Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Diver Mike

Our project centers on finding objects in the welter and mess that are at once common and evocative. Girl's hair clips, toy soldiers, Superballs, toothbrushes and combs all speak of everyday use — things people touch. We could show the mess over and over again but the numbness to the problem only gets exacerbated. So, in our "curatorial" project we had a great surprise on Kehoe Beach, when Richard found a cereal box toy he'd had in the 50's. But, most likely not THE one. The 3” green plastic deep-sea diver holding an undersea welding torch was the prize from Kellogg's Corn Flakes circa 1954. There was a baking soda submarine to go with it.

You'd pack the pouch on the divers fin with baking soda and he'd zoom around the bathtub then sink as though he were on a mission. The imagined action was more fun than what he actually did, but the biggest thrill was to find him in pretty good shape on the beach fifty-some years later. Yes, indeed, the plastic is in question.

Today on eBay for 12-15 bucks you can buy the original guy along with the original patent application drawings still in the cellophane package. 


In the 50’s the underwater world was just opening up. Jacques Cousteau and Emilie Gagnan invented modern SCUBA with the introduction of the Aqua-Lung in 1943. This made it possible for Sylvia Earle to set the record for the deepest dive at 3200 feet and to have logged the most time underwater. No longer was a diver tethered to the surface with a huge metal diving helmet, dependant on some guy in a boat above pumping air down a hose.  


The TV show Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges made you want to go scuba diving. So we did. We are both certified divers enjoying the once inaccessible underwater world.


We call him “Diver Mike”, but he was also known as Scuba Duba and Diver Dan. Amazing how this reverie of information comes out of little speck of plastic picked out of the confusion of washed in debris. Diver Mike. 

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