Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Star Spangled Holiday

Began a hazy, sunny 4th of July with breakfast and my Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology. Along with Paul Revere's Ride and a few shorter poems, we have an excerpt from from Little House on the Prairie that has Pa taking Laura and Mary to town to enjoy the lemonade from a barrel and horse races. Also did the last chapter of the Kirsten summer story Kirsten Saves the Day (another tale of pioneer 4th of July festivities) and the short story version of Paul Revere and Ben and Me, about a mouse who helps Ben Franklin create some of his most famous inventions, from the anthology Walt Disney's America.

Ben's not the only mouse who claims to have made significant contributions to American history. In Yankee Doodle Cricket, Tucker the Mouse tells Harry the Cat that their ancestors helped Paul Revere spread the word about the British invasion, wrote the original version of the Declaration of Independence, and created the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. Chester the Cricket's ancestor created the folk tune "Yankee Doodle" to spread the word about the American Revolution.

Ran a couple of quick shorts as I finished breakfast and got organized. "Patriotic Popeye" tries to encourage his nephews to play it safe on the 4th and not use fireworks. They evade him at every turn, until setting off a massive rocket sends them sky-high and their uncle needs spinach to retrieve them. Donald Duck isn't doing much better in "Donald's Failed Fourth." Daisy requests that he set up a picnic dinner to watch the fireworks, but first the blanket, then the chairs, won't cooperate.

West Clinton Avenue was already packed with parade-watchers by the time I made it down there. As usual, the parade was late. Oaklyn's 4th of July Parade is NEVER on time. It was supposed to start at 10, but it was closer to quarter of 11 when the first decorated trucks were seen. (Although a group of motorcyclists in decorated vehicles did pass through about 20 minutes before that.)

While not as hot as it has been the past few days, it wasn't exactly cool, either, and it was still killer humid. The Oaklyn Manor Bar had refreshment and souvenir (mostly Phillies t-shirts) tables set up in their parking lot. I picked up a bottle of water and a small bag of popcorn. (Finished the latter well before the parade started.)

The theme this year was "Oaklyn (Elemenatary/Middle) School: Celebrating 90 years." Disappointingly, only one float actually did anything with that theme, and I believe it was the School's entry. Granted, it was pretty neat. I want to know how they made the giant "art brushes." Most of the "floats" were trucks and cars filled with the local softball teams.

I walked around the downtown district for a bit, but ultimately ended up sitting in front of Common Grounds Coffee House with a group of families who live near Dad and Jodie on Hillcrest. Two families had kids on the softball teams. Sandy and Mary were likely just there to enjoy the day, as I was. Those softball teams threw bucketfuls of chocolate and fruit Tootsie Rolls, Dum-Dum lollipops, Starlight mints, Brachs cinnamon and butterscotch discs, Dubble Bubble gum, and Jolly Ranchers. Mary and Savannah scrambled for everything that was thrown to them. Even I had a full pocket as I followed everyone down the block to the school.

After one of the local kids sang "The Star Spangled Banner" (she did all right, a little quavery on the ending), the mayor handed out prizes for the best-decorated house (one of them was a block down from me on Manor) and for the best floats. The line to get a free hot dog was half-way across the lawn by the time he finished, but at least it was mostly under shady trees and went fast. The town gave away chips, water, and soda along with the hot dogs. Grabbed a bottle of water and ate my hot dog quickly (there was no seating - most people were relaxing under those trees on the school lawn) before heading home.

The hot dog hadn't really filled me up much, and I wanted some fruit in there. I made a blueberry-banana smoothie while returning to animated shorts. Bugs is a "Bunker Hill Bunny" when he defends his fort against Hessian soldier Sam. The Walter Lanz studios gives us some "Hysterical Highspots In American History," with spoofs of everything from Columbus discovering America to Depression breadlines. Tom and Jerry spend their July 4th making a few explosions of their own in a fireworks factory in the Oscar-winning "The Yankee Doodle Mouse."

I'd forgotten to bring my rent next door before the parade. Fixed that before I even saw the message Miss Willa left on my phone. Unfortunately, she left a letter at my door indicating that she still wasn't happy. I'd left the air conditioner on while I was at work during the worst of the heat wave. I'm on the second floor. It can get as high as the 90's in this apartment when the heat is bad. I didn't want to come home to a killer hot apartment after having worked in the sun all day. I think I'll just finally get around to buying a second fan (maybe online, so I don't have to carry it home) and only use the air conditioner in extreme need, and that when I'm home.

Tried to work on writing for a little while after that. Luke is still in shock over Ben's death when Han and Leia shove him into the car driven by Jeanne and Cassian's North African buddy Bodhi. Harry leans out of the car to shoot at the Imperials...only to learn that the man following them is Roberto Fettara, one of the most notorious bounty hunters and assassins in the US. He's determined to get them off the road...

Broke around 3:30 to change into my bathing suit, grab the icebox pudding cake, and head to Dad and Jodie's. The neighbors were just leaving as I was arriving. I chatted with Mary for the first hour I was there while Jessa talked to our parents, then swam on my own for a while when her mother took her home for dinner. I was in and out of the pool all evening. Jodie finally started the grill around 5:30-6. I had two cheeseburgers, two succulent ribs, macaroni salad, potato salad, and a small bag of Fritos.

Rose and her family finally arrived shortly before Jodie started the burgers and hot dogs. They'd only been home from Maine for a few hours, and they were all tired. They were apparently visiting Craig's brother, who was now running a bakery in Maine with his girlfriend. Rose donated a sample of their wares on a fish-shaped tray. While the brownies and fruit-oatmeal bars were yummy, my favorites were the extra-soft molasses crinkles sprinkled with sugar.

They came back full of stories. Rose told me that the first day, Khai released a frog in the house and laughed himself silly watching the adults chase after it. Finley took her first steps the day before her birthday.

Khai initially just wanted to play video games on Jodie's iPad. The adults finally coaxed him into the pool by pointing out that his neighborhood buddies were finished with dinner and were out in their yards. We were eventually joined by Chloe and her mom. I talked to Chloe while Rose swam with Finley, watching her little legs kick out, and Craig tossed Khai around in the pool.

Headed home around 7:30. Ran two more cartoons while changing into dry clothes and rounding up a towel and a bottle of water for the fireworks. The Pink Panther is charged with delivering messages to the people of Philadelphia encouraging them to pick up arms in "Pinky Doodle," but the Redcoat horse he's riding does everything he can to get rid of him. "Yankee Doodle Bugs" is similar to "Hysterical Highspots," this time with Bugs telling parodies of American Revolution history to his nephew Clyde.

I was worried about the weather when I headed out at quarter after 8, especially given that we've had rain at night during the last two Independence Days. It had gotten cloudy, breezy, and cooler while I was at Dad and Jodie's. Brought an umbrella with me, just in case.

The umbrella turned out to be unnecessary. The clouds remained dark, but haven't burst yet. Newton Lake Park was already so busy when I got there, I had to make my way around a gaggle of cops on the sidewalk across from CVS who were probably trying to figure out where to put all the cars. I lay my coral-striped towel down on the lawn across from the Parkview Apartments. I had a perfect view of the fireworks in front of me and the lake behind me.

The fireworks were gorgeous, as they always are. Collingswood always does its fireworks up right. My favorites are the ones that explode in shapes. I saw red hearts, stars, ovals, and even a triangle. I also like the multi-colored ones that go up in the air, then explode into little bursts of glittery light. They look like Christmas lights.

Left even before the booming rocket-laden finale to beat the traffic. I managed to find a break in the cars near the former Taco Bell building and crossed there. Other than a dad and his son setting off small spinning fireworks on their front walk, Manor was far more peaceful. Walking home from the fireworks is one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Most people are either getting back from the fireworks, still setting off their own fireworks, asleep in front of the Boston Pops, or spending the holiday at the Shore. It's just me, the crickets, the fireflies, and the hum of air conditioners.

Finished the evening with Yankee Doodle Dandy after I got in. James Cagney won an Oscar as George M. Cohan, the Broadway sensation who changed musical comedy in the early 20th century. He wrote, directed, produced, starred in, and wrote the music for his own plays. He starts in vaudeville in his parents' act, the Four Cohans. The variety stage isn't enough for the eternally restless Cohan, who wants to conquer New York. He does finally get the hit Little Johnny Jones on the boards, with the help of producer and writer Sam Harris (Richard Whorf). He even manages to bring his family back and get skeptical comedienne Fay Templeton (Irene Manning) to star in his shows. Though he manages a hit during World War I with the stirring "Over There," his shows become increasingly old-fashioned during the very modern 1920's. He makes a brief comeback in 1938 in the Rogers and Hart show I'd Rather Be Right...ironically on the eve of an even more damaging war.

I've watched this salute to one of America's most patriotic songwriters almost every year on or around the 4th of July since I was a kid. Mom used to run the video after the fireworks on the 4th during the 80's and 90's. Granted, the movie isn't much of a biography. It doesn't mention his fight with the Actor's Equity during their union strike of 1919 that soured him on directing and producing later in life, or that his wife "Mary" (Joan Leslie) is a composite of his two real-life wives. It does feature some marvelous performances (especially from Cagney and Walter Huston and Rosemary DeCamp as Cohan's parents) and gives you a nice view of the performing styles of the 1900's through the late 30's. Little Johnny Jones seems pretty realistic for the era; apparently, the "Off the Record" number from I'd Rather Be Right was spot-on as well.

Come here for the cast and the delightful numbers, not the biography. Perfect for those looking for a patriotic, yet fun movie for the afternoon of the 4th of July or after the fireworks.

And here's hoping you also had an enjoyable Independence Day (and that our neighbors to the north enjoyed their Canada Day on the 1st).

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