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Bicentennial 1976: Kids Dressed Up in Colonial Costumes

In 1976, schools across the United States of America celebrated our nation’s 200th birthday with school plays and parades. School pictures and class pictures featured liberty bells, the U.S. flag, Bennington flag, or a Spirit of ’76 banner. From coast to coast, kids, all of whom were Gen-Xers, dressed up in Colonial costumes. Girls looked like Betsy Ross and boys looked like Paul Revere.

There hasn’t been anything like it since. Although the Oklahoma bombing and 9/11 brought children together to plant trees and create memorials, no event has occurred since 1976 that has brought kids together in any type of meaningful patriotic celebration.

It is hard to convey the magnitude of the Bicentennial to my children. I lived in Colorado Springs, the Centennial state, in 1976. Everywhere we went, there were fire hydrants painted like Minutemen and Spirit of ’76 flags flying everywhere. Our school curriculum was also focused on the Bicentennial. I remember wondering as a kid what were we going to do when it was all over. It was so huge and I had a sense of sadness about it ending. I understood that I was present for this major event and would probably not live long enough to see another quite like it.

After leaving Colorado, I spent the rest of my childhood and youth in the Rural Heartland. From West Texas to Arkansas, East Texas to Southeast Kansas, and finally, Oklahoma, I, like all Gen-Xers, grew up in the aftermath of the celebration. The Minutemen fire hydrants faded over time and the patriotic billboards and storefront windows peeled and chipped away. For years, nobody took the birthday party down.

Colonial Play at a Massachusetts Bicentennial Celebration Colonial Costumes on Parade Boys in Minutemen Hats Bicentennial 1976 Boys Dressed Up Like Paul Revere Boy Dressed up for Bicentennial Teacher in Bicentennial Ware Bicentennial Parade Teacher Playing A Piano at a School Bicentennial Celebration, 1976 Boys in Paul Revere and Colonial Costumes Children Dressed in Colonial Costumes Bicentennial 1976

I’m from Kool-aid packs and Kung-Fu Sundays
From the hills of Alabama
And the Southside of Corinth
Bill’s Pawshop and Roger’s Supermarket
From riding bikes and staying out till dark
From walking to the park and being with friends
From matinees and Friday nights’ fish and spaghetti,
I’m from complicated lies and
Sometimes the truth
From catching the “Holy Ghost”
And letting go of fear
From drives to Pickwick, Shiloh and Jackson TN.
And back to Penn Street and Meigg.
I’m from the torrential waterfalls
That parade through life
Tears long since removed
And covered with a smile
I’m from secrets long kept
And worries not found
I’m from the past of whipped backs
And gambling hearts.
I’m from a mixed line
Of grandparents, aunts and uncles
Friends who are family
And family not claimed
A history imperfect
Yet whole
Mississippi bred.

Photo Credit: B. Faluso, Plainville, Massachusetts

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Bryce Von Patton Batemen

    It was probably one of the last times children were actually allowed to express, and feel a sense of loyalty and patriatism for their own country.

    • Jennifer

      That is very, very sad. I can’t believe patriotism has become a negative term. I know my country isn’t perfect but we are the most generous people in the world. We’ve made some horrible mistakes but that doesn’t negate the sacrifice of thousands and thousands of soldiers who died for the cause of freedom. I live in OKC and have many Vietnamese friends who would not be here if it weren’t for U.S. Soldiers saving them when Saigon fell. This is just one example. They are Vietnamese Americans and they are American patriots. I know what you’re saying, Bryce. It’s very sad.

      • Richard Avery

        Yes totally agree. So sad folks have become so cynical. We have soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan and in the not the too distant pass in the second gulf war whose legacy is not being fully respected IMHO.

        Going back to the Bicentennial, I remember when we dressed up in Colonial clothing too! And don’t forget 1986 with the Bicentennial of the US Constitution. I remember the fantastic fireworks display besides the statue of liberty on national TV!

        • Jennifer

          I’d totally forgotten about the Bicentennial of the Constitution. That was really terrific. A little bit like revisiting 1976. I’ve come across some photos of that. I want to find them and see if I can get permission to republish them. Thank you, Richard. It’s so heartbreaking how many of our soldiers have died in Afghanistan and many others with life-altering injuries. The Gulf War (Desert Shield, Desert Storm, etc.) began right after I graduated from college and entered my career in public affairs at a large military installation. I will never forget what it was like working for the Air Force during a declaration of war, particularly in public relations and public information. We received so many stories off the “wire.” They came via FAX. Stories of heroism. I’ll never forget it. I learned while I was there that one can be patriotic and not political. I saw it every day. I also cannot forget Somalia. An Oklahoma soldier died there. I wrote a story about him for the base paper that was picked up by Air Force Times. God bless you and thanks for stopping by.

          • Richard Avery

            Thank you for the kind words. Your blog and podcasts are fantastic! These photos got the nostalgia flowing. In a couple of months I will turn 50 and over the past couple of years nostalgia for ,my childhood in the 70’s and teens years in the 80’s has naturally creeped in the mind. I am in sales and marketing in the tech space and was in telecom back in the hey day of 90’s .com and pre 2001 telecom meltdown. My wife has been in finance for education and telecom for past three decades.

          • Jennifer

            Thank you, Richard! I’ve been having RSS Feed issues with my podcast and am hoping to get it fixed this week. =/ Thank you for reading and listening. Let me be the first to wish you a Happy 50th Birthday. It doesn’t seem so old now that I’m here. lol!

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