Salem on the Fourth: 2012

A dreamy Fourth for me as I was up half the night before due to random fireworks going off across the street.  I was half asleep when I woke up and for most of the day.  I missed the 9:00 reading of the Declaration of Independence on Salem Common (which was apparently moved to the ballroom of the Hawthorne Hotel because of our morning rain), but I did make the Horribles Parade in the Willows.  Horribles parades are old New England traditions, still very much alive in the towns and cities north of Boston:  here in Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, and Gloucester–maybe more.  The original idea behind the parades–which date back to the middle of the nineteenth century–was to mock inflated public figures, so politicians get a lot of play, along with anyone else in the news too much.

On the eve of the Fourth, all was quiet and peaceful on Chestnut Street (before the fireworks started) so I took a few pictures of flag-bearing houses.  I was particularly impressed by the efforts of my neighbors (in the blue house below), who are away: they had someone come over merely to put their flag out while I was snapping away.  I went a little crazy with our house this year; as the apartment is empty I draped my veteran ancestor’s coffin flag from its roof.

A completely different scene in the Willows the following morning as crowds came out for the Horribles Parade, which was a little heavy on the Penn State scandal so I’m not going to show you too many pictures. The residents of the Willows really embrace the holiday and the parade, so nearly every cottage is decorated for viewing parties.

We were all hot and tired after the parade, so it was back home to rest and watch old patriotic movies on TCM (Drums along the Mohawk is my absolute favorite, followed by 1776, not so much), have our own little barbecue, and then head back to the other side of town as it was our idea (not mine, actually) to take a flotilla of kayaks out into the middle of Salem Harbor to watch the fireworks. After much preparation, and a drink at our camp on the island, we did this, and it was an invigorating experience.  Unfortunately, none of my pictures came out, so I’ll have to give you a verbal picture: we’re in the middle of the harbor, surrounded by a panorama of light: threatening lightening, the fireworks on Derby Wharf in Salem, Marblehead fireworks to the east, Beverly fireworks to the north, those of some Cape Ann town to the far north, and several other towns to the south.  Then a strange, full, red moon rose, right in the middle of all this man-made light!  The heavens opened up, the rain poured down, and we went in, for one more drink and home. A happy, busy, sleepy Fourth.

7 responses to “Salem on the Fourth: 2012

  • Sinclair 3168

    What beautiful houses!

  • Matt

    Donna, did John hang that flag from the gutter? Tsk, tsk. It must fly freely from a piece of sturdy rope, which itself can be attached the gutter.

  • markd60

    Happy Independence day a day late!

  • Richard Bevins

    According to my father, the demise of the great Salem bonfires was directly linked to the demise of the local tanning industry. The barrels, which were of standardized size, originally contained pickled sheepskins from Australia.These were processed into leather in several factories in Salem and Peabody. Members of neighborhood park associations collected the barrels and stored them until the last week in June, when the bonfires were assembled. Water pollution regulations made it uneconomic to discharge tannery waste into the North River, the tanneries moved offshore and the source of free barrels dried up.

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