Pat's View: Fireworks memories
By Patrick Robinson
I have many memories of fireworks. You probably do too.
Since my birthday is in late June, it’s around that time that the local fireworks stands would go up (this is the last time for these by the way since new laws prevent the sale of fireworks).
My friends and I would crowd around the stands, marveling at the amazing packages of assorted fountains and on the makeshift shelves. Names like Pyromaniac! and Big Bang! and Absolute Power! were exciting and promised to be some of the funnest stuff a kid could do. Ultimately they didn’t live up to the promise since you’d usually have just one or two that were pretty cool, with most just 30 seconds of smoke and sparks… and even the occasional dud. There were sparklers, snakes (they always left a mark on the cement), and the most famous of all, firecrackers. In those days the range was from “ladyfingers” (which were tiny little red ones that barely did a thing), to Black Cats or Zebras which were the most versatile, to Cherry Bombs (later called M-80’s) that packed a real punch.
Since we were kids, mischief was part of the job description and every year we’d blow up spider’s nests, poke holes in the top of old green beans cans, put in the firecracker and put the device in a shallow bucket of water to create a homemade aerial display.. Whump! the can would fly about 10 feet in the air. Then there was the famous Piccolo Pete (sometimes called the Whistling Pete). This was meant to be a whistle on a stand but that was boring. My brother would buy 40 of them since they were cheap and immediately pop them off their little stands, then pinch them about an inch from the bottom with some pliers.
He got into Dad’s fishing stuff and got out the 30 test line, and strung it between the garage and a phone pole down the hill, some 120 yards away. We had some wire and he made two little hoops with hooks around what was now a miniature rocket engine. Suspended on this frail carriage he would carefully light the fuse and WHOOSH! the little rocket would slide down the line and just before the phone pole would CRACK! with a flash and self destruct. Safe? no. Fun? yes. But don’t try this at home.. please.
On a summer visit to Green River Gorge, another brother would light the Cherry Bombs (which had a waxed fuse) into the water after the fuse was lit. They would travel under the rocky outcroppings and the rock would shudder when they went off. Also not the best practice. Please don't do this. Fish deserve some peace.
We would hear about kids who were stupid and held firecrackers when they went off, or got burned by sparklers or started a fire. In fact it was pretty common, but news did not travel as fast in those days and so we lived largely in blissful ignorance.
As I got older my interest in fireworks waned and we’d go to see them in public displays or down at Three Tree Point where a barge, paid for by all the neighbors there would put on a private show. The show was the culmination of an elaborate neighborhood party in that area, with a local neighborhood parade, many cookouts and major bonfires on the beach.
But my own interest in lighting fireworks ended when my younger brother showed up one year with some bottle rockets. These are basically a tiny rocket on a stick, meant to be launched from an actual bottle. So we had one with a shorter stick. No matter I lit it anyway. Big mistake. It did not fly UP. Instead it took off and went sideways, into the neighborhood where it struck a young man in the cheek, nearly hitting his eye. In the end my father’s homeowner’s insurance covered his medical bills but it was something I regret to this day.
I’ve also seen fireworks start big fires, and now we hear frequently of people getting badly hurt. A few years ago driving through White Center we saw people shooting Roman Candles (burning globs of fire) at each other in the most stupid display of juvenile antics you can imagine.
So, do I miss fireworks? No. I appreciate the beauty of the big displays and the fun of the Fourth. But fireworks are not a public right, or requirement, or rite of passage or anything more than an accident looking for a place to happen. I’m glad we have collectively grown up.
How well I remember the "good ole days" of fireworks! Thank you for the memories. Yes, now I enjoy them in the big displays but not the backyard.