Remembering the 4th of July, 1957


The whirling of the push mower blades sings their song of torment as I struggle to advance the heavy beast forward. I miss cutting the grass by two days; now, it’s akin to whacking my way through a South American jungle. I’m eight years old, and it’s the 4th of July, 1957.

Later this afternoon, friends and relatives will arrive for a backyard cookout and fireworks at dusk. There is a watermelon packed in an ice-filled tub. Cold beer and soft drinks fill another. Both tubs are sitting in the shade of our backyard Mimosa tree. My father’s beloved Leonard Brothers all-steel charcoal grill sits on the driveway, loaded with briquettes.  

Many of the relatives are on my father’s “shit list,” but being the nice fellow, he extends the invitation on this day and the Christmas holidays. They always come, and the reason for their banishment soon rears its ugly head. Beer gives them the strength to make a beautiful ass of themselves. I’m a kid and could care less. I want to play with dangerous fireworks and blow things up.

People arrive around four. A few cousins close to my age make the party tolerable. My tomboy cousin Ginger brings her bow and target arrows. She wastes no time shooting my cousin Jok in his left buttock. My father removes the arrow, and a band-aid dresses the wound. Kids were tough back then. A speeding bullet is the only thing that might stop us. We move on to firecrackers, cherry bombs, and sparklers.

Burgers are served along with “tater salad” and watermelon. Pearl beer gives my father’s uncle Orum the ability to talk like Will Rogers. His home-spun recounts of past family gatherings captivate the adults. Without the lubrication of beer, he is as humorless as a cardboard box. Cousin Ginger finds her bow and arrows and sends one through the bedroom window glass. She gets a well-deserved butt whooping. It’s not often I see a girl get a butt busting. She does the one-arm dance as her mother delivers the blows. Cool.

I destroy every ant mound in our alley with Black Cat firecrackers and send a tin can into the stratosphere with a Cherry Bomb. Cousin Jok sits a cherry bomb on top of the front tire of his older brother’s new MG convertible to test the velocity of the explosion. The firework blows an outward dent in the fender. Jok is a doomed kid when he gets home.

Darkness arrives, and we swirl sparklers in figure-eight patterns. Sticks of metal burning at 3,000 degrees. Kids holding a welding torch; what could go wrong?

Ten o’clock arrives, and I’m lying in bed after my bath. The soft whir of my bedroom swamp cooler lulls me into La La Land. The adults are still in the backyard. I hear their laughter and catch a few words of some dirty jokes.

Drowsiness comes; sleep is but a minute away; then I hear my mother singing God Bless America, and the others join in. It feels good to be a kid on the 4th of July.

9 Replies to “Remembering the 4th of July, 1957”

  1. Great memories! We used to pop manhole covers with M-80s slipped through the water drains in the curb. And, of course, we always put a cherry bomb in someone’s mailbox. Somehow, we all ended up becoming fine upstanding citizens!

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    1. I wasn’t present at the execution, but I do know from family gossip that his older brother Mike knew exactly what happened and roughed Jok up a bit, then his mother and father had a go at him. I had no idea a Cherry bomb could do such damage. I wasn’t allowed to buy them after that.

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      1. I’ve never seen a Cherry Bomb…I think they banned them before I had a right to buy fireworks. Those are the things people threw down toilets to blow up pipes.
        Cousin Jok didn’t have a good time

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      2. Yes they were. They should have been banned in the 50s. My parents let me play with them. I blew up an big-assed watermelon with one and destroyed my dads Colman Ice chest also. That one resulted in a butt whooping. Of course the cute little sparklers we all waved around burned at 3000 degrees, enough to weld with. Imagine an 8 year old with a welding torch.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think back and my sister and I would fire those damn roman candles at each other…big fireballs coming in at my head…it’s a wonder we weren’t blinded or badly burned.

        When you said butt whooping… it made me think of our son’s teachers in jr high…they asked me what was our secret becasue he was so well behaved…we said “spankings”…. Phil they looked at me like I was the devil… I told them…I would never beat my son but a spanking….oh yea.

        Liked by 1 person

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