Happy Birthday, America!

You’re looking good, at 243! Actually, they say that 243 is the new 220.

Oh, you’re not perfect. Then again, who is? I, for one, am going to use July 4th as a reminder of what a great country I live in. One that was founded on freedom and that allows and encourages us to complain about you the other 364 days of the year.

These days, the 4th of July means going back up to my adopted hometown of Bothell, where I get to do the play-by-play of the city’s Freedom Festival Parade for the city cable TV channel. Then, we head over to Mike & Annette’s house for the traditional after-party. Before dark, we’ll be home to protect the home from errant bottle rockets and attempt to calm the pets.

That’s how I celebrate these days. I’d like to take you back with me to my earlier celebrations.

I remember those days of growing up on 226th street and the anticipation of going to the fireworks stand with my family to pick out this year’s assortment. Would we go to one of the much advertised Red Devil fireworks stands, or that new brand, Black Panther?

The kids, bouncing around like we’d eaten a box of sugar cubes, would point at the giant assortment, knowing that dad would pay that much. Most years we did the $14.99 family fun pack, but it seems to me there were at least a couple of years where we went big and got the $19.99 value pack.

Each assortment came in a box wrapped in cellophane that had to be ripped off so you could see and handle all the contents. There were those fountains that you’d light and then watch as a shower of sparks would burst out for 10-seconds or so. Those had to be saved for the night of the 4th for the full effect.

There was the Log Cabin, a cardboard box made out to look like a log cabin that you’d light and smoke would come out the chimney for a few seconds. Wow.

Of course, each box came with at least one Piccolo Pete. A firework that basically whistled loudly for 12.57-seconds and….that was it. Over the years, as we got older, we learned that if you clamped down on the second P, it would whistle for a while and then explode. We were such rebels.

Pinwheels eventually made their way into the packs. There were smokeballs that you’d light and watch them smoke for a few seconds. Oh, and those snakes. You’d light a match, hold it on that little black tablet and ash snakes would pour out of them along with the delightful smell of sulfur.

And of course, there were sparklers. Another treat reserved just for the night time celebration, out on our driveway, where dad made sure that a bucket of water was standing by for us to toss our burned ones into. We were very neat celebrants.

In California, sunsets are pretty consistent throughout the year. So, we’d do the family fireworks in the driveway around 7 or whenever we’d convince our parents it was dark enough. Then, we’d all pile in the car and drive over to some hill in Redondo Beach to watch their big fireworks celebration over the ocean.

I’ve opened up this little time capsule as a reminder that on the 4th of July, you can immerse yourself in all the good of the holiday and go a little red, white and blue.  There are some who would argue that there’s no way they could celebrate because of everything going on—-the threats of nuclear war, racial inequality, people being locked up for the color of their skin, GMO’s, Global Warming, whales washing up on the beaches, etc.  That’s true, if you want to surround yourself with all that’s wrong in the world.

Thankfully, my parents chose not to do that back in the 1960s. Our home wasn’t filled with the daily news diet of everything that’s wrong and believe me, we had plenty surrounding us. Assassinations, war protests, race riots, a war raging on in Southeast Asia and so on.

It’s good to be aware of your surroundings and taking steps to make this a better place, but to make your day-to-day existence all about the problems of the world–that’s going to make for a long and miserable life.

And you only get one.

My advice–go to one of those remaining “Safe and Sane” fireworks stands and buy a box of snakes. Sit down on the curb and light a few of them. Watch as they amazingly come to life and then, blow away with the wind. For a brief moment, you’ll be a kid again and happy to be alive on another 4th of July.

Oh and one more thing. One of our family traditions growing up was going to the fireworks stand, getting that assortment pack, climbing back into the car and hearing dad say that phrase he’d say every year. Decades later, I would call him up on the phone and ask him to repeat those words on my radio show.

To hear my dad’s famous phrase, click here.

Happy birthday, America.

Tim Hunter

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