Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cracker night.










                                                                                        OOPS !

If ever there was a speedy and efficient way to completely and utterly trash a town or city, this was it.
Prior to sunset, order and serenity reigned supreme. By 9:30pm. the whole of Sydney resembled New York 911........... Everybody absolutely loved it.
Going on all the hype that one hears and sees, it appears the main reason for bringing about the end of our system of things is the pollution of our atmosphere. Car exhausts, coal burning and carbon emissions from God only knows where are slowly but surely destroying our environment and may even make mankind extinct at some time in the future. Although not meaning to cast aspersions on any of the so called experts opinions, there have been questions constantly present concerning many of the volcanic eruptions that appear to expel more rubbish into the upper atmosphere in one day than many nations would expel in a whole year. If that is indeed the case, then Sydney alone was more than capable of matching that kind of pollution once every year.
  
Thank Heavens we no longer have Cracker Night that used to be celebrated on the 24th May and was responsible for not only creating a 1950’s London type fog all over Sydney, but usually caused many limbs to be blown off, loss of sight, 3rd degree burns and the loss of the occasional suburban office building or factory that disappeared in a massive blazing inferno.  Friends and neighbours would spend up to 4 weeks or more erecting huge bonfires that would be lit early in the evening and were unable to contain themselves whilst watching the flames  consume not only their marvelous construction, but in some cases a considerable portion of their street and suburb, it was absolutely fantastic, we could hardly wait for it to arrive. Approximately one month before the anticipated event, local shops and the rapidly expanding supermarkets would have on display an indescribable amount of explosive products capable of levelling a large modern city with skyscrapers to resemble a billiard table top. So many limbs and other body parts were either burnt or blown off and there were many people blinded by accident, mostly through stupidity. The authorities eventually were forced to act and Cracker night became only a distant memory. Thank God Sydney still puts on the worlds greatest fireworks display every New Years Eve, when the Coathanger is blown to pieces over and over again. Top stuff.




There were the colourful, bright and pretty Roman candles, crackerjacks and the triangular shaped Mt Vesuvius. These all had warnings that stated, ‘Light touch paper and stand clear,’ but many could not resist waving these all over the place to form colourful patterns in the air. What also would quite often form were blisters from the burns inflicted on those smart arse idiots. There were the little Tom Thumbs that came in packs of at least 50 and would be thrown between the legs of some unfortunate passerby to see how high they could jump. The next size up was a two inch long bunger about as thick as a pencil. Although not recommended these could be held in the hand and occasionaly one would have a mild burn inflicted by allowing it to explode between ones pinkies. The daddy of them all was the penny bunger. This was roughly the size of the average cigar and was responsible for many letter boxes being blown to smithereens.
 


The thrill seekers who allowed these to explode whilst still holding them quite often would end up with at least one less finger to pick their nose with. A double bunger, as they were called, shoved into a 12 inch length of steam pipe blocked at one end, followed by a marble as a projectile could literally kill at 25 metres. The marble was capable of travelling over 150 metres on the fly in under 3 seconds and when a round ball bearing was used it could leave a round hole in the body of a motor vehicle from 15 metres.

One of many other perennial favourites were the spinners, also known as Catherine Wheels. These were nailed to a wooden wall or to a pole hammered into the soil. The fuse would be lit and round and round they would spin, just like a fan with coloured, sparkling flames forming a huge circle to captivate one and all.


Every now and then a spinner would fly off the pole or wall and would take off down the driveway, then out into the street, where hopefully no traffic was driving past. Occasionaly a runaway spinner would enter the garden shed where the lawn mower and its fuel was stored resulting in a massive explosion and fire, requiring the local fire brigade's presence to extinguish the shed, the side or back fence and half of next door's trees and shrubs.

Runaway Catherine Wheel.

During those early days of yore, many an Aussie outdoor dunny would disappear in a puff of smoke preceded by an extremely loud "Kaboom." God it was fun.

Just as darkness fell every street in Sydney would be transformed into a blaze of blinding light as every household was determined to outdo the other. 





As far as the eye could see sky rockets sped towards the heavens to explode in a multi coloured burst and the burnt out capsule still attached to its metre long stick would fall to earth and hopefully not impale some unlucky pyromaniac or a member of his or her family.




By 10 pm it was literally impossible to see the people or their houses on the opposite side of the road for the smoke billowing around. I kid you not, it was similar to those street scenes in New York after the Trade Centre was brought down. 




The clean up begins.
It generally took 48 hours for the smoke and dust to disperse and the following day Sydney’s streets resembled London during the blitz. As the serious injuries were beginning to rapidly increase year after year, there were calls to ban Cracker night. I cannot recall when it happened , but it was moved from May 24th. to the long weekend in June, where it remained up until 1986 I think, when the authorities bit the bullet and banned it completely. Another Aussie icon sadly, but understandably, bit the dust.


Yes we do have a pollution problem today, but without a Cracker Night, I can categorically state, in the words of the late and great Al Jolson, " You ain’t seen nothin’ yet."


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