The Fourth of July just wouldn’t be the same without fireworks, and there was no shortage on Long Island in the 1970s. For many families, the holidays were spent somewhere where they put on a safe, professional display. Others took more of a do-it-yourself, backyard approach. Either way, those illuminated skies of our childhood are hard to forget.
Fireworks, which were invented by the Chinese in the 7th Century, have always played a part of American celebrations. The colonists set them off on the very first Independence Day in 1777, and every year since. Of course, we don’t only use them for that particular holiday; they are a regular event at amusement parks, sporting events, New Year’s, etc., but we are most fond of them on July 4th.
On Long Island in the 70s, every major park on Long Island held fireworks displays each year, as did towns, beaches, and schools. These offered a safe way to enjoy the pyrotechnics, but not without some hassle due to traffic and parking. Instead, many a local family preferred to stay home and celebrate with family and friends. That’s where you were most likely to see the illicit variety. Typically, there would be someone in each gathering that either traveled down south (where they are legal) or knew someone who had. The result – a nice paper sack filled with contraband ready to be launched once nightfall hit. The guy who brought the barrage was loathed by many of the adults, and idolized by the kids.
So, what was in the sack?
The laundry list of available fireworks in the 70s is an extensive one, ranging from innocent sparklers to explosives. Some of the more popular items among kids were firecrackers, bottle rockets, smoke bombs, ground flowers, roman candles and, of course, the infamous M-80. These produced no vibrant colors, nor did they leave the ground or spin. They just made an ear-shattering explosion, one capable of doing some serious damage. They weren’t fireworks in the traditional sense and we probably had no business whatsoever playing with them, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t around in abundance in the 1970s.
The truth is, all of these fireworks were dangerous. Fires were started, fingers were lost, people were burned. But millions were also shot off without incident, and brought joy to many a gathering in the 70s. As such, we present them for their memories alone – neither condemning, nor condoning their use.
So, did you tend to go to professional displays as a kid, and if so, where did you family go? Or, did your family have the crazy uncle that always showed up with an arsenal? We’d love to hear all of your fireworks memories in our comments section below.