What are fireworks salespeople up to now anyway?

Posted on July 9, 1999

Nomads have wandered through cities during the last two weeks, sold their goods and departed for lands of milk and honey.

They don't leave a trail, but their wares do – usually ashes, perhaps a foul-smelling odor but always a glowing experience.

Fireworks salespeople have rigorous lives. I recently caught up with one such seller, Smokin' Joe Romancandle. What follows is his normal day:

6 a.m. Wakes up, sings the "Star-Spangled Banner," eats a Pop-Tart and brushes his teeth.

8 a.m. Opens shop, after spending 15 hours the day before pitching the tent his shop now occupies.

Noon Explains again to his customers, "Sure, you can buy the fireworks, but you can't shoot them legally. I recommend you hold your show in Tunisia."

2 p.m. Receives a shipment of the newest firework on the market, scratch'n'sniff bottle rockets. The first package comes in four scents: banana, fire, banana fire and Benjamin Franklin.

5 p.m. Tries to close shop, but a group of aliens dressed as teen-agers purchase the remaining Snap Pops.

Of course, this lifestyle lasts less than a month. The other 11 months, Romancandle makes ends meet by selling tiny classified ads in publications all across the country. He also studies extensively the history of fireworks. According to the Web site www.discovervancouver.com/benson&hedges, which advertises the cigarette company's annual Canadian fireworks display, historians credit the Chinese with the discovery. Apparently, a cook mixed three common kitchen ingredients – saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal – and made gunpowder. He then followed by adding parsley and chicken to make the dish Boom Boom Chicken.

The site also explains the substances that make particular firework colors, such as using sodium salts to produce yellow, barium nitrate or chlorate for green and a Pop-Tart for the Benjamin Franklin-esque shots.

Romancandle tries to remember the bulk of the material, but it's tough to endure. After graduating from the University of Explode, located at Flatwillow, Mont., he has been traveling the states, selling his detonating devices. Although most of his fireworks are fountains, which shoot up and contain tons of pennies, he has a few specialties that fly through the air.

The sellers' work is done for another year. People can still purchase fireworks at discount prices in superstores, but the true rocket salespeople have gone back into hibernation. Romancandle will end today by finally finding his tent directions and by making vacation reservations to Tunisia. It's nothing explosive, but it's a life of a wanderer.