Saturday, November 15, 2008

Assignment: Fourth of July

Altavista in many ways was a little like Mayberry of the Andy Griffith show. Not nearly so small or folksy, but still a small town. We had Fourth of July fireworks over at the high school, imaginatively named, Altavista High School. The munitions were set up near the far side of the athletic field, and we'd gather on the front lawn of the campus (now probably a big parking lot since every sixteen year-old these days has their own car). The sun would eventually disappear and there would be the loud showless bang of a salute round. Then maybe one or two more big bangs. This, it seems, was to get everyone's attention as we certainly did not want anyone to miss one of the colorful displays. That would be wasteful. Much more than that, I don't really remember. They were fireworks. We oohed and ahhed and they were pretty neat. There were the single star burst types of different colors and some variations, there would be some roman-candle style sets to go off and some tall mounted displays that might spin wheels or just sparkle like crazy. And of course as all such displays end, there was always the finale with as much ordnance in the air as they could muster. I'd say it was simply quaint and homey.
The "Old Friend From Far Away" assignment was the "Fourth of July", so there you have one.
Yet, the other memorable Fourth display was in England. Yes. When we were stationed in London, the Navy would put on a Fourth of July celebration out at the little support base at West Ruislip, imaginatively named, Naval Support Activity West Ruislip, or something like that. They would bring in a small carnival with a couple of rides and then put on a small fireworks display, not all that different in scope from the Altavista effort with the exception of being updated. They'd have synchronized music to the display. Ain't modern technology great? We'd invite our neighbors, Jack and Dot Williams with any of their kids or fosters they wanted to bring along. Jack, ever the generous guy would try to buy all the food and ride tickets. His job took him to "the states" from time to time so he'd have a wad of twenties. He claimed to be celebration getting rid of the colonies. I'll just warp-up that we always enjoyed it and those days remain a warm spot in our hearts.

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