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Front Page » July 1, 2004 » Holiday Focus » An old fashioned Fourth of July
Published 3,798 days ago

An old fashioned Fourth of July


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

The American and Utah flag fly over Scofield State Park. Celebrating America around the Fourth of July is always a tradition in the Pleasant Valley area as they hold their annual Pleasant Valley Days July 2 and 3 this year. It begins on Friday at noon with activities in the park. Saturday morning begins with a breakfast and then the parade at 11 a.m. This year the celebration will also feature the Winter Quarter's mine disaster photo exhibit and a rock climb from noon to 4 p.m. The dedication of the restored jail by the town hall is scheduled for 2 p.m. At 3 p.m. the annual Kiwanis Club Duckie Race will be held. And of course there are all the concessions in the park. That night there will be fireworks over the lake and a dance will wind up the big celebration.

It's easy for most people to believe that things in our society are no different than they have ever been before. The propensity for that comes from a persons own experience, and the majority of citizens of the United States have never known a society different from what it is today.

Most Americans have never been without the freedoms that all share today. They have never lived under a monarchy or a dictator. They have a way to redress their grievances against the government, through a court system that uses the common man in a jury. No one that is alive today can remember a time when a newspaper could be shut down because authorities didn't like what it printed or when firearms could be outlawed with a swish of an aristocrats pen.

But in the early days of America, when it was called the colonies, these kinds of things could happen and actually were common.

The original 13 colonies were squeezed into a narrow band of civilized settlement between the wild west and the Atlantic Ocean. The wild west in those days was considered West Virginia and the far west was a crossroads of rivers where Pittsburgh, Pa. now stands. A king ruled the land from a far away throne in England. And while in 1750 almost every colonist still considered himself to be a loyal subject of that king, by 1775, the king and his house of lords had driven many a loyalist to the brink of open, armed rebellion.

But while a few skirmishes took place between 1760 and 1775 the break with the mother land did not occur formally until July 4, 1776. That day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Many who signed it thought that a war with England would only last a few months. Instead it dragged on for eight long years.

But nonetheless there was reason to celebrate. A long anticipated move had been made; a line drawn in the sand by men with blue coats looking those with white strapped red coats right in the eye and down each others muskets.

King George III responded with the force of arguably the most powerful army in the world at the time. More importantly he had at his disposal unquestionably the most well armed and powerful navy that had ever existed up to that time.

Such important dates, people and events. Yet how are they viewed by many today.

A FoxNews poll taken of teenagers in July of 2001 revealed some startling facts.

•Of the group surveyed 22 percent of those who responded to the survey did not know the colonists fought the war of independence against England. In fact 14 percent thought it was France, a country that actually embraced the new republic and helped America against England during the war.

Carbon County will hold it's fireworks. Sunday night after sundown at the county fairgrounds.

•One in 10 did not know that George Washington was the first president.

•Of the group 15 percent did not know that Americans celebrate Independence Day because that is the date on which the famous document was signed.

•There were 13 original colonies but 17 percent of the respondents had no idea how many there were.

Estimates by experts, based on this poll, said that the sample meant more than five million American teenagers are pretty much ignorant of the holidays meaning.

Add to this the legends about famous characters. While Washington is thought of in terms of never telling a lie and throwing a dollar across the Potomac River, a legend who is all dressed in white in most citizens minds, he was a man who often had bad fits of temper and was not supported by a majority of the population as he led the newly formed American army into war against the British.

On the other hand, the blackened name of Benedict Arnold should have a number of astericks by it. He was a great American patriot for a long time before he went over to the British. But he was frustrated by the disorganization of the American government, it's military and what he perceived as Washington's indifference to him.

Many surmise about that Summers day in 1776, but few wonder what July 4, 1777 was like; a year after the document called the Declaration of Independence was signed. In fact it seems these days, fewer and fewer Americans know or even care about what happened in those formulative years.

Actually by that time the American army was in disarray and Washington had had one of his many bouts of concious about quitting. Many thought the war was lost or wished it was so they could stop secretly being loyalists. It is interesting to wonder what that first Independence Day was like in terms of celebration, but by the early 1800s the traditions of parades, picnics, and fireworks were firmly established as part of the days culture.

Those were the old fashioned celebrations. Everyone in town went to the park to enjoy the day. There were few that could leave town, because even if there was a way out, they didn't have the time. There were few three or four day weekends. In fact few people had any vacation to take and most worked six to seven days a week. So a day off to celebrate was really a day off, because they got so few of them.

One of the early traditions in park celebrations was to read the Declaration of Indepence. That may sound boring to some people today; in this time of cable, action movies, computer games and movie houses, but in those days entertainment consisted of playing kick the can or swimming in the local water hole. And because so few people read, having something read to them was as much of a thrill as hearing the most complicated home theater system that exists today.

Over the years other traditions developed. Rodeos and barbeques became part of the celebration. As work changed, people had more time and they were able to travel, go camping, and visit relatives in far away spots.

Baseball also changed the Fourth of July. First the games for all ages were played on that day. Eventually the pros begam to have big promotions on the Fourth. Today professional baseball and local ball games are as much a part of the celebration as flying the flag.

But despite the changes in the holiday, Americans should not forget why the day is celebrated, and what sacrifices thousands of young men, many of whom were just poor farm boys, gave to make that document signed in1776 mean something. They made it a reality.


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