A memorable 4th of July | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Jul 14, 2017

Independence Day in Edmonds brought crowds of adults and kids downtown to celebrate last week. A race! Two parades! Music! Picnics! Firemen competing in the park!

Of course, festivities concluded with a brilliant and professional display of fireworks. When I was a young child in Edmonds, though, the holiday often ended with a simple family time at home with exciting – though unsophisticated – fireworks in neighborhood backyards.

My most memorable childhood 4th of July occurred during the first summer my family lived in Edmonds. I was nearly 8 years old, my brother, 10. Our father owned the local Western Auto Supply store at Fourth and Main, and in June he made space in a corner of the store for a new display and placed an order for fireworks. Wow!

My brother and I spent an inordinate amount of time at Western Auto, admiring colorful strings of firecrackers and other brilliant and noisy possibilities. Rockets! Starbursts! Our father promised to bring home fireworks, but not until July 3, after the store closed.

He wouldn’t say what they would be, but we anticipated a careful selection of the best of everything he had ordered.

Earlier that summer, our father had somehow acquired an old wooden rowboat, no longer seaworthy, which he deposited in the middle of the backyard, straight out from the back porch. I have no idea where he got the boat, nor do I know whether my mother welcomed it into our backyard, which was not large.

Since it no doubt would provide hours of play for her children, she probably readily agreed to it. Gardener that she was, she possibly had in mind filling it with dirt at some point and planting geraniums and marigolds in it, but that never happened.

My brother and I – and our friends – played in that boat a lot, but we didn’t consider that it would have anything to do with the 4th of July.

Our parents and grandparents sat on the wide back steps, visiting in the summer dusk, while my brother and I passed the time racing around the old boat, playing tag, wishing it would get dark. Surely, soon our father would reveal his secret selections in the big brown bag next to him on the steps. Tired of secrecy, we wanted our fireworks.

Finally, our father stood up and brought the bag down the steps. He reached in and pulled out several strings of firecrackers and a few – very few – more elaborate fireworks. Apparently, rocket-type items had sold well, as had most things that whizzed upward to burst into multicolored patterns in the night sky.

My brother and I stood in the gathering darkness, finally realizing that we were only the beneficiaries of the leftovers from the fireworks corner at the store.

The firecrackers didn’t last long. Pop, pop, pop, pop. Done. The rockets– the few that hadn’t sold – were fun but not spectacular. Was that all? How disappointing.

Then my father reached deeper into the bag and began pulling out flat boxes of sparklers. Dozens of boxes of sparklers, apparently not great sellers. These days we know the dangers of sparklers, but then we knew no fear.

Our dad emptied boxes, lit sparklers and handed them off to my brother and me. Disappointment forgotten, we waved sparklers in wild figure-8s, then stuck them all around the soft old edges of the rowboat, encircling it with light. Amazing, wondrous excess!

I don’t remember our dad selling fireworks again, but that 4th of July backyard celebration when I was 7 years old? It still glitters in my mind.


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