Fourth of July was my Uncle's birthday, (1909) and we always had an outdoor meal. It was usually fried chicken and a watermelon feed.
Family tradition was that it was our first watermelon of the year. Now that watermelons are shipped in from Mexico and beyond starting in March, it is quite unusual to wait until Independence Day for the first melon of he year, but in those days it was closer to the start of the season, and the melons were just getting good.
Fireworks were not "safe and sane", but UNSAFE and INSANE, and glorious and treacherous. Every Roman Candle had the warning "do not hold in hand" that was universally ignored. I remember a Roman Candle that my uncle was holding the middle of in his hand, firing one...two shots then BLAM exploding just below his hand and firing the six or eight remaining shots downward and outward all at once. Had he been holding it two inches lower,well, that would have been tragic.
sparklers were made on wire that glowed redhot..and we THREW THEM, still glowing when they neared their finish. And we THREW firecrackers, too. Light the fuse, let it get going good, and throw it high as you can. The idea was to get an "airburst". Throw too soon and it falls quietly to the ground before it pops. Hold it too long and bursts close to your hand. That stinging you feel, well, that was a reminder to throw sooner on the next one.
But all my vivid memories of fireworks do not date back to the UNSAFE AND INSANE days. Last year at the old folks home we had a delightful beautiful display in the drive way. SAFE and SANE works now are fantastic with fountains of ever changing colors and flames, and they whistle and scream.
I do miss the tremendous booms though.