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My July Fourth mini-history

Posters announce this is the 90th annual July Fourth celebration in Peabody. I am often amazed that I have been on hand for 40 of them. For many years I was a part-time employee of the Chamber of Commerce when that organization was in charge of the festivities and I spent most of the holiday at the park, in charge of concessions or kids’ games, the dunk tank or the gates.

After the daughters went off to college we began staying at home and hosting their friends who came to play mud volleyball, put a float in the parade, and hit the alumni dance when they finally were of legal age. Fireworks went off in all directions 24/7 and we never flinched.

Soon the college friends began arriving with spouses and babies and things got quieter. Eventually some brought new spouses and the children grew up and were accompanied by friends of their own. Mud volleyball became “beer belly basketball” in the driveway at high noon until the group started thinking about blood pressure and setting a better example for their children.

We have been rained out a couple of times and rained on a couple more times. We’ve sweltered in 100-plus degree temperatures and had to don sweaters some years.

We have had guests in costume and once the 2-year-old daughter of some visitors stripped down in the heat to get into a wash tub of water only to change her mind at the last minute and go streaking buck-naked across the front yard, snatching an American flag as she ran and waving it all the way to the corner. It was an Americana moment!

We have probably tossed a hundred pounds of candy from parade floats. Luckily, at an estate auction, we were able to rescue two of the floats Jesse Seibel (hometown float-builder extraordinaire) put together back in the 1970s. One or the other has appeared in the parade from time to time in remembrance of Jesse. He still gets abundant applause and appreciation along the parade route.

I expect we have grilled enough hamburger, hot dogs, and steak to feed the whole community. We have entertained guests from New York, California, Romania, Burns, Florence, and Newton. One young lady from Burden made it a point to count the number of flags flying around town on the Fourth because she had never seen so many flying in one town. I no longer recall how many she counted, but on her tour around town, she discovered a classic convertible for sale, called her father, and drove it home the next day. Yes, our visitors do spend money locally!

Somewhere in my collection of old Peabody photographs there is a black and white snapshot of a July Fourth parade. In the picture is a vintage automobile with a couple, all dressed up in fussy turn-of-the-century clothing. The car is draped in bunting and flags are flying from various parts of the automobile. Downtown Peabody buildings are in the background and at the bottom are the words “Silas and Mandy — July 4 parade.” The couple is smiling and waving.

There are no last names for Silas and Mandy and I have no idea who they might be. However, there they are in an Independence Day parade just about 90 years ago and I feel connected. No mud volleyball, no Chamber of Commerce, no alumni dance, flea market, or car show. Just July Fourth in Peabody — the same basic celebration we have today.

Honor our flag, our freedom, and our independence with family, friends, joy, and tradition. I truly hope your holiday is great and you remember why you are celebrating.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified June 29, 2011

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