Hello, My Name Is LOTGK And I Am A Pyromaniac….
The Fourth of July is dawning and I cannot wait. As an adult, I respect fireworks and the warning labels that come with them. But back in the day, the late 60’s and 70’s fireworks were something different. Sort of a rite of passage. We were lucky to live by a firework company and even luckier to have several brothers of the owner of that company that belonged to our “MOB.”
Fireworks were part of our neighborhood culture. Not just snakes, party poppers, snaps, and smoke balls, but missiles, rockets, firecrackers, roman candle, fountains, cones, wheels, and repeaters.
DISCLAIMER: Consumer fireworks should only be used as intended on each device’ label. Read the instructions and caution label on each item before using. Never let children use or handle fireworks. (You wouldn’t let your ten year old child drive you to the supermarket in your car) Always have a bucket of water or garden hose close by to put out any smoldering embers. Never, ever, hold fireworks in your hand, or put fireworks in your pockets, or aim fireworks at people, buildings, or any other object. Never throw fireworks. Make sure you have a wide open space to light your fireworks. Never between house or buildings, or under freaking bridges. Never put your head or any other part of your body over a firework device. To put it bluntly, use your common sense. Do not try what you are about to read at home.
One of our favorite games of the Daredevils club was called Roman Candles at ten paces. Each of us would take a ten ball roman candle, stand back to back, walk off ten paces, light the candle, turn and face each other, aim, and fire. Let me tell you, it hurts like hell when one of those volleys hit you. What a sound roman candles make when they whiz past your ears. Amazingly, none of us ever got hurt. And yes, we had pretty good aim.
Another favorite item was the Large Sound Colorful Birds. These were tiny fat tootsie roll type fireworks that when lit, would scream into the air at a very high velocity. To add extra excitement, we would go around to the back of the school yard where they had a 75% enclosed porch area and crowd ourselves in. The porch was only about 6X8 in size. We would then light the colorful birds and then drop them on the ground and watch and wait. The person who got hit was eliminated and he would light the next colorful bird. After two rounds, three colorful birds would go off at the same time as all three that were eliminated would toss in the birds at the same time. This process would continue until only two were left standing, or not on fire, whichever came first. Some would say we were brave lads, others would say we were idiots. I think the latter was correct.
One more story before I move to the annual street fireworks party.
One item we loved was the 16,000 string of firecrackers. Yes, I said 16,000. (Technically I wrote it) This item could be used two ways. It was packaged in a big round roll and if you opened the package and piled the entire string in a big mess and lit it, it would go off in very rapid succession making ear splitting noise and also causing a fire ball rivaling an atomic bomb. But the best usage was stringing the roll across the 5 lane highway Market Street. When the roll was stretched this far, it would last approximately 5 minutes. Of course it stopped traffic as cars stopped not wanting to cross the firecracker line.
This brings us to the annual July 4th block street party. Our fireworks show lasted for hours, from dusk till roughly midnight. The neighborhood kids would load up on the best fireworks available, the bigger the cakes the better and as soon as dusk fell, would begin our assault on the night sky. There were about a dozen of us scurrying back and forth from the curb grabbing the next cake repeater or fountain to light. We would always start out with the easy stuff. The #3 cones, (Fountains that looked like Indian teepee’s) bundles of jumping jack, (colorful noisy ground spinners that spun wildly all over the place) ground bloom flowers, (Larger ground spinners that changed colors and hummed as they spun) Fountains, (boxed devices that shoot out sparks 10-15 feet high that change colors, whistle, wail, and several other effects) and of course hundreds of packs of firecrackers constantly going off. The older people, the parents, would be waving morning glory sparklers around sitting on their lawn chairs observing the festivities.
The next phase would begin with repeaters, (Cake looking fireworks that shoot multiple times many different effects at one time) Garden in Spring, kaleidoscope, Frightened birds, and 48 shot pearls would begin the volley as each of us lit cake after cake. After the small cakes were shot, we moved to the medium ones. The 96 shot colorful pearl, the 100 shot Saturn battery, 36 shot happy fireworks, Soiree, Thunder bolts, Christmas fireworks, and large twitter glitter would reign in the sky. This is the point when we got serious and the crowd, which had gathered by now, began to chant their ouhhhs and ahhhs as cake after cake was lit.
We then changed up on the crowd and brought out the tube items. (Long usually single shot cylindrical fireworks with a base and standing approximately 1 foot high) Thunder and rainbow, skyracket, #100 floral, blinking Ionic clouds, stars and bombs, and of course the #200 floral midnite finale. (The largest shell allowed by class C law) and plenty of festival balls. (Relaodable shell where you dropped an onion looking firework with a long wick into the tube and lit it) These items were high flying with spectacular bursts in the sky that brought the crowd to a frenzy. They were now fully primed for the finale. And we were just the guys to give it to them.
The big guns came out. The Cannoli cakes. (Big round 90 shot powerful cakes) named Yellow cake, red celebrating, mountain flower, silver flower, silvery swallow, and the grand daddy of them all, the 90 shot blossom after thundering. We would line up one of each cake and light them in unison. Then as the crowd thought this was the finale, we would crack open several 16,000 strip rolls of firecrackers and let them roar and behind it light five or six of each big cannoli cake. The entire sky would be bursting, the street looking light daylight, and the crowd of people wildly cheering. Hundreds of people would have gathered by then with people who stopped their cars to watch. They would begin to beep their horns in admiration of our pyrotechnic prowess.
Our neighborhood ruled the skies on July 4th. No street or neighborhood could rival our effort or show. On the dawn of this Fourth of July, it brings back many memories of a very fond childhood. I have already purchased my fireworks and am awaiting ever so patiently with my son for the sun to go down to continue the tradition of celebrating the birth of our nation with fireworks bursting in the night sky.
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