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Housatonic Pequot
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How the Atomic Fireball became
the “Unofficial” Official candy
of the Connecticut Region

Atomic Fireballs

Prologue: It was the summer of 1972. It was your typical sultry (make that hot and sticky) Sunday in August. The era that I had grown up in, the era of “cruising”, and that of the “muscle car”, had not yet ended. Soooo…. I had been cruisin’ the beaches from Milford to West Haven with a bunch of friends, all with the very same interests – our Corvettes and girls (not necessarily in that order).

The Story: My friends and I had just stopped at an old time “mom-and-pop” variety store on Campbell Avenue in West Haven to get some ice cream, soda, etc. Just as I was about to pay for my stuff, there they were……….. Atomic Fireballs! OH BABY….I couldn’t believe it; I hadn’t eaten, or even seen any since I was in grammar (or was it elementary or primary) school, when I was able to buy them for a penny (remember wheat pennies?) each. I didn’t even know that anyone still made them. Well, I guess time marches on; this day they cost me a nickel a piece. Still, I bought a dollar’s worth. Boy, did they bring back memories. I did however; really need that cold soda as a chaser.

Fast forward to the 1972/73 ski season. Walt Behuniak (who happened to be my first cousin), I, and a few other CT Region Patrolmen (that’s what they were called back then) were doing our Senior S & T Exam (that’s what that was called back then) at Berkshire East (Thunder Mountain for you real old timers). I remembered that I still had a few Fireballs left from the summer and thought they might be good on the cold mountain. So I stuck them in my (slippery blue naugahyde) fanny pack and brought them along. Fortunately I had enough to hand out to everyone, amid some “I remember these”, “Oh wow – hotballs”, “Where did you ever find these”, “I haven’t seen these in years”, and other comments. Apparently they were a hit, because my supply was now totally depleted. The next year and a half would become dedicated to rummaging through the quintessential “corner stores” throughout the area (since the large chain stores did not seem to carry them) in an effort to maintain a steady supply for future Senior Tests.

Evidently, word had spread about these new “treats” to the point where they were now an expected part of each Senior Test. Walt (thank goodness for cousins) had discovered a treasure trove when he somehow learned that his wife’s brother was working in a small old-time variety store in downtown Shelton. We were now able to purchase Fireballs in bulk, at his brother-in-law’s prices; it was like a windfall. Now both Walt and I were able to stuff our packs with Fireballs to hand out freely at each test. It was a good thing too, since during many of those years, there were enough Senior Candidates to warrant two tests each season.

It was common knowledge to the “seasoned” Fireball aficionados, that Fireballs that had “aged” for a few summers in one’s pack, were let us say, more robust, than new ones. It had also become well known that only a REAL Senior could put an aged Atomic Fireball in his / her mouth, not bite it, and keep it there until it was completely gone. Of course we always explained that we did not condone actually skiing with a Fireball in one’s mouth. They did, however, make excellent moulage for blood and broken teeth if done correctly.

During those years, a Senior Ski & Toboggan Pre-test was also administered at Sundown, as a way to better determine if the Candidates were really ready to tackle actual Senior level terrain at Berkshire East or Jiminy Peak. Soon Fireballs were given out at the Pre-tests also. In fact, it wasn’t long before Fireballs were used as a “lure” to get Patrollers to enter the Senior S & T program. We actually advertised them as a perk to be given out the weekly clinics as well. Invariably there would be one attendee who would yell out, “where’s the Fireballs?” This formal handout was always the first order of business and the event could not officially begin until the ceremony was over. By the way, Fireballs were traditionally thrown, rather than handed, to all participants. Usually all went well…….hmmm.

During the 1975-76 season, I attended my first Senior Examiners’(long before they were renamed Trainer / Evaluators) Clinic, and just happened to bring a pocketful of Fireballs with me; habit you understand. When my turn came to teach a segment, I naturally handed them out to the participants in my group. Result: different people, same comments. Then, John Kane, one of the Eastern Division Staff overseeing my group asked me, “So... Don…is this the Connecticut Region’s official candy?” (Apparently other Regions have made some type of use of other kinds of “treats”). So, without really thinking about it, I said, “Uh, Yea!” I guess that single spontaneous comment sort of formalized everything; we now had an “official” unofficial candy.

Epilogue: Walt and I have kept our Connecticut Region “tradition” up at every Senior and regular S & T event or station that he and / or I have run, including Toboggan Enhancement clinics, Senior TE Clinics, Senior Recert (excuse me - Continuing Education) Clinics, Patrol level Candidate training clinics and evaluations, and finally, the Mount Southington Patrol Station at the annual OEC Refresher. Others have tried other candies, but for the most part, to little or no avail. The Atomic Fireball has come to be expected, they are seemingly well accepted and appreciated, and are a great way to “break the ice”…….and sometimes a window or two.

But that’s another story.

Yours truly (honestly to goodnessly),
Don Cirkot
25 December 2008

Atomic Fireballs Box

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