Happy Fourth of July!

I came across this picture the other day when I was looking for Girl Scout stuff. How timely. This was Fourth of July for me as a kid. The picture was taken at Chautauqua Lake where my grandma and grandpa had  a cottage. It is my older sister and me.

My grandma and grandpa had both grown up in rural Iowa. Grandpa went to University of Iowa and then on to dental school there. He and my grandma got married and moved to New York where he started his practice. He did a stint as an army dentist in Virginia, but went back to New York after that. They spent the rest of of his professional practice days in Fredonia, New York. His dental office was in his house – which was a great playtime set-up for grandchildren when office hours were over.

I am not sure when they bought the cottage, but I never knew them not having it. My sisters and I spent many of our weekends there. If I am to trust my memories, I loved it there. It wasn’t a cottage out in the middle of nowhere, and it wasn’t rustic. It was right on the lake edge and had a dock where we would fish. My grandpa had a motor boat that he would take us out on. He would let us drive while he sat back with  his cocktail. We would swim in the lake at the first opportunity. There was a rowboat that we would sometimes venture out in. I didn’t really think of it much when I was growing up, but now when I look back on it, I realize what a sweet set up it was.

Fourth of July was a great time at the lake. I am pretty sure that this picture was taken on one of the fourths. I like our sunfresh faces in this picture. I can testify that after western New York winters that lasted an eternity, summertime meant being outside constantly. This picture seems to indicate that I apparently could not to be trusted not to fall in the lake at any moment. I got to don the life jacket uniform. (I am pretty sure that I finally did graduate from that.)

I remember the highlights of the fourth would be fresh cherries that my grandparent’s good friends would bring over, a bon fire built and all of the neighbors gathering around it, home made ice cream that involved lots of churning and rock salt, and finally, when it got dark – flares.

Wikipedia tells me that Chautauqua Lake has a shoreline of 41.1 miles and all but 2.6 miles of it are privately owned. Starting in late June, stores around the lake would have flares (just like the ones that the police put out when there are accidents) for sale. My grandparents and most of those private private property owners would buy those flares and place them along the shore on the day of the fourth. At the appointed time, the flares would be lit and the dark pool of the lake would shimmer with hundreds of encircling birthday candles. Sometimes we would just sit outside and enjoy how pretty it was; sometimes we would get into the boat and make the tour. Fireworks from the little amusement park nearby would go off, and we always had sparklers and firecrackers that more than once burned our fingers.

Good memories. Happy birthday America.

(It is hard for a photograph to capture what the flares looked like, but I found one photo that gives an idea of it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bill927/2652651613/.)

And a quick You Tube: