A Booming Second Career
Steve Hall recently earned his masters degree in explosives engineering. Photos by Sam O’Keefe.
It was 1974 when Steve Hall first crossed the stage in Gale Bullman to receive his chemical engineering degree. This spring, exactly 40 years later, Hall made the trek again, this time to pick up his master’s degree in explosives engineering.
“I’ve always loved fireworks. I became a chemical engineer because I was fascinated by high-energy materials,” says Hall. “I started taking firecrackers apart when I was 6 years old. I guess I just never grew up.”
A full-time chemical engineer, Hall spends much of his free time as a fireworks display operator in and around his hometown of Louisiana, Mo., and at his cabin in Pacific, Mo.
“The first couple of shows I shot without a BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) license,” he says. “It was before 9/11. I actually made my own fireworks and shot them in a private show for my friends.”
Hall is a member of the Pyrotechnical Guild International Inc., a group of about 2,000 fireworks enthusiasts who meet at an annual convention for seminars and to put on spectacular public fireworks displays.
“It’s a great big party — we build the fireworks there and shoot them from about 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. for six days,” he says. “That’s where I really got hooked and learned how to build fireworks.” The August 2014 convention will be his 20th consecutive one.