Fourth of July Woony-Style

Fourth of July Woony-Style

If there is a time of the year when people “flock” to Woonsocket, it’s over the Fourth of July holiday. One tends to look for excuses to stay away from South Dakota for winter holidays. Wonder why?? But July 4th is the date when Woony peeps come home. For many years I made my annual pilgrimage back during this holiday and would love to just lock in Woonsocket as my permanent Independence Day destination. That won’t happen, but nothing will stop me from climbing back into my mental Sherman and Peabody “Wayback Machine” and coming for a visit.
As I think back to the ‘60s and for at least most of the ‘70s, there weren’t fancy fireworks displays. The highlight of the holiday week was the Fireman’s Ball featuring the Sammy Jensen Orchestra. We “kids” thought the band was terrible, but it was still fun and the town was packed. Sammy Jensen played swing music of the ‘40s, but we thought rock ‘n roll was king. Even disco didn’t suck in the ‘70s… and for some of us, it never has. Regardless, people danced at the Fireman’s Ball. There were some groups of people around the edges, but the tile floor stayed full of dancers. Guess it’s hard to maneuver around rowdy groups of drunk people, so dancers don’t go anymore. Glad the event lives on, however. The Alumni Banquet led up to the big dance and was always well-attended.
Even though we didn’t have the expensive aerial firework displays, that doesn’t mean there weren’t opportunities to blow our fingers off. What kid hasn’t tied a couple bottle rockets together and shot it out of their hand? We ran around with lit punks behind our ears and a pocket full of firecrackers. Heaven forbid a frog jumped out in front of us because that was a bad day for the amphibians around town. We shot Roman candles at each other and burnt black snake designs on the sidewalks. Do they still make those stupid snake smudge pellets? And who could ever forget sparklers? Those were like our own little personal welding torches. They did a great job of melting skin. Ages 3 and up! Sure!
There was always a town team baseball game during the holiday, too. Woonsocket had one of the best ballparks in the area and you could count on at least one night of entertainment out there. I remember Ray Linke giving dimes for returning foul balls. Baseballs get lost in the dark ditches and hayfields just outside the playing area around there. A dime could buy you a couple of Bubs Daddys or Mr. Freezes at the concession stand. They should have sold OFF at the stand as the mosquitoes dramatically outnumbered the kids in line. By July everybody had a dozen good bites going anyway.
Fourth of July marked the middle of the summer vacation for local kids, half gone, and before long we’d have to reassemble in front of the next year’s educational mentor. Maybe that’s why we always had so much fun over this holiday. It was our desperation at hanging on to summer. Perhaps that is also why it remains such a draw to alumni of all ages. We’ve never forgotten that feeling of a Woonsocket Fourth of July celebration.
Sammy Jensen’s Orchestra no longer plays the Woonsocket Fireman’s Ball, but that doesn’t matter. The crowd will still turn out. While dancing might not be the goal, a fun night will undoubtedly occur. Enjoy your Fourth, Woony-style. I’ll be doing it along with Sherman and Peabody.

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