Wednesday, July 3, 2013




          Plymouth, Massachusetts, population 55,000, calls itself ‘America’s Home Town.’ The pilgrims landed herein 1649, stepping ashore on to Plymouth Rock which lies enshrined under pillars and a cupola in Greek revival style. A replica of the Mayflower is moored in the harbour. Plimouth Plantation is a re-creation of the original settlement where actors play the roles of actual pilgrims, demonstrating the way they lived, what they grew in their gardens, how they dressed and spoke. Plimouth Plantation makes and sells beautiful furniture made with seventeenth century tools. In the restaurant visitors can eat traditional food, lobster, turkey, pumpkin pie, cooked to seventeenth century recipes. There is an active conservation programme gathering and breeding antique plants and animals. New Zealand sent cows and rabbits when we culled them from Enderby Island.

          July 4th, 2007 began with clear skies. About 9:30 we strolled down to find a shady spot where we could set our folding chairs. Mothers pushed strollers, fathers carried toddlers on their shoulders, families of three or four generations converged on the parade route and by 10.00 a.m. it was lined with people in chairs, children, picnic hampers and American flags. Soft drink vendors pushed carts, souvenir sellers did a brisk trade in flags and balloons.

This was no Hollywood production parade with seventy six trombones and choreographed marchers. It began with sirens and horns as down the road came fifty engines from Plymouth and a dozen adjacent towns; towering behemoths which could hoist firemen to blazes in high places; smaller, specialised vehicles and  finally vintage fire trucks with hoses and running boards. Sirens sounded, bells clanged and firemen tossed candy to the children while spectators cheered and clapped. After the Plymouth parade these fire engines would travel to other nearby towns and lead their parades. 

Next Indian and Harley Davidson motor bikes roared by followed by quieter Yamahas and Hondas, all flying the stars and stripes.  The riders were middle aged with paunches and grizzled beards but their bikes were pristine. Vintage cars followed, from gas guzzling Chryslers and Pontiacs to Model T Fords.

Only then did we see and hear a marching band, trumpets, trombones, sousaphones and drums from Plymouth High School giving the beat for U.S veterans headed by John Talcott 99 years old. As well as being the oldest veteran he was the marshal who through the year had planned and organised this parade. He marched part of the way then rode in a vintage open topped automobile and his sailor uniform still fitted him..

For the next hour we clapped and cheered and laughed as a wonderful parade of American life and history passed, exuberant as a Sousa March. High School marching bands led floats decorated by local firms, trade unions, service clubs, churches and individuals. One truck was hung with saucepans, skillets, pot hole covers, metal gates. A percussionist belted out music on them as he hung in safety harness above the road. Unicyclists tossed candy to children. Beauty Queens sprayed water over spectators to relieve the muggy heat. It was all very informal but great fun. Children dashed about collecting the candies tossed from the floats.  Most of them grabbed and gobbled on the spot but I saw one boy who would dash out, collect brimming handfuls then carefully stow them in a shopping bag on his grand mother’s wheel chair. Over the hour I estimate he collected enough to keep his family in candy until the next July 4th.

Although the town was bedecked with American flags a lot of flag wavers were also wearing ‘Bring our boys home from Iraq NOW’ badges and nobody seemed to mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment