Lagos; The Old Man's Fireworks Stand
Thursday - July 4, 1963
WOR Show Original Airing
Starts show by saying that it is the Fourth of July and "Wouldn't you know it, one of the Kennedy's had a kid".
Says that we all are Americans. Has a friend in Paris who paints. An art dealer saw his paintings and he said that he is painting Americans, that all of the people he paints look like Americans.
Talks about visit to Nigeria. It was so hot that you want to take off your skin. Life is all over the place. It is a very exciting place. Went to the post office in Nigeria to buy stamps. A guy in line reaches over and touches him. A huge handsome colored man. He is a guy from the States. He is glad to talk to an American. They get into the man's car and go for a drink. Turns out that the man is a listener from Brooklyn. He told Shep that "I had to come all the way over here to discover that first and foremost I am an American."
Went back to Lagos. In the hotel he is having a drink. Man asks S if he is enjoying trip. Man is from Poland. Guessed that he is a top flight Communist. Man came out with virulent racist talk about Nigeria. A man from one of the great People's Republics.
The 4th of July is a truly American celebration. It is celebrating what you really are. It is not the 4th unless it is incredibly hot. Traffic jams and fireworks are part of the 4th. The 4th is a violent holiday.
The Old Man ran a fireworks stand . A few week before the 4th he went out and got a supply of fireworks. Shep offers the brass figlagee to anyone who can identify various types of fireworks that he is describing. The scars of the fireworks would be all over town for at least two week after the 4th. Knows these things because fireworks was an integral part of his life as a kid. Talks about OM, an absolute nut about of fireworks. Had a fireworks stand outside of the city limits of Chicago. Asks trivia questions about brands of fireworks. OM and S. set up stand and about midnight the business would peter out. OM was excite because he gets to shoot off the leftovers. S. liked fireworks but hated to work in the fireworks stand. Tells about hapless customers that needed their first aid supplies because the product they sold was too effective. Tells about wimpy rich kid "Timothy" who just wanted sparklers because he was afraid of the good stuff, but the kids father wants the big fireworks. S. visualizes their servant shooting off their fireworks.
S. said most traumatic experiences were about his father and fireworks. Tells about the "Terrible episode of the backfiring roman candle". Tells about various sizes of roman candles. The five dollar one was the biggest. Tells how OM set off the roman candle. The OM had style in everything he did: pool, bowling, etc. He put body English on the roman candle. Great moment in Ships life. OM liked roman candle best. Going fine when one ball shot backwards and right up his sleeve and out the back of his shirt. Shirt is on fire. OM was the best piece of fireworks of the whole night. He puts out the fire and in five minutes he is back outside shooting fireworks.
Tells story about of squibs (dud firecrackers) and how the neighborhood kids burned their faces when they set off the powder from about of five pounds of squibs. Powder from the squibs is put in a bucket and Flick drops in a match. All of their eyebrows are gone.
Tells about fireworks on the great lakes, fireworks set off on ore boats. Tells about fireworks accident on the lake. The people liked it, it was a great display.
Final story about OM. Biggest 4th fiasco he ever saw. OM had about $350 of fireworks, at depression prices. Fill up two ton truck twice. Had the fireworks in two huge boxes. Put two boxes near big pinwheel.
Sparks are going into the boxes. Shep gives his usual vivid description of the ensuing disaster. Only regret anyone had was that the OM set them off all at once. "It's tough being an American, It is one of the hardest jobs in the world."
Note: Christopher George Kennedy was born on July 4, 1963 to Ethel and Robert Kennedy.