With the Great Depression in full swing, few boys in our neighborhood could afford to set off a whole chunk of braided-together firecrackers at once in a machine-gun volley. Instead they carefully separated the wicks, even with the cheapest tiny ones, pulled them out of the pack and lit them one by one, throwing as far as possible when a wick started to smolder. Few matches were involved – with your purchase at the corner store you received a couple of sticks of free punk. Punk didn’t burn hot enough to light sparklers, of course, but sparklers were expensive, and they were for after dark anyhow.
I got to remembering other street noises. In bed early mornings, I’d hear a neighbor’s car – sharing his anxiety at the first two or three rattles of the starter, spaced apart so as not to “flood the engine”, then relief as the motor caught, and the rising pitch as he drove down the street, with an abrupt silence each time he changed gears.
Or, early afternoons with an enforced nap, I’d lie there hearing the rattle
of a coal delivery truck. Sometimes the metal chutes could be set up right from the little hatch that opened in the back of the dump truck. Other times the deliveryman would have to hoist sacks, or maneuver a wheelbarrow, back to the open basement window where a shorter chute rattled down to the coal bin. Once, in the 1950s, I came across a gleaming chuck of anthracite – one of my sons took it to school for Show and Tell, and reported that most of the kids didn’t know what it was.
And yes, I remember hearing the rattle of horse-drawn milk wagons. But this post’s getting too long. You’ll have to wait for another day to hear the nostalgia riff on delivery trucks.