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A Day Gone By and the 4th of July

July 4, 2014

Sometimes I think back to 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 the little things had meaning. We didn't have many gadgets and most of the summer was spent with buddies playing games or sports in and around the neighborhood. We were rarely under any kind of supervision.

We went swimming, collected empty pop bottles that littered the roadside (we got 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.

But few things were more fun than the 4th of July.

There were parades and the local elementary school hosted an annual neighborhood fair. Later, we watched the fireworks at Pontiac Park –  directly behind our house, on Pontiac Street.

The parade took place along Oakland Park  – one of the busiest streets in the north Columbus neighborhood of Linden where we lived. We walked everywhere, in fact the idea of getting a ride never crossed our mind.

It’s sad to hear what people say about the Linden area now – that its not a good place to live because of the high crime rate. We 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 usually several kids from the neighborhood would go. After the parade we headed to Como Elementary for a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, and I desperately tried to win a “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 ‘lightning bugs’ in a jar, or playing ‘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 included, ever. We were on our own and it never got old. There were no large crowds, no worries about parking the car, or fuss about getting a good seat to watch the fireworks. This is how it was and it never changed.

I’ve seen larger firework displays since - on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. and at the Statue of Liberty in New York City. They may have been a bigger show but I remember very little about those experiences.

I do remember everything about how I spent 4th of July in Columbus, Ohio. The ring toss, the parade, the backyard fireworks in Pontiac Park, and walking to the Dairy Queen for dilly bars.

It's a day gone-by, but it's nice to relive them and one doesn't have to leave their own mind to do it.