In 1976 I was seven years old. I had up until that year had no real concept of what Independence Day was or why we celebrated it. In the year of our bicentennial celebration patriotism was in the air. Living in a military town only served to amplify the sentiment. Pop culture in 1976 was fixated on the bicentennial. America was immersed in the story of The Declaration of Independence and how our founding fathers had fearlessly stood in the face of tyranny and triumphed.
All that was well and good, but at 7 all I really cared about were the fireworks and the ice cream. My father had an ancient hand-crank ice cream maker that we had to help crank if we wanted any ice cream. The fireworks were plentiful and cheap in those days. We had bottle rockets and Roman candles along with an array of snakes and sparklers. The thing I was not allowed to touch was the M80’s. These were real M80’s and not the latter-day wannabes.
We had hamburgers and hotdogs with baked beans and potato salad. There was watermelon and apple pie for desert. Most of the adults were responsibly enjoying their adult beverages while sugary drinks and candy powered the kids.
My Dad was still in the Navy back then as were many of our neighbors so when our neighbor from across the street played the national anthem on his old record player, all of these sailors in civilian clothes snapped to attention and saluted the nearest flag. It was a profound sight to see but it wasn’t until years later I understood the power in it.
When 2076 rolls around I will be long gone. If my son is still around he will be 86. My granddaughter will be 63. I hope that these people I have tried to influence in my life will understand the meaning and significance of the Tricentennial anniversary of our independence. I am confident they will.
– Andy Merciers