Certainly, I have a lot of memories of the Fourth of July, both from my childhood and from my days working the Fourth for Lima’s rec department during many Star Spangled Spectaculars.
When it comes to my childhood recollections, the Fourth was a time for one of my rare visits to Lost Creek Country Club, a place the rest of my family visited regularly, my father and sister for golf and my mom for the social aspects when she’d join my father for their Friday date nights at what they simply referred to as “The Club.”
But, for me, I pretty much eschewed all those opportunities for golf lessons from teaching pro Ray LaGoy, ones which my sis Joanie took advantage, while I continued to run my bases on the dusty diamonds of Faurot and tried to make Wiffle history in a variety of back yards in Latham Avenue’s 1500 block.
But, on the Fourth, The Club was far more desirable, and no one had to twist my arm to join the fam out there on that day. It was a day for swimming, games, plenty of good food and the culminating explosions at the end of the day, the fireworks that were detonated at the crest of the undulating 18th fairway. While most of the adults watched from the cement patio outside the clubhouse doing their adult things, a euphemism for quaffing their libations, we kiddos spread our blankets and beach towels around the finishing hole’s green and sand trap and marked our own little corner of the world, at least for the half hour or so it took to send the final volley skyward.
Research has long shown us that smell is our strongest sense when it comes to the potential to evoke memories. It’s something sometimes referred to as the Proust Effect, after French author Marcel Proust, who used aromatic connections to his narrator’s childhood so effectively in his novel In Search of Lost Time.
And, while some may point to other holidays’ abilities to conjure pleasant childhood memories — say, the smell of pumpkin pie and memories of Thanksgiving, or the smell of pine and its association with Christmas — for me, the smells of the Fourth are the most evocative.
Of course, hearkening back to the kind of primal cooking our animal-skin-garbed ancestors did, the smell of charcoal grilling always hearkens me back to those half-barrel grills over by the practice green on those Lost Creek Fourths and the smell of the ‘burgers, ‘dogs and chicken.
Add the intoxicating smell of fresh-cut grass that permeates a golf course, and those are indeed the smells of the Fourth, a perfectly placed summer holiday that suggests there are many more warm days to come, long before anyone can hear the distant peal of those school bells or shiver at the thought of Arctic blasts of air.
My Lost Creek Fourths also included swimming at the pool adjacent to the practice putting green, the location of which I visited just two weeks ago to fact-gather for this column.
I walked through an opening in the chain-link fencing on the west side, and what I saw was the sorest of eyesores. While I closed my eyes and heard the slapping sound of the pale blue water on the pool’s edges and smelled the unique commingling of Coppertone and chlorine, when I opened them to the present realities, all I saw were the ragweed, broadleaf and mustard weeds in a filled-in pool and one long-vacated lifeguard chair still acting as a superfluous sentinel on the north side of a pool no longer there.
The cement that once formed the deck area is severely cracked and uneven. Still posted on the outside wall of an abandoned building that once housed the sign-in counter and changing rooms are the pool rules no one now has to follow, if they ever did during my childhood. And, so is the records board for a swim team long ago extinct, a records board that once had on several lines my sweet niece Jessie Whittaker’s name back when she was a young aquatic missile.
But, of all the aromas of the Fourth, the one most closely associated with this day is that acrid combination of sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate that comprises the gunpowder in fireworks. Later today, yet again the skies will illuminate over Faurot Park at the end of this year’s 25th Star Spangled Spectacular when the dusk-commencing talents of the self-professed on their website First Family of Fireworks, the Zambellis, show their abilities to illicit ooh’s and ahh’s.
So, as you ponder all those red, white and blue splashes for your perfect Star-Spangled garb and anticipate all those gustatory grilling delights and feel the emerald carpet of terra firma beneath your feet and thrill to the visuals of those pyrotechnic volleys, don’t forget to fill your nostrils with the smells of this year’s Fourth and recall your own first Fourth moments from so long ago.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.