Dear Lee, 

Fourth of July fireworks parties have been part of our lives since the 1960s. Since free fireworks were fired from the playground at the school at the corner and the family picnic area was the open space around the other buildings at the corner, we had the perfect party and viewing spot. The city closed the road in front of my house and my drive became a parking lot for friends who came for dinner and a noisy, memorable party. Every year, we would invite family and friends to a barbecue picnic in my backyard, then games and entertainment in the school yard. It also led to some new items to collect.

We planned ahead. The lightweight, fold-up, drugstore plastic chairs were easy to take into the street when the fireworks started. We had sparklers to wave. We even had firecrackers that came woven into a long chain.

Hotdogs, hamburgers, corn-on-the cob, potato chips and a flag cake were the menu of choice. Our children and later our grandchildren made the famous flag cake: Fill a rectangular pan with cake batter. Bake it, cover the top with white icing, then decorate with properly place raspberries for red stripes and blueberries for stars. Each year, I buy any decorations on sale at Costco after the Fourth and I watch for vintage decorations at house sales and flea markets. I now have an assortment of paper and ceramic plates, colorful plastic and paper platters and cups, and throw-away “silverware.” Sales have gotten me a nice assortment of bunting to hang from windows, noisemakers, and my favorite — an over-the-top T-shirt. Best are all the Uncle Sams and flags.

My favorite Fourth of July items have come from the nearby Burton Flea Market each May. I always found something fun, including one year, a $25 handmade whirligig of Chief Wahoo, the former Cleveland Indians mascot. It joined small, vintage flags with fewer than 50 stars that decorated the front lawn. I would leave them up until the next day. About 10 years ago, Chief Wahoo vanished. Today, the whirligig would be considered folk art and would sell for a few hundred dollars. I’ve never seen another like it. One year at an outdoor antiques fair, Ralph and I splurged and paid $100 for a 5-foot-high wooden cut-out of Uncle Sam. He graced our back hall for about 15 years before we donated him to the historical society as a measuring stick for children to get free candy.

My house still is decorated with flags and a plastic Uncle Sam. I still wear my crazy T-shirt. The traditions with the old, familiar decorations continue, and the feelings when the first sparklers are lit, and the fireworks burst overhead remain. Those are memories that will be with us forever.


terry signature

stars and stripes sweater


patriotic poster, fight or buy bonds

Advertising poster, Third Liberty Loan, Fight or Buy Bonds


staffordshire watch stand, patriotic woman

Staffordshire watch stand, woman in patriotic dress


uncle sam figure

Uncle Sam carved broomstick handle
Photo: Dick Parke


uncle sam decoration

Uncle Sam cardboard decoration


uncle sam figure plastic

Uncle Sam plastic standing figure



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