Did you know?

My brother was a 'mad scientist'

By Paul Viau | Jun 12, 2013
Photo by: File photo DON'T LET SMART KIDS BUG YOU — We need to encourage children and feed their thirst for knowledge.

As a public service, I’d like to warn citizens of Haywood County to BOLO — be on the lookout — There’s a new crazy Viau in town, turning up at local events. Don’t be beguiled by his keen wit, physical prowess or professorial manner. Don’t let the glare from his shaved head or unusual jewelry distract you. This man is my brother, Rob, who was once a mad scientist.

It all started when Rob was a young boy, keenly interested in chemistry. Right under our parents’ noses, he quietly amassed a collection of dangerous chemicals. And from his basement laboratory, conducted “experiments.”

Now this was a simpler time  — when any young boy could order hazardous materials and elaborate equipment by mail — no questions asked.

This was before the distraction of video games, at a time when television offered very little children’s programming — “Mr. Wizzard” was Rob's reality show. I preferred "Annette Watch" on "The Mickey Mouse Club."

So while most boys his age were forced outside to play childish games, my brother was down in the basement, firing up his Bunsen burner and seeing what trouble he could cook up in an Erlenmeyer flask.

Did you know? — Thanks to Rob, I am one of the only people in Haywood County who can tell the difference between a Florence and Erlenmeyer flask.

FYI — the long-necked, round-bottomed flask in the photo on this page is a Florence flask. It is designed for uniform heating and ease of swirling. It would be my choice for mixing — bourbon and water.

I thank my brother for helping me acquire this kind of useless knowledge. I also thank him for showing me the violent chemical reaction when pure Potassium is exposed to even the tiniest amount water and air. Let’s just say that it is Potassium puts the (K) in Kaboom.

If our parents only knew what "went on" in the basement.

Anyway, my brother, Rob, didn’t spend all of his time underground. He occasionally wandered outside, where he would “don gay apparel” and frolic through the neighborhood (La, La, La, La, La) butterfly net in hand, catching specimens for is collection.

He would then go back down into his basement laboratory and carefully drip a little carbon tetrachloride on each butterfly’s abdomen to preserve (kill) it.

I have to admit, that I often joined my brother in the pursuit of this hobby, as did our father. We had quite an impressive butterfly collection back then. Sadly, the only butterflies I have around the house these days are bandages.

By the way, another useless — Did you know? — Carbon tetrachloride is/was the chemical added to the colored wax inside Lava Lamps to stabilize the blobs and enhance and their mind-boggling ebb and flow.

Sadly, neither Rob nor I have Lava Lamps any longer, nor time to sit and stare at them.

Both of us, together with our wives, are busily involved in the community, and we are honored that Rob and his wife, Pam, have relocated to the area.

Thankfully, the only chemistry experiments Rob is doing these days produce finely crafted, homebrewed beer. Pam is also experimenting in the kitchen, turning out wonderful desserts.

You’ll find these new Viaus (pronounced Vee-Ohs) at MedWest Health and Fitness Center, Grace Episcopal Church, Panacea, Nick & Nate’s, and hiking throughout the Smoky Mountains — to name just a few of their favorite places.

And “Mad Scientist” aside, I speak for my wife and family, “We’re really glad they are here.”

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