Sunday, July 5, 2015


Even though only three of our sons would have any possibility of remembering them, some of my fondest memories of Independence Day celebrations took place in Tooele, Utah, a small town tucked snugly against the western slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains. If the vision of the Oquirrh Mountains doesn't immediately spring out of your memory bank, they are that range of mountains on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley which Kennecott Copper Company has been trying to turn into copper tubing since August of 1900 when Jack Smith and Clarence Warner stumbled across a green rock in Bingham Canyon.

Anyway, the morning of Independence Day would begin with the town folks standing one deep along the sidewalk on Main Street watching the town mayor drive by in an antique car marking the beginning of the parade. The town council followed riding on an open fire truck, which, because of its appearance, was probably more antique than the car the mayor was riding in. I always thought it was wonderful that even though the town had long ago retired these vehicles, they were still brought out and paraded on special occasions.

The High School Band which had performed in the Rose Parade and at a Presidential Inauguration was joined by the members of the Junior High Band and the Elementary Band. The tunes they were playing were all very familiar to everyone along the parade route, since they had been playing them every morning before school as they practiced, marching through the main streets of town. However, it was really special to see them all decked out in their parade uniforms.

There were floats which were sponsored by local merchants, civic groups and various units of the local religious groups. Since there wasn't a single package of napkins left to be found on the shelves of the local markets, I suspect they had to go to Salt Lake City to get most of the napkins which had been carefully crammed into molded chicken wire to create the floats. I always thought it would have been a good idea to salvage these napkins for our year’s supply, much like we did when we harvested toilet paper from the trees in front of our house which had been decorated with bathroom bunting by some of the seminary students which attended the classes I taught.

Probably my favorite part of the parade was all the kids and those who still wished they were kids, who marched proudly along in pioneer costumes with decorated bikes and wagons. There were many who just walked the route, being joined by any of the onlookers who were struck with the desire. There were others who pulled or tugged on any species that they could put a collar and a leash on. If memory hasn’t been replaced by fantasy, I am pretty sure I saw a duck on a leash and a young boy carrying a fish bowl.

Since the passing of the parade didn't take all that long, when the entrants got to the south end of Main Street they all turned around and came back through town a second time. If you think about it this would be a great idea for all parades, since the one deep crowd on the sidewalk in Tooele, were able to see both sides of the parade without changing their seats on the curb. (I would make this suggestion to the organizers of the Rose Parade, but I think they already have a logistical nightmare.)

After the parade, there was just enough time to rush home and take care of some necessary creature comfort tasks before we dashed to ‘the park’ (we need no further identification since there was only one park) to enjoy the rest of the morning and the afternoon of the Independence Day Park Celebration. There was usually a wait for some of the booths to open, since they were manned by the same people who had been involved in the parade and with the floats. With our little family we only had to buy a couple of dollars’ worth of tickets to satisfy our needs. I was always grateful that the proceeds from the booths and food went directly to the various charitable causes that were represented.

Independence Day was one of those rare days when our family indulged in food that wasn't prepared by Kathleen. The food we bought for the kids was not only a rare luxury, but their little tummies didn't do all that great when they are pumped full of hotdogs, cotton candy, popcorn and other exotic fare that was offered. Since the consumption rarely finished its trip through the digestive system, it was also pretty much of a waste.

There were lots of activities organized for families where the children could earn precious ribbons which sometimes actually found their way home. The judging was so liberal that if a child could waddle to the judges stand after participating in a race or shoe tying event, they would be presented with a ribbon.
Tables were lined with ‘homemades’ which would stock pantries for weeks to come. Those husbands who wanted to score extra points with their wives would rush to the tables to buy up the results of her sweated labor. There were always stampedes toward Aunt June’s Jams or Luella’s Pecan Pies. Viewing the scrumptious array on the tables one was left with little doubt why the town of Tooele always suffered brown outs the week preceding Independence Day.

What made the day extra special, and makes the memories so real in recollection, is that all the day’s celebratory activities with family, friends and neighbors – good people – who for at least one day, had taken the principles of the Constitution and had joined together in a very real spirit of unity, leaving all who attended grateful for the sacrifice and vision of those founding men and women who had labored to bring forth the birth of a country which venerates freedom, liberty and justice. (I have to confess that as I was writing this last paragraph my mind slipped to wonder – if with today’s personal interaction robbing technology – the same communal feelings would still be found in Tooele, Utah or any other small town.)

As we sat on the hood of the car and watched the sun set and twilight being replaced by night, anxious anticipation filled us as we waited for the fireworks display which would fill the sky, our hearts were grateful and our souls were warmed with the hope that every tomorrow would be filled with the same feeling which had so abundantly been manifested this day.

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