Here's the painfully accurate story of the near disaster at [the house].
It was August, 1972 approaching your 6th birthday.
It was boiling hot.
We had closed on [the new house] but had arranged a month overlap with moving out of [the old house] to allow time for the kitchen to be remodeled. To save a few bucks (very few as it turned out), I volunteered to do the demolition work on the old kitchen and butler's pantry. This was a mistake in many ways.
One of the tasks was to remove the old gas stove. There was no shutoff valve at the stove. I had to shut off the gas in the basement. The gas meter and valve were at the southeast corner of the 30 X 40 foot basement. In the middle of the north wall were the stairs leading up to the kitchen. The electricity had been turned off and I hadn't arranged for it to be turned on in our name yet. Despite a small window in the east wall near the meter, it was pretty dark down there.
I took a pliers to the valve and with some effort it yielded and was turned 90 degrees to the off position.
I climbed the stairs to check the pilot light on the stove. It was still lit. I returned to the gas valve, turned it on and off again and climbed back up the stairs. The pilot light was still burning. I repeated this exercise two more times before deciding that the precise position of the valve must be critical to turning off the gas. The house was 62 years old and I think it was the original valve that came with the house when it was lit with gas lights.
I was sweating profusely. There had to be a better way. That's when I remembered the nipple for a Bunsen burner in the northwest corner of the room, 50 feet away. I opened that valve just a hair and lit the escaping gas. The flame was about 1 in length, easily visible through the gloom.
I then returned to the main valve and started wiggling it with the pliers. That's when it fell apart in my hand. The gas rushed out of the hole left behind by the valve with amazing force straight into my face. I remembered the tiny open flame across the room. I looked with panic when I saw a 5 foot long flame lapping at the joists in the basement ceiling. Let's see now--gas rushing out where I was and flame lashing out 50 feet away. No time to calculate how long I had to live. I somehow reassembled the valve in about .3 seconds. I turned off the little Bunsen burner flame and left, a shaken do it yourselfer. I went home and called the gas company. They came the next day and installed a new meter and valve.
Did you know that a house in [the adjacent town] a few blocks away was completely destroyed by a gas explosion a few years later?
That's the story in its entirety for posterity.
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