Our Northwest

Memorable Independence Days gone by

Friday, July 4, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Happy Fourth of July!
   I’ve long said July 4 is my favorite holiday. Growing up near Seattle, I’ve always relished sunshine, blue sky, and warm days.
   Which, as all natives know, rarely arrives before July 5.
   Still, I love summer in the Northwest. Californians might have sunshine year-round, but even they don’t enjoy twilight until 10 p.m. on clear June and July evenings like we do.
   I’ve always believed that all boys harbor a little pyromania in their nature. That likely explains many of my fond childhood memories revolving around July 4 fireworks.
   When I was 8, we watched a big display launched from a barge on Lake Sammamish. Age 9 was the year Washington banned firecrackers, and I recall police cars cruising our Lake Hills neighborhood looking for violators. That was the year “Safe and sane fireworks” became part of the lexicon.
   Throughout elementary school, my buddies and I would comb the ditches alongside arterials looking for empty pop bottles, which we’d take to the supermarket and return for their 3¢ deposits, or a nickel apiece for quart bottles. Then we’d hustle straight to the Zebra fireworks stand and buy a fountain, or a Piccolo Pete, or at the very least a 10¢ box of sparklers or a 5¢ packet of “snakes.”
   In junior high and high school, July 4 always coincided with visits to my extended family’s North Idaho cattle ranch. We’d drive into Coeur d’Alene at dusk and watch the big display launched over the lake. I recall anticipating my 2-year-old niece’s reaction to the big, booming chrysanthemum-like bursts. Instead she remained squatted the entire time, focused on pea gravel on the ground, proclaiming with each one she picked up, “Wocks!”
   As an adult married with children, I recall it drizzled one year at my sister’s house. So we took our kids, snug in their footie pajamas, out to the curb where we got inside our minivan and watched fireworks through the raindrop-beaded windshield.
   The coldest July 4 we ever spent was in West Yellowstone, Mont., where we shivered through pyrotechnics on a downright cold, drizzly 1993 night. It snowed the next day.
   The next year we got smart and for a decade spent the entire week of the Fourth at Kelly’s Resort on Lake Chelan. We never got wet. (Well, actually, I got wet once – we watched the fireworks from our boat on a windy night, and while trying to transfer to a rowboat near the dock, I mis-stepped in darkness and fell in the lake.)
   Nowdays, we tend to be in Cle Elum on July 4 each year. The community fireworks show is shorter and not as grand, but hey, it’s authentic and quaint for our part-time hometown.
   Celebrate safely, friends. And remember to lock up your pets so they don’t bolt once the racket begins!

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