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Memories that never fade


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#1 nimbus2

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 12:18 AM

My keenest memories of Guy Fawkes Night and the wonders of fireworks go back to the late 1960s and early 70s. Late one October, when I was about 8 years old, I remember my dad escorting me (or was it the other way around!) into a local sports shop where there was a glass display cabinet filled with skyrockets, fountains, Catherine wheels, roman candles, boxes of bangers and jumping jacks - just to name the basics.

My eyes stood out on stalks as I gazed lovingly at these magical objects and I tugged at dad's elbow as I pointed at every one. After much discussion with the proprietor, and an exchange of what was probably a painful chunk of cash, dad bundled up our purchases and escorted me home, reminding me that "now these fireworks are for the fifth of November - we'll keep them somewhere safe and dry until then".

I don't think I slept at all for days because all I could think about were the fireworks we had set aside for the Big Night. Dad let me look at them a few times and I remember feeling awe at holding a heavy skyrocket with a stick that was taller than I was. We had bangers too - what I remember were called "Boom". After a lot of pleading I persuaded dad to let one off in the garden, a few days before the fifth. The blue touch paper sizzled, orange sparks spluttered to life and several seconds later there was a resounding bang. It was an incredibly thrilling thing to see.

As the smoke cleared I looked for the expired banger and minutes later I triumphantly brought a ruptured "Boom" into the living room where dad had sat down to read the newspaper. "Look dad!" I said, "It's split in two. That was a great banger! Can we do another one?" Dad looked at me over the top of his newspaper. I knew the answer was no before he said anything. More memories to follow - this is my first time on the forum.

#2 Rip Rap

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 11:16 AM

Hi,
I enjoyed reading that. My earliest firework memories are from the same era :D. The large glass cases full of separate fireworks that you could "pick & mix" to create your own individual selection box. Those were the days! Like most young lads, for every colourful or "pretty" one I bought, there was at least one banger or jumping jack.
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#3 nimbus2

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 12:41 AM

Thanks for your kind response. Those truly were the days. When the Fifth finally arrived dad, my older brother and myself built a small bonfire in our back garden and at twilight put a match to the damp scrunched up newspaper. Already, before it was properly dark, other residents far and wide were sending a few early rockets into the 1970 autumn dusk above Worthing. I climbed upon our garage roof to get a better view and was spellbound everytime I spotted a comet-like trail curling above the rooftops. A rocket from a nearby garden shot up with a "whoosh" and a small bouquet of coloured stars popped above me. The spent rocket fell somewhere in the back alley leaving a few sparks. Tomorrow, I promised myself, I would look for it.
Finally mum and my older sister came outdoors and looked dubiously at the big cardboard box near the backdoor which contained our fireworks. Half a dozen wooden sticks protruded from one corner. The smoking bonfire was fanned into flames and dad started the display with a small fountain. I remember it being "snowdrops" or "snowstorm" (amazing how such memories never fade), which produced a beautiful effect of white droplets falling in the shape of a willow tree. It didn't seem to last long but my sister clapped and said "I love the nice ones!". A "Boom" banger was next and made everyone jump. Then our first rocket of the night followed, placed in a piece of old metal tubing stuck in the ground. We all stood back as dad tenderly put his lighter under the touchpaper and then darted back. There was a fizzle, a tremendous spray of orange-red sparks and lift off! The rocket shot up and traced a spiralling trajectory, ending with a quiet gesture of glittering stars. I was completely transfixed. In the meantime my brother was already inside the cardboard box, grabbing a fistful of bangers and a helicopter. "Put those back!" ordered my dad, "we do them one at a time". And that's what we did for the next hour or so, enjoying every gem in the box to its maximum potential. When it was all done, when the sandbox was like a little graveyard of dead fireworks, I felt sad and still unfulfilled. I stayed outdoors after everyone had gone indoors, watching the horizon for any late rockets. I think that's what I remember the most keenly - scanning the night sky for one last rocket.
Sorry for being longwinded but it's great to finally share these images.

#4 sizzle

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 12:57 AM

It's a pleasure to read nimbus, may I say, you are a very good writer.
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#5 EnigmaticBiker

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 02:34 PM

Indeed a pleasure to read, very evocative and vividly remembered.

The ruptured "Boom", funny how fascinating the remnants of fireworks can be. Somehow exciting to see what has happened to it after the sparks have faded.




#6 nimbus2

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 10:31 PM

Thank you so much, Rip Rap, sizzle and EnigmaticBiker, for your compliments. It is a pleasure for me to share these special memories. They have been sitting dormant in the back of my head for decades, rather like vintage wine. I will certainly continue to "pop the cork" on more reminiscences and post them on the forum. I would like to thank the Society for making this possible.

#7 wayne

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 02:18 PM

Thanks for your kind response. Those truly were the days. When the Fifth finally arrived dad, my older brother and myself built a small bonfire in our back garden and at twilight put a match to the damp scrunched up newspaper. Already, before it was properly dark, other residents far and wide were sending a few early rockets into the 1970 autumn dusk above Worthing. I climbed upon our garage roof to get a better view and was spellbound everytime I spotted a comet-like trail curling above the rooftops. A rocket from a nearby garden shot up with a "whoosh" and a small bouquet of coloured stars popped above me. The spent rocket fell somewhere in the back alley leaving a few sparks. Tomorrow, I promised myself, I would look for it.
Finally mum and my older sister came outdoors and looked dubiously at the big cardboard box near the backdoor which contained our fireworks. Half a dozen wooden sticks protruded from one corner. The smoking bonfire was fanned into flames and dad started the display with a small fountain. I remember it being "snowdrops" or "snowstorm" (amazing how such memories never fade), which produced a beautiful effect of white droplets falling in the shape of a willow tree. It didn't seem to last long but my sister clapped and said "I love the nice ones!". A "Boom" banger was next and made everyone jump. Then our first rocket of the night followed, placed in a piece of old metal tubing stuck in the ground. We all stood back as dad tenderly put his lighter under the touchpaper and then darted back. There was a fizzle, a tremendous spray of orange-red sparks and lift off! The rocket shot up and traced a spiralling trajectory, ending with a quiet gesture of glittering stars. I was completely transfixed. In the meantime my brother was already inside the cardboard box, grabbing a fistful of bangers and a helicopter. "Put those back!" ordered my dad, "we do them one at a time". And that's what we did for the next hour or so, enjoying every gem in the box to its maximum potential. When it was all done, when the sandbox was like a little graveyard of dead fireworks, I felt sad and still unfulfilled. I stayed outdoors after everyone had gone indoors, watching the horizon for any late rockets. I think that's what I remember the most keenly - scanning the night sky for one last rocket.
Sorry for being longwinded but it's great to finally share these images.


I can't believe how close that is to my own memories! The same excitement, getting outside before anybody else and only coming back in when you're Mum is litterally dragging you in (generally with a bunch of spent rockets stick and parachutes!). Different place, but the same sentiment! The best thing for me was, I only lived 400yds from Standard Fireworks in Huddersfield. So to say the sky was full of activity is an understatement. This always was the case because the entire Standard workforce all got given the biggest box of fireworks that you would have chopped off your right leg to get! It was just a big brown box (probably 3' x 3') just full of standards largest items together with what looked like a shop load of bangers - awesome!

Who remembers chasing a parachute (a double parachute was like gold) for 2 miles down until it finally hits the road? Only problem was by the time it landed, there was about 3 groups of kids after it that had all been tracking from different places!

O'the memories......so sweet....

We had nowt in them days, but we w'happy.....................Luxury :D

#8 nimbus2

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 04:54 AM

What a great story wayne. Standard was my brand of choice. In the early '70s, when I was only 13 or so, I had a morning paper-round and the newsagent I worked for always started to display Standard fireworks at the beginning of October. This was perfect timing as my birthday is at the end of September. With birthday cash and the extra I earned delivering papers I couldn't wait to spend it all on as many Standard goodies as possible. My boss had barely finished arranging all the different fireworks on the shelves before I was at them (the legal purchasing age back then didn't seem to matter that much). As often as possible I added a few items to my collection, always expanding the range of types and sizes. Over the weeks preceeding the Fifth I would spend countless hours lovingly studying every firework almost as if they were objects of worship. Even when I craved a Mars bar I was always reluctant to sacrifice the small change as what I really wanted was yet another rocket or jack in the box. I particularly loved anything that had an aerial effect - rockets of any size, roman candles, screechers, aeroplanes and helicopters, mines and floodlights (there was one that Standard made that sent a single but incredibly dazzling white star into the air that would light up the whole neighbourhood). And of course I loved bangers. I experimented with all the different brands but always found Standard's to be the best. Brocks were good also but a bit pricey. Those of Pains and Astra were skinnier in shape and prone to just go "ppphutt!". But what fun they all were.

#9 EnigmaticBiker

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 12:20 PM

Red Moon was the parachute flare I remember, they seemed to float for ages. last year I managed to make a star of the same colour and intensity.

Bangers, how many varied uses they were put to.
I'm convinced that an essential part of boyhood at one time was the placing of a suitably powerful one in the fuselage of an Airfix Heinkel or Messerschmitt 109, or was it just us.
Taping them, especially the Standard ones that usually burst in the middle, was part of the skills required to get the best out of them.


#10 portfire

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 01:40 PM

A truly great read nimbus2. oh the memories, it must be a pyro right of passage collecting spent fireworks and rocket headers that hadn't split.I wonder how many of us have taped a banger to an airfix kit that you just spent all week making. great stuff :D
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#11 nimbus2

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:29 AM

Certainly the Luftwaffe got its fair share of bangers - how amazing you remember that, EnigmaticBiker and Portfire. My big brother was once frustrated with a badly assembled Stuka and after a lot of swearing he gladly sacrificed it to one of my "Battle of Britain" banger blow-ups. We took the sorry Stuka into the garden and set it on the stone path. I pried the two plastic halves of the fusalage apart and stuffed a Standard "Little Demon" into the cockpit. Then, with my radio voice saying "bandits at 6'o'clock!", I touched the blue with a match. Because the glue wasn't completely dry the fuse of the banger quickly set fire to the model before it went off. Then the Demon went bang and the Stuka literally exploded, sending blobs of fire all across the garden. Dad appeared at the back door and he was not impressed. "What a waste" he said.
"It's okay, dad" my brother said. "It was a Stuka".

#12 BrightStar

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 05:40 AM

Bangers, how many varied uses they were put to.


Yes indeed, they were highly valued. We had several banger cannons to defend our tree houses and forts :rolleyes:

Once we had disovered that a loop of thin steel wire in a banger's spolette could ignite it remotely, lots of inventions followed. The best was a rig on the back of a BMX bike with a button on the handlebar. Once pressed, bangers would ignite and fall off onto the ground, exploding as you pedaled furiously away... happy days...

Edited by BrightStar, 03 February 2007 - 06:37 AM.


#13 Rip Rap

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 08:11 AM

Certainly the Luftwaffe got its fair share of bangers - how amazing you remember that, EnigmaticBiker and Portfire. My big brother was once frustrated with a badly assembled Stuka and after a lot of swearing he gladly sacrificed it to one of my "Battle of Britain" banger blow-ups. We took the sorry Stuka into the garden and set it on the stone path. I pried the two plastic halves of the fusalage apart and stuffed a Standard "Little Demon" into the cockpit. Then, with my radio voice saying "bandits at 6'o'clock!", I touched the blue with a match. Because the glue wasn't completely dry the fuse of the banger quickly set fire to the model before it went off. Then the Demon went bang and the Stuka literally exploded, sending blobs of fire all across the garden. Dad appeared at the back door and he was not impressed. "What a waste" he said.
"It's okay, dad" my brother said. "It was a Stuka".


:D Thats right - I could never bring myself to sacrifice the Spitfire or Hurricane - it was always the Luftwaffe that bought it!
It was my Action Man that felt most of the effects of my pyro enhanced battle recreations. I had 2 of them & both lost their hands to bangers & had several scorched uniforms after having 3-2-1 or Demon bangers attached to them in various ways.
My favourite was a large green, plastic Action Man armoured car. I would sit him in it, drop a banger in the turret & set him going down our road. If I timed it right, the banger would go off while it was moving. There would be a small trail of smoke lifting out of the turret as the spolette burnt, then BLAM! The whole car would jolt, leaving ol' Action sat in an impossibly uncomfortable position, 1 leg behind his back somewhere, his uniform smouldering. Then a cloud of BP smoke would bellow out of the turret. When I think about it now - that plastic car was well made, as it stood up to a lot of punishment. Fantastic days :D
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#14 nimbus2

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 03:25 AM

The annual appearance of fireworks in shops seemed as natural a part of the autumnal cycle as conkers and the first frosts. I seemed to be able to detect a newly posted Standard or Brocks window banner from a mile away. Venturing into the shop, as if drawn by magnetism, I would quickly home in on the display cabinet and then just stand there, mentally greeting old friends and sometimes new ones.
What can explain this deep fascination for fireworks so many of us first experienced as young boys? For me there was an inexplicable aesthetic aspect that began with the immediate physical appearance of an individual firework, be it a humble cone fountain or a giant skyrocket. There was something so exquisitely alluring about these cylindrical objects with their single tufts of twisted blue touchpaper. Label art, including the fanciful names that made part of the colourful and artistic design, was also a source of delight to the eye. Every different brand had a particular style despite the diversity of coloured inks and patterns used. On every firework, even the smallest banger, were printed those universal instructions such as "not to be held", "fix upright in soft soil", "stand 25 feet upwind", or my favourite "light blue touchpaper and retire".
There were other, more tactile, aspects to the allure of fireworks. The weight and smell of the objects. Some items, such as helicopters and small fountains, were deceptively light and seemed only partially filled with the vital chemical mixtures for their effect. Others were heavy having cardboard tubes that seemed inordinately too thick. Rockets and mines had parts that seemed hollow and rattled when shaken. All the fireworks had a distinct smell. How can one describe that mysterious scent, that unique combination of cardboard, powder and glue? There was another, more delectable smell that only appeared on the Big Night, when a delicious sulphurous smoke filled back gardens and left me intoxicated with a happiness unlike all other pleasures. The aroma of certain cigars bring back with intense clarity memories of my Grandfather. To this day the smell of ignited fireworks have the same "time travel" effect, sending me back into a glorious boyhood world of adventure and magic.

#15 starseeker

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 10:32 PM

The annual appearance of fireworks in shops seemed as natural a part of the autumnal cycle as conkers and the first frosts. I seemed to be able to detect a newly posted Standard or Brocks window banner from a mile away. Venturing into the shop, as if drawn by magnetism, I would quickly home in on the display cabinet and then just stand there, mentally greeting old friends and sometimes new ones.
What can explain this deep fascination for fireworks so many of us first experienced as young boys? For me there was an inexplicable aesthetic aspect that began with the immediate physical appearance of an individual firework, be it a humble cone fountain or a giant skyrocket. There was something so exquisitely alluring about these cylindrical objects with their single tufts of twisted blue touchpaper. Label art, including the fanciful names that made part of the colourful and artistic design, was also a source of delight to the eye. Every different brand had a particular style despite the diversity of coloured inks and patterns used. On every firework, even the smallest banger, were printed those universal instructions such as "not to be held", "fix upright in soft soil", "stand 25 feet upwind", or my favourite "light blue touchpaper and retire".
There were other, more tactile, aspects to the allure of fireworks. The weight and smell of the objects. Some items, such as helicopters and small fountains, were deceptively light and seemed only partially filled with the vital chemical mixtures for their effect. Others were heavy having cardboard tubes that seemed inordinately too thick. Rockets and mines had parts that seemed hollow and rattled when shaken. All the fireworks had a distinct smell. How can one describe that mysterious scent, that unique combination of cardboard, powder and glue? There was another, more delectable smell that only appeared on the Big Night, when a delicious sulphurous smoke filled back gardens and left me intoxicated with a happiness unlike all other pleasures. The aroma of certain cigars bring back with intense clarity memories of my Grandfather. To this day the smell of ignited fireworks have the same "time travel" effect, sending me back into a glorious boyhood world of adventure and magic.

What fantastic reading,i have just been taken back 35 years and my memories are much the same,and i think the best bit is we still have this love of the magic which is fireworks.Even now after a few beers etc my partner can find me with my head in my firework collection box admiring my collection of rockets,double whammy air salutes,catherine wheels,fuse etc,totally priceless,
cheers everybody,
Vince.




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