The Kids in Aberdeen, Idaho, Are All Wrapped Up in Their Giant Muffler—It's a Mile and a Quarter Long!

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Tiny Aberdeen, Idaho (pop. 1,528), is a tight-knit community, even more so since last April, when teacher Craig Wampler read his fourth-graders a story. In Ernie & the Mile-Long Muffler, a little boy with chicken pox is taught to knit by his uncle, a retired sailor. Ernie and his pals attempt to knit the world's longest muffler but give up after just 314 feet. Wampler's students decided they would try to deliver what Ernie and his fictional friends had promised. The outcome is a triumphal 6,324-foot muffler, knitted by 402 pupils at Aberdeen Elementary and Junior High School.

"I told them it would be a lot of work and might take more than a year," says Wampler, 30. "We were originally going to try to make it ourselves, but with only 28 students, each would have to make hundreds of mufflers. I went to the principal and asked if we could get the whole school involved."

Soon the project had expanded to include elementary and junior high students as well. "At first I was worried that I'd look like a sissy," says Tony Parsons, 10. "But when all my friends started doing it, I thought I'd better learn too. So far, I've made nearly 24 pieces for the muffler, and I'm making an afghan for my bed too."

Knitting during and after school and on weekends, it took most students a couple of days to complete a 4-foot by 6-inch muffler section. Unable to muffle his enthusiasm, Cliff Thelin, 12, turned out a 30-footer. Even teachers and other school staff got involved. Librarian Bonnie Oldfield, 39, made 78 mufflers. "I wanted to be involved because all the kids were involved," she says. "It teaches them to work together." The 1,529 separate pieces were sewn together by second-grade teacher Ed McClure, 40. The children have knitted and crocheted in every color combination imaginable. Some are wider at one end than at the other; a few have crooked lines. Several have slogans; one has the school's tiger mascot.

On Dec. 2 the weekly measurement determined that the muffler was more than a mile long. In fact it was closer to a mile and a quarter, but the kid knitters were not ready to call it quits. They will keep their needles clicking until next April, when the children plan to parade the wild and woolly piece of neckwear around town. Then they will divide it into normal-size mufflers for distribution to the needy.

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