Nintendo was even thought of, when the primary form of recreation was to go play with
other kids. Kids who lived just down the street or around the block, people you grew up
with. That’s the kind of time I grew up in, and I have to say it was fun.
One idyllic summer day several of us kids in the neighborhood decided to have our own
parade. This was a perfect parade: no big budgets, no advance notice or having to worry
about who signed up first, no horses (so no one had to worry about who walked behind
those horses), and no set schedule. We all had a bike or a tricycle to ride, or a red wagon
to pull with a rope tied to someones bike. And we had those great little cap guns,
with the little bit of gun powder on a tape roll that you loaded into them… they made a
nice pop noise when you shot them just right. Most of all, we had enthusiasm. We
were gonna have a parade, by golly, and no one could stop us. It was the fourth of July
when we did this, one of those perfect summer days with no clouds in the sky, just hot
enough to make you sweat, but not so bad that you couldn’t stand it.
Each of us kids, 6 or 8 in all, found a way to decorate our bike or wagon to make it
festive. There was a way to fold a small piece of cardboard and fasten it to the frame of
your bicycle so that your spokes would hit the cardboard and make a noise, much like a
motor. And then you could take crepe paper streamers and weave them between the
spokes and add some color. By the time we all gathered to start our procession we had
the best looking assortment of kid vehicles you could hope for.
My contribution was sawdust from some construction being done around our house to
use as confetti. Sawdust was a safe thing to throw, and wouldn’t hurt anybody. And it
was free. This was before the days of tossing candy to all the viewers along the parade
route, something I have come to detest the older I get. Having some kind of confetti was
all we cared about, something to make our celebration more festive.
I don’t recall how long we rode around, or exactly how many blocks we covered. I just
remember riding my bike, throwing sawdust, and yelling, “It’s the Fourth of July!” for
any and all to hear. Some of us shot our cap guns to add more hullabaloo. We left
behind a nice yellow colored trail on the streets from our confetti. There were big smiles
on our faces, dirt and sweat allover us, and a bit of sunburn on a few noses. No one
really saw our parade, but we didn’t care. We were being kids, having fun, with all the
time in the world.
Now that I look back, I wonder if we paraded for more than ten minutes, but it didn’t
matter then. To us, time seemed to stand still that day. We were imitating what we had
seen our parents do, and we knew this was a good thing. The older kids among us may
have understood what the Fourth of July was all about, and the rest of us just wanted to
have a good time. We were celebrating our freedom back then with our sawdust parade;
our freedom to just be us, to live a simple, worry-free life in a safe and beautiful little
My son once reminded me of the worn out phrase, “You don’t know what you’ve got
until it’s gone.” The tree that once held our swing had to eventually be cut down, and I
felt that my heart was breaking with each grind of the chain saw. The old wooden spool
that we played on has long since been used for kindling for a fire, I’m sure. The bikes
have worn out and disappeared. And the sawdust was probably swept away by the first
good rain we had soon after our famous parade.
What remains is the recollection of great times, safe places to play, friends, and family.
The foundation that our shaped values, and allowed us to be kids. Today, the musical
sound of the’ summer bugs’ and cicadas brings it all back. I just sit back and listen to
those memories, and bask in the warmth.”