In 1972, Belinda Green was Miss World, The Poseidon Adventure, Roberta Flack and Number 96 were chatted about at the Milk Bar; swap cards, elastics and British Bulldog ruled the playground, coffee came out of the International Roast tin and we still had Cracker Night. It was nearly as exciting as Christmas, way better than Easter and up there with your birthday.
Cracker Night was a week of bungers blowing up letterboxes, the quick-fire spatter of throw downs and Tom Thumbs and the expedition to Franklins to buy the mixed bag of Fireworks and Sparklers that dad would let off in the backyard, with mum giving helpful instructions like, ‘Careful. dear’, or ‘That one didn’t work’, as a Roman Candle fizzed and fluffed.
After a dinner of lamb chops and three veg ( mashed potato, carrots and beans, boiled to an unrecognizably pale colour ), the four kids would be sitting on the back steps, rugged up in our hand-knitted tank tops, over skivvys under a Parka adorned with our holiday resort patches. Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Blackheath, all the exotic tourist spots of the early seventies.
Dad would carefully attach the Catherine Wheel to the Poinsettia tree, stand Roman Candles in buckets of dirt and point sky rockets away from his beloved Holden Kingswood. The sparklers were doled out so we could write our names in glittery, disappearing letters, draw love hearts and peace signs, or when mum wasn’t looking, pretend they were cigarettes. our warm breathe the smoke on the cold night air. And it was never disappointing. Even if the Roman Candles didn’t fizz spectacularly, or the Catherine Wheel fell off the tree mid spin, it was always one of the best nights of the year.
Now Fireworks are a spectacular. Professional displays without the risk of injury and with maximum bang for your buck. But I miss Cracker night, maybe not the knitted tank tops, though.