With the acrid smell of firecrackers lingering in the hot summer air, mid-century memories of July 4th parades past return.
The 1950s American Dream made manifest, the annual Independence Day parade was a sugar-coated, Kodachrome kaleidoscope of you’re a grand old flag-waving, boy scout marching, lemonade sippin’, ice cream cone lickin,’ firecracker popping, sparklers glowing, ex GI’s and their new Blue Cheer whiter than white families, living out the second generation American subdivision dream.
“I love a parade, the tramping of feet, I love every beat I hear of a drum…”
The summer air was redolent of barbecues and Roman candles as my family and I would make our way towards the big parade in our suburban town.
The elm lined streets in town were a hazy sea of new and improved Norman Rockwell red white and Pabst ribbon blue.
All along the parade route, freckled faced boys with Howdy Doody grins, whizzed by us tossing cherry bombs as they rode their Schwinn Black Phantom bicycles . The red, white, and blue streamers on the handlebars flapped noisily in the wind while the Topps baseball cards they had strategically placed in the spokes of the bikes fat whitewall tires created loud motor sounds mimicking the rumbling thunder of the motorcycles ridden by the police that were roaring up and down the side of the street in order to keep the swelling crowds back.
“I love a parade a handful of vets a line of cadets…”
We squeezed in between other newly transplanted families indistinguishable from one another but for the different fun to wear easy to care California inspired geometric patterns on their Robert Hall no-iron Dacron clothes.
Their wives were a chatty gaggle of amber waves of trouble-free Toni home permanents that had not unfurled in the humidity.
Their you-dont-know-how-lucky-you-are- to-live-in-the-country children weaved in and out of the crowds, a colorful bunch of boisterous backyard buckeroos with cap firing pistols and sputtering sparklers.
…That rat a-tat-tat, the blare of a horn a bright uniform…”
Straggling groups of mentally awake and morally straight cub scouts craning their necks in search of their parents hoping for a wave of approval, marched proudly in their sanforized true blue uniforms doing their best to do their duty for God and their country
The sound of crashing cymbals’ and beating drums signaled the appearance of the High School marching band as a tortured rendition of Stars and Stripes was played by a group of earnest, pimply faced teenagers struggling hard to maintain even spacing between each musician. Dressed identically in spotless white gloves and tall satin hats with fancy feather plumes the hats cunningly concealed summer crew cuts but revealed ravished faces splotched with skin colored Clearasil.
In the distance the familiar ringing of the Good Humor Truck was nearly obliterated by the loud pealing of the church bells coming from St Catherines of Sienna signalling the beginning of the rally.
The cavernous church nearly dwarfed the American Legion hall next door to it where the spectators began assembling to hear the speeches. The theme of our local parade was the celebration of the Four Freedoms.
While some spunky sub-debs dressed in majorette outfits strutted and twirled chrome glitter top batons, others in high luster acetate dresses with gleaming gold crosses that twinkled in the hot sun, carried banners proclaiming “Freedom of Worship- One Nation Under God.”
Looking straight at me with a wholesome wink and a half whispered hello was the envy of every girl in High School, the blue eyed Angelic Halo hair perfect Drum Major.
Her incandescent dazzling Doris Day smile artfully framed by lips outlined in Flame-Glo heavenly pink lipstick was a perfect match for her sunburned don’t be a paleface pink complexion, made you proud to be an American.
“….you’re the emblem of the land I love”
I do miss small town parades and homemade ice cream.
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Thirty years ago, in my foggy city, my husband and I climbed to the top of a hill to watch the distant fireworks. Other families from our neighborhood had the same idea. Some were speaking Chinese or Vietnamese. The family directly in front of us were speaking Russian. They were holding small American flags. Being there, with them, was more memorable than any firework display. Sometimes things really do work the way we hope they will..
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A beautiful story for today…thanks for sharing!
I am from Asia and by the looks of the beautiful imagery you used, i too want a taste of an authentic Fourth of July Celebrations! Great write-up by the way! Teenagers my age should really divulge in such great works! Thank You!