Tag Archives: Fourth of July

Born to Work the Fourth of July

From Fireworks to Facials – 4th of July Edition

4 Rozzi Sisters - Nancy, Angela, Paula and Louise
4 Rozzi Sisters – Nancy, Angela, Paula and Louise

I was born into a fireworks family. Family businesses are a little crazy because, well do I really need to state the obvious? Throw Italian and fireworks in the mix and it’s kicked up a notch. The Rozzi’s have been making, displaying, selling, eating (ok, that’s going a little far), breathing and living fireworks since before 1895.

My great grandfather, Paul Rozzi, started our first factory called New Castle Fireworks, Co. in New Castle, Pa. soon after immigrating here from Pietramelara, Italy. My Grandfather, Arturo Rozzi, the founder of Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks and The Tri-State Mfg. Company, settled our factory here in Loveland, Ohio, after several failed attempts to start factories in a variety of places He ended up here after he landed an 8 night summer gig at Coney Island in the early 1930’s. It gave him enough to start his dream again. I remember Coney Island had an awesome official announcer who introduced the fireworks and said at the end of his intro, “And now Mr. Rozzi, on with the show!” I thought he was famous throughout the world. He made great fireworks, drove a Black Cadillac, had playboy magazines in his office (typical Italian man) and was generous and kind. When we visited the factory he said, “ Put out your hands” and he’d give you as much change as you could hold…. this was when a coke in a machine was probably a dime.

Arthur Rozzi, Founder of Rozzi's Famous Fireworks in front at our factory ages ago.
Arthur Rozzi, Founder of Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks in front at our factory ages ago.

My grandfather left his Father (My great grandfather Paul) to start his own business. The story my Dad told me was that they couldn’t agree on much. Arturo wanted to do things differently. So he did. I know he was an artist and an innovator. He was passionate about fireworks and nothing stopped him from following his dreams. I know he didn’t get it right the first time or the second and actually I don’t know how many times it took, but he got up and tried again. If not, we wouldn’t have ended up in Cincinnati making fireworks.

Women working in process building
Women working in process building

Our factory made two types of fireworks, the kind you see at big displays (1.3G) and the backyard variety (1.4G). Our reputation in the industry was unsurpassed in both. With my grandfather’s creative mind and together with his sons working by his side,( My Father and Uncle), they created one of a kind fireworks with skill, precision and innovation. Every documentary or news article that has ever been done on Rozzi’s usually focused on the big displays and our beautiful (1.3g) shells. I’d like to take this little blurb to tell you a bit about our backyard line and how innovative it was at the time.

We made a full line 1.4G fireworks (back in the day they were referred to as class C for Common) including fountains, rockets, roman candles, aerials and our patented 2 Stage Silver Jets. Pre 1960’s you could have included M-80’s and Cherry Bombs and Silver Salutes, We supplied most stands in open states across the USA as we were the largest manufacturer when U.S. manufacturing was in it’s hey day and sent out tractor trailer loads daily and employed over 100.

My Grandfather invented the Two Stage Silver Jet. It was the first firework made using a plastic molded piece. When placed on a hard surface facing the right way up it soared upward like a helicopter with tremendous force, paused mid air, and took off again mid air. They were red and blue and some people called them “flying brats”, like the sausage…How Cincinnati is that? We also manufactured an item called “The Rocket To The Moon”. The rocket came with it’s own 45Lp (that’s an old school music app for those who don’t know) that played a real NASA countdown recording.   Every June, we opened up our shipping garage and sold our overruns and to the general public. This is what my sisters and I did for 4 weeks every summer. I’ve had a love/ hate relationship with it ever since.

I started working in the summers selling when I was 12 years old right at the start of summer vacation until the 4Th of July. (hate part) It was usually 90 degrees and 100% humidity (hard to rock the curly hair) and the gravel roads kicked some nice dust up throughout the day. It was a place to wear jeans and boots and learn how to drive in old trucks you couldn’t hurt with three on the tree. (I loved this)

The endless 3 questions were and still are ( hate part):

  1. What’s the loudest thing you got in here?
  2. What’s the biggest bang for the buck?
  3. Do you sell M-80’s?

It’s the place I spent every summer working with my sisters. There were others in the later years with nieces and nephews and in-laws, but it was working with my sisters that I remember and value now the most. I’ve loved it and hated it. I could never walk completely away from it, I know as I’ve often tried.

It’s my weakness and my strength. It’s a tradition and a worthy opponent. It’s beaten me more than once, but as a great teacher, it taught me how to get up one more time. We carried, packed and sold a lot of fireworks. We made lots of mistakes. In counting, adding or forgetting a case, but we were kids. We got ripped off so many times. We did the best could but didn’t always get it right. I thank God I had my sisters with me during those times. They showed me how to do everything and if we didn’t know we figured it out without cell phones, Google or Youtube videos. If a bad day knocked me down, one of them was there to put a hand out and pull me back up. You’ve got to have someone to go to and say, “Oh man, I messed up or can you understand a word that guy said? or I think he’s drunk, I’m going to need some help.” We figured it out together. (If my dad found out, well that was a different story.) We worked together so long we developed a kind of rhythm. We didn’t have to discuss or talk about how to sell or stock, we just did what we did. And when push came to shove, we had each other’s backs.

For the most part things ran well. We dealt with assorted drunks and thieves. It was a great school. We laughed a lot, mostly out of delirium from the heat and exhaustion. We fought a lot too, probably again mostly due to heat and exhaustion and generally being together way too much. But there comes a time when things need to change. When you might want the bigger job or a different role. In a family that’s a tall order. That’s when the shit hits the fan. The day you want to show up as one of the big kids.

So in the spirit of my Grandfather who left his father to pursue his own dreams, sometimes moving on is necessary to grow and it is the same spirit that moved me to go on my own. After all, isn’t this what Independence Day is all about?

A young country growing up and knowing so completely that it must forge it’s own path and did so with such focused determination. To grab with both hands the God given right of free will to make ones own decisions and learn from it’s own mistakes. While not forgetting to honor old traditions they fought to banish and be free from the ones that stifled, oppressed and kept them rooted in values that no longer served them. Isn’t that what everyone wants?

To gain the independence, you must be willing to forge ahead into new uncharted territory without guarantees. It’s backbone is made up of determination and perseverance and knowing that in order to succeed, giving up is not an option. If it had had been, would any of us be enjoying our right to celebrate our country’s independence loudly and proudly as only Americans know how to do on the Fourth of July?

Look back at any hard won victory and know that you will most certainly get knocked down, but don’t stay there. Getting up and back in the ring is what it’s all about. If you can’t get up by yourself, put your hand out and by the grace of God and all that’s good, someone will help you up the way my sisters helped me up. (We knocked each other down a time or two but hey, that’s family)

Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks continues to grow and evolve and come into it’s own with each generation. We are now going into the 6th. I value the family it has become, and I’m not just talking about those with the Rozzi name, and I remain ever grateful to be part of a 6 generation Fireworks family, no matter how crazy it gets, and thank you to my great grandfather for immigrating to this big beautiful land of freedom, opportunity and tolerance. I love my Italian heritage, but the being an American moves my spirit and inspires me to be more.

We laugh,
We fight,
We take care of each other
We split,
We get together
We rearrange until we think it’s right
…..Simply because we fought for and won the right to have the debate.
We win some
We lose some
We fall
We help each other up
Here is where
Hope Springs Eternal

There are no facials this week as I’m selling, packing and stocking fireworks in elated misery.

Celebrate! It’s important. Do it justice and do it safely.

In the spirit of 4th of July moxie, think about the people in your lives that helped you up, throw them a hand and maybe light something …..


**Thank you Grace Della Torre Burns, my lovely daughter for the music selection that fits so perfectly.