Jul 3, 2008

My Dad, the Pyro . . .


My dad loved the 4th of July.

He's been gone for 7 years now, but every time Independence Day rolls around I can't help but think of him and his love of fireworks.

If Pyrotechnicians are experts in creating special effects using fire and smoke, my dad was an expert at almost killing us, setting the neighborhood on fire, causing at least one child to go deaf with the noise of 10 Piccolo Pete's going off at once, and giving my mother a heart attack when he lit firecrackers from a hibachi stove and a punk that he kept lit and balanced on his ear like a pencil. Despite all that, as kids, we loved every minute of it, and looked forward to that day every summer.

Weeks before the 4th, my dad would begin collecting and restructuring boxes and boxes of fireworks that he purchased from the local fireworks stand in the shopping center across the street from our house. He made at least 3 or 4 trips to different stands buying the fireworks he loved, mostly, Roman Candles and Fountains and those screaming Piccolo Pete's.

He would bring them home and take them to the garage where he had a workshop set up. Nightly, he would take apart the Piccolo Pete's and put them back together so they became what I liked to call "Agonized Piccolo Pete's." The screaming whistle sound went on forever and a day after my dad got done with them. He also liked to light more than one at a time so it sounded like a Piccolo Symphony. All of us kids would cover our ears and scream right along with them. My mother would scream for him to stop because her ears were bleeding. My dad would be completely deaf by this point and too busy shoving his punk in the coals of the hibachi and lighting the next firecracker to notice while taking a sip of beer to quench his dry throat from all the smoke.

He squeezed every last sparkle and fire and smoke out of every firework he bought. Our fountains were spectacular, our Roman candles were fantastic, the smoke bombs could have cleared an entire city and even our sparklers seemed to last forever. We could have used them as sparkling shish-kabobs and cooked shrimp or chicken on them, they lasted so long.

In order to make the fountains more glorious my dad placed them on top of a wooden ladder. They didn't make steel ladders when I was a kid. To be safe, my dad had a bucket of water next to the ladder and the garden hose manned by the neighborhood boy at the ready. He would nail as many Ground Spinners as would fit to the sides of the ladder rungs and light them all at once. They spun so fast that one or two would fly off the ladder and spin and bounce down the street as my dad did his own hop and skip to avoid catching his shoes on fire. We loved when that happened.

We also liked lighting the "Cabin on Fire" and hitting "Poppers" with our dad's hammer or a rock, and lighting those carbon "Snakes" on fire on the sidewalk. My dad made us take all that stuff over to the neighbor's house because he considered those the sissy fireworks. I think he also didn't want to ruin his driveway with all the black charcoal marks they left behind. I find it hard to believe that our parents had no problem letting us take a book of matches outside to light anything on fire.

I remember the neighbors setting up their lawn chairs in anticipation of "Dick's Fireworks Extravaganza" and my father complaining that he should charge admission for the free show. Secretly he loved the attention he got and all the, oohing and ahhing, accompanied by thunderous clapping. The show lasted a long time and when the last of the fireworks had been lit and the last sparkler went out we all proclaimed that particular year to be the best fireworks display ever.

So, Happy 4th, Dad . . . wherever you may be, and thanks.
photo courtesy of : Flicker and olvwu 莫方's favorites

6 comments:

Kendrawolf said...

Great memories!

Jane @ Kidzarama said...

What a lovely memorial to your dad.

I have similar (but less flammable) memories of fireworks nights with my dad. :)

Sadly, fireworks nights are a thing of the past here. Only professionals are allowed to use them now.
I wonder why? ;)

Kat said...

Maybe our dads are smiling down on us together :-) Mine loved all the fireworks stuff. And it's illegal here...so he relished stocking up on our way to and from Florida each year. We had everyone in the neighborhood come over to see his loud pyrotechnic display.

What a great tribute to your dad :-)

lynnqweeny said...

My favorite was the errant pinwheel that would fly off the ladder and just WHIZZZZZ ❃❃❃❃❃❃ down the street. I swear one made it past the Joneses..four houses down! That had to be a personal best for Dad!

Thanks for the memories, 'lil sis.

Anonymous said...

My all time favorite 4th of July Fireworks Night by Dad was the first year we moved into the Anaheim Hills house. As before dad purchased a trunk full of fireworks from The Red Devil Fireworks Stand (He would not buy from any other). Dad also started his alterations in the garage with a tall Coors beer in one hand and a lit Terri ton 100 cigarette in his mouth (this is how he did all projects). The big night all the neighbors watched dad bring out his stockpile of fireworks along with the war-torn wooden-a-frame ladder. Out came the garden hose and the bucket of water. The yard chairs came out along with an ice chest of Tall Coors (because the 20 foot walk to the kitchen was so far).
Hi started off small but gradually got to the good stuff. All the neighbors were impressed until the famous Dick Anderson’s Pinwheels on a Frame Ladder. As the items went off the neighbor’s look of awe turned to fright as one of the pinwheels flew off and went under the neighbor’s car. It spun for hours, as the neighbors grabbed there kids and ran for cover. Dad and the rest of us just watched. We been there before and knew it was not going to blow up the car. Dad drank his beer and we all laughed at the frightened neighbors. The next day our street looked like it had been through a war and all the neighbors looked at us very differently from then on.
Happy 4th Dad.
Love MIA Brother

Romi said...

Everybody who posted today,
I'm glad my memories brought back memories of your own:-)

Happy 4th of July!