Wednesday, July 2, 2008

4th of July

When I was a young girl, the 4th of July was one of my favorite holidays. I loved going to the University stadium and enjoying the pre-fireworks show. A man stood down in the field with a microphone and led us in stupid songs, like Old Mr. Ford had a puncture in his tire. We had to make the arm motions and noises and eliminate words one at a time until we were just doing motions and noises with the joining words.
It went like this:
sung to the refrain of Battle Hymn of the Republic

Old Mr. Ford had a puncture in his tire (Glory, Glory Hallelujah)
Old Mr. Ford had a puncture in his tire (Glory, Glory Hallelujah)
Old Mr. Ford had a puncture in his tire (Glory, Glory Hallelujah)
and he fixed it with a wad of chewing gum. (somewhat distorted tune of His Truth is Marching On)

the motions and sounds were:
Old Mr. (uhh) had a (sssss) in his (arms up, elbows bent hands over head to form a circle)
3 times
And he fixed it with a wad of chewing (singing "mmmmmm" instead of "gum" pulling in and out and in imaginary gum in trombone fashion from teeth)

It was sung 5 times. The first was without motions.
Second verse just substituted "Ford" for "uhh"
Third substituted "uhh" for "Ford" and "sssssss" for "puncture"
Forth verse substituted like the second, but added the hand motion for "tire" leaving the word unsaid
The fifth verse substituted "mmmmmm" instead of "gum"

It was highly entertaining to children. We loved to bring guests, because we were in the know and it was fun to watch the guests catch onto the silly songs. I am sure it was pretty boring to the adults, maybe not. I think they had music and other entertainment, but I never remembered that stuff.

At last it began to get dark. The first displays were down on the field. Elaborate flags that lit up in fireworks. There were spinning wheels, Niagara Falls in fireworks, and other very delightful and amazing displays.

At one point everyone lit a match. The whole stadium lit up on the count of three and once where it was dark, we could see everyone's faces as though the lights had been turned on for a second. Daddy made sure we always had a good supply of stick matches so we could hurry and light more if ours burnt out. Our seats were always on the west, in the shadows of the tall mountains behind us. Sometimes we shivered and brought sweaters and blankets as the sun set.

Finally the fireworks began in earnest. The MC felt it his obligation to continue with his running banter, and encouraged the audience to "ooooooo" and "ahhhhhh" in unison.

Once when my little sister had an accident (she had hit her head really hard and received a concussion), she wasn't allowed to do anything exciting, so she had to stay home. I stayed home with her as the family went to the fireworks. Now you mothers will cringe when you hear the next part. We decided to find out if we could see the fireworks from home, so we got a ladder and climbed upon the roof. heh heh We knew the whole program so much by heart, that we produced our own little show, singing the songs, and trying to remember what they might be doing now. We didn't light up matches, that's a good thing, but we did ooooo and ahhhhhhh when the tiny fireworks lit up the horizon. It wasn't the same as them bursting over head, but we didn't feel too left out. These are good memories.

The town where I now reside is located in the west desert of Utah. It is very much unlike my childhood traditions. For one, it is hot here on the 4th.

We have other traditions. The first and most loved by the kids, and hated by me, is the cannon which drives all over our One Square Mile town at 6 in the morning and ignites the noisy kind of firework. They awaken the town. The first summer after we had moved here, I had particular trouble getting my baby to sleep. I was exhausted and was highly irritated by the loud cannons going off all over town. You don't just hear the ones in your neighborhood, you head the whole stupid display for about 15 minutes. They have a fund-raiser for the scouts in the park. They already have the big grills fired up and are making pancakes, sausage and eggs. So they shoot off cannons so we all get up and support the scouts. We could never afford to feed our family of 8 at the park, so I had to get up and make a delicious breakfast.

After breakfast, everyone gathers up and down Main street. People have parked their cars, set up lawn chairs strung with rope and all sorts of ways to reserve their spot on the sidewalk in the hot sun. We never had that large of a group to feel a need to save spots and depended on kind "established families" to offer us a space with them. The senior citizens have stadium seats taken from the local ball field set up for them in the park and in the shade, right beside the MC who is telling us over a loud-speaker what the next display is.

We have a parade with the Summer Marching Band, old tractors and cars, horses, cowboys, floats with Miss County, Miss Rodeo, and Miss City and their attendants riding. We have ATV's, and a little train which houses a guy dressed up like Gorilla that jumps out of his cage and chases the kids. We have the float with the grocery store employees throwing out frozen otter pops to the kids and many floats that toss out various forms of candy, mostly taffy. The library tosses out old discontinued books. At one time, one of the members of the City Counsel used to follow the horses with a little wagon and a pooper scooper. He had a clever saying on his wagon about serving the people. The fire trucks come by, and one sprays water on the crowds and they all blow their sirens. Oh, and all the Demolition Derby cars. Yes we have one of those here.

After the parade, the park is filled with vendors selling goods to eat, games to play, lots of fund raisers for cheerleaders, scouts, etc. There is a Patriotic program where many people sing, read and honor the heros. Then everyone retires to the houses until the evening.

The Destruction Derby begins about 6 or 7 in the evening. There are at least 70 heats. No, I am exaggerating, but it seems like it. I have been to several, but once you seen one, they all kind of blur together and look exactly alike. Even the Master of Ceremony's banter is about the same. And it is not cool enough in the evening to enjoy anything. It is so hot, and the persons planning this a long time ago, didn't realize that most of the seats in the arena face west, toward the setting sun, so everyone fries and develops migraine headaches before the derby even begins.

I had never seen anything like this when we first moved here. People spend the spring and summer months getting ready by fixing up old cars. They remove interior stuff, weld up roll bars, smash the windows out and soup the engines up. Then when the heats begin they drive into each other and try to be the last car moving in the end. If you sit too close, you get dusted and sprayed with mud and grit. This is not my idea of a perfect July 4th.

Finally when the sun has set, the dust has settled, and the last of the 1,000,000 or so endless noisy Crash-up cars have all limped away, three are declared champions and given a tiny amount of money as the prize along with a garish trophy. Then we can finally watch fireworks, put on by our volunteer fire department. We don't get them overhead, like in the University stadium, they are further away. The display doesn't last as long, but hey, we are on a tiny budget compared to the big city. After about 10 minutes there is a large group of fireworks all lit together and the night is over.

It is always hot on the 4th. I think that is what I really dislike about the 4th of July. I have found that I just wilt in the heat, and would much rather not bother with any movement at all. Sailor says the opposite of hibernate is to aestivate. That is summer hibernation where you crawl into a cool hole and sleep it off until the worst of the heat is gone. I guess I am a squirrel at heart.

The 4th was fun while the kids were home, but now that they all have married and moved away, it really isn't my favorite holiday any more. I would rather skip it all together. Probably my favorite part is watermelon and a wonderful treat my grandma used to make called Crullers. It is sort of a fried bread that bubbles, like vanity cakes in Little House on the Prairie. They are salted and served with watermelon. But I can eat that without all the other hoopla.

In fact, party-poopers that we are, in the past years, we have skipped all the town celebrations and quietly picked the summer apples on the tree down the street and canned applesauce. If I have to endure the heat, I may as well be doing something productive.

One more thing that is my favorite is the Air Force planes that fly over us right before the parade. It is a new tradition, but they leave Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah and fly the entire state of Utah, doing a quick zip over our tiny Main Street to the west then turn around and come back east before they head onto the next town. That absolutely thrills me to my soul and I find myself shedding a tear with wonderment and awe.

As we watched our children grow up and move away, my husband began to rack his brain with ways to entice our children to come back and visit us. The kid's Grandpa had horses and a farm. But we don't' have that kind of children-magnets. Much to our surprise, the 4th of July events in this town is what they talk about from their childhood memories. How were we to guess it would Crash-Up Derby that brought them back to see us.

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th celebration.



Sailor said...

Hi Dear One,
That was a nice post. We do have some kind of funny traditions, but mostly it is a lot of fun. I do like the fireworks. Skyrockets in flight will always have my attention.

RisibleGirl said...

What great memories you have! I remember that the kids in school would sing "Lori, Lori hallelujah" instead of Glory- just to make me cry (what can I say? I was a sensitive child?) I'm over it now. ;)

You have a great 4th too!


Grandma Cebe said...

I actually love the small town 4th celebrations. Last year on the morning of July 4, we were riding on our motorcycle through a tiny town in Idaho. It was just before their town parade was suppose to start. People were sitting in chairs along Main Street. They waved at us and I did my very best float queen wave back. We wish that we had stopped to see the entire parade instead of cruising through town.

I still miss Park City's avalanche guns at 6 AM on the 4th of July.

Anonymous said...

That is a true representation for the 4th in our home town. I don't know what brings us back year after year, but we love it!! My kids look forward to the parade because of the flying candies. I guess we also have family in the derby which makes it more exciting for us. We will be sad when my Grandma passes away and we won't have anywhere to stay. We may have to come up with new traditions when that happens. Hope you have a great 4th this year.

Annieofbluegables said...

Oh, Lori, you made me laugh out loud. Likewise, did your sister die in Primary when they sang, "Zippity Yea and a Heidi Ho, here's something we can do. . ."
Is that where she got her online name?

You too MG! I just giggled with laughter. "Float Queen wave", that's hilarious! ha ha ha

TWC, glad you enjoy these days. You're always welcome at our house. btw: I edited your comment to take out the name of the town.

and Sailor. . . skyrockets in flight. . .
::annie blushes::


HiHoRosie said...

You know, people have been calling me Heidi Ho for as long as I can remember that I wasn't ever embarrassed by it in a song and knowing me I probably liked it! ha ha!

Great post btw. Fun memories! I've always loved the 4th myself but my "traditions" seem to change from year to year so for me, it's whatever goes. :)

wendy harbaugh said...

Maryjanes book can be found here

poopie said...

Wow...lots of memories! Thanks for the new word aestivate. Now I know what to call my summertime activity :) I,too,wilt in the heat.

pixiestylist said...

you forgot how we would sleep on the trampoline JUST so we could be properly awakened by the "cannon" fireworks! :)


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