4th of July – History – An American Tradition
Here are a few factoids about the 4th of July that not everyone knows. For example, independence from the colonial rule of Great Britain was actually declared on the 2nd of July, 1776, that was when, in a closed session of the Second Continental Congress, the vote was taken.
Also, the signing of the Declaration of Independence was not completed by all signatories until August 2nd, 1776. I don’t know about you, but Happy 2nd of July sounds as weird as does Happy 2nd August!
John Adams thought July 2 would be marked as a national holiday for generations to come:
“[Independence Day] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more,”
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
President Adams certainly had a thing for the number 2. Also, it just goes to show you that politicians then were as now; they were wrong as often as they were right.
Born on the Fourth of July
Nope, not talking about the movie.
The only president born on July 4th was Calvin Coolidge, in 1872. Three presidents have died on July 4th, two at virtually the same time. That would be #3, Thomas Jefferson, and that wild and crazy #2, John Adams, both of whom died on July 4th, 1826.
The 4th of July certainly left and mark on Adams!
One other president, James Monroe, also died on Independence Day, in 1831. I wonder if succeeding presidents sort of hid out on that date. Maybe they wrapped themselves in the eras equivalent of bubble wrap and hid under the bed…
Independence Day Today
Nope, once again, not talking about the movie, even if I will, maybe, watch it on July 4th.
I grew up celebrating the 4th of July differently than my folks did. The celebration then was certainly different than how today’s kids celebrate. Also, with the shenanigans we are facing this year, with virus scares and the like, the celebrations will be unlike any of us have seen before.
If you read what President Adams said again, above, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations ” you will see that some of what we do today to celebrate the 4th has been around for centuries. Parades and pomp. Games, sports and shews (or shows). And here, like New Year’s Day, people will be firing guns in the air, as stupid as that is. The bells he speaks of is certainly church bells a-ringing. Today it would be bells on the doors of merchants. Bon fires are still a tradition in some places, and Illuminations had be had in the form of fireworks.
Back in the day…
Growing up, the 4th of July was simply magical. It was amazing. It was, simply put, one of the best days of the year. Only Christmas, Halloween, and my birthday could rival it.
In early June the fireworks stands would start popping up at all the shopping centers. Red Devil Fireworks, Freedom Fireworks, and my personal favorite, Wild Cat Fireworks. Never mind that their offerings were identical, and made by the same people, We had brand loyalty, boy. Wildcat was #1, Red Devil, then Freedom Fireworks, in that order.
Safe and Sane Fireworks
There was something that was so very alluring, to a kid in those days about the firework stands rising in parking lots everywhere. We would bicycle, or skateboard, up to these stands before they opened for the brief selling season. There was hope that, somehow, inventory would be squirreled away in advance. And we’d scrounge around after the stands closed for the season hoping to find forgotten pyrotechnic items. We found nothing. Ever. Makes sense, now. These stands were mostly operated by organizations as a yearly fundraiser, so being profitable way key!
And, once the stands opened, we would hang out in front, staring at the items we wish we had the money to buy. Some kids got the Block Party assorted firework sets. These were the kids who’s parents had more money than sense. $99 bucks back then. so, like, $350+ now. Each of us had the secret hope that a person operating the stand would take pity on us and toss us a Block Party box.
Firework Stand Inventory
Looking back, the fireworks we coveted back them were pretty lame. Row upon row of pyrotechnics, meant for kids to light afire. Kids, fire, what’s to worry?
What was in there?
Fountains. That was the big ticket item, really. Those were what cost the most. Ground Bloom Flowers provided a lot more entertainment, in that they at least had motion. But they really were just fountains with high velocity jets of the same stuff in fountains. The difference is that the flowers would lay on the ground and spew their flames out on side, making them spin. Piccolo Pete’s though, were a LOT of fun, if you knew how to work them.
A regular Piccolo Pete, you light the fuse, it ignites, and makes a high pitch shrill sounds for maybe 10 seconds, max. However, if you crimped them near the middle, to bottom, they would explode. “Eeeee BOOM!” Nothing like taking a perfectly legal firework and turning into something totally sketchy!
Then there were the lame items. The aforementioned fountains, yuk. Pinwheels. Yuk. Ground snakes were stupid. A little pill you light afire and it unfolds into an ash snake that left a mess everywhere. But the worst of the worst? Sparklers. Whoever invented these ought to be flogged. The best things about sparklers? Throwing them away. If, however, you were into Estes rockets, you could cut a sparkler into 1/5 parts and cram them into an Estes rocket engine, then light those, making sparklers into long, sparkling fuses.
Safe and Sane Fireworks
Safe and Sane fireworks, which we cannot get out here anymore due to fire and safety issues, were pretty tame and lame. In fact, they ought to be called Tame and Lame, rather than Safe and Sane. The most exciting part was lighting the fuses. Seriously. I mean, hey, something could go wrong, and BOOM! That was where the thrill was.
Still, I would not trade a second of those good times lighting fireworks out front of my folks house. Not for a million dollars.
The Folks knew how to Party
I often heard my step-dad, who was more my dad than my bio-dad, talk about the good old days. What’s better than “Roman Candle Wars?” Until you are shooting balls of fire at someone, you’ll never know. It’s a blast!
My step dad grew up in a time when kids were kids. Firecrackers were a rite of passage. As were guns, especially where he grew up in Texas. Bigger boom’s could be had, too, but bottle rockets, firecrackers, and Roman Candles were the norm.
I got the chance to try all these out when I was about 13 years old. We visited relatives in Texas, and my step dad bought me like 9 bricks of firecrackers, some Ladyfingers, some cherry Bombs, 3 bricks of bottle rockets, and a few Roman Candles.
See, you could not light these off in town, nor could you buy them in town. You had to drive outside the city limits. Back in the 1930’s you could buy and light them in town. In fact my step dad told me a story about when he was a teen working in a fireworks stand and someone tossed a lit cigarette into the stand. He dove out of there just as the whole stand began to cook off.
So, in town being a no-no, (I found out first hand after bombarding an anthill with firecrackers) we would travel out to a lake and light them off the cool fireworks there. Honestly, it was good fun shooting bottle rockets at passing water skiers. Dumb, but fun.
The Typical 4th of July
Growing up, the typical Fourth of July was much anticipated. It was one of my favorite holidays, like I said above. Get up, shower, have breakfast. I can still smell potato salad being made. Maybe eat some watermelon. Shop for fireworks. Go for a swim or a picnic. Eat some grilled burgers. Attend a California Angles game. Yep, that was their name back them, and they usually lost. then, oh yeah, then came the fireworks show at Angel Stadium. That’s what it was called back them, home of the California Angels.
That firework show was ALWAYS on point, except one year when it was about half as long as normal. I guess the budget sucked eggs that year, yeah? the show sure did, anyway. The huge blossoming of aerial rockets. The oooos, the ahhhs…
But, my favorites were the percussion rockets. Or mortars. Whatever. These would briefly flash in the sky among the blooms of the regular fireworks, and they would create a tremendous boom that shook the very stadium. The concrete you stood on, or sat on, quivered under the thunder of these.
After the display we’d fight the crowds, both walking, and driving, and head home, where we’d light the lame street fireworks.
Today is different – and has been
Today the 4th of July is different. Or seems different. Maybe it’s my perspective. Things are expensive. Maybe I am jaded over years of endless toil. Perhaps I no longer possess the wide-eyes wonder of youth.
With even Safe and Sane fireworks illegal most everywhere in California, we’re left with only the cost of Independence Days Past. Oh, sure, a ball game. Perhaps there’s a fireworks show after (usually there is). There’s still potato salad and watermelon. Beer flows as it always has. Parades, I’m sure there are some out there. I don’t think there is anything more boring than standing and watching a parade. Honestly, I’d rather eat a large warm bowl of snot.
How will the 4th of July be different today?
- More people than ever will watch fireworks shows on their televisions.
- 4th of July Parades – What parades?
- Baseball games – What gives there?
- Gatherings full of masks and hand sanitizer
With the threat of Covid 19, the 4th of July itself has been pretty much banned. Sure, it’s still Independence Day, but all the magic? Hiding in the dark, wearing a mask, scared.
It’s sort of like the old brainteaser-meme-riddle. “Daddy, do all countries have the fourth of July?”
“Well, yes son, everybody’s calendar, everywhere, has the 4th of July. It’s just that here in the USA we celebrate that date as our Independence Day.”
You know, watching a fireworks show is one thing. there’s the tactile senses involved – you hear and feel the concussion of the shells bursting. You see and smell the smoke. I don’t know if it’s cordite you smell, but that’s what it reminds me of.
With covid, may people will watch their fireworks on the television. But on TV, all you see is the shell bursts. you have zero sense of scale, and zero tactile, or real aural, involvement. It’s like smelling a picture of a rose. Yes, it’s a rose, in image only.
Googling around our community, as well as other communities, it appears that Covid-19 has pretty much ground all, or most, parades to a halt. I see none at all scheduled.
Baseball Games Fireworks – 2020
Looking at my Beloved Angles website, so far all games are postponed. they could resume soon, but in any case, they are playing in Atlanta on July 4th. the Dodgers (aka Doyers) are schedules to play the Marlins on July 4th, in LA, and there is to be a “Holiday Fireworks Show” after. Anyone want to take a bet that this game is cancelled too?
I do see where the City of Anaheim is pushing a 4th of July 5k run in addition to a diaper dash. What is blue blazes is a diaper dash!?! Welp, I don’t see a whole lot of fun in running or walking 5 kilometers in a diaper, let alone in a mask, so, hard PASS! Sounds kinda dumb.
Where to see a fireworks show for the 4th?
By the way, if you’re looking for Fourth of July firework shows, they this easy map. No matter where you are, this map can help you find your nearest fireworks show.
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