Excerpted from a booklet titled “Fourth of July Story” by Uncle Al (Gerberding) presented as a birthday gift for Beryl’s 20th birthday on September 19, 1890. Note: This story described a time when there were no laws against exploding fireworks in Port Hueneme. Thomas and Molly Bard raised eight children at Berylwood, a property which included 40 acres of orchard, dairy farm and forest.
“It was the morning of the Fourth, as you know, and all the fireworks lay on the closet shelf taking over the great preparations that had been made,” began Grandma Gerberding.
“Today is a grand day for us. We’re the most important things in the whole world,” said a Roman candle to its neighbor, a slender skyrocket,”of course it will be the end of us, but we can show these children what wonders we were made for.”
“There’s one thing,” remarked a stumpy little firecracker to a torpedo, “when I die, there’ll be a bigger explosion than when you do.”
“But I shall die in the parlor and you’ll die out of doors,” answered the other.
Forgotten over in the corner a Chinese bomb hugged itself in silence as it thought how it could make more noise than both together.
“I shall make a whirr and such a pretty flower of light,” said the pinwheel with satisfaction.
“What are you giggling about?”she snapped sharply at a jolly little pack of firecrackers what was chuckling to itself.
“They may look at you for a moment, but I shall be their playmate. Now I shall make them run,” he exclaimed.
Don’t quarrel,” said the rocket so severely that his stick quivered. “Remember this is nearly our last hour. How I shall mount to the sky and blaze like a star.”
“Yes, for an instant’ then you’ll come down a burnt stick,” said the pinwheel, spitefully.
“I should think your approaching end would alter your disposition to say unpleasant things to people,” said the Roman candle, “You’re always saying mean and unkind things.”
“I’m a great deal older than you,” said a volcano, “for I’m a leftover from last year, and have been lying for a whole year in a dusty store. You don’t know how pleasant it is to fuel clean and to look through that window into that lovely garden. It was horribly lonely in the attic and the spiders were so familiar, spinning their webs all over me, when I know that just one touch of a lighted match and I could blow them all to pieces. Once in awhile, the storekeeper came up with a candle to look for something and I nearly burst with excitement when he brought it near my fuse. You can imagine how glad I was to be taken down and dusted off and brought to this pleasant house. Just look and see those children having a ride in that dirtcart (wheelbarrow). Well, this morning one of the little girls took me out to visit the corral and the pigpen. Then her sister walked off by herself and they said she was sulking, but I don’t believe she’d be that. I think she was just wondering what were were made of . . . ‘
“Gunpowder and lots of things,” cried the bengola.
“Be still,” said the pinwheel. “It is so rude to interrupt a person who is telling a story.” And she thought to herself “I mean to tell one myself when he has finished and I’ll just let them know now that I don’t wish to be interrupted.”
“That’s about all” said the Volcano continuing, “except the grand luncheon they had spread under the trees with the table so beautifully decorated. The little girl put me right down beside her plate and I saw it all.”
“I saw them taking pictures on the lawn,” began the Roman candle, “and one was the most loving one you ever saw of those children’s mother and father. Then there was one of . . .”
“Oh, dear,” thought the pinwheel impatiently, “now she’s going to talk for an hour, when I can say and do a great deal finer things than any of them.”
“There was one picture,” continue the Roman candle, “of the grandmother holding Anna’s hand, and one of the cute little baby in a red, white and blue cap. Then the children’s uncle took a picture of them in a group. He is a very distinguished personage, you don’t know what an elegant walk he has, but he don’t mind being undignified when he is with the children, and keeps all this grand manners for common people who own banks.”
“Quite right, quite right,”nodded the rocket, “the common people have to be kept in place,” and he looked meaningly towards the pinwheel.
“At last I can speak,” said the latter. But just then the door opened and in rushed the children.
“Hoopla. Hurrah for the Fourth of July. Now we can shoot off the fireworks,” they cried.
“Oh Grandma, you’re just making it up. Rockets and Roman candles can’t talk,” cried Beryl.
But her grandmother only smiled. Then all the children fired off the crackers. They banged away in grand style little Tom was frightened and cried, while all the other Chinnies (siblings) laughed.
The dog did not think them at all funny, but seemed to have a lively fear that they would burn his home. The spiteful little pinwheel met with an inglorious end, for by mistake she was set off in the daytime and so no one could see her pretty rose of fire, and she sputtered herself out in a rage.
Everybody dressed up in flags and looked patriotic and happy. One of the children said she wondered whether the birds like the noise or not; so they listened to such a chirping and twittering that was going on in the tippiest top of the trees.