Our entire family would walk to Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue to see the great July 4th parade. The parade started about 9 a.m. and lasted at least two hours.
Participants included clowns, three or four bands, policemen on motorcycles, members of patriotic organizations, village dignitaries, people dressed in period costumes driving antique autos and all the ranks of Scouts.
The marchers I particularly liked were the past and present members of the Armed Forces. Back in the late 1940s and early ’50s there were veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I, and, of course, World War II and Korea.
It seemed to me that thousands of people lined the sidewalks from Harlem to Ridgeland. Whenever a flag passed, men removed their hats and all observers placed their hands over their hearts and were silent when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.
The day was filled with explosions of firecrackers, cherry bombs and bottle rockets, and at night, sparklers illuminated the darkness.
It was also a day devoted to family. There were backyard games with parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and a never-ending supply of food and soda pop. Of course, the radio was tuned to either a Sox or Cubs double-header.
Oh, and Independence Day and other holidays were observed on whatever day they fell. A three-day weekend occurred only if the holiday fell on a Monday or Friday (as it did this year).
This was a time of respect, patriotism and family.
Between Thatcher and First Avenue was a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, lots of woods, and later, a motel, but on the south side of North Avenue at First Avenue was Skip’s Drive-In. Skip’s was one of the most popular of all hangouts for those of us in our late teens who had the occasional use of a car because the hamburgers were great, the milk shakes were smooth, and the scenery was quite special.
Across First Avenue, still on the south side, was (and still is) Maywood Park where the sulkies ran, and on the north side was Kiddieland which has been in operation since 1929. This is the place in 1948 where I first rode a roller coaster-the Little Dipper-a carousel, and a pony.
On the east side of Fifth Avenue, across from Triton College, was the North Avenue Outdoor Theater, opened in 1949, and open for business from March to October. The theater provided in-car heaters, window speakers and a concession stand. For a few dollars admission-less, if some people came in while lying under blankets or in a trunk-you could see a first-run movie.
Beyond Fifth Avenue was the wide blue yonder, broken up only by Amling’s Flowerland (“the home of every bloomin’ thing”) and Tom Naples’ fruit and vegetable stand. Both of these places later expanded into mega-businesses, but they are now gone and other businesses have taken their place. Winston Park and the shopping center didn’t exist then. I believe than on a clear day a person could easily see two unobstructed miles west from Maples. Of course, all things change in the name of progress.