Fireworks on the Fourth - Another "J" Weighs in

Here is more memoir on the Fourth of July at Pine Beach from another "J", (J' #1) written in response to my previous blog.

"The crowning jewel of the Fourth of July weekend has always been the fireworks, but there was so much more.  Grandma, Grandpa & aunts all crowded in. Sleeping on top of each other. Sandy sheets. It was a treat sharing a bed with J'#3  who slept on the diagonal.  The weekend usually included one movie night with the aunts at the Community Theatre in downtown Toms River.  It also included Grandpa's shish-ka-bob and Grandma's iced tea and trying to teach Aunt Rose and Vi to swim.  Of course, there always was the parade of decorated bikes, floats and 1,000 fire trucks.  Some things never change.  I didn't participate in any of the parades.  I don't know if I was too old or too shy, but remember that Joan did and I think J'#2 did as well.  I have enjoyed watching my own grandchildren in more recent years."

(Editor's note:  J#2 distinctly remembers that J#1 decorated her bike for the parade, but has no proof and no confidence in her own memory.  So that shall remain a family history mystery.  However, there is photographic evidence, given here to show that J'#2 and J'#3 were in the parade.  And, we are proud to report that we have evidence that the grandchild generation has kept the tradition alive.  Here are the pic's:)

Now back to J'#1's Reminiscenses:

"Then there was the early morning flag raising ceremony next door when the Klauders moved to Pine Beach in the late 1950's.  Mommy pressured us to attend and we complied.  About 3 years ago, Joan mentioned this to Bill &Terry, our current next door neighbors, who  embraced the tradition 50 years later.  It is now a pleasure to get up and start the 4th with the pledge of allegiance and donuts - and maybe mimosas (but I'm not absolutely sure abut the mimosas). 

Back to fireworks - the anticipation always started with the procession of boats coming into the river right before dusk.  I don't remember the flare with the flag at the finale and the ensuing melee.  That seems like it should be a chapter in the three 'J's  Book of Hazards.  My early memories of the fireworks are from the beach in Beachwood or Jersey Beach where we had a great view of Beachwood's fireworks.  And, yes, there was time in between.  We enjoyed each rocket in its entirety from the flare to the embers hitting the water.  The fish fireworks were always the best, as Mommy said.  Beachwood's pyrotechnics have come a long way with a continuous dazzling display leaving little time for oohs & ahs.  The best Pine Beach view is now from the Bluff that previously housed Admiral Farragut Academy. 

Best memory, sitting quietly on the porch watching the boats peacefully leave the river.

Fireworks on the Fourth

We were very lucky, the three J's.  We lived on the bank of Toms River in the early 1950's, before CIBA Geigy decided to pour its effluent directly into the River.  Hence, before the Atlantic blue crab, the flounder, the fluke, the bluefish, the blowfish, the shrimp (yes, shrimp) , the eel, and the perch disappeared, along with almost all other living creatures.

The river was magical, but never more so than on the night of July 4th (any year) when we dragged our lawn chairs across Riverside Drive to watch the fireworks put on by the volunteer fire departments of Beachwood and Island Heights, at opposing ends of the River.  We could barely see the Beachwood show, but one of us would watch upriver at the western sky for the tell tale rocket while another would look north across the river for the same sign of imminent illumination from Island Heights.   "Here it comes," the watcher would say, and we would all crane our necks in the same direction to catch it.

All along the river, we audience members expressed our appreciation with our noise makers, little metal contraptions that sounded like kazoos when you cranked them.   (Bad description I know, but it is hard to describe the party noisemakers of the early 50's. )  Boats and yachts anchored in the river-- in increasing numbers over the years -- would toot their horns in appreciation.  And the river carried the noise, so that I honestly believed that the sponsors of the shows could hear the roar from boats and shore and know we loved them. Of course we were also invited to show our appreciation  to the firemen who drove slowly all along the river soliciting donations.  That was part of the excitement, when the Beachwood fire engine would come by and we could put our quarters in the cups held by the firemen themselves.

With 60 years' perspective, I have come to understand that the Toms River shows were limited in variety and opulence.  We waited a minute or longer between flares.  There weren't that many bursts, let's face it.  We even had time to chat between bursts.  But we didn't know better, and it was something else again to listen to mother Alice share her unbounded enthusiasm for the ones with the blossom of twirling  gold fishes that made a hissing sound as they twirled.  I swear to you, even today when I see a firework with the gold fishes I think of Alice and her definitive statement, never to be challenged, that the fireworks with fishes are the very best in the world.

You knew when the firework show was about to end, as the popping noises like gunfire started, but on Toms River the very last flare contained a little American flag that wafted gently down from the sky.  That's when we would hear all the motor boat engines starting up, green lights on their sterns moving along the dark river in the direction of the falling flag.  Only in New Jersey could emergency responders deliberately arrange an accident waiting to happen:  a motorboat race in the dark in pursuit of a little American flag.

I thought of all this last night, when the golf course up the street put on its annual pre-July 4 firework display.  Just by chance, they go off directly in front of my bedroom window, between two huge Beech trees, affording me a mezzanine seat on my bed for my own personal show.  Early in my life, Toms River conveniently brought fireworks to our front door.  Late in my life, Kenwood Country Club has seen fit to continue the tradition.  Don't worry about the hassle of getting to the Fireworks at the Capitol, Judy.  The fireworks will come to you.