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It Was A Blast

by Stephen Lautens


May 17, 2002

Of all the holidays, Victoria Day was the one to look forward to as a kid.

Sure, in the heathen minds of kids Christmas meant presents and Easter meant chocolate, but neither could hold a candle to a holiday where you got to blow things up.

These of course were the days before concerned committees decided to make the world a safer place by removing everything hot, sharp, heavy or flammable. This was back when parents bought their kids pocket knives, bb-guns, and lawn darts. Now every plastic bag has to have "This is not a toy" written on it and every can of peanuts carries the startling caution: "Warning: may contain peanuts."

Toronto is spending $5 million to put nets along the sides of one of its biggest bridges to keep desperate people from jumping to their demise. This will no doubt discourage those people who haven't figured out that Toronto has more than one bridge.

Of course all these things save lives, proving Darwin wrong at every turn. Although judging from the large number of "America's Stupidest Video" shows, people still seem to be able to find exotic ways to break bones and inflict groin injuries on themselves that bring tears to your eyes.

But Victoria Day has never seemed the same since the ban on firecrackers. I know they were dangerous and I'm sure there were a handful (or hands missing a couple of fingers-full) of injuries every year. In some ways I'm amazed that we kids could simply take our allowances to the drug store and walk out with our choice of high explosives.

For some unknown reason even though we kids were allowed to buy more explosives than Iraq, the store wouldn't sell us matches. I guess that would have been irresponsible. Instead you had to use a sissy "punk" your parents would light for you and carry it around all day.

The drug stores would have boxes of black and yellow Checkers, red firecrackers in their crinkly paper wrappers, or my favourite, blocks of Ladyfingers with their wicks tightly tied together. You learned early on how to budget to literally get the most bang for your buck.

There were also the lame fireworks, like the black tablet that turned into a fairly tame snake of hard foam when you lit it. Or things that emitted showers of sparks or coloured smoke. We considered anything that didn't explode to be pretty much a waste of money. Sadly, these are the only things to have survived the firecracker ban.

Sparklers fall into the lame category too, unless you threw them back and forth on the lawn like we used to. Even handled properly (waved gently under adult supervision in a fireproof suit and next to a bucket of water) I bet there are still more people hurt by touching red hot sparklers than there ever was by firecrackers. Having said so, there will no doubt shortly form a Federation of Concerned Canadians Against Sparklers.

And I suppose those big fireworks shows are impressive, but I still prefer the bucket of sand in the old backyard (plus the hose at the ready in case anything still burning landed on the roof). Those outdoor shows can sure light up the sky, but I'd still give anything for the simple joy of a deck of ladyfingers and a troop of plastic army men.

Otherwise it just doesn't feel like Firecracker Day.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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