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Valley Musings: Popcorn sale comes to a noisy end

Donna Thompson
Sentinel columnist
Posted 8/14/22

Selling popcorn, water and soda in front of the church during Ilion’s Doo Dah parade did not sound like a task that would threaten my eardrums and involve the fire department, but sometimes things …

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Valley Musings: Popcorn sale comes to a noisy end

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Selling popcorn, water and soda in front of the church during Ilion’s Doo Dah parade did not sound like a task that would threaten my eardrums and involve the fire department, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

I had fumbled my way through operating the popcorn machine during the church’s car show in early June and was asked to help.

The woman in charge and the popcorn machine were just inside the church entrance when I arrived that Friday evening. She thought it would be easier to operate it there rather than move it outside.

Unfortunately, the machine’s parts needed to be assembled. I had no real memory of how the flat metal piece was supposed to fit onto the back.

My partner finally got it in place - sort of. 

“Is this the way it’s supposed to go?” she asked.

I had no idea.

Another helper came and we took turns trying to put in the kettle. Once that was accomplished and the machine was plugged in, we set out a table and brought out a cooler full of bottled water and cans of soda.

The popcorn machine instructions said to warm up the machine for 4 to 6 minutes. Unfortunately, the label for the switches did not match those in the instructions. I tried one, then another and, deciding the thing was warm enough, poured the oil and popcorn kernels into the kettle. Soon we heard the sound of popping corn.

The instructions said to dump the kettle when the popping stopped. There was a pause. I hesitated, wanting to make sure it was done, then tilted the kettle and popcorn poured out. 

Suddenly, there was an ear-splitting beep, beep, beeping.

I looked at the woman who was assisting me.

“The smoke alarm,” she said.

Sure enough, there was a smoke detector almost directly above where we were operating the popcorn machine and my hesitation had resulted in a few burnt kernels.

The woman in charge unplugged the machine and went to try to turn off the alarm. The other two of us stepped outside. 

A police officer drove by and asked if we were all right. We said we were.

Still, the beeping went on and on.

We did sell a few drinks to people who ventured near while looking quizzically toward the open church door with the unholy noise blasting from inside.

We finally told a couple of police officers that we couldn’t turn the alarm off and they called the fire department.

A man with a couple of young boys stopped at our table.

“Do you have a bathroom?” he asked, adding, “I have a 5-year-old.” 

“Sure,” I said. “Follow me, but plug your ears.”

The man sent both boys with me. I walked through the fellowship room with my fingers in my ears followed by a wide-eyed little boy and his older brother doing likewise. 

The boys made use of the facilities and, as we turned to head back to the entrance, a fire truck pulled up. The firefighters came in and the noise stopped as we reached the front door.

Silence never sounded so good.

Another dad - this one with five children in tow - came to ask for the use of the restrooms and I again led the procession. 

After the parade, we sold a few more drinks and ate some popcorn. Then we shoved the machine into the kitchen, cleaned the pieces and left them on the counter. 

On Sunday, my youngest sister helped put the thing back together - properly this time - and one of the men put it away.

Next year maybe we’ll stick to selling drinks.

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