A Flash of Fire and a Puff of Smoke...

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Happy 4th of July, peeps! And now, a true story…

It was July 4, 1966. We lived at 55th and N. Garfield (near Antioch Shopping Center) and about two blocks away from Sun ’n Surf country club. I was 14 and the ringleader of my cadre of friends.

I was a budding mad scientist (alluded to in stories elsewhere), but my most popular product was the amazing ROZ bomb. So named from the names Robbins, Osburn and Zych (my “lab" partners), I mixed ‘em up from scratch out of good old charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter. You get the idea. The picture above is the demonstration of such a bomb. Not really a bomb, mind you, more of a smoke flare. What a smell of sulphur!

But, I digress. To continue, each year, S’n S would put on a professional fireworks display, which was, as I recall, pretty impressive. This particular 4th, myself, my brothers and a couple of friends sneaked through the neighborhood backyards up to the tennis courts, which were very close to the launch mortars and off-limits to observers. We wanted all the excitement, up close and personal, and, man, did we get it.

The display got under way, the oohs and has being heard from the crowd that was safely kept at bay, whilst we were hunched down, undetected, from a slight depression near the launch site. Suddenly, a rocket or bomb went off ON THE GROUND at the mortars. Pandemonium ensued as the people lighting the display ran away and the spectators screamed and the remaining fireworks began to go off ON THE GROUND! Flares, bombs, rockets, all were being ignited on the ground. It was like a scene out of a war movie, people running every which way, shadowy figures lighted by the flash of explosions. We, of course, were very near the epicenter and were (in our ignorant way) thrilled at the very close explosive action.

The action lasted what seemed like a satisfactory while to us and, through some miracle, when the noise ceased and the smoke began to clear, there were no injuries. But we boys were jumping around, hooting and hollering, slapping each other on the back, celebrating the “greatest” display of fireworks we had ever seen.

There were no more fireworks shows put on by Sun ’n Surf, but I remember it as the most exciting, satisfying display of firepower I have ever witnessed in person. Happy Fourth to you all and be safe out there!

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