The Grucci’s? Who were they? We didn’t know a Grucci from a smoochie growing up. Your popularity was measured by the amount of fireworks you and your Dad could smuggle into the annual 4th of July block party without your mother catching either of you. Rockets, sparklers, cherry bombs, Chinese firecrackers, roman candles, twizzlers and gun powder arrived taped to the underside of tables, in trash cans and cigar boxes by the dozens, while the ladies brought their best salads, cakes, cookies, Kool-Aid, all unaware (supposedly) that if someone lit a match on just one of the tables, the whole block just might explode. The Dads would fire up the grills and cook everything from steak to hotdogs to fresh fish they caught themselves (a likely story!).
Before anyone could touch a bite of food, old Mr. C. would bring out the American flag and march up and down the block reciting his version of the Declaration of Independence and then stand at attention in the middle of the street while everyone stopped to say the pledge of allegiance, and my Dad, always a good singer, would lead his neighbors in singing the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone would chow down and occupy themselves with a game of touch football or stick ball or jumping in one of the neighbors’ pools until the first moment of darkness.
Although the events that followed differed from year to year as we got older, It always started off with the younger children and sparklers. Little by little, like overgrown fireflies, the children would get lit sparklers (our “fairy dust” wands if you will). But they were only decoys for the real thing to come.
While the moms were watching their “darling fairy children”, everyone else was catering to a different “inner fairy”, you know, the one with the horns and forked tail. Firecrackers were hidden all over the place in plain sight, and rocket launchers came out from under lawn chairs.
We didn’t need the type of show the Gruccis put on today. We got the same reactions of awe, if not pure fright when a match was touched to the line of gun powder running down the street toward the overturned trash cans with the Cherry Bombs in them. You would set several lines to several cans at once for the best and loudest effect and then run like crazy once the lines caught real good. In metal trash cans, the sound of a couple of Cherry Bombs going off was at least eqivalent to the take off of a Jet airliner as heard from outside the plane.
Then when nobody could hear anything anymore, we switched to setting off twizzlers (those were the spinning rockets). Only problem with the twizzlers was that they were harder to control than the rockets, so they wound up chasing people more than once. Pretty funny stuff unless it was you it was chasing! One time a dying twizzler came to earth underneath a chair that one of the mothers was sitting in. The twizzler was going out and would not have done any damage but it ignited a firecracker that the mother’s husband had planted under her chair. The only thing that got hurt was the husband’s chances of getting into his own bedroom for a month or so, but it was such a funny incident.
Things did go wrong occasionally such as the night when the wind blew a rocket onto a brand new canvas awning that went up in smoke and cost the neighbors a bundle of cash to replace.
At 9:00 p.m. we topped all this off with a trip indoors to the neighbor (us) who had the only TV on the block (a black and white Zenith) to see the Macy’s 4th of July Spectacular. After that it was time for bed for the kids and clean up for the adults.
For the better part of 25 wonderful years that block party went on, rain or shine. No one ever got hurt, no one ever was mean to anyone. We had tons of fun that we created ourselves and we had a block of solid friends who cared. They had to. Nobody wanted to spill the beans as to where all those illegal fireworks and loose gun powder came from. It was a natural friend keeper.
Thanks for sharing these memories with me. May you have as much fun reading this as I did remembering and writing it and as much fun on the 4th of July as you can make happen.