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Philadelphia Freedom on Independence Day

2020 will not be a year remembered for a time when we gathered in large crowds to celebrate Independence day by watching fireworks. To be honest, at my age, watching fireworks in the 85-degree weather while the mosquitoes bite me is no longer one of my goals.  Don’t get me wrong. I like fireworks, and I am sorry that many kids will miss out on seeing them this year.

That said, I have always asserted that we all have a time machine called memories. My memories of Independence Day go back as far as the late 1940s. Hunting Park was our go-to place to see fireworks. I can remember standing in a crowd of people, both young and old, watching the colorful display of red, white, and blue bursts. “Wow!, OOOOHHH. Did you see that, Buddy?” I can still hear the reaction of my family to the display.

My brother recently told me of the time my grandfather took him and some friends to see the Fireworks. He was in his early teens at that time and was sitting in the back seat of Pop’s 1939 Chrysler. After the fireworks, one of his friends, a girl his age, fell asleep leaning against my brother. He described the memory in detail and said it was a moment of “AWAKENING” for him.

Hunting Park also had a fantastic Merry Go Round or Carousel if you prefer. It was the most remarkable thing to ride on wooden horses and other animals. If you were able to catch a brass ring, you got another free ride. We went to ride that Carousel up till I left Philadelphia for the Air Force.

Kensington on The Fourth of July was awash with the American flag. Just about every house had one or more flags flying. You could look down the blocks of row homes, and all you saw was the Old Glory waving in the soft July breeze.  I believe this display of patriotism was a holdover from WW2. As was typical during our wars, it was usually the 18-25-year-olds, from working-class neighborhoods such as Kensington, who suffered the most losses. I think this was a way to remember that.

Even though Hunting Park was not that far away from Front and Allegheny, it seemed like a very long ride. Driving to Cheltenham pools for July 4th felt like we were going to California. It was worth it. As I remember, in those days, there was a fee, and anyone could go to the pools. I think they are still there, but there is a membership now. We usually went to the pools with a group of family and friends. Each would bring food for a picnic. Baloney and American Cheese sandwiches, potato salad,  potato chips, white and rye bread, and other goodies were on the menu.

Another place we use to go in those days was a cedar lake in new jersey. I cannot remember the name. I do remember it was great fun. Again we had the picnic fixings, and we swan in the cedar water for hours. Many years ago, I wrote a pamphlet about Whaling in Cape May. Doing research, I learned that the Shingles used on Independence Hall were mined in New Jersey Cedar lakes. I say mined because they had to dig them out of the mud on the bottom of the lake. Cedar, it seems stands up well to water.

By the time I came home from my Air Force years, my family had bought a tiny house in the Wildwood Villas. From then on, our Independence day celebrations were held there. Some of my greatest memories are from the time we spent there with family, and introducing my wife and children to how much fun it is to celebrate together.

When we celebrate Independence Day, we are celebrating the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and the people who sacrificed to keep us independent and free.  While we seem to be somewhat divided these days, I think that the following two parts of these documents are something we can all agree about.

Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (meaning women and children as well) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Constitution Of The United States of America: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Even though we can not celebrate together this year, we can still celebrate the meaning of these documents.

Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.

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