Despite the suspicion, it was never talked about much because in those days we all did what we were told and believed "they" were right,----or at least most of us did. Control of the student body was never an issue then. Compliance was high, for at least those of us who were afraid that we wouldn't succeed.
Saltpetre was , less a mythological thing and a more reality product when I was in grade eight in the 40's when my friends and I made gunpowder in our town of Kindersley. We mixed saltpetre, ground charcoal, and flowers of sulfur in equal proportion until the color was a dark and dirty green. I can still see in my mind"s eye vividly, the color of our recipe. Little boys blowing up things in the Kindersley town dump. As I think of it now, what was the druggist, as he was known then, thinking of, to supply us with those ingredients? In some ways it must have been a much freer time and less supervision. How we all avoided blowing ourselves up I don't know.
Growing up, however, we learned to knuckle under for our own good, or at least it seemed for our own good.