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A Very Happy Fourth of July to You!

I sold fireworks when I was 12 years old.

July 4 Alternate Reality Pauline Baird Jones Instagram

When I was 12 years old, I sold fireworks under the supervision of my older brothers. The stand (more like a wooden shed) from which we sold said fireworks, had been positioned on the property not far from my dad’s gas station. 

That’s right. Fireworks and a gas station. 

Nowadays OSHA would come down on you for doing that, but for us, it was an opportunity to earn enough money to buy a bicycle. I’d waited impatiently to be old enough to take my place as a sales gal. It was my first, paying (by someone other than the parents) job.

Note: I had, a couple of times, assisted that same brother with his ice cream truck job, but I received no pay (other than the occasional ice cream sandwich) for helping him out. In fact, at the time, he convinced me he was doing me a favor, by letting me help him without pay. 

Not the first, or the last, time he convinced me that what he wanted was in my best interests. He should have been a salesman, not a dentist.

So anyway, is it just me, or does it seem like the firework booms have gotten less loud? Oh, I know the shows are big, the rockets’ red glare and all that. I love them, too. 

We used to have our big show out at Lovell “lake.” Now that I’m big, I realize it is more the size of a pond, but seemed very lake-like when I was little. We thought it good fun to smear ourselves with possibly toxic insect repellant and head out to watch.

Now it seems like the firecrackers themselves are smaller. I suppose that makes them safer, but safe isn’t nearly as much fun. I used to love Black Cats. They made a nice bang and if you set off a string of them? Oh yeah.

Let’s see, we also sold cherry bombs and M80s. I liked the cherry bombs better, not sure why. The M80s would stay lit underwater.

And do you remember the snakes? They made such a mess!

No stroll down firework, memory lane would be complete without sparklers. Those little holes we burned in your clothes?

I can still remember my brother (yeah, same one) trying to launch a grasshopper using a bottle rocket. They probably shouldn’t have stood so close. It made it about face height and then detonated. The last revenge of the critter.

And of course, the fun couldn’t start without the punks! (Do you know what a punk is?) It always went out just when you needed it.

We used to give them out for free with a firework purchase. I haven’t bought fireworks for so long, I don’t know if that’s still the case.

Two memories of my time as a firework sales girl. 

“Carding” a twenty-one-year-old who wanted to buy some cherry bombs. I was as serious about it as you usually are at twelve. 

And then there was the evening that some drunks bought fountain fireworks and started shooting them at each other. Yeah, next to a fully loaded fireworks shed and a gas station. 

No cellphones then to call the police, but the guy running the station had a phone. I think this was my first look at an actual arrest.

I miss that feeling of wonder, of being young and excited about putting down my money in exchange for explosive things and having the freedom to set them off. I know my mom warned us of the dangers, but it didn’t really sink in.

The world might be safer, but I don’t think it is nearly as fun.

So, what about you? Have any Fourth of July stories to share? Miss the bad old days? Feel the need to give me a stern lecture? Cause it’s way too late for that. I managed to not blow myself — or anyone else — up, though yeah, some insects and fish didn’t make it.

Perilously yours,