Jul 032014
 

Bicentennial

Patriotic fervor spread across Long Island in 1976, as the nation prepared for its Bicentennial celebration. And after months of suspense, when the Fourth of July finally arrived, countless events were held all around New York to commemorate this special day. Let’s take a look back at this memorable year in Long Island’s history.

1976 will be remembered as the year that our nation celebrated Independence Day for an entire twelve months. Sure, there was other things going on that made the year memorable. There were Summer Olympics held in Montreal and a Presidential election back home, Peter Frampton released Frampton Comes Alive (part of which was recorded at the Long Island Arena) and the Apple Computer Company was formed, but it was the Bicentennial that was on everyone’s mind, young and old, primarily because it was, well … inescapable.

Suffice to say, anything that could be colored red, white and blue – whether it be food or toys or clothing or cars – started appearing on the market at the beginning of the year, even a little before in some cases. Every company sought to proudly portray how American they were in their advertisements in radio, TV and print ads. Television stations were filled with historical retrospects, educational shows and other patriotic programming. Schools prepared stage plays and pageants, and communities prepared for parades, firework shows and other extravagant celebrations. In other words, utter saturation.

Bicentennial-banner

The Freedom Train traversed the country’s railways from April, 1975 to December, 1976, carrying hundreds of historic and pop culture items that represented America within its ten display cars, and stopping at cities across the country. You might even remember that the Long Island Railroad presented two Railroad exhibits of their own, One in Suffolk County and the other in Nassau, called the Bicentennial Heritage Trains.

When the glorious day finally arrived, all of the television stations provided day-long coverage, as people flocked to numerous locations around the island and city to start the celebration. Most of these places were utterly packed. An impressive tall ship procession took place in New York Harbor, followed by a firework display of monumental proportions. Eisenhower Park hosted a major fireworks display as well, along with just about every other public park across the island. And for those who didn’t want to deal with the crowds, many spent the holiday at block parties and backyard barbeques.

The Bicentennial arrived after the Vietnam War and Watergate, providing a momentary (in the grand scheme of things) diversion from more turbulent times. Long Islanders and the rest of the nation put aside many of their differences in 1976, choosing to instead celebrate and appreciate all of what makes America special. And quite honestly, the next celebration can’t come soon enough.

Where were you on July 4th, 1976? We hope you’ll share all of your Bicentennial memories with us in our comments section below.

Jun 152014
 

Bomb Pop

During those muggy summers in the 70s, there was no sound more welcome than the jingling bells of the ice cream man. And one of his more popular items was always the patriotic popsicle known as a Bomb Pop. Sporting the three colors of the American flag, each representing a tasty layer of flavor, the Bomb Pop soothed many a soul during those dog days of summer.

Created in 1955, the Bomb Pop is a missile-shaped frozen confection consisting of three layers – red (cherry), white (lime) and blue (raspberry). They were considerably larger than the typical popsicle, which didn’t hurt their popularity among their budget-conscious demographic, plus you weren’t stuck with only one flavor.

Of course, Bomb Pops always proved a perfect fit for Fourth of July celebrations and were popular at backyard barbeques, the beach and in the park. And in 1976, while the nation celebrated its Bicentennial, the Bomb Pop seemed all the more special.

Bomb Pops are still available today, made now by Blue Bunny and sold in supermarkets across the country. Besides the traditional variety, there are also fudge, watermelon, sour cherry and Jolly Rancher versions, to name a few. It’s still the original that’s the biggest seller, however, and one bite is sure to bring back a wave of memories. It’s hard to forget the sensation of those sticky red, white and blue drips down your arm, as you fought to finish the bomb pop before the sun did. Those are the things that made childhood a little more special.

If you were fond of Bomb Pops back in the day, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts on these iconic frozen treats in our comments section below.

And now, in the event you need an excuse to go purchase a box of Bomb Pops for old times sake, we offer this novel way to utilize these kids treats in the adult world.

Jul 032013
 

Fourth of July

At our humble little website, you’ll find that we retain that childhood enthusiasm the holidays. And what better way to start than with the Fourth of July. We’ve posted a special playlist of patriotic videos on our YouTube channel today that are sure to take you back, and I’ve got a few memories of my own to share right here.

Where to start…

I spent every Independence Day in the 1970s on Long Island, and with the exception of one special year, they were all spent in someone’s backyard. Now, that might not sound very special on the surface, but these were the days when neighbors knew each other and even liked to spent time with one another. We always had a houseful of folks from the neighborhood. People brought food, we swam in the pool, we barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers and served them with the finest cold salads that the local delis could muster. We tuned into WBLI and WPLJ, tossed Frisbees and, of course, set off a few fireworks throughout the day (hopefully, the statute of limitations has long since expired). In a nutshell, we savored the moment in a Wonder Years sort of way – as soon as the rain stopped, that is.

In all the years I lived in New York, I cannot recall a single Fourth of July in the 70s that didn’t start with some rain in the forecast. Oh, I’m sure there may have been a year or two of dry holidays, I just don’t remember them as well as the ones where I woke up thinking all the fun was going to be cancelled because the skies were dark. And then, as if by divine intervention, what seemed like a torrential downpour would always magically let up in the early afternoon. Nothing got cancelled, the celebrations went on as planned, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Every damned year, it seemed. There was an upside though.

When it came time to light all those fireworks, the chances of something catching fire were almost non existent, unless you were extremely careless. Why? Because all that morning rain served to drench anything remotely flammable (Within reason, of course). In fact, I recall many times when we had to find a dry piece of wood to set them off from because the ground was too wet. In hindsight, I can only wonder how many fires those storms prevented. That’s not to say that the holiday was entirely safe; every year, tragic stories would emerge the next day of someone who blew their fingers off by holding an M-80 or some equally brilliant stunt, usually with alcohol involved. But for the most part, we tended to use this thing called common sense back then and it served us well. Even in the midst of all those backyard fireworks, we survived to tell the tale.

Of course, the Fourth of July that I remember best occurred in 1976. In that particular year, we began preparing for the Bicentennial celebration the minute the new year arrived, pulling out all the stops along the way, and all of which culminated into gala celebrations across the nation when the special day arrived, notably in NY Harbor. In my case, that was the one year that we didn’t stay home. Looking for something with a little more bang, we spent the entire day at Eisenhower Park in Nassau County, eagerly anticipating what was billed as an enormous fireworks display. And, as you might have guessed, the day began with a couple of hours of pouring rain, completely drenching the park grounds and making for a squishy afternoon picnic. Then, right on cue, the skies cleared in the early afternoon, leaving us to relax and enjoy a gorgeous day in the park. At nightfall, we gathered for a display of epic proportions that I still remember all these years later, thereby bringing an end to the nation’s 200th birthday.

So, that’s how I spent my Fourth of July holidays on Long Island. And what I want to know is, how did you spend yours? Did you family stay home, or visit friends and relatives, or did you go to an organized display each year and if so, where? What were your traditions? We would love to hear anything you can remember in our comments section below.

We wish you all a safe and celebratory Fourth of July. And, as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Jul 032013
 

1970s Fireworks

The Fourth of July just wouldn’t be the same without fireworks, and there was no shortage on Long Island in the 1970s. For many families, the holidays were spent somewhere where they put on a safe, professional display. Others took more of a do-it-yourself, backyard approach. Either way, those illuminated skies of our childhood are hard to forget.

Fireworks, which were invented by the Chinese in the 7th Century, have always played a part of American celebrations. The colonists set them off on the very first Independence Day in 1777, and every year since. Of course, we don’t only use them for that particular holiday; they are a regular event at amusement parks, sporting events, New Year’s, etc., but we are most fond of them on July 4th.

On Long Island in the 70s, every major park on Long Island held fireworks displays each year, as did towns, beaches, and schools. These offered a safe way to enjoy the pyrotechnics, but not without some hassle due to traffic and parking. Instead, many a local family preferred to stay home and celebrate with family and friends. That’s where you were most likely to see the illicit variety. Typically, there would be someone in each gathering that either traveled down south (where they are legal) or knew someone who had. The result – a nice paper sack filled with contraband ready to be launched once nightfall hit. The guy who brought the barrage was loathed by many of the adults, and idolized by the kids.

So, what was in the sack?

1970s Fireworks

The laundry list of available fireworks in the 70s is an extensive one, ranging from innocent sparklers to explosives. Some of the more popular items among kids were firecrackers, bottle rockets, smoke bombs, ground flowers, roman candles and, of course, the infamous M-80. These produced no vibrant colors, nor did they leave the ground or spin. They just made an ear-shattering explosion, one capable of doing some serious damage. They weren’t fireworks in the traditional sense and we probably had no business whatsoever playing with them, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t around in abundance in the 1970s.

The truth is, all of these fireworks were dangerous. Fires were started, fingers were lost, people were burned. But millions were also shot off without incident, and brought joy to many a gathering in the 70s. As such, we present them for their memories alone – neither condemning, nor condoning their use.

So, did you tend to go to professional displays as a kid, and if so, where did you family go? Or, did your family have the crazy uncle that always showed up with an arsenal? We’d love to hear all of your fireworks memories in our comments section below.

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