An article in the Robinson Argus "I Remember When" series by Don Catt.

Boom! Boom! Boom! The rockets streaked upward into the evening sky before exploding into a dazzling array of designs and colors over the city park. Each year brings some new rockets that explode in different patterns. And colors -- seems like the colors used to be red and white, but now they come in a vast assortment of hues, many ever changing color as they start their plunge earthward. The last few years has shown an increase in the use of blue tints -- maybe blue was a hard color to reproduce. The colors are made by mixing metal chips in the powder when they pack the shell. Each kind of metal produces a different color when it burns, so they can make different colors in the same shell by mixing various metal chips. Aside from being able to produce more colors, fireworks are mostly still packed by hand much the same as they have been for the last several hundred years. In China, fireworks have been around for a long, long time.

I wanted to find out how fireworks became associated with Independence Day, but I didn't. Until someone tells me differently, I'm going to assume they are symbolic of the shells, rockets, bombs and gunfire that went with winning the independence we celebrate on July 4th.

I watched as several thousand dollars worth of fireworks were set off in less than an hour. I thought they were nice and was glad they fired them so quickly. I think they are prettier when they fire two or three or a dozen at the same time. The last couple of years, usually at the beginning and maybe at the end, they fire a whole bunch of fireworks as fast as they can. The sky lights up with colorful exploding rockets and the crowd loves it. Sometimes I think if it is possible, I'd like to see them fire the whole bunch of them that way. It would only last about ten minutes, but while it lasted, wouldn't it be beautiful?

Considered by most people as the most important national holiday in the United States is Independence Day, July 4, which celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It has always been a day for parades, patriotic speeches and for every variety of noisy celebration. In fact, the firing of cannon and fireworks caused so many injuries that by the early 1900s, many cities passed ordinances forbidding private fireworks.

When I was a kid, money was the only problem with fireworks. We could buy Roman candles, rockets, sparklers, and various sizes and types of firecrackers. I was lucky if I had enough money to buy some of the little firecrackers, but I shouldn't complain, we had lots of fun with them. If I'd had some of the big firecrackers or rockets, with my luck I'd probably wound up blowing a finger off or something. It's better the way it is now because we used to hear of several kids getting hurt with fireworks. I rarely hear of a professional getting hurt handling those big rockets.

Around the edge of the park, some people were shooting those little firecrackers which came in a pack of about twenty. They lit the first one and then one after another explodes -- Bang -- Bang -- Bang, until they have all burned, maybe in a half a minute. I watched and my mind went back to a much different time in my life. Each package of those little firecrackers cost about five cents when I was young. By saving all my pennies, or by selling blackberries at ten or fifteen cents a gallon, I could usually buy three or four packages. Since that would have to last all day, naturally we wouldn't think of lighting the whole bunch at one time! The fuses of the individual firecrackers were braided together so that each one would light the next. We carefully unbraided the fuses so that we could shoot each one by itself. By shooting only one at a time, and not too often, sometimes we could make them last most of the day.

We usually started out holding them in our fingers while we lit the fuse, then tossing them away before they exploded. We were careful with them although they probably wouldn't have blown our fingers off, I'm guessing they would have burned like the dickens.

Well, that got boring after a while, so we looked for something else. I believe we had the most fun by putting them under a tin can with the fuse sticking out. Sometimes the can would fly fifteen or twenty feet up in the air! It was hard to believe such a little firecracker could generate enough force to blow the cans that high. Although they were small, seeing what they did to those cans gave us a healthy respect for all firecrackers.