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A Day Gone By and the 4th of July

June 30, 2010

A friend recently returned home to Ohio to spend some time with family and friends before summer classes started up, and I had the opportunity to speak with her before, and during the trip.

I wasn’t thinking much about it at first, but as she related her stories to me about the visit, I began to reminisce myself, about my boyhood days growing up in a small Ohio town outside Columbus, a place where friends and neighbors played a pivotal role in everyday life.

This was especially true on the 4th of July holiday. There were  parades to see and enjoy, and my local elementary school – Como – was the site of an annual neighborhood fair. Later, there was a fireworks display at Pontiac Park – which was conveniently located directly behind our house, on Pontiac Street.

The parade took place along Oakland Park  – one of the busiest streets in this north Columbus neighborhood of Linden. Everything was in walking distance; in fact, we didn’t consider driving to any of these destinations.

It’s ironic that Linden is now considered a “transition” neighborhood – which is the usual code for an area troubled with a rising rate of crime.

That was not the case when I was growing up – in fact it was anything but that. This neighborhood was peaceful, and reminiscent of the 1950s television series Leave it to Beaver, and the 4th of July was the highlight of the summer.

July 4th began with finding a good spot to watch the parade, and there would usually be several of us kids from the neighborhood walking over to watch it together. From there, we headed to Como where we ate a traditional hot dog and hamburger lunch, and desperately tried to win a walking stick or “cane” at the “ring toss” booth.

My disappointment would extend far beyond the weekend if I failed to win one of these wooden sticks – by successfully tossing a small ring over one of the canes from about 6 feet away.

All of this led to up to the highlight of the day – an evening backyard cookout with neighbors and friends – followed by a trip to the local Dairy Queen for ice cream – and dilly bars to go. Then back home to watch the fireworks, always a big treat.

The evening didn’t end with the grand finale – it was followed by several hours of talking and laughing with neighbors, catching ‘lightening bugs’ in a jar, or playing a game of ‘tag’ within the neighborhood boundaries of a four/five house radius.

This is how we spent our 4th of July. It never got old, and it was never complicated with large crowds, or the worry about where to park the car, or whether the rain might interfere with the fireworks display. It was always the same, and never changed.

It’s been a long time since I recalled those early days in Ohio, and how I spent the 4th of July, year after year.  I’ve seen larger firework displays since, including spectacular festivities on the National Mall in Washington, D. C., and at the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Yet, I do not have vivid memories of those occasions when I found myself on the Mall in Washington, or amidst the large crowds in New York City.

I do remember everything about how I spent 4th of July in Columbus, Ohio. I recall going to the fair at Como Elementary School, watching fireworks over Pontiac Park, walking to the Dairy Queen for dilly bars, and ending the evening with a neighborhood game of “tag”.

My friend said she had a great visit to Ohio, and spent countless hours catching up with family and friends, and in the end, was glad she made the trip.

I was too; she inspired me to think and reminisce, about a day gone by, and the 4th of July.