The Fourth of July
The wars were long over, and most of the war-weary boys were home from the lengthy years of hardships, in the trenches, and on the seas, in the conflicts of the Pacific and Europe. The citizens of the United States showed their appreciation to these young heroes by celebrating the Fourth of July with the biggest and best parades they could muster. In our neighborhood the patriotic parades took place on Compton Avenue, just north of Florence Avenue. Because the parade was so close to our house, we could walk the one block and sit on the curb to watch the show. The light poles on the parade route were draped with the red, white, and blue of Old Glory as far as the eye could see.
The beginning of the parade included the grand marshal and congressional dignitaries riding in antique cars, followed by the military color guards, and the United States Marine Band playing my favorite _'The Marines Hymn.' For me that piece of music defined the meaning of pride, and even at that young age, I felt that pride coursing through my veins when the marines came marching by. Old soldiers in the crowd stood at attention and saluted with tears flowing down their cheeks. The sights and sounds of these young marines returning home brought back memories of their comrades who had died in World War One. The crowd was awed by the accuracy of the crack rifle teams that were twirling their rifles in perfect precision to the beat of the music. Then came the navy marching band playing “Anchors Aweigh,” a song that kept the entire crowd’s heads and shoulders dancing to this magnificent piece of music, followed by the army band, marching smartly as the crowd joined in the singing of the “Caisson Song,” or the army theme song.
After the parade we walked to the parking lot of the Sailor’s Market on the corner of Compton and Florence. Behind the market was where the large circus tents were erected and all the animal cages were displayed. The circus was so exciting and new to me. It was the first time I had ever seen people swinging on a trapeze. Hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, and candied apples were the culinary treats of the day. In the middle was a beautiful carousel with wooden horses moving up and down to the tune of organ music. “Hit the bottles and win a prize,” a man was yelling from behin the counter on the runway. “Step right up—only twenty-five cents, and take home a panda bear.” Everywhere I looked, there was something amazing to see. “Drop the ball into the fish bowl, and win the fish.” I was a sucker for the Ping-Pong ball in the fish bowl trick. People were paying a dime for three chances to heave the ball, hoping it would land in one of the hundred or so little fish bowls.
There were many soldiers and sailors with their sweethearts, walking and talking arm in arm. My brothers found a booth with .22-caliber rifles, and as always, they were trying to outdo each other shooting at moving targets. After dark the atmosphere seemed to change, with two searchlights streaking across the sky trying to attract new customers to the event. We ended the day with a short walk to the ice-cream parlor where my father treated us all to a cone. And that, my friends, was one of the best Fourth of Julys that I remember. I only hope our children can live to enjoy such a day.