(May, 1976 issue of the Beachy Banner)

I stood in front of a glass-topped counter in a Sunset House store, debating whether to buy a Bicentennial plate or a little demitasse spoon. Or, how about a Liberty Bell paperweight?

Next to me a cross old lady snorted disgustedly. “Bicentennial! Bicentennial!” she exclaimed, “Everything is so commercialized!” I didn’t know how to answer her. I leaned forward towards the sales girl. “Two Bicentennial demitasse spoons, please,” I whispered.

A few days later, a first grade teacher helped me put into words sentiments we shared. “It can only happen this ONCE,” she said, “It will never happen again. I want them – “ she gave a wave of her hand, indicating her children, “To always remember this. I want to really IMPRESS upon them the spirit of the occasion.”

Now, on a warm April evening, I stood with some of the teachers and other parents, under the trees in the school yard. We applauded and cheered as the children marched by, to the uneven tempo of a recalcitrant record player. The children laughed and smiled as they passed by, waving little paper flags.

Next came the Drill team, girls in red blouses and blue jumpers with red pom-poms on their shoes—proud, I think, of having done well in their first public performance earlier in the day.

Then came the boys with bicycles gaily decorated with red, white, and blue crepe paper. Seeing them, my mind flashed back to my childhood and all of the Armistice Day Parades of my youth.

I thought about the program we had had that morning, a tribute to our heritage. Each of the classrooms had sung and danced for us. Then, to the great delight of their students, the teachers—dubbed “The Beachy Belles” came forward to do a square dance. I remembered overhearing animated conversations in the teachers’ dining room while they lamented having had only one rehearsal. Oh, but they were excited—I would have been willing to bet that they were just as excited as their students.

I pondered on all of the planning and preparation that had gone before us –of children endeavoring to learn all three verses of “This Land Is Your Land”…of students gathered in the school yard, in the hot California sunshine, struggling to learn square dances and minuets, barely concealing chagrined expressions when it as necessary to hold the hand of a member of the opposite sex…of volunteers helping to scrub book shelves and clearing away old posters and scraps of leftovers from Valentine’s Day and Easter. They wanted everything to be spic and span for the open house.
“But you don’t HAVE to clean behind bookcases!” I said to one teacher. “Oh, yes I do!” she replied firmly. “I’D know the dust was there, even if no one else did!”

We had had a box supper together, now a parade, and in a little while everyone would be invited to visit the classrooms and admire all of the really remarkable decorations made by the teachers and their students, and to walk through the auditorium and see Beachy’s own “Freedom Train”, a project that many students worked tirelessly on to complete.

I reflected briefly on my own hectic afternoon, of running errands and rushing home to decorate two white shirts with Artex paints for my two sons to wear in the parade—of hurrying to Colonel Sanders for a chicken dinner to take to the box supper, of fretting over boxes of cupcakes with melting frosting, intended for the bake sale.

Finally, I thought of the teacher, who said to me, smiling, when I visited her classroom, “I hope you will write something about all of this for us…hasn’t it all been wonderful?”

Yes, indeed….It WAS wonderful. It was a Bicentennial Day to Remember…..



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