Why I Love "1776" and Must Watch it Every Fourth of July
If you've followed my writings than you may have noticed that I have an unusual, and perhaps unwarranted attachment to some movies simply because of sentimental value. I'll admit that I most certainly do when it comes to the historical musical, 1776. No, it's not the greatest film ever made, nor is it the best musical ever made, and it sure isn't the best biography of our nation's birth. But I don't care! Come July 4th, every year, I'll be watching that movie again and again because it means so much to me. So, there!
When I was growing up in Aptos, California (a small Village in the small County of Santa Cruz) my mother ran the local 4th of July parade. It wasn't a big deal. We didn't have any floats or giant balloons. But we did have lots of horses, and antique cars, and so many different community organizations and individuals walking in groups that it was dubbed the "longest, shortest parade in the world". I don't recall there be any advertising about it. People just knew and showed up hours before the noon starting time. Some, along the street to watch, and others jammed into the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank, the church next door and the Vet clinic and two pump gas station across the street. More times than not we flowed out onto the side street of East Ledyard Way.
The parade route was only a mile, starting at the town's main intersection, past the grocery store, crossing under the defunct train trestle and ending up in the small park down by the creek. From as far back as I can remember, it was tradition for my sisters and myself to help organize everyone as they showed up (my brother wasn't into it). There was no sign up, just come as you are and move out when told. And then a pre-teen girl in shorts and a home-made "official" t-shirt would shoot you out randomly, alternating between horses, cars, people, and groups. The whole thing lasted several hours, followed by a celebration in the park with booths for games, food and whatever. There were even awards that weren't worth much more than bragging rights for the year, but it was always a lot of fun.
We usually followed up the day's earlier activities with a dip in the pool. Not a fancy cement pond like Ellie May use to go on about in the Beverly Hillbillies. No, ours was just a plastic-sided "doughboy" sunk into the ground. But it sure did the job. Then, after a few hot dogs cooked on the hibachi out on the deck, we'd gather in the kid's "playroom". That's where the TV was, and the afternoon was usually when the local cable station would air 1776 on the 4th of July. I don't know how it all started. It was kinda like the parade, I just know this is what we did in my house every July 4th. Without fail, all six of us would watch it, and many of us sang along. And year after year, Adams would some how swing the votes and independence was declared! (For more info on the film use this link).
Just before the sun went down, the Declaration of Independence would be signed, everyone would strike that famous pose and the closing credits would role. My dad would then hoist us up onto the roof with another hot dog and a blanket or two. From there we had a good view of the fireworks going off down at the beach. After the last blast we scampered down and off into bed, very tired from a very full day of activities, celebration and musical patriotism. 364 days would go by and we would do the whole thing all over again in the same order, year after year. Until my older sister got married, my brother went to college, and I stopped participating in the parade a year or two after I graduated high school. Mom retired and moved away, so there was no connection to my home town any more. It wasn't the same. But we still had 1776.
Now, no matter where we are, my family checks in by email to see who has watched the film when and where. One year my twin watched a DVD in Australia, while my brother caught it on the Armed Forces Chanel while working for the DOD in Afghanistan. My mother and my older sister both caught it on TCM, and I watched it on the big screen at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It may be different places at different times, but we connect all the same. And John Adams never disappoints us. Obnoxious and disliked as he is, he's very reliable when it comes to American independency. Now I can't wait till next year to do it again!