Germantown retirement community members share fond memories of Fourth of July

A Fourth of July parade may be a long-lost Germantown Avenue tradition, but Sylvain VanGoves remembers it fondly.

“We always went to the parade,” recalled VanGoves, ” It was a patriotic theme. They’d play Yankee Doodle, things like that, we loved it. All the neighborhood kids would be out that day.”

VanGoves, a Germantown native, now lives at Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley, located at 6300 Greene St. On Monday, the retirement community held a pre-Independence Day celebration with patriotic-inspired entertainment and picnic foods.

Women, now and then

Some of the female residents talked about how Independence Day reminds them of the changing role of women in American society.

“My mother was a black suffragette,” said Angela DuBose. “Women have come a long way since then. As women, we need to keep on doing great things.”

DuBose, who originally hails from Chicago, remembered working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement.

“I worked with Dr. King, helping to organize,” DuBose said with pride.” My husband was even arrested during a protest.”

Erma Tucker, who grew up in South Philadelphia, is a writer and poet who also spoke about the role of women in America’s history.

“Independence Day is very important to our history,” said Tucker. ” It represents the sacrifices many people have made. Women have come a long way. We’re workers and we’re mothers too.”

Fireflies and firecrackers

Taylor and MaryAnn Cole will celebrate their 62nd Fourth of July together as husband-and-wife. While growing up in Kentucky, Taylor said he had 10 acres of farmland around his house where he could shoot off firecrackers.

“There’s nothing like shooting off a firecracker,” said Taylor. “I really loved it.”

MaryAnn said she remembered when family members from Hawaii visited and were shocked when they saw fireflies for the first time.

“They visited us one Fourth of July and they were just amazed at the fireflies at night,” she said, laughing. “We spent the whole night just trying to catch them in jars.”

Parades and picnics

Lee Pollock, who grew up in the Olney section of Philadelphia, said she remembers a baby parade in her neighborhood.

“I love babies. I really enjoyed the baby parade,” said Pollock. “Mothers would walk with their children, some would be pushing them in strollers. Everyone would be all dressed up, it was really cute to see.”

Doris Kelley, who grew up in East Falls, remembers celebrating at large family get-togethers on Independence Day with traditional American picnic food.

“Everyone would come together and we’d have all kinds of food, you know, homemade dishes. It was a good time,” said Kelley.

The energetic group of retirees concluded their celebration with a sing-a-long of “God Bless America.” As they left the festivities, they trooped down the hallway together and continued the song a capella style while waving American flags.

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

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal