Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fireworks


By Fieldington at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Last night was our big fireworks display in Columbus–Red, White and Boom. We enjoyed it in the comfort of our living room but hundreds of thousands made their way to downtown Columbus for a half hour or less of ear-drum shattering pyrotechnics.

Remember fireworks growing up in Youngstown? Of course there were the homegrown variety. One year, I remember dad’s version of fireworks was to set off some automobile flares in our backyard. Actually was pretty cool! As young kids, we got sparklers, which seemed magical the first time we lit them.

As we grew older this was pretty tame stuff. I have to confess, I’m not very good at lying, and my folks were pretty strict about not buying fireworks. That didn’t prevent me, however, from watching my friends set them off. Of course there were the little firecrackers, which mostly just made a lot of noise. There were cherry bombs, which really made a loud boom, and were the favorite for throwing in a mailbox of a crochety neighbor. There were Roman candles and bottle rockets for lots of light as well as noise.

It seems I recall that some of the little mom and pop stores would sell this stuff out of a back room or under the counter. This was before some of the big stores on state borders that made liars of lots of people who swore they would only use the fireworks “out of state.” All I know is many of my friends whose parents weren’t as strict about this stuff had no problem finding them. No one I knew ever got in trouble for them. And the nights leading up to July 4, then as now, were filled with the sound of do it yourself fireworks.

The big display for most of us who grew up in Youngstown was at Idora Park and that was the place to be on the evening of the Fourth. Some years we went there and saw everything, the stuff that detonated low as well as the rockets that went way up high. Other years, we watched from the highest ridge of Rocky Ridge on the West side, where you had lots more room and lots less traffic.

The approach of dusk meant the wrapping up of all those family picnics, storing away the last of that potato salad, and licking those gooey s’mores off your fingers. Then it was pile into the family car or station wagon and head off to see the fireworks. Sometimes, we’d sit in the back of a neighbor’s station wagon, sipping lemonade poured from a big thermos while we waited for the show to start.

We’d “ooh” and “ahh” at all the cool effects of fireworks that looked like snakes and others that looked like weeping willows. I always liked the “spiders”. We wanted them to go on forever. Then there was the pause, and suddenly the sky lit up and seconds later, we would hear an almost endless “boom-boom-boom-boom-boom” as the display reached the finale. Then silence and cheers.

And then we went home realizing that a month of summer was gone. We renewed our determination to swim, play baseball, eat ice cream and sleep in as much as the parents would let us. That Tuesday after Labor Day was only two months away and we all knew what that meant.

What I Like About May

I think May and October are my two favorite months of the year. Maybe in October I will write about that month, but what they both have in common in Columbus, where I live,  is that they are transition months between seasons, and warm but not hot or cold, mostly sunny rather than torrid or dreary.

Some of the things I like about May:

1. Green. Everything growing is such rich and fresh shades of green. This morning, looking out our kitchen windows at the maples on our tree lawn, my eye is caught by both the rich green and the sheen of the leaves. As summer passes, both of these fade.

2. I might complain about cutting it at times, but I love a rich, green lawn, and I actually do like the pleasant satisfaction of the difference, for a few days, an hour’s work makes.

3. Although it is distant from my own experience, I still love the conclusion of the school year and the activities associated with it–proms, graduations, parties. Just hope all the graduates party smart and stay safe!

4. Then there is the anticipation and planning of summer vacations!

5. Baseball. Diehards go to games in April. In May, you can enjoy being at a game where there is just a bit of coolness in the air and no blanket of humidity.

6. It’s also time for barbecues, where you don’t just grill, and rush into the house, but really enjoy good food off the grill in the open air.

7. It’s a great time for walks and hikes.

8. Sitting out in the evening and watching the neighborhood go by. In our neighborhood, it seems everyone is walking dogs and the variety of both is fun to watch.

9. Memorial Day parades. Mostly this is a childhood memory of city officials in convertibles, marching bands, veterans groups, and pretty girls!

10. The first fireworks of the season. In our town, this is the beginning of the buildup to Red, White, and Boom celebrating Independence Day. But from Memorial Day on, kids are shooting off fireworks, it seems, anticipating the big show!

What do you like about May?