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Pumpkin masters (Public Radio Commentary)

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(For radio stations: Bill's public radio work can be licensed via PRX).

Some people take their work home with them creating tensions in their families, but one man Paul Bardeen brought his work home and changed Halloween for his family and for millions of Americans. Bardeen, an electrical engineer, worked at the State Power company in Wisconsin. As their chief safety engineer he developed ways to prevent accidents. It is this safety-mindidness that Paul Bardeen brought home to his family. Like most parents, maybe even more so, he did all the usual safety things: He made sure all the hand rails at home were sturdy, zealously kept the steps clear of ice, and lectured his children about driving defensively. But the difference between Bardeen and other parents was his approach to Halloween. In spite of his careful demeanor Bardeen was a gregarious man who loved nothing more than a pumpkin carving party with his five children. Yet here was a problem for this safety engineer: Five kids each with a knife stabbing away at their pumpkins, risking puncture wounds and lacerations.

Bardeen also noticed that the knives didn't let his children be creative enough; a knife was too blunt an instrument to carve anything interesting. Bardeen the safety engineer retired to his workshop to devise a safer, yet more creative way to carve pumpkins. He returned with an intricate drawing of a Jack-o-Lantern face. He showed his children how to attach this drawing to a pumpkin and then take a nail and press it though small holes he'd make in the pattern to transfer the image to the pumpkin. Then he gave each child a special saw he'd made in his shop: A coping saw blade with a dowel for a handle, sized just right for a child's hand.

This method allowed Paul Bardeen and his family to create the most fantastic of Jack-O-Lanterns: One with witch's brooms for eyebrows, a bat for a mouth, and ears shaped like cats. When trick or treat time came Paul Bardeen's children carried their pumpkin masterpieces door-to-door to impress and amuse neighbors. Paul Bardeen died in 1983 and in his honor his son John started a company called Pumpkin Masters that sells the tools and patterns developed by his father to help children more safely carve Jack-O-Lanterns.

After a rocky start John Bardeen's Pumpkin Masters now sells millions of kits across American bringing his father's unique blend of pumpkin carving and safety engineering to all children.

Copyright 2000 William S. Hammack Enterprises