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Enjoying the familiar and comforting sounds of summer

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

“Bombs bursting in air.”

Memories of Fourth of July holidays when I was a boy are associated with the annual fireworks display in my town.

They were held at the high school football field which in those days was down in a narrow valley across the road from the community pool.

Everyone could walk to it, but some drove and cars lined the two-lane state road that ran to it.

People arrived slowly and began filling the stands that were built many years before on the steep side of the valley. I guess they held several hundred people.

There was a temporary wooden stage for some locals to entertain the crowd, but I can't remember any of them now. Sorry.

Opposite the stands and on the other side of the field, a creek meandered by. Fire trucks were on standby for those errant sparks that might make it into the woods from the aerial displays.

By the time it was dark, the bleachers were packed and half the field was covered with folks seated on blankets and in lawn chairs.

In my memories, the night was always hot and humid and people were elbow to elbow but nobody seemed to mind, least of all the little kids who ran about the field exclaiming their happiness with all the lung-power they could muster.

It was a community Fourth. You saw those kids in your class at school that you otherwise did not see all summer.

My mother took me to the event when I was very young. When I was a father I took my daughters. I remember Heather, still a babe in arms, being frightened by the loud booms and she and I having to sit out the evening, watching the fireworks through the car window with her in my arms.

There were great ground-based fireworks. Foremost I recall one that looked like Niagara Falls complete with changing colors and two battle ships firing shots at one another until they both faded into darkness. There was also a pinwheel and a “Happy Fourth” sign -- I think.

But, as is always the case, it was the grand finale of the fireworks launched high into the night sky that thrilled the audience of all ages. Sometimes, on the drive or walk home, you would see the grand finale of sky bursts in neighboring towns just over the darkened hills and you knew other communities were celebrating in the same way and there was a sense of comfort in that.

Today they shoot off fireworks for everything. Something as simple as a home run at a baseball game can be the impetus. For me, fireworks have lost some of their allure.

I never went in for firecrackers and such as a kid, but I did like the sparklers that somebody would buy a few days before the holiday. My friends and I would light them up after returning home from the community event. As much as the light, I remember their smell.

Holidays that bring us together as families and friends and neighbors are good things; they are most definitely a major part of our summers for young and old and all between.

There is another part of summer that I like and it has nothing to do with planning.

It is the sounds of summer.

To be sure, as you might be thinking, there are lots of offensive sounds of summer that might be classified as noise pollution. But here are the ones I like:

• The high-pitch sound of crickets at night.

• The mummer of conversations on a darkened porch as one passes by the houses of neighbors.

• The splashing and shouting and the radios playing at a community pool (though I doubt they are playing the music today that I am recalling).

• Music heard as a car passes by (ditto on the music).

• The buzzing of a bee (as long as it is not in your face).

• Children on bicycles, laughing. Or running and laughing. Or walking and laughing. Or just laughing.

• The splashing of water on a sandy shoreline or over rocks in a creek or from a sprinkler hitting a fence in the yard.

• The falling of a book onto a porch floor as the reader nods off while sitting on the glider.

Go now and enjoy your summer. There is much to see and smell and hear. And have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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