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A Day Gone By and the 4th of July

June 7, 2013

I often think about my boyhood days in Columbus, Ohio. My paper route, the old junior high school, my friends, and the things we did as kids.

Life was an adventure and little things had meaning. We didn't have the toys and gadgets kids have today and most of the summer was spent with buddies playing games or sports outside in and around the neighborhood. We went swimming, collected empty pop bottles found littered along the roadside (we received 2 cents for every 12 oz bottle and 5 cents for the 24 oz size) which we redeemed for money at the local A&P supermarket.

Few things were more fun though than the 4th of July.

There were parades to see and enjoy, and my local elementary school hosted an annual neighborhood fair. Later, we watched fireworks at Pontiac Park –  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. All was in walking distance; in fact, the idea of getting a ride never crossed our mind.

It’s sad to hear people say that Linden is now a “transition” neighborhood – which is code for an area troubled with a rising rate of crime. We always felt safe walking these streets, day or night. The 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 kids from the neighborhood walking over to watch it together. After the parade we headed to our elementary school for lunch, hot dogs and hamburgers, 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 – which one did when they successfully tossed 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 was a kids world, there were no adults with us, ever. We were on our own and it never got old. It was never complicated either. There were no large crowds, any worry of where to park the car, or fuss about getting a good seat to watch the fireworks celebration. This is how it was and it never changed.

I like to recall those early days, and how I spent the 4th of July as a boy.  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.

No matter how spectacular the fireworks, I do not have vivid memories of the times that I found myself on the Mall in the nation's Capitol, or amidst large crowds in another big city.

Yet, I do remember everything about how I spent 4th of July in Columbus, Ohio. The ring toss at the school fair, the parade on Oakland Park, watching fireworks in the backyard over Pontiac Park, walking to the Dairy Queen for dilly bars, and playing "tag" in the neighborhood late into the night.

I wish everyone had these kinds of memories, and feel sorry for people who see no value in remembering the things that were once important.

Reminiscing about a day gone by and the 4th of July is enriching, and one doesn't have to leave their own mind.