The Woodward News

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July 2, 2014

Seniors discuss holiday memories

Wisdom for the ages

Woodward, Okla. — Firecrackers and the 4th of July go together, well, like firecrackers and the 4th of July.

When you think of our Independence Day holiday, it's hard to imagine it without thinking of sparklers or bottle rockets or large townwide fireworks displays.

That's because fireworks have been a part of our 4th of July celebrations for decades.

I recently chatted with 4 local senior citizens at Providence Place about their memories and thoughts on the holiday and they all started talking about firecrackers straight away.

"In Laverne, where I grew up, my dad loved the 4th of July.  He'd build a trough to set off rockets.  And the kids from all over town would bring theirs and he'd set the trough in the street and set them all off," 90-year-old Wilma Nelson said with a smile at the fond memory.

Artie Ware, 95, said that firecrackers were often an inexpensive way for children to celebrate the holiday.

"We used to have firecrackers that you could hold in your hand.  It cost a penny for a whole package of those," he said.

However Artie said his appreciation for fireworks as a kid changed after he served as part of an anti-aircraft unit attached to the Air Force from 1941 to 1946 during World War II.

"After being in the service, you wish they didn't have firecrackers at all," he said.

Betty Semmel, 84, also expressed a bit of distaste for fireworks saying, "they're very noisy."

"I loved sparklers, but never did like firecrackers," 91-year-old Margie Chaffin said.

The group said they also enjoyed other activities that have become a part of many people's 4th of July traditions, such as picnics and going to the lake.

"We had a big town picnic at this place where there was a bunch of trees, some sandy ground and a creek that ran through there and we called it our city park," Margie said of the celebration in her small hometown.  "Everybody in town just brought food and we ate and visited, laughed and talked.  And we had this sunken place in the creek that we called our swimming hole and in the afternoon the kids would all go swimming there and some of the adults would too."

Wilma and Artie said they both could remember visiting their own swimming holes.

"I would spend the 4th of July at Crystal Beach, with a date usually, and we'd go swimming in corner of the lake," Wilma said.

"We went to Shaul’s Lake up here north of town at Boiling Springs (State Park)," Artie said.

While the state park now has a modern swimming pool, Shaul Lake remains and if you look, you'll see that an old metal ladder remains in one corner of the lake as proof of where people in years gone by enjoyed taking a dip in its cool waters.

But while some aspects of our 4th of July celebrations haven't changed, the group told me that they feel one integral part has changed, and not for the better.

Because while to many it may be known as "America's Birthday," these 4 seniors feel that modern day 4th of July celebrations lack the sense of patriotism that they once had.

"Did they forget about it being our Independence Day?" Artie asked.

Margie said people need to remember the important event in our nation's history which the holiday was created to recognize.

"Our Declaration of Independence was signed on that day," she said.

"But I don't know if they even stress it too much in history in school these days, such as who all signed it and everything," Wilma said.

However, they said they can still remember learning about the birth of our country during their own school days.  They remember also learning from their parents and grandparents the importance of what our Independence Day represents.

"It was always a very important holiday to my dad," Wilma said.  "He was very patriotic and wanted us to celebrate Independence Day and feel blessed that we lived in America."

"When I was growing up, it was always a sacred day, a day to be thankful for our freedom," Margie said.  "Our younger generation, I don't think they understand that; maybe they just haven't been taught about it.  They think it's just a fireworks day."

"Kids today take it for granted; to them it's just a holiday," Betty agreed, noting, "that's why we need to impress on our kids, especially when they're younger, that this is a country they should be proud of."

And as they express their pride and gratitude for the freedoms they can enjoy in our nation, Artie said he hopes they will remember the sacrifices that made those freedoms possible.

"World War I was something terrible, and World War II was worse.  Having seen both of those makes you appreciate the freedoms you have," he said.

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