Hooray for the Fourth of July!!

Jun 29 2012 - 11:49am

Several years ago we were in England for a history conference. While walking in downtown Oxford a passerby called to us, "Happy Fourth of July!!" We were somewhat surprised that it was the 4th, but more so that of all places an Englishman would give us that greeting.

We've experienced a variety of happy 4ths in our lives. My husband's family met on that day for a reunion for many years. After our children left home and my father-in-law died another tradition of attending the Lewiston, Utah parade ended.

Our kids liked the parade, as did we, because of its uniqueness. Cars backed onto the sidelines of the parade route to watch. It reminded me of drive-in movies where you enjoyed the show in the comfort of your car.

A kind of community reunion took place as we greeted others who had converged on the little town.

Another earlier 4th found our family trying to celebrate without sparklers. Mom had forgotten to buy them. That didn't seem to bother our creative two-year-old. I quote from my diary. "All the neighbors were lighting their [sparklers] and Jimmy kept jabbering about celebrating. Finally he got a paper cup and took it outside and threw it up in the air a few times. Then he got his flashlight and a page he had colored in his color book and shined the flashlight on the picture to make a pretty light. He seemed perfectly happy about doing his celebrating that way. I thought he was very ingenious."

The story reminds me of when Utah became a state in 1896. Towns celebrated the occasion minus an American flag with the newest star representing Utah. A couple of Garden City, Utah women hurriedly stitched a 45-star flag together which was placed at one end of their meetinghouse "surmounted by lovely evergreens ... hauled from the canyon."

People like celebrations or even the suggestion of one. When gathering information for my masters' thesis which was a social history of Camp Floyd, the military reservation established by federal soldiers sent to Utah in 1857, I liked the description of military drills at the camp. It seems local residents were drawn to the spectacle also. They commented on the precision of the marchers, the "fine" regimental bands whose musicians could "play so high they needed help getting down." They noted the erect position of the cavalrymen in their saddles, and thrilled to the patriotic tunes which accompanied the drills.

Our family experienced a surprise awakening on a 4th of July in California. We lived across from the junior high and all of a sudden the school alarm went off. One son peeked out the window and saw someone run behind a tree. We were all a little nervous until police arrived and checked things out. We didn't think we'd like to repeat that "celebration."

Probably our most unusual July 4th happened while we lived in Arizona. Friends invited us to go to a reservoir for a boat ride and swimming. We enjoyed the water which, though quite warm, cooled us from the intense heat of the day. One of our children refused to get into the water and he suffered the most. We appreciated our friends including us in their celebration, but we were most grateful to get home to our cool house and tend to our sunburns.

Now we sometimes watch the fireworks from USU's stadium as we sit comfortably in our lawn chairs while our grandkids play with glow sticks and chase each other. I think we're showing our age but we are no less grateful for the freedoms we enjoy.



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