With Independence Day celebrations in Pittsburg and area towns cancelled because of the virus, I sent out a request for recollections of 4th of Julys past. Here’s a sampling:

One particular 4th of July emerges from my memory well. It was 1941. I was 9 years old and my mother walked me hand-in-hand for several blocks west up the Santa Fe railroad tracks in Frontenac to find an unobstructed vantage point to watch a spectacular array of colors, shapes, and designs several miles away in Lincoln Park. (The booms and the bangs were impressive, too.) The emblazoned moments were definitely impressive for a young lad. Yes, some memories are realities. — Virgil Albertini

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Our childhood 4th of July celebrations were quite tame compared to today’s booms that sound like the Allied Army storming the beaches of Normandy. Our father was not a fan of fireworks, which I always assumed was partly due to his Scots frugality but now I wonder if the explosions reminded him of the war (he was a bomb site specialist so didn't see the bombs discharged from the planes but he saw the damage that resulted from them). He certainly wouldn't have talked about it. He would come home with fireworks purchased at Woolworths — mostly sprinklers, snakes, and ladyfinger firecrackers but also small fountains a few pinwheels that we fastened to the back fence; very appropriate for two young girls in the early 1960s. No Roman candles for us! Next door, the Grimaldi brothers and their friends shot them off and discharged louder fireworks that appealed to boys.

Fourth of July morning began with a flag ceremony on the front porch; our neighbor / surrogate grandfather would then take us out to the State Park north of Frontenac where we shot off parachutes, running to catch them as the drifted down. Back home, we fired off our firecrackers and burned magical (and quiet) snakes on the sidewalk. Once it got dark, we set up lawn chairs in the backyard & watched as the rest of our cache was shot off (with a bucket of water & hose at hand just in case grass caught on fire).

Since we lived on North Broadway not far from Lincoln Park, we gathered in the front yard to watch the fireworks display there, at least until the trees got too tall. Then we drove to the parking lots at the National Guard Armory or McNally’s for a better view. — Elaine (Robb) Johnson & Carol Ann Robb

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My cute cousin, Kay Kirk, and her girlfriend, went to the carnival in Lincoln Park in 1956 and started inviting boys to watch the fireworks from my backyard on west 9th Street. When the fireworks started we had three girls and over twenty boys in the yard. My mother was ballistic worrying about what would the neighbors think. — Terre (Kirk) Knoll

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I remember going to the Lincoln Park carnival in the late ‘70s and winning a bunch of colorful posters and mirrors by mastering the games of skill offered on the Midway, e.g. busting balloons with darts, turning over random floating ducks. My brother, Matt, and I would carry our well-earned prizes to our grandma Mag’s house on West 9th before going back to win some other cool swag. I was confused when we returned to grandma’s house and she was not happy with our prizes as they all had some graphic psychedelic reference to marijuana. Who knew? “Family friendly” had a different meaning in the ‘70s. In the early ‘80s, our band ‘Ground Zero’ (Brian Plumlee, Eric Harris, Tim Corn, Bill Sheverbush and myself) played one of our first gigs in the band shell. The largely disinterested crowd of several dozen felt like a sell out at Madison Square Garden. I was so nervous I could not play my bass drum because my leg was shaking so much. We had arrived! — Kirk Knoll

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It’s 1975. My father-in-law and I (I’m 32 and pop is 55) are driving outside of Fort Scott and throwing 2 1/2 inchers out of the car, when suddenly a lit one falls right back into my bucket of firecrackers. We almost blew up the car, including what was left between my legs. We both had quite a laugh … but our wives were not laughing. Kids were frightened. You never grow up! — Don Heffernan

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In my youth in the early 60s, I spent summers in Frontenac with my grandma every year. On the 4th I remember working with J.T. Knoll in his firecracker stand and shooting bottle rockets at Sam Cicero while he was across the street pumping gas! How DUMB were we?? — Walter Adams

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My special 4th of July memory is working at our Knoll family fireworks stand and Daddy telling us to be careful when selling the M-80s and cherry bombs because they were illegal. So I was about 10 years old when I learned how to sell contraband. — Penny (Knoll) Massa

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Let me introduce myself as Stevie Knoll - the founder of the Knoll firework dynasty in Frontenac. Here’s the story: To get started I needed to determine where to get my fireworks. I found out it was the candy distributor, Merchant Supply, run by Mr. Menchetti, whose home also served his business on 69 Highway south of town. We worked out a consignment arrangement (I might mention without the knowledge of my parents, same as when I started a Christmas tree business) and I tapped my younger brother J.T. to help. Grandpa Matt assisted us in erecting a beautiful, red fireworks stand, which we loaded on back of his pickup and proudly proceeded down McKay to set up. We did a booming business in sparklers, snakes firecrackers and night works. We also sold some under the counter cherry bombs and M-80’s — illegal but, after all, we were the Republic of Frontenac! (My profits increased greatly when I bypassed Mr. Menchetti and started buying directly out of Kansas City.) The business continued to grow year after year and my sisters Penny, Patty and LoRee became partners in the endeavor and, after I went to the seminary in 1960, my dad joined in and set up the first stand outside the city limits in Pittsburg (no sales were allowed in town at the time). What fun memories. — Steve Knoll

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I have little doubt that, had my brother stayed in the business, he would have eventually been importing directly from China. I recall 1959, when I had a bike and a paper route, and, therefore, both the money and freedom to roll around Frontenac with my friends, our punks lighted, blasting away one firecracker at a time or blowing whole packs off in a rat-tat-tat of what we imagined was machine gun fire. Or head to the strip pits outside town to play war — lobbing Black Cats and smoke bombs and firing bottle rockets at one another. Sometimes we’d pack a baloney sandwich for lunch and stay gone all day (when thirsty, we drank water from a garden hose, not a bottle; bottles were for NuGrape or Pepsi or Mission Orange). We also filled coffee cans a third with water, punched a hole in the bottom of a slightly smaller vegetable can, placed it in the coffee can upside down, inserted and lit a Black Cat in the hole, and watched the can become a homemade rocket when the powder went off.

Well, that’s it. I hope these snapshots bring back some of your 4th of July recollections to share with family and friends. I had the Kodachrome film developed at Crowell’s where I stopped by the lunch counter and Lurabelle (or was it Adeline, the one with the braids?) fixed me a banana split made with PICCO ice cream.

J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and eulogist. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net