Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July Memories

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I don't remember any special 4th of July festivities when I was growing up in the 1950's.  Elmhurst had a Memorial Day Parade every year which I duly marched in as a Brownie and Girl Scout, but I don't remember a 4th of July Parade.  I think at the time the various surrounding communities shared the parades.  Of course there were always the big city parades to attend.  Though I don't remember the parades, I do remember the fire works.  Sometimes we would go to the park and lay on the grass to watch the spectacle in the skies and sometimes dad would park along the side of the road for our viewing plaesure. Back at home there were sparklers and black cows (root beer floats) to end the day.

Fast forward to the 1960's and celebrating the holiday at my in-Laws.  My in-laws happened to live on Main St in Wheaton.  Wheaton had a huge parade every year and it just happened to go right past my in-laws front door. The 4th of July was an all day occasion at my inlaws.  Early in the morning the step-ladder would be set up at the end of the drive-way.  This would be m father-in-law's perch as he took photos of almost every entry in the parade. Next the lawn chairs would line-up across the front lawn to save places for expected guests. Sometimes there were playpens and strollers too!
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Friends, family, and friends of family were all included. This was a mlti generational event, involving grandparents and great-grandparentsas well as parents, babies and children of all ages.  The fridge in the basement was full of soda for the children and the beer was in a cooler in the driveway.  Hot dogs and hamburgers were kept warm on the Weber grill for snacking during the parade.  When the parade was over the party moved to the backyard for the picnic part of the day.  The food was the same every year:sloppy joes, potato salad, macaroni salad, various relishes, and for desert glorified rice or ambrosia salad and Always ice cold watermelon!! About 7 pm, those who wanted to watch the fireworks would pack up for the 3 block trek to the park.  The sidewalks and even the streets were full of people heading in the same directions,  At the park, blankets would be spread and strollers parked.  Portable radios would be tuned to the same station and decks of cards would come out to while away the time until the show began.  Then it was time for the "OOOOH"s and "AHHH"s.  After the show was over it was time to join the tidal wave of humanity heading back to Main St.At the house, those who chose not to go to the park had moved their chairs back to the front driveway so they could see the arial displays. The advantage here was that babies too young to appreciate fireworks could be safely left behind. I believe this continued until they moved to Florida in the early 1980s.
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When our children grew older and joined Scouts we both marched with them and watched from the sidelines as they participated in the parade in Elburn.  Between Scouting and the Kaneland Band our kids were in 4th of July parades until they graduated from high school. One year when we lived in Elburn, we and 2 neighbors bought the same album of patriotic songs and at a pre-appointed time opened all our windows and dropped the needle and full volume.  It certainly added a festive note to the day!

Often when we lived in Kaneville we would watch fireworks from our deck, while listening to the Boston Pops on the radio.

Living in Florida we celebrated sometimes at the beach and sometimes at home in the pool. Dave went back to being in parades with the Knights of Columbus.  One year we even watched the fireworks at the Naples Pier.

Dave and I were lucky enough to help celebrate the 4th on a military base in Germany.  That brought the meaning of the holiday home in a special way.

I have also celebrated the 4th of July in the mountains of Colorado after a hailstorm.

Now it has come full circle as my daughter and son-in-law watch their children help their communitiy celebrate the holiday as Scouts and Band members.

Off all the ways I have celebrated  the 4th of July, I think the "Wheaton Years" hold the strongest memories both because of their duration but also because of the memories of the family and friends associated with those years.  I know that borh of my kids asociate the "Wheaton Years" with the 4th of July.