Fourth Of July (1) – 1976 (Bi-Centennial)

I don’t remember exactly where this story starts. Possibly at work on the 4th, or possibly a day or two before. I only remember that at some point or another, several of us at the Awase site decided to celebrate the bi-centennial at [David’s] house. (No, I don’t remember his last name.)

To that end, Cyrus Brooks and I were tasked (or possibly we took it upon ourselves) to go down (up?) to Gate 2 Street and get an assortment of fireworks.

Gate 2 Street Night Life

Gate 2 Street at night

Largely, what was available there was pretty much all the same things you can get at any stand here—bottle rockets (both the noisy ones and the ones with exploding showers), roman candles, various ground shower displays, etc. So, after work, off we went to cruise Gate 2 Street to see what was available at the various outdoor shops.

A curious thing about Okinawa, at least then, was that while it was not illegal to sell fireworks, it was illegal to buy them. Just as the lady at the stand where we bought all the things we wanted (and lots of them) was giving them to us, a couple of local foot-patrol policemen came up and took all of our fireworks away. The lady from the shop immediately got into an argument with the officers, which Cyrus translated as best he could, (he, like Willie, was married to an Okinawan, so could speak Japanese fairly well). This was how I learned about that curious law.

In any case, the woman lost her argument and the police confiscated our fireworks and continued on their way. But, while Cyrus and I were standing around wondering what to do next, the woman handed us another bag filled with all of the same fireworks we had just bought. When we reached into our pockets to pay again (which neither of us could really afford) she shook her head and waved us off and told us not to worry about it; that the police would bring her fireworks back later. Apparently, after long exposure to U.S. troops being stationed there, the police are well aware of what the Fourth of July means, and do their best to limit the amount of ‘celebrating’ that goes on. So we got our fireworks and immediately proceeded to prove that the police might have been on to something.

We drove over to BC Street and had the crazy (and somewhat stupid) idea to shoot some roman candle flares out the windows in celebration.

BC Street, Okinawa 2

BC Street

It was our intention to shoot them straight up in the air so they wouldn’t land on people on the sidewalks, but I’m not so sure a few of them didn’t get away from us. After I lit the first one and handed it to Cyrus, who was driving, I turned to light my own, but … before he could transfer it to his other hand and point it out the window, the first flare went off, bounced off the roof above his head and landed in his lap. By this time mine was lit too, so I had only one hand to deal with the situation while still keeping my candle pointed out of the car.

For his part, Cyrus had one hand on the steering wheel and one hand pointing his candle out the other window. This meant he had zero hands of his own left to deal with the burning flare under his ass. So he’s bouncing around in his seat trying to drive the car and also keep more flares from going off in the car … and also screaming at me to get that ball of fire out from under him. (He wanted me to pick it up and throw it out the window.)

Now, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to pick up a ball of fire, and besides, I was laughing too damned hard to be of any use, plus I still had to keep my flare pointed out of the car. I don’t remember for sure if I managed to brush it out of his seat and onto the floor or if it just went out on its own, but we did get through the ordeal unscathed. We did, however, cause something of a stir on BC Street, so we (Cyrus) decided not to go out to the main road to make our getaway.

He took an alley over to, and across, Gate 2 Street, before going out to the highway and back to the housing area on MCAS Futenma where [David] lived. As we crossed Gate 2 Street, we did see a couple of police cars with their lights flashing heading toward BC Street, but whether or not that was because of us we never found out.

The funny thing is, while we were shooting off the rest of the fireworks at Dave’s house, the base police showed up and took our fireworks away. Apparently it’s illegal to shoot fireworks off on base, even during the bi-centennial celebration.

Go figure.


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R. S. Leergaard

US Navy veteran and writer of stories. Blogger of things.

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