In my Second Summer staffing Texas Lions Camp, I accepted a position as an Activity Leader to manage the Camp’s Radio Program. Among the many duties associated with the title, by far one of my favorites was helping with nightly camp programming activities. That could mean anything from preparing the types of obnoxious concoctions that would be poured onto Counselors as part of Night Court, dressing up for a themed game as a supporting staff member, throwing and chaperoning the weekly dance, or even acting as a participant of “Live Clue”.
I enjoyed my first Summer as Bunkhouse Staff and leading groups to activities, but my second Summer carried the heavier weight in my mind of being able to help. As though the first Summer was a way for me to prove that I could handle additional responsibilities, my return experience found those additional ways that I could share some of the gifts I had been given for communication, art and management. Part of being Activity Staff required creativity and problem solving on a slightly wider scale.
Included in the additional responsibilities came an opportunity to help create the Independence Day fireworks display. To hear me tell it, you might believe that we gave the pro shows a run for their money, but it was very well organized chaos in comparison to professionals. Activity staff like myself were provided with safety training in the parking lot of the Camp that rewarded us with our very own “Aim & Flame” style wand lighter upon completion. There was a box of retail packaged mortar shells that the approximately 6 of us would pull from to quickly run out to mortar tubes arranged in a line before we dropped the shells, lit the fuse, yelled “fire in the hole”, and ran back to safety across the parking lot.
Once ignited, the mortar shells would skyrocket into the air before exploding, much to the delight of campers located safely in a camp pavilion looking on to the music of Lee Greenwood. In all seriousness, safety was a major priority at all times with campers and staff alike. But there is something about running around a parking lot with a firework and lighter as a teenager that I can’t shake the fond memories of, even if I don’t normally love running.
One of my favorite movies of all times, “The Sandlot” has a wonderfully crafted montage of fireworks set to Ray Charles’ “America The Beautiful”. I try not to link too many things, but it is worth a view, even if the film hit 25 years old recently. You can find that here.
I knew that if I was going to feature a firework stand, even if one of many, I wanted to make sure that I had the infamous “Black Cat” brand fireworks displayed (Accept no substitutes) as well as a song that would be well related to the theme. What I pulled from was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”. The King of the Boogie, himself created something magical that was shared with the world across radio and film (The Blues Brothers, 1980) when he famously adapted The Delta Blues with his electric guitar. There is something guttural about where some of the sounds he pulls out of himself come from, as though they were just waiting for the right moment to arrive. As though there is a fuse to ignite, burning down to the core before creating something grand.
I hope you have a great Independence Day this year, whether you are out and about for a fireworks show or grilling something in your own backyard. I hope you stay safe and I’ll catch you next week.