The Parent Trap: Lawncrest sees end to celebration

It was July 4th and the street was quiet – too quiet. It’s been four years since we left our little home in Lawncrest, and we are still not used to the serenity of the Far Northeast, after living just a couple of blocks away from Independence Day central for Northeast Philadelphia.

“Everything changes,” I call out to my wife, as I finish placing our American flag in its holder. Even though we are now miles away, we still mourned the news that after 93 years, the Lawncrest July 4th parade and fireworks display were canceled, probably never to return.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were indoctrinated into the rituals that were July 4th in Lawndale and Lawncrest. If you live there and chose that time of the summer to go on vacation, then you either had no community spirit or were new to the neighborhood. Even though we lived in the area for 14 years, we were still pikers compared to the generations of families who celebrated for all or most of the 93 years of the parade’s existence.

Like so many families, we always got up early, to pick our spot on the sidewalk. Our home was a half block away from the route on Bingham Street, so it wasn’t that difficult.

My kids were introduced to parades while watching the Lawncrest spectacular stroll by on its way to the rec center. String bands serenaded them. Politicians shook their hands. Postal workers gave out candy and the local fire truck honked at them. Our spot on the parade route was not on Rising Sun Avenue, but it didn’t matter. Whether you stood among the crowds on the Avenue or on a side street, it always took on a feeling of intimacy. The best parts were always reserved for the local dance schools or the Boy Scouts bugle corps. The dancing wasn’t professional and there were always a couple of nasty bleats from the horns, but who cared? That was part of the fun.

The parade was only the beginning. Lawncrest became a small town on July 4th. There were bands, a flea market and pony rides. The athletic association would hold baseball and softball all-star games. Our back driveway became an instant block party, with everyone grilling for their friends and family.

The best part was at night. Since we lived so close to the rec center, we would block off the street at the corners and put our lawn chairs in the middle of the street. It was a makeshift theater as we watched the colors and explosions of the fireworks.

We learned a few things from our July 4th experiences. For instance, our daughter is frightened of clowns, even if they offer candy. Our son can’t handle noise, and covers his ears while he watches the fireworks. After entering our son as an infant, we learned that a baby parade should have never been held at high noon in the sweltering heat of summer.

But we learned something more after we moved – that we missed the craziness, the crowd and yes, the community. Yes, everything changes. Ask the people of Olney, who also saw their July 4th traditions fade. Things change, but not always for the better.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on NEastPhilly.com every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.