This fireworks stand just outside the city limits is operated by Miss Minnie Sparks. She invited me out once for a visit and I took her some fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob for her supper, since she would be there so late.
Miss Minnie Sparks has always been independent and energetic, and for many years was a popular figure and valued employee in Women's Fashions and Alterations at Blumrosen's Department Store. Although she never made much money, she helped all her nieces and nephews attend college or get started in their own businesses. Miss Minnie enjoys being retired, but occasionally she still does custom hats and dressmaking for certain longtime customers from her Blumrosen days.
As a matter of fact, to her great surprise, Miss Minnie's nieces and nephews recently got together and set up a tiny little shop for her custom hats. Known as Hattery Flattery, it is here that she spends many enjoyable hours reworking vintage hats for a growing list of customers.
Miss Minnie never married. The great love of her life, Joe Kindlin, was killed in Korea, and she has always flown a flag in his memory in front of her little house on the edge of town. Besides the extra money it brings in, running her fireworks stand also allows her to see lots of people and help them celebrate the freedoms Joe died to preserve.
Miss Minnie's long-term customers say she has the best deals around. She usually makes enough money selling fireworks to provide for her medicine and the little extras she needs, since Social Security is now her primary income. (You can visit Miss Minnie's House in the Dollhouses pages.)
Hers is not the ordinary stand; it has everything from Uncle Sam to a giant eagle to get our attention!
There's a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall. (Of course, Miss Minnie complies with all state and local laws).
Miss Minnie is well stocked. Here is the upper shelf.
And here is the lower.
You can get a glimpse of more products stacked everywhere, including brown paper parcels, pre-orders, in the floor waiting to be picked up. Sometimes, depending on her mood, Miss Minnie wears that red vest hanging on the door, and until the sun goes down she wears that little visor hanging on the back of her chair.
Patriotic eagles and political donkey and elephant plaques are also for sale. Looks like Miss Minnie's supper may be getting cold because she is so busy!
Even though she had invited me out, I stepped aside when she had customers, some of whom bought big cartons full.
A few, however, only wanted a bag or small box of specialty items.
While she was busy I walked around to check everything out.
Ed Handy, a local man who often has coffee and lemon pound cake with Miss Minnie, built the stand for her. About that eagle ...
He used a chainsaw to carve it for her.
Pretty nifty creation, isn't it?
When Joe was drafted and sent to Korea, Ed, his friend since childhood, remained at home, 4F because of his shoulder. It has dislocated easily ever since a childhood accident when he jumped into a creek and hit a submerged tree limb. The shoulder kept him from combat, but has never hindered his carpentry skills.
Guilty that Joe went to war and he did not, and feeling that he could not compete with his best friend's memory, Ed has never confessed his true feelings to Miss Minnie. One wonders what might have happened if he had? And, of course, each year when he helps Miss Minnie open the Spirit of America Fireworks stand for the season, they always remember Joe.
I wanted to get her picture that night, but somehow Miss Minnie always managed to duck outside of camera range!
"Honey," she finally told me, "Do you realize how I sweat out here in this July heat? I'm not about to let you get a picture of me lookin' like this!"
I realized that talking any further would not be likely, as Miss Minnie had a long line of customers, so said my goodbyes and headed home, with fireworks going off on both sides of the highway all the way to the city limits. Some people could hardly wait to get on down the road a ways before they started setting them off.
Well, that was the last time I visited Miss Minnie at her fireworks stand. With the ongoing drought and extreme fire danger, authorities have prohibited the sale of fireworks in El Paso County. Some opted to move their stands across the line into New Mexico where the ban is not in place, but Miss Minnie chose not to do that.
When I called her the other day she said, "After seeing all the damage from those wildfires on the news, I just couldn't live with myself if I thought my fireworks might be the cause of someone losing their home or property," she said.
She chuckled, "Besides that, Ed has invited me to go to The Chamizal for the fireworks display this year, just like last year. Sure is a lot more fun being a spectator, especially with Ed."
This stand was one I purchased many years ago. It had open sides and was originally used in a florist display I called Season's Greenings that I made in the mid 80s, my early mini days before I had a good camera.
As you can see here, the stand had quite a different appearance in that first incarnation. (Sorry for the poor quality of the picture; I'm just glad I found them after all these years. When I came across the old photos, I was thrilledl, of course, but disappointed that the colors had altered so drastically. )
The first thing I did after removing the remnants of the original setting was to pull off the old awning, which was faded and dusty, and then give the thing a good cleaning. The stand originally had open ends, but I enclosed one end to provide more wall space and the other end so that I could add a door. Next was painting it an off white, and adding an awning and lights, to complete the structure.
No self-respecting fireworks stand would be without a door. I made this one out of cardboard. In case you wondered, this door is kept locked at all times. Miss Minnie has a padlock she uses when she shuts down; I think it's inside on a shelf.
The stand sits on a plywood base which was coated with a mixture of brown paint and Tacky glue, then sprinkled with coarse sand. The stoop was made from a piece of balsa and shaped with a nail file to show wear. I used a dirty water wash over the entire stand and the stoop.
I used cardboard to enclose the end of the stall. The poster and Fireworks sign were also in the catalog, I think. Some signs I contrived myself. Notice the weeds - another use of the remnants of statice which I always seem to have lying around.
This sign, Spirits of America, which provided the name for Miss Minnie's stand, was on the backing for some item I purchased one year. The item is long forgotten, but I still had the packaging when I made this scene. The red fireworks sign was contrived; I think I used pinking shears for the edges - this was in the days before all those decorative scissors were available, or at least before I thought I could afford them, if I even knew they existed!
The fabric was in my stash and I cut the v-shapes to overlap as a small awning, using a black marker to cover the white edges. The non-working lights were on a card among the Christmas decorations one year. They look exactly like the real lights on a stand where my two oldest grandsons worked in previous summers.
What people don't realize is that there is a sturdy metal shield behind the awning that can be pulled down and secured when the stand is not open for business!
A few of the fireworks were from kits, like some in this carton. Looking back on it with the passage of time, I wish I had used my own creations in the box, as well, because frankly I think they are a lot better. They were made from a variety of large beads, drinking straws, and paper cylinders, cubes, cones and boxes in various sizes, with pasted on labels.
Years ago there was a small warehouse store that sold rather stiff note paper in odd shapes and sizes, stacks and stacks in every color of the rainbow. I believe these were the cut-offs from printers, etc. I bought some of just about every color to use for my bulletin boards and various school purposes and had enough to share with others. I probably still have some of that paper, long after that little store has disappeared. That is what I used to shape my fireworks cylinders and make my boxes.
For weeks while watching TV I made all sizes of open and closed boxes, cartons and cones in different colors, and rolled and glued dozens of colored paper tubes of various sizes around a bamboo skewer or a dowel, etc. While I worked on the fireworks, I kept all the materials and tools in a shallow box and just slid it underneath our sofa.
A few labels were cut from advertising flyers, but most came from a wholesale fireworks catalog that I got from my husband's Uncle Elvin, who was a wholesale fireworks distributor for many years. Many of his customers ran fireworks stands all over southern Oklahoma and large expanses of Texas during both the 4th of July season and the less-popular Christmas season.
It was amazing the variety I found in Uncle Elvin's catalog. I made so many fireworks that I had enough leftovers to give as gifts and still have some!
The blotchy silvery look is from the mirror which I added to the back of the stand to bring in more light because it was so dark in there. Unfortunately, it sure makes it hard to photograph things well. Fortunately, it looks perfectly fine in real life.
Here I have used a rectangle, cones, cylinders.
I even used the largest cylinders as holders for certain fireworks!
Luckily, I had these fat plastic beads in red, blue, yellow and green in my stash. Oops - hadn't realized that one of the Crazy Bees is upside down!
These are heavy duty fireworks, I would guess!
More fireworks and extra cartons are stored in the floor under the bottom shelf. Miss Minnie's cap hanging on the back of the chair and the vest hanging on the door were from a Joann Swanson project.
The flat Uncle Sam was among Christmas decorations one year, apparently for someone who wanted to do a patriotic tree.
I added the yellow underneath the large signs for added visual interest and to make the white background of the signs stand out against the off-white background, and also used my pinking shears on the strips.
The little Uncle Sam and the wooden flag were also Christmas ornaments. I cut away their hanging twine loops.
This fireworks stand has appeared on our sofa table by the front door for many Julys and it's held up well. I still enjoy examining its contents because I like to see how much I did with very little in my early days. It was fun doing all that contriving but it also serves as a reminder of how fortunate miniaturists are these days to have so many items available.
And I always think of Uncle Elvin and all his stories and adventures with and knowledge of fireworks.