In This Place: July 9, 2014

Red, White and Boom!

Looking back on Fourth of July celebrations of yore, there are definitely some contrasts from how we celebrate today. Over the decades, you will note a definite trend towards increased safety and less abandon with fireworks and explosives, for instance. In the early part of the century, the sizzle, crack, boom began at dawn! I’m having a hard time visualizing how those four guys won the three-legged race, but maybe someone can draw me a picture. Also, how many of us would have the patience to listen to the entire Declaration of Independence?

By the Depression, the “Good Old Way” of celebrating the Fourth had become far less cavalier and more safety conscious than depicted in this cartoon from the June 29, 1906 issue.By the Depression, the “Good Old Way” of celebrating the Fourth had become far less cavalier and more safety conscious than depicted in this cartoon from the June 29, 1906 issue.

July 6, 1906 — A Successful Celebration On Wednesday The Fourth.
There was nothing to mar the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in this village Wednesday. Everything went as advertised. Every- body had a square deal and went home pleased. A few ugly looking clouds in the early morning probably deterred many from com­ing, but yet there was good crowd, the D. & E. selling about 1,300 tickets. It was a good natured crowd and a very orderly one.
The day’s noise begun about day­break with the roar of cannon and the incessant crack, crack, crack of firecrackers, torpedoes and other explosives. At 10:30 a. m. the program began with the three-legged race, which was won by Ralph Mungle, Cecle Polly and Harry Delameter, Earl Brown.
Arena won the hose race in 35 seconds and Roxbury took second money.
Rev. P. S. Colman read the Declaration of Independence and Rev. L. R. Long and Rev. A. M. Forrester each gave a ten minute address. They spoke in a most patriotic vein and held the attention of the crowded street.
The ball game between Fleisch­mann and Schenectady was prob­ably the biggest event of the day. Both teams are made up of professional players and the game was very interesting one. Space denies a complete story of the game. The score was 9-5 in favor of Fleischmann. Manager Howe certainly has reason to be proud of his team.
Following the ball game came the horse races. In the free for all John D. Brown of Arena easily took first money, M. Anderson second and William Ander­son third.
The fireworks in the evening ended the day’s program. The exhibition was a very pretty one and pleased those who remain­ed to see it. One of the rockets sailing low struck Mrs. Edward Yaple of their home and baby, who were sitting in the window. The injuries, though painful, were not serious. A professional man said to a News reporter: “I have seen many celebrations in the villages of the State, but this one was the cleanest and neatest of them all.”

Here’s a reminder that one of the hazards of the Fourth was more insidious and often more fatal than blowing your fingers off. Routine tetanus inoculation was not widespread yet.

June 30, 1911 — Fourth of July Lockjaw.
It is said that to die of lockjaw is one of the most frightful and horrible deaths known to human­ity and probably at no season of the year do so many cases of this disease occur as during the few weeks immediately following the Fourth of July. The New York health department very wisely issues each year a bulletin of warning to inform the public, among other things, how to guard against lockjaw. It says among other things:
Such wounds as are caused by explosives and cartridges of all sorts [and] should be treated at once, lest lockjaw follow. The disease is caused by micro-org­an­isms found in dirt. Infection generally follows punctures of the skin by nails or splinters, and particularly by fireworks and cartridges. The treatment consists of cleansing the wound and immediately administering the antitoxin.
Parents should warn their children in the strongest terms again­st neglecting even the least abrasion of the skin resulting from the firing of any sort of explosive, for tetanus germs, being microscopic, do not require a wound larger than a pinhead in order that they may find entrance. The ounce of prevention may be found of infinite value on the “Glorious Fourth.”

From the same issue, the plans for an elaborate and festive July Four­th. I hope some of our com­munity movers and shakers will consider re-instating some of this fun for us next year!

The Eagle Will Scream Next Tuesday
Next Tuesday, July 4th, will be the occasion of a rousing celebration in Margaretville and will witness the presence of a very large crowd of people.
The committee in charge confidentally expect that there will be 400 firemen in the grand parade. The following departments have accepted the invitation to come here for the day. Downs­ville, Andes, Arena, Fleisch­manns, Arkville, Hobart and Grand Gorge. The fire laddies will be fed by the ladies of the two churches, One interesting feature of the parade will be the rag muffins section. Many a back yard is already the scene of a make up and some of them will be wonderful to behold.
Ulster and Delaware heavy weights have challenged Dela­ware and Eastern fat men to a tug of war. This will take place in Main Street and will be some fun. Another novel entertainment will be the shooting match between Grand Gorge, Andes, Bovina and Margaretville.
After the grand street parade and dinner the day’s sports will take place on Main Street. The events will include the following: Hose race, Hook and Ladder race, 220 yard dash, Sack race, wheelbarrow race and the like with a valuable prize for the winner in each. After the sports Margaretville|e and East Branch will cross bats on the fair grounds. In the evening there wi|l be a dance at the Opera House.
There are special rates for the day on both railroads and the Delaware and Eastern will run special trains. The day’s events will close with a rousing display of fireworks in the evening.
The prize for the Hose Race, a handsome silver cup with gold lining is on exhibition at the jewelry store of D. L. Stewart.

Leftovers can be dangerous, especially if they are gunpowder.

July 15, 1910 — Boy’s Unlucky Fourth.
Vincent Cantwell, the 12-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Al. Cant­well of Hobart, was seriously in­jured about the lower part of the face and hands Tuesday morning, while playing with some damaged fireworks cast aside at the public exhibition the evening before. The lad had gathered these together and was in the act of touching off the powder, when an explosion occurred and he sustained serious burns on the face, about the nose and mouth and to his hands. While the powder blackened his face, it did not penetrate the skin, neither were his eyes injured. Dr. G. L. Hub­bell attended him and hopes that he may save the burned parts from being disfigured.
By the 1930s, the News was issuing cautionary tales each year about the triple fatality threats of the Fourth: fireworks, drowning and car wrecks.
From the July 2, 1915 issueFrom the July 2, 1915 issue
July 2, 1937 — Thousands Killed by Fireworks
Do you know that more Amer­icans have been killed in the last 30 years by fireworks than were killed in the American revolution that brought us independence? It is a fact.
Village ordinances prohibit the exploding of fireworks, firecrack­ers and the like except on the Fourth of July. Offenders are liable to arrest and it is stated that arrests will be made if the matter becomes too great a nuisance. For your own safety and that of family and friends be careful of fireworks.

By the 1940s, Margaretville and other nearby villages had ceded much of the Fourth of July celebration to Andes, which was always very proud to play Patri­otic Host. Also in the 1940s, war rationing had an effect on any extensive car travel, especially for leisure purposes.

July 6, 1945 — 4th Disturbed Only By Biting Bugs
The Fourth of July was a quiet one in Margaretville. Many summer guests filled Main street in the morning. Stores were closed, there were no New York papers [due to a strike by delivery workers]. A display of flags along the street was the only indication the day was not a quiet mountain Sunday. Many went to Andes for the fireworks in the evening and many others enjoy­ed a scant gas picnic in nearby fields or woods. The wet season has aided the propagation of various kinds of biting flies and they were an aggravation to those not supplied with various preparations to keep them off. Drinking places, the bowling alley and the theatre did a thriving business.

July 13, 1945 — Andes Enjoys Fourth With Baseball and Fireworks
Andes had an exceptionally successful Fourth of July celebration. The weather was perfect, the attractions were excel­lent and everybody had a good time. Many came in the forenoon and enjoyed themselves by a period of relaxation.
The first event took place at 1:30 between the high school baseball team and the old- timers. The latter were helped by several veterans home from the war. After several changes and some red-hot playing the game ended 13-12 for the school lads, a fine bunch of boys as Andes ever play­ed. It was a clean game, no tricks, no remarks and much enjoyed by all.
A softball game in the evening was followed by a grand exhibition of fireworks under the management of Vincent Martucci, who is entitled to praise for many hours of planning and work. The dance later in the evening was also a great success. The collection that was taken goes to a fund for servicemen. The expense of the dance and fireworks was paid by the businessmen and people of the village. This is the third year Andes has been the leading town on the map on the Fourth. Many thousands of people were here and we hope that in years to come we may continue to make the day ever better for this community and its friends. The Community club asks The News to say thanks to all who helped make the day a success.— Andes Cor.
Braving a screened-in carnival ride hardly seems as hazardous as some other Fourth of July pursuits! From the July 6, 1972 issue.Braving a screened-in carnival ride hardly seems as hazardous as some other Fourth of July pursuits! From the July 6, 1972 issue.

In this case, it’s not clear wheth­er the errant Mr. Twohig was “deal­ing” fireworks as an enterprise, or merely messing around with them himself.

July 6, 1972
Tuesday night, prior to the fire­works display at the Margar­et­ville fairgrounds, John L. Fields, 37, of Margaretville was arrest­ed by Village Police Offi­cer Wal­ter Odell and charged with harassment and resisting arrest. Officer Odell had seen Fields light­ing fireworks of his own and had told him to stop. Fields had other ideas, and a fight between Fields and Offi­cer Odell followed. Several Margaretville firemen helped Odell subdue Fields and state police respon­ded to a call for assistance. Fields was taken before Town Justice Donald Fenton, where he pleaded guil­ty to charges of resisting ar­rest and harassment. He was fined $75 and in lieu of payment sentenc­ed to 15 days in jail.
State Police of the Marga­retville station arrested Tim­othy M. Twohig, 18, of Elms­ford Monday and issued him a summons for unlawfully deal­ing with fireworks.