Bicentennial Photos 1976
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.
Kids in Colonial Costumes
Julia Ward Howe, 1862
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,
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.
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.
Of grandparents, aunts and uncles
Friends who are family
And family not claimed
A history imperfect
Photo Credit: B. Faluso, Plainville, Massachusetts