Saturday, July 04, 2015

Memory Bank: The Bicentennial

With July 4th, 2014 and Independence Day fast approaching, I thought it might be an opportune to remember America's Bicentennial celebration of 1976. 

I remember the occasion, 38-years ago, well.  I was six years old, and the Bicentennial -- the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- was all the craze, all over the country. I was in Kindergarten at the time, and much of our class work was geared towards the Bicentennial and remembering the beginnings of our country.

At the time, Gerald Ford -- an unelected President, ironically -- was Commander-in-Chief, and he spoke meaningfully in Philadelphia, on the occasion, about the aspirations of the first Americans.  He tallied them as personal freedom, self-government, and national unity.

I also remember that my family participated in a costume contest and parade for the Bicentennial at Forest Avenue Primary School in Glen Ridge, the town where I lived.  You can see us all in the photo from that occasion, above.  I'm the little guy up front.  My mother sewed all the costumes from scratch, and my Dad's survived until just a few years ago.

Today we usually see costumes such as these worn only by the Tea Party, but during the Bicentennial madness of 1976, tri-corn hats hadn't yet been appropriated by any one political movement. They were for everyone who wanted to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our nation.

Actually, the Bicentennial was celebrated in all kinds of ways back in 1976. There were Bicentennial coins (quarters, I believe...) a Bicentennial lottery (in my home state of New Jersey) and even Super Bowl X got into the ac twith players from the Steelers and Cowboys wearing Bicentennial patches. There were Bicentennial TV commercials, and more.

Below, you'll find some video clips from this special birthday event in modern American history. Honestly, I can't believe that this was almost forty years ago. Sometimes I can remember it all so clearly.  

I will be 106 if I live to see America's Tricentennial...but I'm eating right and exercising in hopes of making the date. I hope I'll see you there.

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