Fireworks and Fourth of July were synonymous when
I was a kid. Laws that prevented them from being sold or used were unheard
We saved our nickels and dimes for weeks to
finance an arsenal of sky rockets, Roman candles, tiny red lady fingers,
whirligigs, snakes and sparklers. Few of us ever saved enough to buy a big
box of assorted fireworks, but a dad who wanted to relive his childhood
usually could be persuaded to finance such a purchase.
We developed all kinds of tricks to increase
the noise of lady fingers. Tying several together and using a punk to light
them all at once resulted in a continuous rata-tat-tat as each one ignited.
The same little firecracker could produce an earsplitting bang when it was
thrust under a tin can after it was lit. Unless the dogs cowered and whined
in terror, we thought we weren’t generating enough noise for a proper
We were warned by our parents year after
year, but we still scorched our fingers when we held lighted firecrackers
too long before tossing them into the air. We’d singe our hair when we got
too close to the match as we lit the punk used to ignite the fireworks. And
our ear drums would throb from the racket, but no amount of pain and
suffering could bring about a cease fire from early morning to dark on the
Bedtimes were ignored since Roman candles,
sky rockets, fountains, whirligigs and sparklers could be enjoyed only after
dark. We became spectators as adults took charge of lighting any fireworks
which whooshed into the air and might be fickle unless properly handled.
The Fourth of July was a time of camaraderie. During the day kids ganged
together, trying to outdo each other in the amount of noise created. At
night friends and neighbors gathered and pooled their fireworks for longer
and more brilliant displays of cascading flares, star-like sparklers and
Everyone was hungry by the time the evening
celebrations began. Picnic suppers of fried chicken and potato salad were
polished off quickly followed by homemade ice cream, luscious cakes, pies
and cookies plus watermelon.
My family followed a tradition which dated
back to my mother’s childhood. Neighbors gathered for a multi-generation
celebration, including grandparents, parents and children. Several men were
designated to be in charge of the fireworks after dark. The rest of the
group was seated on lawn chairs and blankets well away from them.
Children could have sparklers, but only in a
certain area with an adult to light them. This cautious routine had begun
years before after a match had been accidentally dropped into a large pile
of fireworks. Dozens of Roman candles and sky rockets ignited, scudding
along the ground in all directions with children and adults dodging and
scurrying to keep from being hit. There were no serious injuries or damage,
but care was taken to avoid a recurrence of the frightening experience.
Have a happy Fourth of July.