Monday, July 3, 2017

Remembering an Independence Day

As I get ready for our own little Independence Day Celebration (this year our traditional Block Party has been moved to a local park where the fireworks, barbecue and beer will be in ample supply) I have paused for a few minutes to remember some of my past 4th of July’s.


While it was not the best, nor most fun Independence Day, July 4th, 1976 proved to be the most unusual one for me. A week earlier I had been assigned to the Graveyard shift on the police department and I had just worked 4 fourteen hour shifts in a row. When I got off duty that morning, my Sergeant told me to take 2 days off. My plan, therefore, was to go home, get some badly needed sleep, then join some friends that evening at the Ferry Building to watch the fireworks over San Francisco Bay. Alas, it was not to be.

About 10 o’clock that morning my phone rang and 2 very good friends of mine insisted on my meeting them at a new bar that had just opened. It was an Australian Pub and the owner was a retired Australian Police Officer. I agreed and arrived at the pub an hour later.

It was a long, narrow place with Australian flags and memorabilia around the walls. There was a cigarette machine (a requirement in bars of the day, remember, 86 percent of adult Americans admitted being smokers in 1976) and an old Juke Box against the wall opposite the bar. The room expanded slightly in the back to make room for a single pool table. There was also a large TV over one end of the bar.

In honor of the 4th of July, the owner had placed a large American Flag in the center of the room and several dozen little American flags stuck all over the bar.

My 2 friends and I bellied up to an otherwise empty bar and I started on Foster’s Lager. The owner had a new Daiquiri Machine and wanted to learn how to use it. The three of us, being good people and always willing to lend a helping hand, immediately volunteered to drink each different version as he made them and give him our honest critiques of his work.

At some point, one of my good friends, Dennis, discovered that the Juke Box had Waltzing Matilda on it. He played it, we sang it, laughed and played it again…and again…and again. It should be noted here that, in deference to the fact that this was the 200th anniversary of the founding of our country, we also sang Yankee Doodle, Anchors Away, The Marine Hymn, God Bless America and a dozen other patriotic songs. Of course, the Lager and Daiquiris combined and each rendition slowly but steadily became less recognizable.

At some point during the revelry, we were interrupted by a news flash on the TV talking about the very successful Israeli Raid to rescue the hostages at Entebbe in Uganda. That, then, became the subject of many of the toasts that afternoon.

For the most part, other customers wandering into the establishment caught the spirit and joined in with the singing, toasting and general fun.

There was, however, one notable exception. It was a man in his early thirties. This man had the audacity to suggest that our singing was off key and too loud. He then said that the Israeli raid was no big deal and that the Americans of 1776 were malcontents that the British Crown did not really want as subjects anyway. As if to add insult to injury, the man had a strong English accent.

The already lit fuse reached the powder when he got up, went to the Juke Box and interrupted our Waltzing Matilda with selections of Beetles music, telling us that that was a good “English” modern band.

At that point, my 2 friends and I got up, took him by both arms, yelled “Down the Brits!”, walked him to the front door and threw him out, over the sidewalk, onto the hood of a car parked by the curb. He was also given a stern warning that he, like the Redcoats 200 years before, had been permanently barred from the celebrations and it would be a mistake to try and come back.

I cannot tell you how the day ended. The fog of time has mercifully closed over those memories. It was, however, great fun and the most unusual Independence Day I have celebrated.

Happy Independence Day! God Bless America!

Gary’s Reflection:

Nothing says “Let’s celebrate Independence Day” like drinking beer and playing with explosives.

Live Long and Prosper...

No comments: