Independence

Fireworks! What can go wrong??

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Growing up, Independence Day was a big day in Hinsdale. There was the parade. There were fireworks! I never got taken to those. Most importantly, there was the CARNIVAL! It came to town for 3-4 days, setting up in Robbins Park. This was the mid-1960s, when practically the only theme park was Disneyland. Sure, Santa’s Village and a few other amusement parks were around–basically stationary carnivals. They weren’t that close, or cheap, and parents didn’t really take kids to amusement parks back then–at least mine didn’t.

But once a year the amusement park came to us. Dad usually “closed up” the business for two weeks in July to take our vacation then. When I was little, it seemed he waited until after July 4th to start the camping trip, so we’d be home for the holiday. If I was lucky, he’d find some odd jobs for me to do to earn money for the rides–weeding between the bushes, cleaning up the clippings after trimming them, catching up his invoice filing. At 25 cents per ride, the dollar or so I made didn’t go very far. I learned to choose wisely!

One activity that was NEVER part of our celebration was setting off fireworks. Never. Ever. Did not happen. Not even sparklers, and they aren’t even fireworks! It was Dad’s rule, and there was no exception to be made. When I asked why not, he said when he was growing up, he knew kids who had lost an eye from fireworks accidents. Kids can be careless, plus he didn’t trust they were assembled correctly/safely in the first place. He wasn’t going to risk having that happen to us.

He never told us who these kids were (not that we would have known them!), but I don’t think he was making it up. If his only reason was that he didn’t think they were safe, he would have left it at that. He wouldn’t see the need to manufacture a story on top.

Fair enough. He had his reasons. I countered with, “You can set them off, and we’ll stay way back.”  It seemed a reasonable compromise. That wasn’t going to happen, either. Then he’d tell the story about the time Grandpa Haws (his dad) bought a roman candle to set off. I guess he didn’t let his kids get fireworks, either! Somehow they had convinced him it would be fine if he was in charge of it.

My dad & his siblings were thrilled! Until it got lit. Apparently the roman candle was packed incorrectly, and instead of going up, it went sideways, around the house, completely out of control, until it burned itself out. That sealed it for my dad. No fireworks.

Occasionally I’d revisit the sparklers option. “Come on, Dad, sparklers don’t go up in the air. Nothing can happen.”

“You wave them around, someone isn’t watching, and something bad happens. No.”

I gave up. I was not going to win that battle in this lifetime. I also recently learned from my mom that when they lived on Adams Street (before my time!), they walked my older siblings over to watch the Fourth of July fireworks at Robbins Park. Apparently one or more of those (supposedly professional?) fireworks misfired, landing on a neighboring house roof. Mom & Dad hustled everybody home, and that was that. I’m sure that after that, fireworks at Disney parks were the only ones Mom & Dad ever saw in person!

So, fast forward several years. It’s 1970 or 71. Dad increased the summer vacation to four weeks, and now we usually left before the 4th. My three oldest siblings were out of the house, and it’s just my brother Bill & me, and Pepper (our dog). And of course, Mom & Dad. We were headed to Colorado, towing our Fan travel trailer behind the car. We stopped for gas (the good old days, when a car pulling a trailer got 10 MPG!) and restrooms. At the corner of the station was a fireworks booth. We might have actually been in a state where they were even legal! Bill, over 18 at this point, walked over and purchased some. I don’t know how much he bought, or what the cost was. Dad saw him walking back from the booth, carrying something, and said, “That’s not coming in the car.”

“I don’t know if he’ll give me my money back.”

“You should have thought of that, before. It’s still not coming in the car. And we’re leaving soon. Take care of it.” No raised voice, no drama, just very matter-of-fact.

Bill had no choice but to go back to the guy, who I’m sure watched/heard the exchange. He wouldn’t refund Bill’s money, so Bill threw the fireworks out, and the vacation continued. Apparently we settled for fabric fireworks:

1970 Disneyland Bob Chris Bill
Bill & me in 1970, at Disneyland, on Teeter Totter Rock on Tom Sawyer Island. Pants that should never be forgotten! I’ve got my mom’s old Brownie camera around my neck. Bill has his camera in the camera case. The “yellow” thing in his hand must be a map of the island.

In case you’re wondering, no, my dad did not get more permissive with his grandchildren. They never had fireworks–or sparklers–around him, either! And yes, Bill gave me permission to tell this story–though the photo was a last minute inspiration. While I can’t tell you what Bill’s fireworks policy was with his own son, my kids were as deprived of fireworks as I was.

#52Ancestors

2 thoughts on “Independence”

  1. That’s a great story, but I’m sorry to hear you were so deprived. I’ve always loved fireworks shows. My parents didn’t care if we blew ourselves up, apparently. I had a pretty substantial firecracker blow up in my hand once. At first I thought I must be missing some fingers, but no harm was done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you survived that incident without damage! I’m probably old enough that I could take myself to a fireworks display, but inertia is a powerful force. So several Disney nights, a Cleveland Indians game, Mike’s grandmother’s 90th birthday at his Aunt’s farm, and Bellevue, Washington may have to suffice . . .

      Liked by 1 person

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