It is that time of the year again where here in America we celebrate our Independence from the British. Independence Day (4th of July) also seems to serve as a time to acknowledge the “middle of summer” although that is far from technically correct.
It does seem to be a passage from the beginning of summer to heading toward fall, at least that is how I saw it when I was a kid growing up in mid-west America. It helped to mark time on the calendar until school started again.
As I grew up the 4th of July was one filled with fond memories of celebrating that was like no other holiday of the year.
The Cannon Shot
Warm weather mornings would start off with one exploding “report” we kids would call a “cannon shot” fired off at the same time in the AM at all of the city-owned parks. It was like a blast to remind us all that “in the dawns early light” the flag was still there. It would be followed by anticipation of the day which would include a very festive 4th of July parade through the heart of main street in downtown.
It was a big parade, including several marching bands ( the mid-west was full of competing marching bands). They would play great tunes with huge horn sections and drums (drum and bugle corps I think they called them). It was always great. In between would be floats from local businesses, clowns on cycles, honorary cars with veterans from foreign wars, the Shiners, the Lions, the Mason’s, 4H … clubs and organizations of all sizes and shapes would participate. It was a cross section of Americana in the middle of the 20th century. The town would line up on the curbs and hours would pass before the fire-engine brigade would finish it up. [Actual picture below from that time]
The Cook-out (barbecue)
Later in the day my dad would rev up the charcoal grill (no gas grills in my memory existed in my yard or anyone elses those days) and he would rotate chicken on the rotisserie and mom would make various salads ( if you call jello salad, potato salad actually salads). It was “all good” on the screened in porch with refreshments and chips for us kids.
The Doll Buggy Parade
At some point there would be a neighborhood parade that would include a “doll-buggy” promenade of kids with their bikes and wagons with flags and crepe-paper and smiles as their parents looked on. Just a few blocks length, but the city would barricade the streets for the 15 minutes it would last- it was special to the families. Not sure how many of these happened over the entire city- but it seemed to happen in my neighborhood for many years- I think as a remnant of an earlier time. It finally stopped happening.
Then lastly came the FIREWORKS! In my town since we lived on the coast of the Great Lake Michigan, fireworks were sent above the lake shore at dusk and it would seem the entire city would be there. They were always memorable, and when the bigger/grander one’s would explode you could hear a collective “ooo” or “ah” from the entire crowd down the beaches and parks that line the shore of the Lake.
When we would get back home we would lite sparklers on the lawn and dance around in complete awe. Long thin pieces of metal that would have sparkling chemicals that could actually get extremely hot. My mother would always caution to be careful to hold the end but not ever touch them. We would have a cold-water metal bucket to put them in when we were done.
Those are my fond memories of my childhood 4th of July. I think there are indelible snap shots in my mind.