Thursday, July 3, 2008

July Fourth Celebration
8.5" x 11"
The drawing today is a memory of how it was on one Fourth of July when I was growing up. Daddy really believed in doing a few fireworks out in the front yard by the street before going to bed. In this drawing, Daddy, dressed in his khakis and felt hat, is ready to set off a Roman Candle as he stood by the curb. Barbara, the brave one, is arranging a small string of firecrackers along the curb. She wanted to light them herself, but Mama fretted from the porch and said, "No! Don't you let that child light a firecracker!"
I'm standing behind Daddy, scared, but fascinated, as I hold a sparkler that he lit for me.
You have to understand that I was terrified of lighting matches and fire after my dress caught on fire when I was about 4. I was terrified of matches, after the incident. I had nightmares about my room catching on fire in the night. In high school, even, our homemaking teacher made me sit on the steps to the kitchen all day one day, trying to get me to strike a match and light the gas hot plate. In college, I was glad if I could get someone else to light a cigarette for me. Eventually, it got a little better and I could light a stove and strike a match. But I did it in a hurry and got away from it. So just holding a little sparkler was a big accomplisment for me. I was assured it wouldn't burn and the little sparkles that came off from it didn't hurt. So, I was okay with a sparkler, but not anything more explosive.
We didn't have the fancy, spectacular fireworks that we have today. Just small, or a little larger, fire crackers, sparklers, Roman Candles, and, if you wanted something more risque, there were chasers and some kind of small rocket with a stick on it. You could stick those in the ground or put them in a bottle and launch them. They didn't go very far, and usually just fizzled.
The last two were more expensive, so we didn't get to see those very often.
There were no big fireworks displays for a community or city. I'm not even sure where we bought fireworks. There were no big fireworks stands. I think you could just buy a few at the grocery store.
We had a wonderful bandstand that would have made a great place for a patriotic band concert, picnics and playing in the park on the Fourth. But, a lot of people went out to the Country Club for a barbeque, swimming, golf, and enjoying the little lake with its lily pads and swinging bridge. Some families had their own celebrations with picnics, watermelon on the lawn, maybe lemonade and cake on the lawn or the porch late in the evening .
I don't remember that anyone barbequed or cooked out at home. You could go to the roadside park, after they built one north of town, and roast weiners on the barbeque pit, or have a picnic.
In my picture, you can also see the two story house across the street and part of their driveway. On the left side, you can see the park with the peak on the bandstand, and a street light in the park, glowing among the trees.
While we didn't have any big community patriotic celebrations on the Fourth, we did have plenty of patriotic feelings and observances at school, downtown, and at the churches. In small groups and large. For this was the time of WWII . We lived, believing in this country and our way of life, and thought that it was worth fighting and dying for. We thought that anyone who disrespected our country, our flag, our service people, our symbols, or our way of life, was sure to be hauled away to never be heard of again, and, at the least, shunned by the rest of the people. A flag that touched the ground, accidentally, had to be burned. Other than that, we cherished it. We wouldn't have even thought of not participating in the daily flag ceremony at school or any other place.
One time, a few years ago, I had to sit at the end of the football field during high school graduation. Before the program started, I was visiting with the lady who sat next to me. We couldn't hear the loud speaker at all from where we had been seated. Apparently, the people around us couldn't hear either. Suddenly, I realized that we had missed standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, and the people on the other side of the field were sitting down as it ended. Even at my age, I thought that was a terrible thing! And I was so embarrassed, to think that I had sat through the Pledge and not participated! What a terrible example.
Well, I did have the excuse that my knees were not letting me get up and down very well, and, above all, we couldn't hear what was going on at that end of the field.
Even at home, when I am alone, or when I was in my classroom and no one was there for morning ceremonies, I would stand up and participate during the Pledge and the prayer. I never was sure if I was supposed to or not, but I thought it would be the thing to do. It isn't for an audience, but reaffirms our beliefs and our dedication. No matter who is there.
In these times, we certainly need all the patriotism that we can get. I hope that you will be out celebrating, and thinking about why we observe this day. And pass it on to future generations.
Some observances here include a neighborhood celebration at Heritage Park.
And, of course, the big celebration over at the George Bush Library. That's always very special with a day of touring the museum, seeing people portraying historic characters, games for the kids, ice cold watermelon, vendors with treats like sausage on a stick, bands to entertain, a military plane flyover, concert by the local symphony to accompany the big fireworks finale. Downtown, a new place is opening with a band to entertain.
Some people will head for the lake, or enjoy a backyard barbeque or picnic.
With gas prices and everything going up but incomes, I imagine that a lot of people will be staying at home and watching the fireworks on tv.
Dry conditions here make it very unwise for people to do individual fireworks. Leave that to the professionals who do the big displays for special events. Enjoy one of those.
I hope that you are preparing for a wonderful, safe Fourth, with many happy memories, and mindful of why we have this holiday.

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