President, White County Historical Society, 2001


y granddad had what I suppose was one of the earliest models of electronic hearing aids. It was a small plastic box that fit in his shirt pocket. A wire ran from the box up to the earpiece which fit in one ear, similar to the early portable transistor radios. He would wear it when company was visiting. He lived with my widowed Aunt Vera down the road from our house at Garner. I seldom missed a day going by their house. On this particular morning, I “dropped in” for my morning visit and he had his hearing aid on. Every little bit he would adjust it. Finally, in exasperation he said, “Vera, this hearing aid, isn’t working today, it keeps popping in my ear! It must be broke.” To which she replied, “Dad, It’s the Fourth of July, you are hearing the firecrackers the neighbor boys are setting off.” He laughed and decided that he would just put the hearing aid up for the day.

Later that day, they would come down to our house. We had a big shady yard, often the gathering place for a group of the neighbors to come together and celebrate. We’d spend the afternoon visiting, eating watermelon, ice cream and then a picnic supper, while waiting for it to get dark enough to shoot off the main fireworks. During the afternoon, while the grownups were visiting in the shade, we kids would be playing cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, etc. We would run and chase until we would finally get so hot, that it was time to lie down on the ground close to where the grownups were talking. We would listen to their stories while cooling off and waiting to start the next game. Along about dark, if the mosquitoes were bad, Dad would start a “smoke” – a low-burning fire to which green wood and leaves were added to cause the yard to become smoky, so the mosquitoes would leave us alone. Then it would finally get dark enough for the adults to agree that the fireworks would show at their best. So, the evening would end with the fireworks display put on by the older kids with Roman candles and skyrockets, while the little kids were limited to sparklers.

There wasn’t anything spectacular about our Fourth of Julys in the mid-1950s. We did have the firework shows that we see now. The lack of air-conditioning meant that people sat on the porch, or in the yard in the evening. Neighbors visited back and forth daily, sharing the latest community news, and little jokes like granddad and his hearing aid made the rounds. We can’t go back to those times except in memory, but we can record them in words, so that a shadow of that memory can be preserved.

On each July 4th we honor the memory of the events that happened in Philadelphia in 1776. Thanks to the recordings of our country’s forefathers, we know much about what transpired in those days. We can never entirely relive that moment in history, but we can honor the ideas and people that make that moment in our history unique. Again we preserve a memory by celebrating the Fourth. Your history may or may not be spectacular but either way, I encourage you to write it and share with the White County Historical Society and others. Some day your remembrances will be a “Fourth of July” to a descendant or an individual interested in a topic that you know about. Write, share and have a safe and happy Fourth.