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Happy Fourth of July…

Posted by on July 4, 2016

4thbannerFOURTH OF JULY, 2016. Independence Day! We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. That document declared the young American colonies to be the United States of America and no longer part of the British Empire. This most historic of days in our nation’s history is typically celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, baseball games and family reunions. But temperatures today in Pensacola over 100 degrees with absolutely staggering humidity have wilted this California native. So we’ll celebrate online rather than outside. We’ll enjoy reminiscing about the past rather than firing up the grill. So pop the cork! We’ll have lots of fun. Keep reading.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES. For me, the 4th of July conjures up memories of summer days when I was a kid growing up in San Marino, a small town near the Rose Bowl in Southern California. I remember peaches just picked from the orchard, home-made ice cream and Black Panther fireworks. Far superior in my assessment to the Red Devils preferred by my sidekick David Yetter. He and I debated the topic every summer. 


The break at San Onofre, circa 1962, I spent countless hours most summer days searching for the perfect wave. This was one of California’s only beaches where there weren’t too many surfers competing for good waves, as the area was only open to “members” in those days. 

YEARS LATER. In later years when I spent summers with my family on Balboa Island I remember driving down the Coast Highway to the beach where surfing was born in California, San Onofre. In those days the beach was used by the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton as a training ground. Civilian access was limited to local residents who were property owners in adjacent San Clemente. Thank goodness my friend Jim Blackburn’s family had a summer home in San Clemente. They had a beach pass and could get to Sano by displaying to the Sentry at the entry kiosk the sticker on their car’s windshield, proving their membership in the San Onofre surfing club.  And their  guests were also allowed on base. That would be me and my old surfing buddies. We still vividly remember the good times we all had surfing that break.

THERE’S A PROBLEM, HOUSTON. One Fourth of July weekend JB shot a bottle rocket down the beach, having launched it from the hood of Jimmy Pillow’s 1958 Chevrolet. The rocket screamed along its course and unfortunately hit an unsuspecting surfer  about a half mile down the beach as he sipped his morning coffee from his sand chair. That same rocket also left a mark on Pillow’s car. Quick on his feet as he is to this day, JB  insured Pillow that the mark could easily be buffed out, though rubbing compound was not something we kept on hand at the beach. JB felt awful about both these incidents. And the mark was still on the hood when years later Pillow sold the car.

white house

The Nixon’s San Clemente home, “La Casa Pacifica,” was later sold for a reported $76 million. I don’t think Mom and Dad ever set foot inside, despite my Dad’s firm belief that one day his phone would ring and he and mom would be invited next door for lunch. Dream on, Dad. Dream on. 


AND EVEN LATER, WITH MOM AND DAD AT CYPRESS SHORES. Still later, when I’d visit Mom and Dad at home in Cypress Shores, we’d walk along the the beach in front of Richard Nixon’s Western White House. He was a neighbor and had a huge home given to him and Pat by longtime friend and political supporter Bebe Rebozo.  Even though my parents were acquainted with the Nixons…they were neighbors for Heaven’s sake, the Secret Service Agents who usually interrupted our strolls weren’t impressed. We were usually asked to turn around and head back home. The only accommodation afforded the neighbors was that if we wished to continue down the beach we’d need to accept an escort. Dad always declined, despite my protestations. I thought it would be fun to talk with the secret service guys about “a day in the life.” But Dad said we had every bit as much right to be at the beach as did the President. That didn’t work out so well for him. And if truth be known, he didn’t want to be seen in public with the agents in their ill-fitting navy blue suits and wrap-around aviator style sunglasses. I mean, Dad would mutter, “What kind of nut case would dress like that for a day at the beach?” And his very predictable suggestion that a quick phone call could clear up the entire misunderstanding anyway didn’t work, either.



The President of the United States and the First Lady, en route to their beloved “La Casa Pacifica” before Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Gerald Ford subsequently pardoned Nixon and the former President has been treated well by history. He is generally recognized as one of the most influential foreign policy experts in U.S. history. He and Pat had been married 53 years when she died. 


BACK IN PENSACOLA. By July 3rd each year, fireworks stands typically discount their pyrotechnics, and this year was no exception. Even “Mad Dog Fountains” which ordinarily sell for $9 each were half-off. “At that price, Florence, we should get a boatload of them” I suggested. Not! Only took two of them made it the register when it was time to leave. It was at this very TNT outlet, conveniently located in the Payless parking lot where we met Ethan, the delightful teen who assisted us in making our selections. Remember Dustin Hoffman in “The Rainmaker?” Ethan, similarly situated in life, rattled off prices and descriptions in rapid-fire order. And he knew the inventory well. Florence asked him how he remembered so many details. He told her that he’d gone to school to learn about the fireworks before he was allowed to work there in the sales department. Funny. The kid had quite a sense of humor.


Deep discounts were offered on July 3rd, when we did our shopping.



Ethan was super! We bought way more “stuff” than we’d planned to purchase. “This happens every year,” Florence reminded me.  



When we left home this morning in our annual quest for fireworks, I didn’t know we’d be getting them at the TNT Stand. So it was pure coincidence that I wore the “TNTLOYR”  ball cap one of my secretaries gave me years ago. Penny was her name. She’s now a realtor in Witchita Falls, Texas. Hi Penny. Say hello to Chris for me.






The owner of the TNT fireworks concession looked more like a nerd more than those secret service agents strolling the beach in front of the “Western White House.”




As we left TNT Fireworks, I noticed that Gulf Center Medical Clinic was  across the street. Dusk washed the landscape in shimmering gold and the usually bustling lobby was deserted.  Exterior lighting swathed the building with patriotic red, white and blue. I’ve probably visited doctors, had surgery and endured medical procedures at the Clinic fifty times since we’ve been in Pensacola. So we drove across the street and Florence took a few pictures of me as I reflected on the journey my life has taken since last November.   We’re scheduled to return at Thanksgiving for follow up consults at the clinic. We’ll see about that. I’ve pretty much got things figured out differently. Thanks, clinic physicians, for saving my life. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. But it’s time for me to move along. Godspeed. 



Even the dialysis center is located here in the clinic. I had dialysis three times a week, four hours per session, for more than six months before my kidneys healed enough that I no longer require the unpleasant treatment. When my Nephrologist informed me he’d witnessed a healing miracle and that I was that miracle, it was a very emotional moment between doctor and patient. Neither of us will ever forget it. There is little quality of life for those brave enough to allow regular dialysis into their lives on a regular weekly basis. It’s life-saving, but painful. 



After our exhausting day at the TNT Stand, we were famished. So, we decided to grab  some BBQ at retired Colonel Tim Hershberger’s BBQ joint here in town. When we arrived, I snapped this silhouette of Father and Son at the counter. The little boy has an identical twin brother who was equally cute. And twice as fidgety. I didn’t bother to even attempt taking his picture. 



Step right up. Don’t be shy. Let’s get those ribs ordered and ready for you guys to take home this evening.  Okey dokey, Colonel. Sounds good to us! 



After serving as a civilian base commander at the Royal Air Force Base in Fairford England, Tim Hershberger returned to the United States wanting to be his own boss. Two years ago, Hershberger and his wife, Nargiza opened the first of what would be three restaurants in Pensacola. Lt. Colonel Hershberger and I spoke on more than one occasion (about the fare at his bbq joint) and I made sure to thank him for his service. A very high ranking officer he is. Thank you Sir, for hosting us. 



Here’s what we brought home for dinner: A slab of spareribs and two pulled pork sandwiches in the shopping bag, sauce chips and coleslaw. What’s for dessert?

THE DAY HAS ARRIVED. Early morning on July 4th we did what every young pyrotechnic couple does before the celebration that evening. “What’s that?” The fireworks must be inventoried, punk-sticks must be readied and the evening’s plan must be solidified. Florence called out to me the name of each piece, as I jotted the information down on a pad. (4) TNT Mad Dog Fountains, (4) Killer Bees, 16 Delux Long-lasting Sparklers and (2) packs of TNT Smoke Balls. Also included: (3) American Flags, (6) red, white and blue chrysanthemum stalks, and two children’s toy playground balls. We’ve blanked the neighborhood with flyers about the show we’ll be hosting tonight in the parking lot of our apartment building. We’re expecting a large turnout, so we’ll raffle the balls, as funds don’t permit us to provide a toy to each of the hundreds of children we are expecting.


The inventory process was tedious and our pre-detonation checklist took hours to complete. But finally we got it. Bring it on! Happy Fourth of July everyone. Kids, lines will start forming early, so be sure to arrive no later than 8 PM for the best seats. Show will begin promptly at 8:30 PM, Central Standard Time.


LET THE SHOW BEGIN. Because of the extreme heat, still a jaw-dropping 98 degrees at dusk, we decided to postpone the fireworks extravaganza we’d planned for this evening. The kids will still be around in a few days or weeks when the hot spell breaks and hey, in this kind of weather, one must be innovative. America’s birthday will still be worth a celebration a little later, won’t it kids? I’ve included one teaser photo below just to show you, my faithful readers, how off the charts spectacular will be our now delayed show. Again, don’t move that dial. The kids and I will return before you know it and show you what fun we had!



We tested one of the fountains to get your engines running. 

JOIN US AGAIN NEXT TIME. You’ll be happy you did, because our Great American Adventure will soon be better than ever. It’s been a long time since we’ve been on the road. We’ve done our best during this unplanned delay to keep you informed and to entertain you a bit as well. We also hope you’ve taken a moment to think about what lessons there have been during this time. Remember to do a good turn for a stranger today.  Hug your kids. Compliment someone. Say what you’re thinking. Don’t keep it too yourself. Because although you think you know what tomorrow will bring, my story is evidence to the contrary.

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I’ll continue my story next time.



4 Responses to Happy Fourth of July…

  1. Greg Alford

    So, Ryan, what do you think?

  2. Ryan

    Happy 4th to you too Greg, you’re awesome!

  3. Lance

    Greg, so nice to see the upgrades you’re making on the blog site. It gets better and better every day. Keep up the good work.

  4. Greg Alford

    I agree. LOL. Talk to you soon!

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