In the midst of stories last week about fired FBI directors and government budget impasses, it was a little story about the discovery of a World War II hand grenade that, ahem — exploded locally.
The story hit last Monday, when members of the media learned a gardener had unearthed a "pineapple-style … grenade that appeared to be active," Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin said at the time.
The pin was still in it, Sherwin said, prompting a call to the St. Paul Bomb Squad, which drove to 803 Eighth St. SW, where the grenade was found, looking "like it had been in the ground for a very long time," Sherwin said.
But something else about the story caught the eye of a reader, Kerry (Sheedy) Todd.
Hadn't her friend, Cathy Bunch, lived at 803 Eighth St. SW when they were kids?
She contacted Catherine — now Catherine Daniels — who confirmed it.
It made her laugh, Daniels said, "and I immediately called my dad, which set off a great deal of reminiscing."
She texted her brothers, John and Chris, who she remembered playing with it "all the time," she said.
"My grandfather gave that hand grenade to my brothers, who were about 8 and 13 at the time," Daniels said in a note to the Post Bulletin.
"The hand grenade, in a way, symbolizes a great deal about our childhood," she said. "This 75-year-old remnant from World War II has brought back memories of the freedom we had at the Spanish Colonial house on Eighth Street, and represents the crazy and wonderful times spent with my brothers.
"We three children followed (their grandfather) into his bedroom and as he brought out the grenade from the back of the closet, he explained to us what this pineapple-shaped object was used for," Daniels wrote. "He told us it was a 'bum' weapon, but that still we shouldn't take the pin out. He explained further how to use this weapon ... He really didn't talk much about the war to us, but I imagine now that the grenade perhaps brought to mind difficult memories, and maybe he was happy to give it up. I'll never know. We were young, and thought it was cool."
"Oh, we all remember it," said Chris Bunch, though he was surprised Daniels did.
"I figured she wouldn't remember that grenade, because I don't think, as a girl, she played with it that much, but my brother and I loved that thing," he said.
The Bunch family moved to the home on Eighth Avenue in 1974, when Chris Bunch was 3. His father was a doctor at Mayo Clinic.
Their mother's father was in the service in World War II, Daniels said, "and carried the hand grenade all the way back from Europe."
"Nobody knows what he did," Bunch said. "I don't know what he did. (His name) was as German as you could get, so you wonder what role he played. I guess you just have to speculate, because we just don't know."
He had "other paraphernalia," Bunch said, "just sort of standard Nazi patches from uniforms that he somehow got a hold of through the military. He had a box of that stuff and he had this grenade — I always remember it as a 'practice' grenade that was never loaded. It was empty, hollow.
"You could pull the pin," then put it back through, bend the ends "and pull it again," he said. "It was never a live grenade — it if was the same one they found."
Not unlike many other little boys in the 1970s and '80s, the Bunch boys played war, Chris said.
"Back in the '70s, we were free-range kids," he said, and the grenade provided its share of adventures.
"We'd put firecrackers in it and light them, and pretend like it was exploding," Bunch said, "and of course it wouldn't do anything to the grenade.
"I don't remember losing it, but it was just gone one day. It probably got thrown into the hedge" and was forgotten, he said. "I can still picture it in my head, exactly."
Now 46 and a vascular surgeon in Duluth, Bunch feels bad "that people had to go out of their way to make sure this thing was safe, but I was a kid, and I guess those things happen."
The more he talked about the toy-turned-newsmaker, the more memories he recalled.
"I'm just remembering now, we used to go to Wabasha all the time, and we'd go to the sand dunes on the Mississippi, and I'm pretty sure we used to play with it out there," Bunch said. "We'd dig pits in the sand dunes and pretend like we were hunkered into a foxhole, and throw it in … I totally remember that now."
The stories are a reminder of a happy childhood, he said.
"That's probably why we both replied," said Bunch, who sent an email of his own to the Post Bulletin.
"That house was so amazing to grow up in. There was a lot of hedge around it ... and it was just a great neighborhood and a great property to grow up on as a kid. It's fun to remember all that," he said.
"I hope the current owners weren't too frightened to find a weapon in the yard," she said, "but I have to admit, I'm glad the gardener found it, as our family has been rewarded with a flood of memories."