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From the Legend Closet: Mr. Green’s Chemistry Class

This is a Mr. Green, the science teacher legend. He also happened to be my father and I wasn’t there when this happened,(I SO wish I was), but he told us this story with great devilish relish.

Picture a high school chemistry class back in the 1960s, everyone is dressed formally for school and sitting attentively. Mr. Green is in front of the class in his white lab coat standing behind one of those lab counters with various beakers and dishes.

“Today’s lesson is on the properties of acids and bases. Here’s an acid, hydrochloric acid. See what happens to this apple sitting in this beaker when I pour some acid on it.”

There’s violent gurgling and smoke and the apple disintegrates. Then the same thing happens to a second apple when he pours a base, lye, on it.

“Now,” he says, standing there with his protective goggles, “Let’s see what happens when we mix the hydrochloric acid and the lyme together.” He mixes the two in a third beaker. Then he asks, “What properties do you think this mixture has? Will it disintegrate an apple?” The class choruses a resounding “Yes!” He says, “Let’s test your hypothesis about the corrosive nature of this mixture. But I’m not going to pour it on an apple.” He lifts the beaker and says, “I’m going to drink it.”

THE CLASS SUCKS IN THEIR COLLECTIVE BREATHS WITH A BIG “Woah.” Then they watch in HORROR, hands to their open mouths, eyes wide, as Mr. Green brings the beaker filled with a mixture of acid and lye,


The class explodes with concern and anxiety, thinking he’s lost his mind, ready to run to the office to call an ambulance. But Mr. Green, my mischievous father, after drinking some of the mixture, puts the beaker down, wipes his sleeve across his mouth and says,

“Salt Water.”

There’s confusion and disbelief as the students watch him, seeing that he isn’t choking or falling to the floor and they’re like, “What?” He says, “When you mix hydrochloric acid and lye together it makes salt water.”

And that, my friends, was one POWERFUL lesson on the effects of mixing chemicals and the benefit of knowing something about chemistry.

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