At dinner, Daddy was talking about his new club, the California Pyrotechnics Arts Guild. They built and launched their fireworks. Daddy was invited to join by a friend, Sheriff Burrell. You could only get in if you were asked.
I asked Daddy why people couldn’t just join. He told me that they were careful who they let join because they were dealing with some dangerous stuff. They didn’t want someone off their rocker handling explosives.
I don’t quite get that as everyone knows you can’t live your whole life in a rocking chair, you must be off your rocker to go to the bathroom.
Anyway, Daddy was telling us how careful they had to be always. When working with the black powder and other stuff they wore a special suit that had no metal in it. Even the zipper was plastic. Some items you could never let touch metal, others you had to use plastic or wood bowls. It was confusing. I bet I would blow us sky-high as Daddy said.
The way Daddy was talking I could tell he was trying to sell Mummy on something. He always talked too much when he was trying. She knew that and was waiting for him to ask. I could tell because she had a funny smile.
She finally couldn’t take it anymore as Daddy kept talking.
“Spit it out, Jack, what do you want?”
“Why do you think I want something?”
“I just do, now what is it?”
Mummy sounded all huffy, but she wasn’t mad. I think this was a game they played. Adults can be strange.
Daddy finally gave in.
“The club needs someplace new to store the powder magazine and the finished fireworks. I told them we could build a place here behind our garages.”
“You want to store high explosives here?”
“No, no, black powder isn’t considered a high explosive, not like those bombs the Germans dropped on your house.”
“How much of this black powder do you want to store?”
Daddy mumbled, but Mummy heard him.
“A couple of tons, you’re out of your mind!”
“Now Peg it will be safe, the powder is in kegs, the kegs will be kept in a metal storage container, one made by Rick’s company. We will dig a hole, so it is below ground level, and then surround it with a berm. If anything would go wrong, it would all blow straight up.”
“Why doesn’t that make me feel any safer?”
“Peg dear you know I wouldn’t do anything that would endanger the kids.”
Uh, oh Mum that is a sign of weakness.
“The only reason we have to move is that John Clayborn died. He lived alone and his kids live in New York and they are selling the property. We needed another home and I promised they could move it here.”
“Yes, I did.”
“I’m not wild about it, but if you promised I won’t make you go back on your word.”
The next day men showed up with an excavator and dug a deep hole out behind the garage. I asked and it was thirty feet deep. Mummy asked why so deep. Daddy told her that he had got to thinking about safety and he was taking no chances.
They made the hole square by building two log frames, one inside the other about two feet apart. The next day big cement trucks dumped cement between the frames. They installed stairs to get down to the two shipping containers that were lowered down by a big crane. It was fun to watch all this going on.
Mum asked Dad if he was sure this wasn’t the Baltimore Gun Club. Daddy didn’t know what that was and asked her, but she just laughed and walked away.
It was getting near the fourth of July and Daddy’s club was building a special firework. It was called a Gerindola, which is a funny word for fireworks pinwheel.
I know how it works because they allowed me to watch after checking that I had no metal in my shoes or zippers in my pinafore.
First, they built a framework out of balsa wood, they wanted it to be very light. Daddy told me it was a cylinder, two feet high and eight feet in diameter. It looked like a giant checker from my checker set.
The cylinder had a bunch of spokes running from its center to the edge. They attached what they called Lances to the spokes. These were small fireworks that would burn straight up like roman candles. Around the edge of the cylinder, they attached rockets that would spin the cylinder.
Then to the framework pointing down, they installed large Lift rockets which shoot the whole thing up into the air. They then would put the finished cylinder on a large wooden frame which would allow the Gerindola to spin while shooting flames up into the air. When it was spinning fast enough the cylinder would rise into the air hundreds of feet shooting fire upwards and spinning like crazy.
They had to be careful that every Lance and Lift charge weighed the same or it would go off balance. They had to cut the fuses perfectly, so everything lit off at the same time.
You never saw these at fireworks shows because it cost almost a thousand dollars to build one.
The Pyro’s as Daddy’s club called themselves had four shows or shoots a year, Spring, Fall, the Fourth of July, and New Years’. These were secret shows only for club members where they would all bring the special stuff they had made at home and the club meetings and shoot them off.
Rick asked Daddy a lot of questions about the club and I listened extremely hard. Maybe Patty and I could make a club like that.
Dad explained to Rick that while the show was only for club members, they had to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms since they were using tons of powder. They would send people to make sure that nothing illegal was going on. The FBI would be there for the same reason.
The same agents came to every show to make certain it was okay. They usually brought their families with them.