Yankee Doodle Dandies

Our readers share their stories about parades, fireworks and being born on the Fourth of July.

Focus on Memories

July 03, 2005

Catonsville, Md., on July 4, 1985, was the greatest place in America for an Independence Day parade. ... The local newspaper held a contest to determine the parade theme. The entry submitted by my granddaughter, [Lisa Claire Plitt] age 7, was the winner. She rode in the parade as ... "queen," wearing a hat and dress of holiday red, white and blue and clutching a doll adorned in matching clothes. Proudly escorting her, outfitted in colonial attire ... was her Pop-Pop!

- Calvin E. Plitt, Ellicott City

My childhood was spent in a coal-mining town in southern West Virginia. July 4th was a special day and my granddad always flew the flag. ... Prior to the holiday all of the families placed an order at the "company store" for five gallons of ice cream (always vanilla; oh, I longed for chocolate). On the morning of the Fourth, the company-store truck delivered the ice cream, packed in dry ice. The anticipation of that first dish or cone was without description.

- Priscilla James, Hanover

Every summer, my family visits New Jersey to see my grandmother and participate in the Fourth of July parade. Last year, my brother and I entered in "Costumes." I was the Statue of Liberty, while Vincent was Uncle Sam. ... I was dressed in a pale green poncho, a crown made of cardboard triangles and a headband, and a torch made of a paper towel tube and a Styrofoam bowl. I held a green cereal box with `July IV, MDCCLXXVI' on it.

In the parking lot where the parade started, I saw a girl who was dressed in a store-bought Statue of Liberty costume! I had competition. I stayed in front of the group. Spectators talked about us.

The parade ended and the winners were announced. I was furious when the other Statue of Liberty had third place. Then I was called for second place! I will never forget the day that I beat the other Statue of Liberty.

- Ali Iannucci, age 11, Joppatowne

My birthday is the Fourth of July. When I was a small child, we lived in Rodgers Forge. ... We would have a big family cookout to celebrate my birthday. After the food and cake, my grandfather would take me to the side yard and tell me my "birthday parade" was about to start. Sure enough, the parade would pass by as it marched down Pinehurst Avenue. After the parade, he would tell me, "now it's time for your fireworks," and we would watch the sky explode with color. I was in school before I realized the parade and fireworks were for our country's birthday, but I will always remember my grandfather, and feel like some part of it was just for me.

- Sharon Mengel (at right above, with cousin Gail Atkinson), Lutherville

My favorite Fourth of July memory is the Dundalk Fourth of July Parade and the preparation of our 1951 Ward LaFrance pumper fire truck for the parade. Every year for the past 10 years, my entire family has participated. ... After we decorate the fire truck, the polishing and waxing begin ... Every member of the family wears the same type of T-shirt.

- Ann Schweigman, Dundalk

My husband, John, had the privilege of taking part in a production of Peter Stone's 1776 [in 1976]. Our sons, ages 9, 11 and 14, were fascinated with the story. ... On the eve of the Bicentennial, our family had the opportunity of witnessing a recreation of the events that made Independence Day possible.

- Peggy Rowe, Perry Hall

Our daughter and her husband live in Hockessin, Del. For many years, they have hosted a large Fourth of July party. One of the elements is a reading of the Declaration of Independence by [guests] who have chosen the name of one of the [signers] of the original document. ... This ceremony is very well received. [One year] A guest from China, who did not speak English, and a local resident who did not speak Chinese (but whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Armenia) stood together happily conversing in Russian, their only mutual language. Only in America!

- Alton E. Lutz, Chestertown

I grew up in Mayfield, near Lake Montebello, with a perfect view of the lights of Memorial Stadium. Every year on the Fourth, people from all around came to the grassy strip overlooking the lake to watch the annual fireworks display at the stadium, reflected in the waters of Lake Montebello. It was a neighborhood block party. People came with blankets, lawn chairs and coolers ... I looked forward to this get-together every year until 1980, when Harborplace opened and the fireworks display was moved downtown.

- Tom Koester, Baltimore

July 4, 1970 was best. I had entered Dundalk's Miss Independence Contest a couple of weeks before. After many days and nights dreaming about the contest, I came in as first runner-up. ... My boyfriend then - Stark McLaughlin, my husband now of 33 years - bet me a dinner at a fine restaurant if I came in in the top five.

- Sue Dorff McLaughlin (at left above, with first-place winner Diane Hughes, Preston

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