School is done. The year is already half over. Suddenly we find that July Fourth is upon us.
Looking at the calendar and a long weekend ahead, memories of July Fourths past have come to mind.
Don’t know if anyone keeps formal records of these things, but I do know that they have been marching down Bogert Road in River Edge in the July Fourth parade for at least 55 years.
I know because buried deep in our attic are some pictures from a parade back then. We also have some shots from a parade, circa 1963.
Those were different times. A sense of optimism and possibility prevailed. This sense can be seen in how our community staged a parade back the too.
In addition to the political figures, the VFW, , , Little League, Women’s Club and vintage cars, our parade used to feature big time marching bands – the likes of the Garfield Cadets and the Hawthorne Callaberos, both famous for their halftime performances at Yankee Stadium for games of the New York Football Giants.
The Shriners were there many years too – these grown men motoring around in little scooter-type cars seemingly built for children.
Folks back then were not in so much of a hurry to get out of town to just about anywhere but here, as is the case today. So, crowds were robust – the parade was a real event around town – especially for the veterans of the World Wars and their families.
Years ago the parade route was shorter. It ended on the Roosevelt Field. It is there where the reviewing stand stood, and speeches were made.
While one may apt to look at the past at times through rose colored glasses, in the case of these speeches there is little nostalgia at play. They were interminable back in those days too. Guess I’m not just a July Fourth speech fan.
Once that part of the day was finished, folks only then adjourned to Memorial Park – actually the Legion Hall on the south side of Continental. There, in the parking lot or on the porch, hot dogs were served up. And, there was cold beer in a keg.
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the post-parade events started to move across the street to the park side that now hosts the afternoon events. The beer garden started as a beer truck parked on Continental, then moved its way into the park on the south side, and then later to its present fenced in spot to the north.
An enduring memory of those years is the Dixieland band that played on a concrete slab “stage” at the south end of the park – just about at the spot where the “Memorial Park” sign can now be found facing Continental. The jazz group specialized in American standards. It was led by a clarinetist, Walt Levinsky, a local resident and celebrity of sorts as he had played in the Tonight Show orchestra before Johnny Carson moved to Hollywood. Levinsky stayed behind and the town was blessed by his presence and his music, especially on July Fourth.
Over the last couple of years our kids have missed the July Fourth fireworks at KBG – casualties of expanded train service and our tough fiscal environment. Personally, we had always thought the fireworks a bit of a perk –as we grew up knowing that fireworks displays were staged elsewhere – places like Hackensack, Paramus, Fair Lawn, Ridgewood, New York, Washington D.C. and Boston. River Edge skies were quiet.
Back then we knew of folks who by evening just wanted some peace and quiet –a time to re-boot after a long and hot day highlighted by the parade down Bogert, followed by beer, hot dogs and good music by the Legion Hall.