There’s major part of my “Fetish” that I didn’t mention. Sadly it isn’t something I’ve experienced since probably the late 60’s, and that’s Indoor Fireworks. Indoor Fireworks you ask, surely some mistake? Not the type that Sergeant Alan refers to in his comment on “Firework Fetish”? No, you read me right, mini Pyros for use INSIDE the home. I think my earliest recollection of them is connected with Christmas Crackers, as I believe that at one time individual Indoor Fireworks were placed in Crackers alongside the paper hat and cheesy joke, as a type of novelty. I have a vague recollection of Crackers that once you’d taken them from the box it revealed a number of small perforated doors containing said Pyros. Can anyone verify that?
But the most common Indoor Fireworks I can remember were just like the ones in these beautiful photos by Martin Weselby. These little Pyros only happened at Christmas, which was such a “gas” for a kid like me, who loved and still loves Christmas and Fireworks with a passion. They were by no means spectacular, but several did flash and delight, and of course the mini Sparklers were a good reminder of the excitement of November the 5th, with their distinctive smell, which I’m pleased to say remains unchanged to this day.
And that’s a big part of the Indoor Firework experience, the smell! For instance, the “Flashing Lighthouse” which for all intents and purposes was like a miniature Roman candle, a bright sparkling flash of a morsel. But the smoke it gave off was phenomenal, and would easily fill the room. I can’t quite recall the smell, only that I loved it and that it was VERY chemical. Another classic was the “North Pole” which I believe was essentially what were then called “Coloured matches”, long headed matches that burnt considerably longer than regular matches, with a coloured flame.
And of course a concept that would be totally frowned upon and banned immediately(if not sooner!)in this day and age, the “Smoking Monkey”. Just like the little fellas with grand moustaches in Martin’s photo, who look like they have massive spliffs in their mouths. Just light the tip of the ciggy and yay! they start blowing smoke rings, more lovely chemical smoke! I can remember buying a little Monkey (made from plastic probably) at the wonderful Joke shop in Colchester, along with lots of little fags for him to smoke, what a happy little Monkey he was! And they sold Bangers out of season too, a wonderful shop.
The “Snake in the Grass” was again a small flashing beauty, which when lit produced what looked like a wee Snake coming from it’s lair, some 4 or 5 inches of chemical ash rising from the cardboard. Or a big long curly poo depending on how you looked at it. How thrilling!
And another mini marvel missing from Martin’s pics is “Snow Storm”, again a cone of silver foil that when lit produced a shower of white chemical ash that would fill the room like a mini blizzard. Again with a major fog of chemical smoke. Also available at the Joke shop, small white pills that you put on a saucer that also produced a similar effect, I remember them being in blister packs.
Of course the promise of Indoor Fireworks was far more grand than was actually delivered, and the packaging probably excited me more as a young boy than the little Pyros themselves. I recall the kitchen in the family home at Fitch’s crescent, Christmas night, early evening, the family excitedly gathering around the table, the lights low, with either Jed or my Pa on lighting duties, happy times.
But oh that smoke!
And that’s probably why I cajoled my parents into letting me have a Chemistry set. A Chemistry set you ask? Children allowed to play with dangerous and toxic chemicals? Surely some mistake? No, again you read me right, in the 1960’s and way back to Victorian times, kids were allowed Chemistry sets, as an educational toy. And the selling point for me was the hype about them inferred that they had some “Magic” ingredients, more like Alchemy than Chemistry. Way before Harry Potter. And of course I was convinced I could make my own Gunpowder, which was surely one small step away from making my own Fireworks!!!
I actually found my Chemistry set recently whilst going through the bowels of my outside store cupboard. Ma and Pa couldn’t afford to buy me a Chad Valley set, so clever Pa made me a grand looking wooden box to keep all the bits and pieces I acquired from another wonderful shop, this time in Chelmsford, called Body’s. Body’s was right of Burger King, on the edge of the bridge, a marvellous old fashioned chemist’s shop, that amongst the myriad of pills and potions, and surgical aids too numerous to list actually sold chemicals! And it had a beautiful red neon sign above the door.I can recall buying Magnesium ribbon from this shop, which was a fabulous coil of silver metal, inside a small cardboard box the size of an incence cone box. I acquired my fondness for Magnesium ribbon at school when some hapless Chemistry teacher showed us the effects of burning Magnesium. Right, we’ll be having some of that then, looks a bit like a Firework, and the fact that it burnt at 473C (883F) and was extremely dangerous was irrelevant, the flame was beautiful and bright white and I had to have some!
Of course it would be a dreadful lie to suggest that I was committed to the educational qualities of my Chemistry set, all I wanted to do was blow things up, or at least make them fizz and erupt uncontrollably. A customer of mine told me one of her friends managed to blow his little finger off attempting to make his own Fireworks, in the family garage, with his Chemistry set! Bet he wore that stump like a badge. “No, I didn’t go to the ‘Nam, I did it making my own explosives!”
He must have been a God amongst his school mates………..
And so I read that certain American chain stores are predicting the must have toy for boys this Christmas will be the revamped, new improved Chemistry set! Without chemicals…………..but with safety goggles and apron.
Isn’t that a bit like Ringo being the last of the Fab Four reforming the Beatles with Liam Gallagher? Beatles lite. Chemistry set lite. Oh how sad………………
Anyway, as a last word about Indoor Fireworks, I think I spot a rather sinister sub plot here. Silver foil wraps. The inhalation of toxic smoke. Little white pills, the smoking “Monkey”, “Flashing” Lighthouse………..God it’s a wonder my entire generation weren’t drug addicts and Junkies! And if that wasn’t enough, they then gave us our own laboratory and chemicals and said “Go forth!”