MAKING MEMORIES

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

         Fireworks at Tahoe City

Last week I received two phone calls that saddened me.  Not in any big way – no deaths or illnesses, just to put it in perspective, but sad nonetheless.  The first was from a friend visiting grandchildren.  He lamented that the kids were bored and depressed.  Due to the COVID risk in their area they must stay at home, are not allowed to see their friends and if they do venture out with their parents they must wear a mask.  He asked me: “What kind of a childhood is this?”.  The next day I spoke with a friend who has a home in Lake Tahoe and she told me that the annual 4th of July fireworks display had been cancelled because they did not want large crowds gathering in town.  These two calls got me thinking about what it must be like to be a young child during this time, and what the long term repercussions might be.  As I think back to my childhood, the 4th of July fireworks at Tahoe were so special that the memory of them still brings a smile to my face.

                Meeks Bay in the 1950’s

We spent many weekends during the summer at our place at Tahoe.  We would often visit Meeks Bay Resort, a throwback destination that consisted of a wonderful, white sandy beach, an old hotel, an arcade room, snack bar and kayak rentals.  The highlight for me was when my dad gave me a nickel to buy popcorn out of the machine on the pier.  The bag invariably was filled to the brim and I spilled a good portion of it wending my way back to our spot on the beach.  Still…I can remember the smell and the sand in my feet to this day.  As I grew older I attended dances at the outdoor pavilion and spent hours on the beach, smothered in baby oil to get a  perfect tan.   More often that not I was burned to a crisp, a situation that I would recall some 50 years later when I was diagnosed with melanoma.  But when you’re young ignorance is bliss.

    Me…enjoying Rocky Beach

Most of the time our family went to a local beach on the west shore that was not sandy at all.  In fact, we called it Rocky Beach for obvious reasons.  The good part was that it was never crowded.  But it was never crowded for a reason:  you had to sit on lumpy rocks and there was no bathroom.   I hate to think of all the pee that went into that pristine lake.  And, oh yeah, the water was freezing cold, as it tends to be at Tahoe in early July.  It was so cold that if our parents and friends overindulged the night before it required a “quick dip” in the water at Rocky Beach to bring them back to their senses.  The photo of me at Rocky Beach shows just how much “fun” it was to wade into the freezing water.

       Pop – the “muscle man”

But the highlight of every summer was the 4th of July fireworks at Commons Beach in Tahoe City.  The fireworks show has been put on by the fire department every year since the 1930’s.  There is nothing quite like seeing the bursting display over the lake, as it produced a mirror image on the water’s reflection.  Truly, it was breathtaking.  And the advantage of being a kid is that we weren’t the least bit bothered by the loud bangs and soaring rockets that went on for an hour.  The first fireworks show I remember was in the mid-50’s and we continued that great tradition until 1972 when the cabin was sold.  This photo of our dad, joking around about his “magnificent” physique, was taken in 1971 over 4th of July weekend.   To this day, Tahoe fireworks are among my best memories.

Even Dash knows to mask up!

Which gets me back to the kids of today.  Sure, COVID will end at some point.  We will get a vaccine and hopefully we can move on.  But who knows when?  In the mean time, our young kids are missing school, missing friends and missing out on a summer of making memories that will last a lifetime. This year they missed the 4th of July fireworks all over the country.   And the thought of that makes me very sad.   Hopefully we can lick this thing quickly so the kids can have some fun and enjoy their carefree days of childhood.  After all, we know that soon enough life has a way of getting harder and they will need some wonderful memories to bolster their resilience.    Be safe and, like Dash the Wonder Dog, wear a mask!

 

When Did ‘Independence Day’ Become the ‘4th of July’?

by Bob Sparrow

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Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin

Ahhh, the 4th of July – warm weather, baseball games, parades, old glory flying, fireworks, barbecues and beer. Who doesn’t love that? The neighborhood I live in has made this day a very special one from the time our kids were very small. We’ve had parades where the kids decorated their bikes in red, white and blue streamers. We’d go to the local school grounds and taught the kids to play softball until the year that they taught us. We’d play horseshoes and go swimming. We’d barbecue burgers and hot dogs, have a few cold beers (not the kids!) and when it got dark we launched some fireworks.

We thought it was the perfect 4th of July, and it probably was, but it wasn’t the perfect ‘Independence Day’. Nary a word was spoken about the courage of George Washington, the eloquent writing of Thomas Jefferson, the legal leadership of John Adams, or the many talents of Benjamin Franklin. And with all the media we’re surrounded with today, I’m betting that you don’t hear much about these heroes this week as we prepare for what is suppose to be a celebration of what these, and many other courageous men and women, did to create this incredible country.

It’s curious how we’ve personified virtually every other holiday we celebrate with characters, from Father Time to Santa Claus, but we’ve actually taken the Independence‘characters’, our Founding Fathers, out of our Independence Day celebration and relegated it to just a date.  It would be like instead of calling it Christmas, we’d just call it ’25th of December’, or instead of Easter we’d call it the ‘first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox’; OK, maybe we’d keep that one as Easter.  Independence Day is many American’s favorite holiday, but it’s because of the aforementioned activities not because we spend much time recalling and recognizing the deeds of the truly amazing people who founded this nation.

I suspect part of the reason for our lack enthusiasm over celebrating as the victors of the Revolutionary War, is that we don’t see England as our enemy anymore. In fact, they are, arguably, our strongest ally, but back in the day, they were not so very nice to us and they were particularly pissed when we told them to take their taxes and tea bags and put them where the sun don’t shine.

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King George III

King George III, king of England at the time of our revolution, was a particularly annoying bastard – you can read some of our grievances with him in the actual Declaration of Independence, which, by the way can be printed on two typewritten pages – sans signatures. Maybe this year, you could print it out and read it during the barbecue, preferably before ‘beer thirty’. You might also mention that our Founding Father’s were not only courageous, but were very intelligent and interesting people. To wit:

–       George Washington, who is the only US president never to run for president, was elected twice by a unanimous decision of the Electoral College (He got every vote!) – popular vote was not used in those days. As president, he refused to be paid. But, he was also the richest president in history, with total assets in excess of $500 million in today’s dollars.

–       Thomas Jefferson publicly opposed slavery, even though he owned slaves his entire adult life and had 5 children with his slave, Sally Hemings.

–       John Adams died on the same day as his rival Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826, the 50thanniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

–       The multi-talented Benjamin Franklin could speak 6 languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin . . . and English

–       Our first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.

–       Patrick Henry, an attorney, had many people who had nothing to do with a case visit his court hearings just to hear him speak; he was that good of a public speaker.

–       Benedict Arnold, the famous traitor, was a General in both the American and British armies – some say at the same time.

I hope you all have a great 4th of July, but I also hope that you also make it a great ‘Independence Day’ and remember those who, nearly 240 years ago, gave us the freedoms that we so enjoy to this day.

 

Norman Rockwell Attends ‘Hood’s 4th of July Celebration

by Bob Sparrow

Rockwell  Norman Rockwell attended our annual 4th of July gathering.  Yes, I know he’s been dead since 1978, but I’m sure he’s there in spirit every year.  Let me explain.  First, I’m fortunate enough to be part of an incredible neighborhood – hereafter referred to as ‘the ‘hood’ (pictured below), that knows how to celebrate this great occasion.  Second, thankfully Independence Day has, for the most part, escaped the crass commercialism that tarnishes most of our other national holiday celebrations.  Perhaps it’s because we still think it incredible what a cadre of very courageous young men did to create this amazing country.

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Sharon Hendrix as Uncle Sam

For the 25th year in a row the ‘hood has started the 4th of July with a softball game on the local high school field.  This year, like all the rest, the festivities officially opened with Sharon Hendrix, dress as Uncle Sam, playing a recording of our National Anthem, with each of the teams lined up on the first and third base lines, singing along.  At the end, a chorus of “Play ball” rang out.  In the late 80s and through the 90s it was fathers and mothers against son and daughters, where the parents made sure the kids won.  The next few years we didn’t have to make sure they won, it was pretty even, and then . . . I’d like to say the ‘kids’, now in their teens and 20s, made sure the parents won, but they pretty much kicked our butts.  This year we finally mixed the teams and the kids basically played against each other while the parents tried to get out of the way of those screaming line drives.

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Doug & Julie Bynon

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Bob & Jeanne Pacelli

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Vicki, Danielle & Lorenzo Reyes

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Pam & Patrick Michael

Those in the Hood who chose not to play would find a seat on the grass under an elm tree and cheer on the participants and catch up on the latest gossip in the ‘hood.  After the game we’d usually adjourn to the Sullivan house for a spirited game of horseshoes, however this year Rick said his pits were in bad shape (I sat next to him at the BBQ and I can vouch for that!).

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Britney & a better picture of Pam Michael

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Larry & Robin Affentranger

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A.J. & Althea Smith (Terry MIA)

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Scott & Dexter Lanois (Diane cooking)

By late afternoon we’d make our way to the ‘host house’ in the ‘hood, this year the Michael’s, for a barbeque of brats and brisket, with everyone (ok, the women) bringing a side dish.  The Michael’s had decorated the back yard in red, white and blue and had patriotic music playing over their outdoor speaker system as we watch the Angel, on the TV at their outside bar, pull out a dramatic 9th inning victory over the Cardinals.

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Sharon, Caroline & Cap Hendrix

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Heather, Sandi & Bob Baldwin

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Marge Dunn (Bob MIA)

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Bob, Jeff & Linda Sparrow

A day of baseball, barbecue, beer and brotherhood -it doesn’t get any better than that!  Toward the end of the evening, I read the Declaration of Independence aloud.  I was told by many afterward that they were expecting me to create my own, less-than-serious version of this document, and although I did interject, after the list of heinous things King George III did to provoke this declaration, that he seemed like a real bastard, I was not going to lampoon this sacred document. At the conclusion of the reading, the Bauaschis, our only British-born American citizen, were offered equal time, but respectfully declined.

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Beth, Matt, Kara & Rick Sullivan

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Dianne & Dennis in their mini roadster

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Lisa & Marc Webb

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A better picture of Lisa & Marc Webb

As the day came to a close, we heard the bombs bursting in air around the ‘hood and hoped that 4th of July revelers everywhere truly understood the importance of this day.  I think Norman Rockwell and our founding fathers would be proud of the ‘hood’s annual celebration. I know I was.  I think we all felt very proud and very lucky to be part of such a great neighborhood and such a great country.

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Richard & Kere Bauarschi

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Fern & son

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Mascot ‘Bacon’ stealing second base

A tip of our Uncle Sam hat to those “Hood-lums” that couldn’t join us this year: Richard & Reta Wade, Mike & Tanis Nelson,Don & Gale Avril, Randy Davis, Shelly Davis and Danna Campbell.

And we lite a sparkler to the “Hood-alums”, those who have moved away: Steve & Carolyn Seeley, Jim and Pat Crandall, Helmet & Sheila Nittmann, Tim & Carol Scovel and Dave & Sharon McKinley.

 

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