When I woke up this morning I was still recovering from my day with Pauli yesterday. I have sore muscles and pain all over my body. I figure we sold about 150 watermelons and I must have delivered about half that amount. But it is the 4th of July and the big day is finally here. It’s about 9AM and Jimmy is already waiting on my doorstep for me to come down to meet him. Jimmy (Pizza) is a skinny kid sort of my built with a normal size head. He has jet black hair with a crew cut and big dark, almost black, round eyes.
Most of the time he liked to play war with sticks that look like guns. He always wants to be the bad soldier and torture his enemy. I thought he was a little weird. Jimmy parents and aunt, who is my Godmother, are close friends of my mom and dad.Unlike my parents, Jimmy has a big family in the U.S. with loads of aunts, uncles, cousins and a grandmother.
My Parents family lived either in Italy or Argentina. I thought that Jimmy’s parents are rich since his father and mother owned Rosie’s Italian Restaurant and Bar. Once in a while we would stop at the restaurant and Jimmy would ask his father to make us a pizza for lunch which was a great treat for me.
We didn’t have a solid plan for our day, but we do know that we intend to blow up half the neighborhood come sundown. “Hey Jimmy what’s up? Are you ready to do some damage today?” He looked at me with a big smile on his face and said “no shit, I bought a load of fireworks on President Street last week”. I thought to myself no doubt from Blackie Parisi. “Me and Pecker got a bag of fireworks and cherry bombs too. Let’s go find Pecker and figger out when we should start this war.” We then started to walk to Pecker’s house together.
The neighborhood seemed so quiet. All the factories were closed, the longshoremen had the day off and Nick’s Sandwich shop was also closed for the holiday. We knew that each street will do their best to have a bigger and louder display of fireworks than the next block just for the fun of it.
The 4th of July celebration is just as big if not bigger than the fires we set on Election Day in November. I never knew why we would make large bonfires on each block come Election Day. Starting in September we would collect and store as much junk, like old tires and wood as we could find.
The main source of this wood came from the condemned houses that were being torn down to make room for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
Another great source is all the empty grape wooden boxes stacked up in front of many houses during the wine making season or any wooden bench, cellar board covers or wood pallets that we happen to find.
Come Election Day people would stack all this junk and wood up on every corner which could be over twenty feet high, they then would soak it with gasoline and light it. Each block would do their best to try to outdo each other, like some sort of competition or contest. Every year some kids would burn their hands or clothing by getting too close to the fire in order to throw more stuff on the blaze.
Wow, I don’t know how the firemen kept up with all these fires going on at the same time. It was quite a sight looking at all these fires and some time these fires would set off a building fire.
But today we’re looking to do our best to set off as many fireworks as possible. We turned the corner to Pecker’s house and started calling out his name…………..”Pecker get the hell down here.”
Pecker came down and said’ it’s too early to start shooting off our stash of fireworks.” So we looked around if there was anyone else hanging out on the corner. We found Reno, his brother Henry, Mikey, Vinnie, Nunzio and a couple of other kids standing around. So we hooked up the rest of the gang and choose sides to play “Buck-Buck”. There were five of us on each team. Each team would have a Captain and pillow kid.
I am the Captain of my team and Henry was the Captain of his team. We started playing on the side walk near Hicks and Nelson Street against the wall of the Cardinal Tank factory building. My team was up first. Reno who is a short kid is the pillow of Henry’s team; he has to put his back against the wall. Next, Henry and the rest of his team line up bent over in a line holding each other to form one large horse. The first kid on the line is bent over holding Reno, the pillow’s waste, who is standing up right with his back against the wall. There you have it, four kids bent over holding Reno against the wall.
Now the action starts. The first team is lined up back in the street about twenty feet away. I direct the smallest kids to run as fast as they can and jump on the horse. I Save Nunzio, who is the tallest and heaviest kid for last, That’s why we call him “Superman”. After my team are all on the horse I yell out “Buck-Buck” how many horns are up! The first jumper on my team holds up his hand and shows Reno his fingers anywhere from one to four fingers. If Henry calls out the right number there team goes next. If the horse gives way before the number is called because of all the weight on them, well, we go again. The horse holds long enough for Henry to make the call. “Four Horns” It’s the right call confirmed by his team member, Reno the pillow. Who is looking right at the first jumper when the call was made. We played this game for a couple of hours until it was starting to get dark. Now it’s time for us to start our 4th of July celebration.