Saturday, July 3, 2010

INDEPENDENCE DAY, By Gloria Hannigan

Everyone came together to celebrate the Fourth of July in my hometown, Elysian, Minnesota in the ‘40’s. The Second World War had just ended and we had much to celebrate with the return of our loved ones. Celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence was secondary to the pride of being loyal Americans.

The morning started with a parade down Main Street. The veterans led the parade with the flag bearers, followed by the Boy and Girl Scouts. The grade school children followed waving flags of all sizes.

Next came the mothers with babies in strollers, buggies, or their arms. The strollers and buggies were decorated with stars, and red, white, and blue streamers. The babies were dressed in patriotic outfits as there was a prize for most beautiful baby. There were a few horse and buggies brought out of the barns for this occasion, a couple of Model T Fords with as many teenagers as you could get in and on them, also the latest in John Deere tractors.

After the parade there was a program at the town dance hall. It opened with the presentation of the flag and salute to the flag, followed by the invocation by one of our many ministers. The Mayor gave a welcoming speech. The grade school children performed a skit of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There was always a George Washington with his hatchet chopping down a cherry tree, An Uncle Sam reciting patriotic verse, and a Betsy Ross sewing stars on a flag. The program ended with everyone singing God Bless America.

In the afternoon we would meet at the ball field where our baseball team would play a neighboring town. After the game we would head for the lake shore for a picnic. We didn’t do any barbecuing then, everything was prepared at home. There were wash tubs and large Coleman chests of ice to keep salads, watermelon, and drinks cold. fried chicken was always abundant with potato salad, deviled eggs, and a table full of cakes and pies. The watermelon was fresh off the vine and this was the one time we were allowed to spit the seeds at each other.

As the sun set over the lake, the fireworks started. We listened for the whoosh of the bottle rockets, watched them arc over the lake and heard the sizzle as they came down in the water. There was the pop of penny firecrackers and the loud bang of the larger ones. We wrote our names in the dark with sparklers and threw them in the lake when they got to hot to handle.

After the fireworks we packed up and headed for home to lay down our heads and dream the American dream of parades and flags, songs and skits, baseball and fireworks, and ice cold watermelon.


  1. Gloria I love the simplicity of the small town community you describe. Everyone coming together to honor the flag and their country. Things have changed and the people no longer find it important to celebrate the country or the flag in the same way. There is no longer pride in the people for America, hardly anyone knows flag etiquette or the words to the National Anthem. You have written of a wonderful time now gone from our society. The American dream you've written of is fast becoming extinct. Thanks for reminding me of the freedom that I have always enjoyed and been so proud of being an American.

  2. Gloria, such an enjoyable writing of your hometown Fourth of July! I love all the patriotic detail you wove throughout the story. What a charming storybook it would make with lots of drawings and pictures of the various people and activities you so aptly described. Everyone was involved in the celebration, and your story truly reflects how fortunate we are to enjoy the freedom we do today.

  3. Gloria,
    Your fantastic memory is only second to your descriptive genius. I was caught up in the enthusiasm of the people of Elysian and enjoyed every moment of the 4th down to the last bite of ice-cold watermelon. This is a story that should be published to remind us of the patriotism that once was foremost in the hearts of all Americans.