The American Independence Day did not have much going for it when we lived in Hong Kong.
In those days it was a Crown Colony of the British Empire and had been since 1842. Groundhog Day meant more to the British than the Fourth of July.
Neither did our national day mean much to the Chinese. Some of the merchants liked it as they sold more patriotic stuff made in the U.S.A. That was long ago. Today, the worlds of China and the United States have turned upside down in manufacturing. Now, most, if not all, American flags are made in China.
I saw a fellow the other day refusing to buy a flag, saying he did not want a Communist-made Stars and Stripes. If he keeps looking, he may find an American-made flag in time for next June’s Flag Day.
Flag Day did not get much attention this year. Or I just missed the celebrations and parades.
As a teenager, I played my cornet in Flag Day parades. I was one of the youngest members of the 1940s Old Grey Mare Band of Brownwood. That home-grown cowboy band evolved out of the 142 Infantry of the 36th Division after World War I. The Flag Resolution of 1777 was not celebrated much until a hundred years later. Then in 1916 it was established as a special day by President Woodrow Wilson.
Another 43 years passed before President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day. It may not get much attention since it is so close to our July 4th Independence Day celebrations.
The National Independence Day has many memories. It was the one and only time I saw my dad fish. Mother’s sister was coming from Dallas with her family and we all went out to Lake Brownwood for the day. I don’t think he planned to do it, but by catching six inches of some kind of fish he seemed to enjoy it.
My aversion to fishing began about that time. Cleaning the fish has something to do with my dislike of the sport. (How can it be a sport when the fish has no defenses and is just swimming around in his home?)
After the Big War (World War II) most cities banned the sale of fireworks. This was because the noise was not good for the veterans’ nerves and kids losing too many fingers and eyes. That law is still in force as all the fireworks have to be sold on county highways outside city limits. Then cities began putting on fireworks displays for the public. These pyrothechnic displays get bigger and louder each summer. So have the Roman Candles we used to shoot off in the back yard.
Back in time when film was used in cameras, I took my Argus C-3 out to a fireworks festival. Trying to capture the beauty of the designs and color is not easy. I did not have a tripod. I didn’t know where to point the camera nor could I anticipate the right timing. I only wasted some good film.
Now with television and the Internet we can see all the fireworks we care to. Although the formal signing of the Declaration of Independence was not completed until August of 1776, the Fourth of July holiday quickly became the day for the anniversary.
The anniversary of one of the world’s first such document. King George could not rule the colonies any longer. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, our second and third presidents, both died on the 50th Fourth of July.
This great day of liberation was not declared a legal holiday until 1941. It had been observed long before it was made a legal holiday. The holiday was first observed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, at which time the Declaration of Independence was read aloud, city bells rang, and bands played.
The Fourth is traditionally celebrated publicly with parades and pageants, patriotic speeches, and organized displays of fireworks.
A highlight for me this year has been to spend time re-reading the Declaration of Independence a few times. This document laid down the foundation for our U.S. Constitution and continues to this day endorsing the fundamental principles of freedom.
It is sobering to be reminded how much we are indebted to those ordinary men and women who rose up and met the challenge and danger involved in being a free people.
Britt Towery is a free-lance writer in San Angelo, Texas, and former missionary