When July 4th rolled around, back in my old Houston 'hood, we had a parade. And the parade consisted of kids riding in pickup trucks. Specifically, in the backs of pickup trucks - and we sat on the SIDES of the bed of the truck. You also had the option of riding your bike and weaving in and out between the trucks, waving flags and generally being distracted. Sounds safe, huh? And no one wore helmets, because no one owned helmets. Well, unless they played football. But football helmets were the extent of your helmet knowledge, unless you had been lucky to attend a Houston Aeros ice hockey game. Then you were sort of aware that ice hockey players also had helmets, but you were only sort of aware of this like you were sort of aware that ice hockey existed as a sport at all. Okay, after the Lake Placid Olympics, everyone became aware of ice hockey as a sport, but in the seventies, in hot-enough-to-fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk Houston, Texas, ice hockey was an abstract concept.
And bike helmets, if they existed, definitely were not a known quantity.
After the parade, we went to the junior high to watch the volunteer Fire Department set off fireworks. BIG fireworks - we're talking major ordnances here. Yes, you are reading all of this correctly: amateur firemen set off ginormous explosives, on school district-owned property . . . on top of very flammable grass. Oh, wait, I forgot - they dug holes for the truly major ordnances. They dug holes in the middle school football field, and then they placed explosive devices in them. With small children looking on from very close range.
The bigger kids (and by "bigger" I mean ages eight and up) were preoccupied with lighting off their own fireworks. Not sparklers, not bottle rockets - those were for the seven-and-under set. No, the eight-and-ups had their own books of matches and their own stashes of highly complex incendiary devices. I distinctly remember one that looked like a duck pond, and when you lit it, sparks flew off in all directions while the little paper ducks "swam" in circles in their little paper pond. That one did not go over so well, because the designated match striker lit the thing in an upside-down position, meaning that the sparks went DOWN instead of up and out, and they caught the grass on fire. Ultimately, when the little box o' death fully ignited, it flipped over (jumping at least two feet in the air), so I guess you could say that it did "go over" - it just didn't "go over well."
In fact, my recollection is that all of the highly complex incendiary devices marketed to the eight-and-over set seemed designed for epic failure. Okay, some of it was probably user error - see the story above. But, still.
It's a wonder that I survived to adulthood with fingers intact and eyebrows unsinged.