Fourth of July Memories

From the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society Newsletter, 1985


I remember when all the churches in town took part in the parade every year. All competed for the first prize: as the largest group, best dressed, most school children, mothers and fathers. Those were great parades to watch. I remember the 300 Girl Scouts marching in their complete dress uniforms, and about 35 leaders including myself, marching rain or shine, for about 30 years. Being in the parade as a Girl Scout leader was such a joy, pleasure and privilege to see the thousands of people on the parade route. Never on a float, always on foot, doing our best as good Americans.


My earliest remembrance of the 4th of July celebration dates back to the 1920's. We lived on Sheridan Avenue, and on the morning of the Fourth my mother was busy preparing potato salad, baking a ham, making lemonade, and about 11 A.M. we all walked to Whiting Park. My dad pulled me in a wagon, with the food, and once in the park we would find a table, and then the fun would begin. There were ten children in our family, enough for a baseball team. Everyone was dog-tired by the time the fire­works display started. It seemed a long walk home after a busy day.


The Whiting 4th of July parade, around 1955. The photo was taken from the corner of 119th Street and Temple Street, looking west toward Central Avenue.

The Whiting 4th of July parade, around 1955. The photo was taken from the corner of 119th Street and Temple Street, looking west toward Central Avenue.

My fondest memory of the "Fourth" in Whiting of long ago was of my mother, Etta Schellinger Brown, as a member of the Whiting American Legion Auxiliary Unit 80 in the mid-1920--30's, cooking all day before the celebration. There was ham, beans, potato salad, bread and cakes, so we could walk in any time of the day and help ourselves. First, on the morning of the 4th, we would be up at 6 A.M. to get down to the park. Coffee was made in big pots of water with the coffee tied in a cloth. (No electric pots in those days.) My mother would work from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M. or later. Us kids headed down to the park right after the parade, and usually had something new in red, white and blue to wear. All the booths were run by local organizations and churches, and you knew or recognized almost everyone in the park. The day ended with the super fireworks, closed with a blazing American flag. The few fireworks we were allowed as children were sparklers and son-of-a-guns. Remember the ankle burns when the sparks popped onto our legs?


I remember back in the 1930's seeing in the July 4 parade that very large group of teenage girls, all in fancy costumes, marching in interesting formations and figures. It was extremely impressive. I am told that this group of girls was sponsored by the Catholic Slovak Ladies Union. Over the years I have remembered a few of the girls--who are now grandmothers!


My favorite holiday. We would wake up early· to make sure we got a choice spot to watch the parade. A new sport outfit was a must because it was the day of the year that you saw just everybody. After the parade it was down to Whiting Beach and swimming in beautiful Lake Michigan. The beach was packed, of course, and let's face it, that's where the boys were. Home for a family picnic or just a meal, and then it was time to get ready for an evening at the park. Rides, games, entertainment and of course, fireworks. Meeting old friends and maybe making new friends; seeing that special person you had been wanting to meet for so long and casually becoming acquainted. Cross-town friendships thrived and there was always someone to watch the fireworks with and walk you home at the end of the evening. If the weatherman cooperated it was always a perfect day. Oh, to go back and relive those wonderful days of being a teenager during the Fourth of July in Whiting.



Everyone came home on the "4th." Mom made a pot of "halupki," potato salad, and cakes. The flag flew proudly. Then the parade began. Afterward, we came home to eat. Then to the park, to play the games. My brother "Cowboy" always won the watermelon contest. Each of us was given 25 cents, that had to last the whole day. Tired and weary, we came home to rest and eat again. We visited with friends and relatives until dusk. Then we hurried back to the park for the big show of fireworks. What a show! Ah's and oh’s were uttered in awe. We filed home, tired but filled with joy. Bed felt good.


I remember going to the park on the "4th" with my father to watch the boxing matches. The morning was always spent watching the parade. The whole family went together for this and usually met other relatives there. (We still do.)


I remember as a child going to the parade in the morning and coming home to shoot off our fireworks -- son-of-­a-guns, torpedoes, lady-crackers, firecrackers, and at night the sparklers. We loved going to the park in the afternoon to watch boxing and vaudeville and eating hot dogs or hamburgers from the many stands. Everyone from the community was there. Watching the night fireworks was always a big thrill.


I remember especially the acts of vaudeville that took place in the afternoon in the lagoon area. Dancers from the McNeill School of Dance were part of the entertainment. Then there was dancing in the evening at the pavilion, very well att­ended. Nearly all the booths were manned by townspeople and local organizations.


In 1931 the library entered the parade, winning a blue ribbon, fourth prize, for the largest group, and a first prize silver cup for appearance. James Judson por­trayed "The Piper," Buehler Glans was "Robinson Crusoe," Joyce Tharp Sass was “Little Red Riding Hood,” and the Glan’s dog was the wolf. I was a poster or sandwich-board girl. The poster I carried showed a picture of Abraham Lincoln. It read, “Good Books Build Character.” A scrapbook with the blue ribbon and snapshots of the silver cup are in the local history room of the Whiting library.