These pyrotechnic novelties were a much anticipated finale to the festive repast in an age when smoke alarms didn’t exist and interior fog was commonplace.
Generally presented in a small cardboard box or mounted on a colourful card, indoor fireworks were a devious little selection of devices that were laid out on the kitchen table where they were ignited to the delight of children and the consternation of adults concerned about scorched furniture.
A tin plate or sheet of foil was necessary to protect precious surfaces and the smoking congregation fitted naturally into the scenario because many of these incandescent packages required “touching off” by a cigarette or cigar.
At the end of it all the remnants were swept up and carried through a thick acrid fog to the bin.
All that was left was a chemical miasma, the odd burned finger end and the question of whether we would buy them again the following year.
The seven best indoor fireworks
Smoking cowboy/Puffing train etc.
A card cutout figure that was folded so that it would stand upright and then a white needle like tube stuck into the ‘mouth’ or ‘chimney’. Once lit the pyrotechnic emitted regular puffs of smoke until it expired. Fairly entertaining especially when it blew smoke rings.
Who will find the treasure/win the race?
A chemically impregnated sheet of paper that was embossed with a drawing of a racecourse, or multiple directions to a prize or treasure.
Once “touched off” with a cigarette the path containing the chemical implant would fizz like a detonator until it reached its destination. Then nothing! Usually disappointing and often abandoned out of boredom.
Lighthouse or traffic light pellet
A moderately unpleasant chemical tablet lit at the edge with a match or lighter.
This would burn readily and hissed as it emitted flashes of coloured flame at regular intervals. One was enough and it ruined your night vision.
Six gun/artillery etc.
A short length of paper “cap” containing gunpowder that represented a gun or back firing car.
Lit at one end this gave repeated bangs and pops. The noisiest indoor firework and the briefest.
Much like their full sized Bonfire Night brethren these were about an inch long and were inserted into a card stand and then lit. Colour variations included bright green “jungle flares” and others. Short lived but bright.
Magic Fern/Fairy fern
A tightly folded piece of what looked like brown paper that was inserted into a card stand.
The top edge was lit and over time the paper burned down to leave a frond like ash that looked like an exotic bush. Slow but attractive.
Volcano, snake or pig’s tail
The most entertaining and with the additional attraction of school toilet humour.
This was a foil wrapped cylinder or compound block that was strategically made to look like something that was about to erupt.
The more sanitised types showed it to be a volcano on a card mountainside but the more mischievous versions had it mounted to the backside of a pig to mimic a “tail”.
Once lit this indoor firework had a miraculous and never forgotten metamorphosis into a burning, smoking and endlessly growing tube of “lava” that seemed to grow right out of the kitchen table and then curled up to die as a dried up piece of ash several inches long.
It was the finale to the show and as the years went by cunning children hit on the idea of combining several of these things together to make the eruption biblical in volume.
Forty years on, and after years of health and safety banishment, these brief and at times disappointing parlour toys are once again available.
The “retested” new versions can be bought easily online.