As a child I use to love the build up to ‘Cracker Night’. I lived in a cul-de-sac and at the end of our street was vacant bush land where each year we would build a ‘bonfire’ for Cracker Night.
The neighbours kids and their parents would collect all year round a supply of things that would make our bonfire burn the biggest flames. Some would collect old tyres, old trees logs, old chopped up wooden furniture, wooden sleepers and more. It wasn’t heard of, to book a collection service with the local Council to take away our rubbish. Most of it just went on the bonfire.
As ‘Cracker Night’ grew closer, the parents would gradually start bringing out all the bits and pieces they had been putting aside, and very soon the kids in my street would start to see the dry bonfire taking shape. Once the adults created the basic structure so that it wouldn’t collapse, the kids were allowed to throw on anything else they found, anytime, leading up to the night.
While the Dads and the kids continued to build up the structure of the bonfire, bit by bit after work or after School. The Mum’s would begin to plan the feast we were going to have, to celebrate ‘Cracker Night’.
We had a gigantic bonfire at the end of our street, every year. I remember seeing heaps of car tyres stacked all the way to the top, huge planks of wood leaning against it one on top of the other, right around it. So tall was our bonfire. The kids knew not to venture near it without supervision before the night otherwise there would be a massive penalty of staying at home on the night, and missing out on the fun.
Dad would take us shopping for the crackers, he was in charge of that. Mum on the other hand would control the crackers once they arrived home from the shops. Into biscuit tins all the crackers went. Mum always insisted they go into metal dry tins and that the lid had to go on and stay on till cracker night.
Cracker Night arrived, huge excitement in our house and the street. The parents set up tables for the crackers to be set alight on, rockets to be launched from and more tables for the food and drinks, a huge party, a huge community celebration. The biggest moment of the night was watching a small candle flame ignite such a humongous pile of wood, although I remember it didn’t take off on its own. Dad was always the instigator of adding a touch of petrol to the bonfire, just to help it along. None the less, we knew to stand back when our gigantic raging fire lit up the street right before our eyes.
Everyone let off their crackers and if anyone ran out early, we all shared what we had left over so the fun was stretched as far and long into the night as possible. Rockets were launched from empty glass milk bottles, tom thumbs were thrown in strings onto the road, and to get an even bigger bang Dad would find metal containers to let off the double bungers in or under. The higher the metal container flew into the air the bigger the community cheered.
We knew when the night was coming to an end. The bonfire had burned down to a large pile of hot red ash, the crackers and rockets had all gone, the food and drinks were gone leaving only a mess on the tables. All that was left, was adults sitting around chatting and the kids lying around exhausted and half asleep on their Mum’s laps.
Cracker Nights were fun times of great excitement. They had a build up to them, just like Christmas, Easter and Birthdays.
In some ways, it’s sad to grow up as I miss these big adventures. We never ever had anyone get hurt, not once, year after year. Our parents strictly supervised each other and all the kids in our neighbourhood as one big family.
But, slowly as the years passed, people changed. Cracker Night came to a halt, crackers and bonfires were banned. Many an anniversary year of Cracker Night we had our letterbox blown up with double bungers, someone in a neighbouring suburb would have a finger or two blown off, or were blinded in an eye from crackers. It didn’t stop there, elderly were harassed and frightened by crackers and cruelty to animals took place. After this, it seemed as though our childhood memory became tarnished.
But I have fun memories of great Cracker Nights and huge bonfires, with family and friends.