You have to say this about the grand finale at the Troy fireworks on July 4: it really was, well, grand.
At the end of the fireworks Wednesday, I was standing there with my fingers in my ears, hoping my head wouldn’t explode like one of the rockets overhead.
That brought back memories of the old Fourth of July celebrations when I was growing up in Troy.
The old fireworks displays in Troy weren’t quite in the same league as the modern displays. A service club did much of the work for the annual display and they worked with a limited budget. Most people used to sit in the stadium because in addition to a few overhead displays, there would be ground displays at the flagpole end of the stadium.
These were static displays that spelled out “USA” or made an American flag or maybe did a little pinwheel thing. As often as not, they were pretty much duds. I remember leaving fireworks displays usually being disappointed. Then again, when I didn’t get to go, I was disappointed I missed them. Maybe I was hard to please.
In fact, the best fireworks display I remember actually was staged by my best friend in high school. We both had come up with packages of 500 firecrackers somewhere. I was lighting them one by one, always making sure there weren’t any officers of the law around to confiscate what was left.
My friend, who will remain nameless to protect the guilty, thought bigger than me. He linked all his firecrackers together, put them at the center of the basketball court in the park, and lit them all at once. Eureka! It was pretty spectacular.
Of course, it was a pretty stupid thing to do. Who knows what might have happened? He could have killed us all. We were pretty good at doing stupid things back then and surviving — after all, it was the early 1970s. Why, we never even wore seatbelts! No bicycle helmets! What a daring bunch of guys.
Somewhere along the line, the Troy Foundation and others stepped in with more money for the fireworks, so these days we get a much better show.
The other big deal on the Fourth of July back then was the Soap Box Derby. If you want to see how big it really was, you can stop by Hayner Cultural Center this month, where there is a display about the “gravity Grand Prix.”
It was big deal in Troy. It seemed like all the boys in town (and later on, girls, too) wanted to build a car. Well, almost all. Personally, I wasn’t the kind of kid who would hide out in the garage sawing boards for weeks on end. My dad wasn’t the kind of guy who wanted to work in the garage for even 10 minutes. We had an understanding and were perfectly content to miss the deadline every year.
But lots of my friends were involved. The Shroyer brothers, who lived a few houses away, disappeared into their garage for months and emerged on race day with slick racing machines. They were the Ferrari family of Troy. They were always winning and going on to the national race in Akron. They won a bunch of races there, too.
On July 4, they would be the big heroes while all of us slackers stood around on Drury Lane, ate snow cones and watched. We’d eventually wander off and look for somewhere to light firecrackers.
So is this the part where I say those were the good old days and we should bring them back? Nope.
The fireworks are way better these days than they used to be. And, yes, the Soap Box Derby died in Troy as young people went onto other things. Today, instead of building derby cars, young people are building robots and electronic gizmos. I’ll bet if the Shroyers were young today, they would be figuring out how to print their car parts out on a 3-D printer.
Time marches on, and we have to march with it. The Soap Box Derby is gone, but the snow cones are just as good. And those fireworks … well, next year I’m bringing earplugs.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.