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Celebrating the Fourth

Published July 05. 2014 09:00AM

Were you one of those people who ate approximately 150 million hot dogs yesterday?

I'm a hamburger girl myself. To me, the only good hot dog is a burned one with ketchup, mustard, relish and onions.

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I think it's because I had such great Fourths while growing up. We always spent them at my Uncle Bobby and Aunt June's in Pennsville. They had the in-ground swimming pool and a big barn that could accommodate their huge combined families.

There was never a lack of cousins to provide hours of play. The hillside rang with the sound of our dads playing horseshoes. Our moms sat in lawn chairs catching up on family news and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers when we were finally coerced into coming up for air to eat something.

It was a given that Chub would find a nice, shady, soft grassy spot to nap on after one too many beers. Dad would take one ride down the sliding board into the pool, holding his nose. One of us would run out of caps for our cap guns and demand some from someone else who was reluctant to share his or her stash, and tears would usually ensue, causing the moms to get involved before we all happily returned to killing off the Indians and bad guys. (Yes, I know, this is all politically incorrect and unaccepted behavior today, but who knew all this back in the '50s and '60s?)

But the best part of the day was after sunset, settling down on a cool, grassy knoll to watch the fireworks display at the nearby Indian Trail Park.

Good memories.

I asked some of my friends what were some of their best Fourth of July memories and why they like celebrating the Fourth.

Renee Keiper's fondest Fourth of July memory is from 1990.

"Actually, at the time I was devastated but I also felt freed. In October 1989, my first husband told me he was leaving me, but he didn't finally move out until July Fourth. On the morning of July 4, we split up everything in the house. He took one car and I kept the other one. I left to spend the day with a friend while that same friend's husband helped him move. I call July 4, 1990, my day of independence. Even though it was very sad that our marriage failed, it felt good to not be walking on eggshells, waiting for him to make his move. I also didn't want to live with a man that didn't want to live with me. I have now been blessed with a husband who loves me. May the honeymoon never be over!" she says.

Honi Gruenberg says that "Fireworks and a big parade were how my July Fourth was always celebrated. I wanted to continue when my son was born. His dad thought it was not a good idea to bring a 9-month-old to the festivities. I was told that I would have to push the stroller and be responsible when David became frightened. Lucky for me David loved the fireworks and was clapping, saying 'boom, boom' and generally being adorable. His dad tried to get control of the stroller back so everyone could see him with the cute baby who loved fireworks."

Growing up, Fourth of July was a barbecue and then fireworks at the park for Honi. "Before the Internet and great programming on TV, we spent most of our time outdoors and on our bikes. If your summer was a dud thus far, July Fourth at the park was a chance to run into classmates and try to redeem your summer."

When Connie Moretz was a little girl, her dad had a part-time job as a caretaker at Pollock's farm.

"We always had a huge garden there for ourselves as well as the owners. It seems that every Fourth of July we spent the morning picking peas, the afternoon shelling the peas and the evening freezing the peas. The happy part was that as a treat for all our hard work, our parents took us to Strohl's Grove for something to eat, and then my brother and I spent the free time we had in the evening shooting our cap guns. After a number of years of spending my Fourth doing the pea thing, I made up my mind I'd never have a garden when I grew up."

Shirley Brotzman's most memorable Fourth of July was the year she visited friends in Gunnison, Colorado. "We were standing out on the deck watching the fireworks, and it was snowing! I borrowed a coat because I was not prepared for that."

Beverly Mosteller loves the Fourth of July because "It is the day before my brother Bill's birthday, and it reminds me, 'Hey, I get to celebrate our country and my brother the same week,' only I don't get off work for my brother's birthday."

Dora Tartar says that it's probably hokey, but, "I love celebrating our great country with a picnic with our family. Hot dogs and the good old USA!"

Back to hot dogs again.

I think another reason I love the Fourth of July so much is the music it inspires, like John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." To this day, my sister and I can't watch the kids run around with sparklers without humming those two musical selections, throwing in the sound effects of the booms of cannons.

But perhaps my favorite Fourth of July song is "America the Beautiful." It is such a heartfelt song that celebrates not only the beauty of our country but celebrates our forefathers who had a revolutionary vision, the pioneers who struggled to settle the country, and the heroes who helped keep and continue to keep this great land free and the home of the brave, all while thanking God for shedding His grace on us from sea to shining sea.

What is your favorite Fourth of July memory and why do you like to celebrate it?

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