Niagara Gazette


August 21, 2013

BRADBERRY: Remembering the summer of '63


Niagara Gazette — Factory explosions were common to us. The hot, heavy summer air, thick with burnt chemical ashes and diamond-hard grit permanently stained Mom ‘s clean white sheets as well as our young lungs as we hung out in our backyards, oblivious to the damage to our health which, for some of us would become perfectly obvious decades later, too late to avoid, too late to fix.

Our long hot Kool Aid chilled summer days were regularly marked by the wail of screaming sirens plodding down 24th Street on their way to Buffalo Avenue, their courageous firemen hanging casually on as the trucks.

Sometimes, they’d come right down our street. The noise was exciting. The flashing lights and flurry of people from the surrounding neighborhoods gave us a morbid sense of festivity. Seeing the evacuated men dazed and half-conscious, oxygen masks dangling from their heads, became an almost daily event that we looked forward to, childishly unaware of the seriousness of the situation and the mens’ injuries.

It was the ‘60s; the world was changing faster than ever before. Up until then, Mustangs were horses, Beatles were bugs, and girls were silly.

Tommy and I had begun to lose interest in shooting marbles and other childish games as our fascination with cars, music and girls grew stronger by the hour.

I even let my baby brother, David have my collection, including my prized cat-eye, which my sister Linda had swallowed the year before. I had braved the indignity of retrieving it. Somehow, having completely passed all the way through her digestive system, it had picked up what I considered near magical game-winning powers, and thus it became one of my prize possessions before I ceremoniously handed it to him with a stern warning to keep it and all marbles away from Linda and to never put that one in his mouth!

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