posted by Joe Anaya on July 7th, 2014

In a rare twist, I will be playing the part of Matt W. and complain about how 4th of July was better when I was a kid. Specifically, I’m talking about the lameness of “safe & sane” fireworks. There was little that compared to the excitement of being a kid and going to get fireworks for the front yard pyrotechnics show.

When we were little, we went to the local hardware store and in the parking lot was a kiosk of things that went boom or gave off pretty lights.

After the size of the box of goodies was negotiated with my dad, (he didn’t want to spend a fortune, we just wanted as much as we could squeeze out of the poor guy), my mom would divvy up the items for fairness. Then my sister would quickly swindle me out of my few sparklers for her pile of snakes.

Do you remember the weird pellets which when lit would turn into a long cord of ash? Like a snake. Snakes were the worst firework in the box. But they were all mine and I’d just sit there and watch them grow. Sometimes being crazy and stacking two or even three on top of each other.

Second worst in the box was the “Smokey Joe.” This was basically a cardboard picture of a hobo with a small hole for his mouth. You light a tube, stick it in the poor hobo’s mouth, and watch him smoke then eventually catch on fire. I’m not sure what kids were supposed to think of that, maybe it was an anti-smoking toy.

Waving sparklers around (which my mom made my sister give back) trying to spell my name was always fun. Then came out the cones that showered colors of light. These were the ones only my dad got to light because they were potentially dangerous, which made them even more cool.

Being a teenager in Washington state, as the “safe and sane” laws started creeping in, we had to go to the Indian reservation to get the “good stuff.” Because they followed the laws of a separate nation, we could buy roman candles, bottle rockets and cherry bombs. By the time I was a college student in San Francisco, I could only get firecrackers in Chinatown.

Yes, as teenage boys and young men, we were stupid and shot bottle rockets and roman candles at each other. We also flung lit firecrackers at each other, but nobody got hurt. Well, okay, not seriously hurt. But now with “safe and sane” the unofficial motto of Independence Day, I don’t think it’s legal to make a Wint-o-green Lifesaver spark. There is a direct opposite relationship between safety and fun. The danger was what made 4th of July fun, a lot more fun that now-a-days.



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