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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 4, 2008

Enjoy the Fireworks!

Roy Meachum

Frederick's Fourth of July festival ends with cascading fireworks over Baker Park. People's awe and sighs complete the package. No more sparklers and individual acts of setting off banging are out.


Will someone please explain when Independence Day became the reason for airborne pyrotechnics and massive, public picnics? I honestly have no clues. It happened after my kids were kids. I can remember selecting legal fireworks from vendors for a backyard show. Lots of parks stood available – and empty.


During my boyhood, the lack of celebration forced New Orleanians to get out of town. Ocean Springs, Mississippi, seems to have been a great attraction. The general state of roads and automobiles in that era put any trip "uncertain."


Adults agreed a before-dawn departure should facilitate the journey for the little community on the other side of Biloxi. Instead of someone's home, they decided on joining up at a saloon in the neighborhood. New Orleans permitted the sale of alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day. Taverns also served coffee and a limited menu of foods.


Getting there was considered more than half the fun every Fourth of July, including a drive on the oyster shell roads out to Lake Ponchatrain's amusement park. That area was then virtually undeveloped, which meant no traffic lights. Only on big holidays was there a problem with other day-trippers. Buses (not streetcars) connected the beach with Canal, the city's main commercial artery. I can remember taking a car that single time. Any firework display for the holiday was so slight as to be forgotten.


Then there was the Glorious Fourth when family friend Frank Vicari suggested I should learn to fish. He made arrangements for a rowboat to take out on Lake Ponchatrain. He did all things necessary, especially baiting the hook. He brought sandwiches along and drinking water. Soft drinks, he confided, contained too much sugar; they would make us hotter.


Starting in early morning, we sat patiently in the boat waiting for one fish to take the hook. None did. Mr. Frank devised several stratagems that he promised would bring "hits." They didn't. We couldn't talk for fear it would scare the fish away, which effectively put me by myself. We left when the South Louisiana sun brought on a fierce headache. Once was enough. I have never seriously fished since.


Compared with that virtually solitary holiday, years later I appeared before a holiday crowd of 150,000 men, women and children. I was the emcee-announcer for the United States Army Band that provided entertainment on Washington's Mall. This was before the Fourth of July became a star-studded show biz spectacle. I can recall that solitary time on the Mall; perhaps the top military bands and orchestras took turns.


After moving to Frederick, rarely have I ducked out on the do in Baker Park; one year I was asked to judge barbeque. My problem this Friday comes from the banning of dogs during the celebration. I understand. Pushkin is not alone, but few pooches have his capability for quietness and dignity. He is not "grabby" with food.


We have our celebration marching up and down North Market with a side trip over East Patrick where a friend relocated her vintage clothes business and her supply of biscuits. The bank's closed, so we will have to walk by one of the English pointer's favorite suppliers. Our other good friends may stay closed. It's a holiday.


Joe Cohen's cigar store on the Second Street corner always can be relied on for drinking water and what the British-born owner calls Pushkin's "bickies." The boy dog is easily satisfied. By the way, his 10th birthday comes next week.


Meanwhile, enjoy the day and the evening's fireworks!


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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