Let freedom ring on the Fourth of July

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

It feels like we just celebrated Christmas, and in a few days, we will be celebrating the Fourth of July. It seems as we age, time has a way of speeding up. I remember when I was young and wishing to be older.

If I only knew then what I know now. My dad used to say, “We get too soon old and too late smart.”

Did you know that for the first 20 years after the Declaration of Independence was written, people didn’t celebrate it? By the 1790s, a time of bitter partisan conflicts, the declaration had become controversial. One party, the Democratic-Republicans, admired Jefferson and the declaration. The other party, the Federalists, thought the declaration was too French and too anti-British, which went against their current policies.

After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began to come apart. Printed copies of the declaration began to circulate again, all with the date of July 4, 1776, listed on the top. By 1817, John Adams complained in a letter that America seemed uninterested in its past. But that would soon change.

The deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826, may have helped to promote the idea of July Fourth as an important day to remember.

Celebration of the Fourth of July became more common as the years went on, and in 1870, almost 100 years after the declaration was written, Congress first declared July Fourth to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. Further legislation about national holidays, including July Fourth, was passed in 1939 and 1941.

During my childhood, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. We always celebrated it by getting out our hand-cranked ice cream maker. Dad and I went to town and bought a big block of ice. He chipped off pieces and mixed the ice with salt.

Mother prepared the ingredients and poured them into a metal container. The container was then placed into the ice cream maker and the ice and salt placed around the container. We all took turns cranking the handle until it became difficult to turn signaling the ice cream was done.

Dad always purchased cantaloupe. We each received a half of a melon filled with homemade ice cream. It was so good. Mother’s ice cream recipe was a simple one: 3 cups heavy cream, 1 cup half and half, 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Sometimes she added other flavorings, but we liked the vanilla ice cream the best.

After our ice cream treat, I waited patiently for it to get dark. Mother always bought me a few sparklers and several rolls of caps. Dad gave me his hammer and I had fun. I remember chasing lightning bugs and listening to the frogs from the nearby Marion Pond. Looking back, I cherish the memories of a more “simple” time.

I thought you might enjoy this Fourth of July story: A Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest met at Albuquerque’s annual Fourth of July picnic. Old friends, they began their usual banter.

“This baked ham is really delicious,” the priest teased the rabbi. “You really ought to try it. I know its against your religion, but I can’t understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden. You don’t know what you’re missing. You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried Mrs. Warren’s prized Virginia Baked Ham. Tell me Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?”

The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin and said, “At your wedding.”

“So, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring!” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Enjoy the parades. Have fun at your family barbeques. Watch the fireworks. Most importantly, thank veterans for our freedoms and thank God for our veterans! Happy Fourth.

Answer to last week’s question: Susan Hagel, a Shawano High School graduate, won first place in the 1973 National Wheelchair Archery competition in New York.

This week’s question: When was the Shawano Chamber of Commerce organized and where was its first office located?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.