When I was told that I would be spending an entire month in Virginia, I had a meltdown. Afterall, it was going to be in July, and this would turn my vibrant social life into a nothing life. I sulked, argued, begged, attempted negotiations, anything I could think of to get out of having my summer ruined. My parents wouldn’t budge. It was 1976 and the nation was planning a big celebration for our bicentennial. My Uncle lived in Virginia and was stationed at the Pentagon. It would be a perfect base camp for us. The day we left I wasn’t speaking to them. When we landed at the Dulles International Airport, we discovered that the super-sonic Concorde would be landing soon. My mother found a great spot to watch it and signaled for me to join her. I refused. I sat away from the crowd arms and legs crossed with a scowl on my face. My mother ignored my silent protest and continued to beckon to me until it was less embarrassing to just go stand by her than to be part of the scene she was creating on my behalf. Not going to lie, it was pretty cool seeing it land, although I don’t think to this day I’ve ever admitted that to her.
On July 3, 1976 we drove into Washington DC for the Constitution Avenue Parade. It was amazing. Vice President Rockefeller started off the procession of famous people such as Johnny Cash and Telly Savalas. I find it funny now that the person who stands out the most in my parade memory is Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder Colonel Sanders. There were an estimated 500,000 parade viewers on hand for the Capital’s Bicentennial Parade which included 50 bands and 90 marching units. It was the largest crowd in Washington history besting previous record holders Gen Douglas MacArthur’s return home, President Kennedy’s funeral and a Vietnam demonstration.
The parade had been carefully thought out. First up was the Drum & Bugle Corps dressed in redcoats. Historic depictions followed highlighting America’s varied past and multi-cultural influences. There were Navajo code-talkers (which were used in World War 2 for coded messages), Latin musicians, German dancers, Koreans in stovepipe hats, Chinese jostling dragons, Scottish pipers, Dutch dancers in wooden shoes and the list goes on.
On July 4, 1976 from the Capitol steps, we watched the fireworks at the end of the National Mall over the Washington Monument. One of the top three fireworks displays I’ve ever seen. What I remember most about that day is trying to find a parking place. My Uncle had a Cadillac and we circled and circled looking for a place to park. He finally spotted what must have been the only space left in the entire city. It was too small for his car, but he was undaunted. He whipped that car into that spot as if there was plenty of room. Of course, he is a pilot who lands jets on Navy aircraft carriers in the dark, so why were we all surprised. I’m still impressed to this day.
We had many, many experiences on the Eastern Seaboard that summer. It truly was a trip of a lifetime that can never be replicated. So, I will grudgingly thank my parents now for dragging me across the country kicking and screaming with the intent of making their lives miserable. It would have been so much easier just to leave me at home to bask in the sun and enjoy my friends. Thank you, Parents, and Happy 244th Birthday, America!