What 4th of July traditions does your family have? The day is to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from British rule. The celebrations have changed from the early years but regardless the red, white and blue colors seem to dominate through the years. American flags are prominently displayed in towns, cities and homes. It is with pride that we do this to show our love for our country and for what it stands for.
My father, Ray LaFoy, was a veteran of World War I. Veterans of World War I were very patriotic and didn’t hesitate to show it. Father always displayed the American flag from the front porch or hoisting it up a flagpole on holidays. One of the first things he did, after purchasing our home, was to put up a flagpole. The American flag was flown at our home on Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and Nov. 11 (Armistice Day, now called Veterans Day).
The 4th of July was a day to look forward to as our family joined with many of our friends at Florence Park in Milford. Each family brought food and there was always a horse tank filled with ice, pop and watermelons. Nobody went hungry as there was plenty of fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, hamburgers and hot dogs. The men would build a good fire in the fireplaces and the hamburgers and onions were cooked. The kids put a hot dog on a stick and cooked their own. The plates were large, so filling them up with the assortment of foods made for a great meal.
Wow! I can still taste those great picnic meals. After the meal, a big slice of watermelon filled out the menu. One thing I always looked forward to at those picnics was to play catch with Roy DePue. Roy was a barber in town but in his younger years had played lots of baseball on professional teams. He could throw a curveball that just blew my mind and I could never master, although Roy showed me how many times.
One 4th, Paulie (Lester Paul) hired me to be a carhop at his restaurant. It was located on the west side of the street (Highway 71) next to the Jacobs Store. People would park cars (diagonal in those days) on Highway 71, I would go out to get their order. Paulie would fill the order and I would take it out to the customers. We provided a tray which one could put on the car window to hold the order. We kept busy but Paulie let me join my family at Florence Park for a short time. I think he paid me $5.
Connie, I and three boys have spent most of our lives being at the Iowa Great Lakes on the 4th of July. We built and lived in our first cottage on Terrace Park in 1952 and developed some of our own family traditions. For many years, members of our family (our parents, aunts and uncles) gathered at our cottage for dinner. We continued the tradition of fried chicken and hamburgers with all the side dishes we grew up with. My father passed away in 1954 and we always displayed his American flag, given to us by the government, prominently on the side of our cottage facing the lake. That flag is now one of the flags on Milford's Avenue of Flags. We continued this tradition when we moved to our cottage on Pocahontas Point in 1971. The family gathered and we had the traditions 4th of July dinner. Many of our parents, uncles and aunts had died but were replaced by daughters-in-law and grandchildren who dug in to our traditional July 4 dinner. We now live in a townhouse on Emerald Hill Golf Course and always place Uncle Sam (cloth-stuffed dummy) and red, white and blue bunting on our deck.
One of the traditions at the Iowa Great Lakes is the fireworks on the 4th of July evening. I am not sure when that tradition started but my first recollection was in the late 1930s when the merchants of Arnolds Park set off a fireworks display on the State Pier. It was spectacular, having fireworks shooting off and developing various scenes but always ending with a great display of light and color making the American flag. It wasn't until after World War II that the tradition started of firing sky rockets on and over the lake. We used to go out in our power boats to get close to the source but later on it was more fun to see all the power boats coming toward The Park, milling around and after the display was over trailing back home. From our vintage point on Pocahontas Point we could see green bow lights coming and red bow lights leaving. In all the years the 4th of July fireworks on the water it has never been delayed or canceled. Year after year it is uncanny to observe the wind slowing down and become a perfect evening to shoot skyrockets. It is traditional for many to return to their favorite vantage point year after year to observe the display.
We moved off the lake in 2000 and now live in a townhouse on Emerald Hills Golf Course. We could stay on our deck and see the fireworks through the trees but we started another tradition: taking our golf cart to a hill overlooking Highway 71 and the Park. We take some popcorn and pop, sit back and have a great view of the display. We can even honk our golf cart horn when a rocket is something to behold just like the power boats do. We also take advantage of another tradition developed by KUOO to play patriotic music while the rockets are glaring. After the display we go back home and although we miss seeing the boats return home, we also think we don't have to worry about our boat, dock and hoist.
What traditions does your family have on Independence Day? We treasure ours and although they have changed we still have a great traditional meal on the Fourth at my cousin's cottage on East Okoboji. He serves chicken noodle soup and spaghetti. Let us pray and thank God that we live in the country of the BRAVE and the land of the FREE. I am very even tempered but when I see the American flag being abused or disrespected it is very upsetting. That was not why I spent time serving our country in World War II over in India, Burma and China.