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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Growing Up in Sacramento and the 4th of July

The Fourth of July always brings me back to my days as a kid growing up in Sacramento.  By July the weather would be hot, scorching hot, and the smell of ripe fruit would be in the air.  The 4th should be hot, that’s all there is to it.

The fourth also meant fireworks and Sacramento had more Red Devil stands then than there are Starbucks today, and that’s saying a lot.  Walking across the hot parking lot pavement to the stand I could get a faint hint of gunpowder in the air, a scent lovelier than a candy store to this kid with money his pocket.  Standing on my tip toes I peeked beyond the screen, past the “No Smoking” signs and into a world of glory and excitement.

Vintage Red Devil fireworks flyer
Sparklers, fountains, and the holy grail, the “49’r” combination box.  The 49’r was $49 and included just about everything a kid could dream of, including the triple canister fountains that would spray sparks of red, white and blue.  But that was far out of my price range so I carefully picked the best value for my small change and that meant Piccolo Petes.

A Piccolo Pete cost a quarter and it screamed a blood curdling high pitched wail with some sparks coming off the top but would end in a highly anti-climatic “poof”.  It was my cousin Brandon, who at the time seemed like the kind of kid that perhaps you shouldn't hang out with, who showed me a trick to get even more fun out of a Pete.  Using pliers he crimped the bottom of the tube.  I watched him carefully to learn from the great master.  He lit the fuse and the Piccolo Pete wailed like before but when it got to the end it blew up!  The wooden stand splintered and shot like shrapnel across the driveway.  It was unbelievable but cousin Brandon found a way to make a Piccolo Pete even better!

Today I live near the coast and it’s cool and overcast and I feel somehow cheated.  Fireworks are illegal in my town and with the kids all grown I didn’t make the annual drive to the desert to pick up some sparklers for the backyard.  The 4th without fireworks and 100 degree weather is like
Christmas without presents.

How I long for a Sacramento Summer day.


Anonymous said...

I too know the longing for the 49'r, but I never picked one up. Although they are still available at the stands, they're just not the same. The closest we ever came was the Colorama assortment. I still make it back to Sacramento most ever 4th. The 4th of July needs hot summer weather. Period.

Mark Anto said...
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Mark Anto said...

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