Amblin' Alameda: Olde Tyme Fourth

Amblin' Alameda: Olde Tyme Fourth

Morton Chalfy

I have to admit, we crossed the estuary to celebrate the Fourth. We like the parade in Alameda, we've watched it from San Jose Avenue and Park Street for many years, we even participated one year. But this year, we received an invitation we couldn't refuse.

Just about 10 minutes away in Oakland is the Pardee Home Museum, which held its annual Fourth of July fundraiser. This year the featured performers were Frederick Hodges and Ann Gibson, who do songs written between 1890 to 1930. Frederick is a friend, so we decided to celebrate by listening to his music.

The Pardee Home is a three-story Victorian with a very large backyard shaded by two towering, mightily girthed trees, which are surrounded by flowering plants. It boasts a loquat tree in one corner. Entry to the celebration was through the old carriage house and past the two horse stalls with their hay bins, and on into the yard.

What seemed like a small army of volunteers had set up a long buffet table loaded with food; they were grilling hot dogs and ham- or veggie burgers, which they would prepare to order.

It was a relatively diverse crowd - relatively because the audience for old timey music skews white and old timey itself. But there were black and Latino families sprinkled throughout, making it a much more truly American celebration. Every half hour docents conducted tours of the main house, and every 10 minutes another platter of food was brought out. When most people had consumed all the grilled meat, potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw and other goodies they could handle, the desserts began to appear - and quickly began to disappear.

Through all this the music played, the songs were sung and a contingent from the Art Deco Society paraded around the grounds in their period costumes. One could almost be transported back in time were it not for the cell phone cameras and electronic piano. Croquet and badminton were played on one part of the lawn, giving the kids a place to run around and feel celebratory.

I don't think most Americans reflect too deeply on our past (more's the pity) or even on our present, but most of us are happy to celebrate the Fourth because it stands for freedom. Freedom is the rock bottom basic of America. It's what filled this country with people escaping oppression and it still stands as a beacon of freedom for the world. This is the day we set aside our differences and join in one happy chorus.

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!