A magnifying glass provided as much enjoyment to children of the Baby Boomer generation (Yes, I’m one) as expensive toys. The following photo was taken at my birthday party in 1957.

It’s hard to spot, but the little boy  is holding our large magnifying glass to his eye. He was a party  guest and neighbour, Bunny Ralph.   I can’t tell you the entertainment that glass gave me and my siblings (and Bunny); from examining insects and flowers to burning holes in sheets of paper by concentrating the rays of the sun. (more of this later 😨)

Using a magnifying glass to burn a hole in paper using the sun's rays.




The next, rather sweet magnifying glass in my life (see below) was a joke gift from my sister when I turned 50. It was a cheeky suggestion that my aging eyes might need a bit of help. To add insult to injury, she’s older than me. Anyway, I’m in my seventies now, and a gadget that helps me see better is  a real boon.  Here I am  using the glass  to check whether seeds I planted in a stone wall have gerninated.




OK, back to those sun’s rays.


Magnifying glass trick.



Ah yes, such innocent fun. But of course someone always has to go too far. Back in the 1930s,  Paddington’s Elizabeth Street  was the scene of a disaster after a youngster ‘amused himself’ on the way to school.

An explosion of crackers in a shop at Paddington today caused a fire which did extensive damage. The occupant of a shop barely escaped with his life …..Police say that the explosion occurred when a 10 year old schoolboy ‘just for fun’ directed the sun rays through a magnifying glass onto the crackers in the shop window.  (Recorder, Jan 13 1938).

Good grief! The fireworks went off at 7. 30 am,  while shop owner, Percy Walters was still in bed. He lost his stock of crackers, his  library of 300 books and an extensive collection of stamps.   The adjoining mixed business also  caught fire. Mr Walters warned  the owners, Mr and Mrs Atholl Woods,  who escaped into the street.  Meanwhile Walters re-entered his premises  with buckets of water, but was trapped by flames. He had to clamber over a ten foot rear wall to save himself.  Safely outside,  Mrs Woods remembered her pets  and ran back  to collect them, despite burning her arm. Sadly,  the canary had expired from the smoke and the  poor  cat was barely conscious.

Did they catch that naughty boy? I suppose they must have done if they knew how old he was.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph published the following article in 1945. It’s a reminder of how accepted smoking was, even in hospitals. Overcast and rainy days must have been disappointing!


Mention of pipes and magnifying glasses brings to mind that most famous of detectives.


In conclusion, here is an old joke. A young fellow asked his rather stingy father if he could have the money to go and see a giant serpent on display. The response was, ‘Oh for heaven’s sake Son, I’m not wasting a shilling on that. Here’s a magnifying glass…go and look at a worm!  😨



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