Mr. Gido - My Junior High Science Hero

During the early sixties, American students worshiped the math and science gods. The Russians had launched Sputnik. America had fallen behind in the space race.The classroom bulletin boards were decorated with such slogans as "Math and Science...the Keys to the Future!" with pictures of rockets and missles.

Mr. Gido was the personification of this madness. An ex-Marine, Mr. Gido totally embraced the mantras and was positioned to lead us forward. What might be construed today as too much testosterone was cool hipness to me and my classmates.

Mr. Gido was a master entertainer. A typical science instructor would use the bunsen burner provided by the school district for experiments. Mr. Gido deemed this insufficient. He purchased a small propane torch (probably from a local welding supply). Mr. Gido's torch demonstration began with the words, "Watch this!".

Upon lighting the torch, a huge yellow flame shot up to the classroom ceiling. Mr. Gido slowly, but masterfully tempered it into a small blue-hot flame. The students were on the edges of their seats. When Mr. Gido hit the water-filled beaker with the flame, boiling was instaneous.

So the class would not be deprived of chemical sensationalism, Mr. Gido brought a beaker of sulfuric acid into class. A block of wood was dropped into the beaker and turned black upon contact with the acid. The class was admonished to "Stay back". Forgetting that the reaction produced toxic fumes, Mr. Gido then precariously picked up the foaming beaker with tongs in one hand, opened the window with the other hand and set the toxic beaker on the ledge outside. Luck prevailed and no one received 3rd degree burns. The obsessive science and math culture of the time would probably have dampened any litigation.

The madness continued with the extracurricular Science Club, known to young pyromaniacs as the rocket club. Mixing highly volatile sulfur and zinc powder into CO2 cannisters provided the boost needed to launch rockets into space. Even though one explosion had occurred in the lab, Gido was able to override any objections by the principal and assured parents that a mere aberration had occurred. One enthusiastic student tried these same experiments in his home only to cause a serious house fire.

All manner of rocket design was encouraged. Parachutes, fins...hey, if we can't send one of the students for a ride, let's design a live cargo transport!!! The word traveled around school that the science club was about to launch a capsule with a small mouse. On launch day, kids were skipping classes or at least hanging out of the classroom windows to witness science in action.

The rocket took off with a great blast and went about 500 yards into the fields beyond the school. The lowly sixth graders were assigned to capsule retrieval. They raced to search for the rocket. Shrieks of joy were heard upon finding the capsule then grimaces appeared on the young faces as the young sixth graders got closer. The thrust calculations had been overlooked. The fuselage had jammed into the cockpit. The mouse was crushed.

But that wasn't what I wanted to tell you.

What happened in the spring of 1963 will forever be etched in my scientific memory. The science projects had been turned in. This class surely would produce some great scientists and engineers.

Every manner of project appeared. One student had constructed a model of the human circulatory system. Another student had ingeniously demonstrated Newton's third law of motion with a heated water-filled can with outlet jets that spun on an overhead swivel. A kickball had been cut in half to form a plaster mold for a hemispheric, laboriously hand-painted model of the earth and all of its layers. My project was an incubator and a progressive developmental collection of chicken embryos. (Who'd have predicted I'd become a vegetarian?) An electro-magnetic device suspended brass rings when activated. Of course, there was no end to the plethora of phallic rockets.

Probably most impressive was a long light board that lit in a sequence. Eric Brubaker, the creator, stressed that the board was a representation of a sub-atomic particle nuclear fission reaction. Eric's assistant and devotee, Paul Trumbore, followed Eric's direction slavishly. Accompanying the light board was a 60 page report which Mr. Gido took to CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) to verify its contents. The professors at CMU were highly impressed. Eric went on to read math books like novels in his senior year and had completed all the requirements for a math and physics major in less than two years at Oberlin College after graduating from high school.

The science class filed in, the bell rang and students took their seats. In the back of the room was the science projects table and for some unexplained reason a 125 lb. barbell. Mr. Gido stepped to the front of the room and greeted everyone. "We have some great science projects we'll explore today, but first, before we get started, I thought we'd have a little fun. "

"How many of the young men in this class think you're pretty strong?" Hands went up quickly. "Anybody think they could press this 125lb barbell?" All of the hands went down except for Andy Devilling, who offered, "I think I could lift that. I've been lifting for football."

"OK, Devilling, step right up.", said Mr. Gido. Whereupon, Devilling proceeded to press the 125 lb. barbell above his head. It wasn't graceful, but Andy managed without too much effort and returned to his seat. "Pretty good, Devilling, but you weigh nearly 200 pounds. I want you to watch a small man, an ex-marine, who weighs only 135 lbs, press nearly his own weight. Are you ready?"

What could we say? No one asked for such a spectacle. Let the show begin. Mr. Gido positioned his hands carefully on the bar, then jerked it to his waist. Growling like a tiger he said, "and now all the way", at which point he thrust the barbell over his head and began to growl again. Suddenly his face morphed into panic, his hands shook and then "Whoa...Whoa". The barbell snapped out of his hands and fell backwards landing squarely on the science projects table!

The crash jolted everyone. The table collapsed. All of the students' (and parents') hard work was beyond resurrection. The class was stunned. Before the class could react, a knock was heard at the classroom door. Mr. Gido raced to cut-off any nebby faculty intruders before they could witness the disaster scene. He reassured the concerned teachers that there was no need to worry, just a table had fallen over. He instructed his fellow teachers to return to their classes.

Meanwhile, the students were stunned. They raced over to examine the damage. The human circulatory model had protruding veins and arteries. The Newton's Third Law of Motion project now showed the consequences of Newton's Law of Gravity. The earth's hemisphere was rendered into scattered plaster rubble. Rockets were bent at every angle.

It was tragic yet hilarious. The students could not contain their laughter. They returned to their seats just before Mr. Gido re-entered the classroom. To suppress their laughter, the students looked downward and were biting their cheeks. Mr. Gido shut the door. Everyone was silent not knowing what would happen next.

Mr. Gido was silent while pacing before the class. Suddenly, he turned and pointed. "All right, who laughed?". The class could no longer hold back. All molecules of self-control quickly dispersed. A few students were on the floor howling uncontrollably.

Such experimental methods might be considered reprehensible in the 21st century. However, Mr. Gido emerged from this time and eventually became an administrator for the Upper St. Clair school system. I shall always remember Mr. Gido with inner laughter and joy.

JOHN M. GIDO Obituary

Passed away on Friday, November 24, 2017. He was born on the family farm in Girard, Pennsylvania-Just west of Erie-on November 11, 1934. He played football in high school and after graduation attended Edinboro State Teachers College. There he wrestled, boxed in the Golden Gloves, and met his future bride, Patricia A. Woodhouse.

After college, he served with the US Marines in Japan and the Philippines. Upon returning from active duty, he married Patty Woodhouse in 1958 and began his career in public education as a middle school science teacher. After earning his master's degree from Duquesne University, he became an administrator in the Upper St. Clair School District, where he would work in various capacities for his entire career.

John and Patty had a son, Samuel P. Gido, in 1966, followed by a daughter, Jessica LeGrow (Gido) in 1971. John remained in the Marine Reserve, eventually rising to the rank of Major. He enjoyed playing golf and was an avid Steelers fan. He was also the announcer at Upper St. Clair Panther High School football games for over 50 years.

After retirement, he and Patty especially enjoyed traveling and they welcomed four grandchildren, Lily Gido, Kyle Gido, Jack LeGrow and Sammy LeGrow. After Patty passed away in 2008, John found companionship with Judy Salvatore, a longtime friend and colleague from the St. Clair Schools. Always a fitness enthusiast, John was walking and working out regularly, and was very healthy up until the onset of a brief illness over the last few months.

John is survived by his children and grandchildren, and a brother, George Gido, who still lives near the homestead where they grew up. Funeral arrangements by BEINHAUERS. Friends and family are welcome at 2828 Washington Rd., McMurray 724-941-3211 on Sunday 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday 1 p.m. in St. Benedict the Abbot Church. Interment to follow with full military honors in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, 2585 Washington Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15241.