Richard’s Almanac: Celebrating the Fourth of July with a bang



I made a point of attending the library fundraiser under the tent last Friday evening. What a treat!

It was billed as “Suds and Song” and featured folksinger Caroline Doctorow on guitar along with two other musicians. There were times when the audience could join in the singing.

Earlier in the rain-soaked day it did not look good for a picnic and outdoor songfest. However the tent was up. But the skies cleared so every one of the attendees could enjoy the open-air dining and socializing. Put on by the “Friends of the Library,” I would say there were some 75 people present.

There were ice cold clams on the half shell. Grilled items included hot and not-so-hot bangers. Numerous cold vegetable platters and dips completed the food offerings. And it could all be washed down with craft beer, prosecco and wine.

The tent will remain up for other events during the week.

Meanwhile, I must admit that I did not attend the fireworks display at Louis’ Beach on Saturday. I had been at the airport and did not get back on the Island until after they had started. So I was able to see them from the deck in the back of my house. But I do find it hard to get into the firework spirit after Independence Day.

Be that as it may, the sounds brought back memories from 60 years ago when as an 11-year-old growing up in the city, fireworks were hard to get. They were, after all, illegal in New York. But kids who had made car trips out of state with their families always managed to bring some back. They were against the law but “not that bad” seemed to be the attitude of most adults.

But if you were not lucky enough to have traveled to a fireworks-friendly state, you had to enter the underworld of fireworks dealing.

Friends and I learned of a candy store that was known to dispense firecrackers. It was a good bicycle ride away and they sold firecrackers for 25 cents per pack. There were 20 firecrackers in a pack. It was your typical urban candy store with a couple of phone booths, a jukebox, a counter with soda fountain, a few tables and chairs, a magazine rack and another counter where you could purchase items like stamps, cigarettes, batteries and candy.

After arriving at the store we whispered to the man behind the counter what we wanted. He took our quarters but did not give us the firecrackers. Instead, he said that he would meet us in his car the next day on a pre-arranged street corner in our neighborhood with the firecrackers.

I was not sure that it would happen and figured my 50 cents was gone forever. My friends and I waited on the agreed-upon corner and to our surprise a beat-up old Chevrolet pulled to the curb. The man from the candy store gave us a paper bag with our fireworks. We were very happy and ready for the Fourth of July.

What was more dangerous than dealing with the firecracker underworld was trying to make your own fireworks. I knew many a contemporary who lost a finger or an eye as a result of  homemade fireworks.