My favorite memory of the Fourth is probably the Bicentennial.
My late deceased departed and (by 2/3 majority vote) dead Daddy, a proud Southerner and low-grade politician (wanted to be a high grade politician but- too much insanity in his family and too liberal [actually, too practical] on racial issues in the Integration era) was a historian and occasional teacher/professor who actually placed a moratorium on July 4 celebrations for most of his life because it was the anniversary of the date in 1863 when 1) Lee limped away from Gettysburg and 2) Vicksburg surrendered in the south, thus sealing the Confederate doom at two ends of the nation. However, as he had always promised, the Bicentennial would be the year he would officially rejoin the nation and he would spend it in Philadelphia, and we did.
I was 9 years old, loved American history (and had the action figures), and it was fantastic. It was hot as hell, I think one in every three people alive seemed to be there that day, but it was absolutely great, the most patriotic day I can remember. There were street performers in Bicentennial garb, grown tourists walking unembarassedly in cheap tricorns, floats tossing special coins and beads (I still have a couple), performances from 1776 on the sidewalk, etc…
After a “hot as hell in Phil-a-del-phia” during the day the bottom fell out and soaked everybody who was outside late that afternoon. We were on our way to Christ Church, the Episcopal house of worship that the founders attended, and it was packed, though we noticed one pew in the middle that was empty so, five drowned rat Alabamians entered it and proceeded to figure out the sit-stand-kneel-squat Anglican aerobics others were doing. At some point we noticed eyes on us, and we noticed a plaque that said
THIS PEW WAS RESERVED FOR GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON WHEN IN PHILADELPHIA AND DURING HIS PRESIDENCY
which explained why it was empty. We thought perhaps we should move, but my mother said it best: “I don’t know one damned person in Philadelphia and I don’t care if they say a tacky wet tourist was in the president’s pew… I’m stayin’.”
We were joined by three other tourists before the end of the service.