Saturday, July 3, 2010
July 4th - my favorite holiday!
During The Great Depression, the only fireworks that were displayed were out in the middle of your own street. You didn’t dare ride your bike past a group of rowdy kids, because they would throw cherry bombs at the pavement and the sparks would fly up and burn your legs. There were some sparklers and roman candles….but no plastic made-to-order show in some remote stadium or TV spectacular from New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. In fact our big explosions were home made. Like everything else in those years when there was not enough money to feed and clothe us properly, much less to have extra left over to buy fireworks, we made do.
Pappy was a welder by trade, and he would take his blowtorch out to the back clothesline pole, stuff the pole with magic potions, place a tin can over the end that faced down into the gully wash behind the house, and light the torch.
Kids were lined up all around the back yard. Grandma and mom would stand near the entrance to the back screen porch with their hands over their ears waiting for the explosion. I was always the scaredy cat, cringing at their feet never understanding when the blast would go off.
Finally, the torch would come to flame. The scene was all set. It was dusky dark. Now he could do it.
“Hot pups,” he’d say as he reached up to the empty end of the pipe and touched the string attached to the explosive.
The tin can took off for outer space. It was a good thing that we lived on the last street of town. After the gully wash was a huge orange grove, and we could see the flaming torch can going through the sky and then down into the darkness of the trees.
The wonder is that he didn’t cause fires, or accidents in our own yard or to the many children waiting for his incendiary display.
I guess it was just many of the wonders that protected us during those lean years when he did crazy stunts to make us all laugh.
“Well, that’s over for another year,” Grandma said uncovering her ears and heading back into the house to stir the chili beans and make last preparations for dinner.
“That was my best work!” Pappy said coming back across the lawn trailed by all the neighborhood kids.
I guess it was. He’d made a lot of poor kids happy on the Fourth of July.
by Thelly Reahm © Tidbits of time, 1936