University of Nevada, Reno




Uncle Al and the Fourth of July

By Jim


JimMy Uncle Al, Pop's brother, was born on the 4th of July. He had no kids and was hoping that I, too, would be born on the 4th. Grandpa Reid had a store on Easton Avenue in St. Louis. It was a hardware store, I think, and when Grandpa died, Uncle Al apparently got the money he needed to start his Auto Parts Store. Dad apparently got zip. Consequently Uncle Al and Pop didn't speak to each other for more than 20 years. Grandma lived with us for the last 7 or 8 years of her life. Before she died, she made Pop and Uncle Al shake hands across her bed, and the feud was ended.

Uncle Al sold fireworks in his store every year, and he really went overboard. He bought everything and lots of it, so that whatever was not sold in the store—and Uncle Al saw to it that that was a lot—always ended up at our house. Every 4th of July, Mom would bake a zillion pies and cakes and make a meal, and all of our relatives and friends converged on our front yard for a picnic.

My cousins and I use to line our sidewalk with sparklers and we never let them go out. We had white balls about the size of jawbreakers that had to be thrown against concrete to explode and were a terror with those. We had unlimited numbers of firecrackers. Usually they come all strung together, and the Chinese are famous for setting off whole strings at a time. We, however, shot them off one at a time. We would put them under a tin can and light them. The can would be blown about 20 feet in the air. There were always bats flying in the area in the dusk. They would follow the can almost all the way back down to the ground.

One 4th, this huge box of fireworks was under the plum tree in the front of the front yard, and someone flipped a cigarette into the box accidentally (I think). We had about a ten-minute fireworks display on the ground as sky rockets ignited and shot helter-skelter all over the yard. The bigger firecrackers exploded, sending fragments of cardboard box everywhere.

Fortunately no one was hurt and a good time was had by all. That means most of the family except for the kids were already drunk.


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