A Child’s Perspective of a Bygone 4th

There was an assortment of little villages along Jamaica Bay within the limits of New York City. They were built as summer residences for people who were doing reasonably well prior to the “Great Depression.” After the depression destroyed the economy of the US these places became neglected and poor people were now living there. They were folks of limited means, but as children, it was all normal.

Baseball was played but the equipment was all junk acquired from various means. They were poor but the funny thing about poverty is when everybody is in the same boat, you hardly notice. Living near the bay, they had fishing and crabbing. Nobody went hungry. These folks had guns for hunting which, of course, was illegal even then. There were also the farms that extended to where JFK Airport is today. It would not be unheard of to steal a basket of vegetables.

Ah, but the Fourth of July was indeed special.

There was great excitement over the Hydro-plane races on the bay. It was the Fourth of July, and the races were a big feature of the day. These ‘boats’ were not the monster speed boats that dominated the waters of the wealthy parts of the shoreline. They were under 12 feet long with motors that would nearly sink them and get them to go 50 miles per hour. A speed that is pretty fast when your vessel is little more than a shingle.

Fireworks were illegal but just about everyone had some. The cops would confiscate fireworks if they caught you, but not to worry, there would be no arrests. The cops just needed them to entertain their own kids. Did a couple of fingers get blown up from time to time? Yes, it happened, but it was part of the culture. This holiday was a lot of fun if you were a kid. It probably was a lot of fun for the grown-ups as well.

Did anybody dwell on the significance of this important holiday? I don’t think so, but we better do that now! It’s important.

Happy 4th of July and God bless.