build and play with such things.
Alex was never one to just "play" at anything, he had to use his mind to invent things and make them better. That was how he came up the bottle rocket bazooka. Somehow, don't ask me how, he took a small strip of 1/4-inch copper tubing about 6 or 7 inches long and had the ends flared out just like a real bazooka. This is the same copper tubing used for water and gas pips in houses. This was the barrel of the bazooka the bottle rocket was fired through. He then took two pieces of coat hanger wire, one short one at the back and one long one in the middle. The wires were wrapped around the copper pipe to make two legs each. The one at the back was just to keep the back end of the bazooka about an inch off the ground, floor, or table. The one in middle was used as slide to adjust angle of the barrel up and down.
Part III - Here's the story Alex told me -
"Don't take Naps in New Brick on Sunday Afternoons"
The window in the back of Alex's room in Friendly Hall faced the east side of "New Brick."* There were four panes of glass in those windows, each pane being about 1 foot wide by 2 feet high. Alex took one of the windowpanes out whenever he wanted because the putty had never dried after it was broken and replaced earlier. He always put it back in at night and for inspection. Alex had experimented with the bazooka enough to know what worked well. He said he would glue a cracker ball to the nose of a bottle rocket and then break the long stick in half before putting it in the back of his little bazooka. The half stick would give the rocket enough drag to fly almost straight every time. Not enough stick and the bottle rocket would go everywhere. You get the picture.
One Sunday afternoon, Alex was firing bottle rockets out of his room and listening to the "CRACK" of the cracker ball warheads as they hit the east wall of New Brick. There was a window to one of the dorm rooms in New Brick with a hole near the top that was about 3 inches in diameter. It just so happened that one of the cadets living in that room was on the top bunk taking a nap. (Sounds good so far.) Alex fired one rocket toward that room hoping to hit the window with a bang loud enough to wake him up. That one rocket zoomed up and went right into the hole in the window and bounced around the top of the room for two or three orbits before it ran out of fuel! Alex said this young cadet came off of the top bunk feet first, right out into the middle of the room and ran into the bathroom like the place was on fire!
Big Smile Here! No, Bigger Smile Here!!
By the time Alex neared the end of the story, we were both almost in tears from laughing so hard.
* New Brick was later renamed Ward Hall and now is called Howell Hall.
Part IV - Thoughts of 1959-60
Later, I bought or traded with Alex and I ended up with the famous little bottle rocket bazooka myself. It worked just the Alex told me it would, but I never was able to have a great story like that.
Thanks, Alex for all the fun...
And for showing us that work could be fun. Look all the work that went into making all those boats that are now resting on the bottom of Lake Mary and Lake Lyman.
When I think of those who were the "Smartest Cadets" I knew at LWMA, I always think of ten to fifteen guys: Alex Kritzky, Chester Quinn, Loy Basque, Charlie Oldham, Phillip Potts, Jack Riley, Robert Ingram are some of those who come to mind. I don't mean that just as far as schoolwork was concerned, but just from my own point of view. On that list in my head Alex Kritzky is always at the top, no mater where he was on the Dean's List. This is not to say some of the other cadets were not as smart, I am sure many were. This is just "My List", no one else's. As a former cadet who never made it to the "All A's Dean's List," I am not on that list myself.
I feel as if Chester Quinn has been helping me write this story, even though he passed away in 1995. Chester was my first roommate at LWMA and one of Alex's great friends too. I can never think of one without seeing the other in my mind. When I think of all my friends at LWMA, those guys from my first year have a special place. Those who came later were great too, but none better than the group from 1959-60.
P.S. Now that I've broken all my rules about fireworks stories, I guess I'll have to accept others...
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