Fourth of July, 1948

This memory goes to the heart of what I am writing about. America as it was. Here’s the Fourth of July as my father remembers it:

Fourth of July was my number one favorite.  On that day we had fireworks, and my father would take me to Jumbo’s Store to get the fireworks a couple of days before the holiday.  Jumbo’s was owned by a man of Syrian decent who had a big goiter on his neck.  It made him look grotesque, and we kids were afraid of him.  He was a friend of my father, and I was not scared of him when I was with my father.  The fruit store he ran was very dirty, and my mother told my father not to buy any fruit from him.  He only had fireworks on the Fourth of July, and it seemed like the whole store was filled with them at that time.  My father would buy me penny rockets, one inch, two inches and cherry bombs.  Later on when I had money I earned, I had to buy my own.  All of my friends had fireworks, and we would spend the day before the fourth and the Fourth of July setting them off.  Cherry Bombs were my favorite, because you didn’t have to light them, but could set them off by throwing them at a hard surface. They made a lot of noise, and we would throw them at each others feet.  Two inchers were also my favorites, and you could throw them if you didn’t hold them too long after you lit them.  Every so often, there was a newspaper article about some kid who blew his fingers off, or burned his hand playing with them.  The penny skyrockets were also fun.  We put them in an empty milk bottle and they would soar up in the air after they were lit.  I remember setting some penny rockets off in the street in front of my house once, and it landed on the roof of a house across the street, while it was still burning.  I stood watching it, hoping and praying it would go out before it set the house on fire.  Luckily it did.  There was also a parade on the Fourth of July, and most of the town population would go downtown to see it.  I always went to the front of City Hall to watch it.  People would wave flags, and kids would set off fireworks.  It was a happy time. In 1948 or 1949 the state banned fireworks because they said too many children were getting hurt by them.  It ruined the Fourth of July for me. 

The United States is the only country with a known birthday.
–James G. Blaine


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