Tag Archives: holiday

Happy 4th of July!

July 4th was almost a July 2nd – the 2nd was the day that Congress voted to 4th - patriotic-flag-berrie-pieapprove a resolution of independence. However it took another two days for the final wording in the Declaration of Independence to be finalised and signed, hence the Fourth of July. So happy 2nd of July! This week we’ve got a perspective on the 4th of July from one of our British colleagues here at the Memorial Library as well as a little reminiscing about celebrations in the US from one of our American Scholars.

The 4th of July, from (old) England

This week will mark the 4th of July, the day where Americans celebrate their independence from the British. As a British person, I’m not sure what to think about this. I remember having an extremely awkward moment ten years ago while on holiday in the US at this time of year. After an impressive fireworks display, the audience was asked to stand for the national anthem and for a brief moment I was caught in a quandary. Do I stand up and show reverence for what was after all the theft of the rightful property of United Kingdom? Or stay seated out of solidarity to King George? Since I’m not much of a monarchist or the type to hold grudges for longer than a hundred years or so, I decided to do the polite thing and stand for the duration and hope that the locals couldn’t smell the tea and taxation with representation on me.

I feel like I was underprepared for the experience. The Revolutionary War is not something I was taught about in school. The closest we ever got to it was a brief mention of Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers and a local boy from Thetford. So it’s with considerable ignorance that I discuss with my American colleagues at the Memorial Library the subject of the founding of the United States.

Fortunately for all concerned, here at the Memorial Library we have a whole shelf of books about that exact subject. As I have some catching up to do, I think I will start with The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. And after that, I can get to grips with a part of history sadly under represented on this side of the Atlantic.

The 4th of July from New England

4th July - Hatch Shell

The Hatch Shell on the Charles River.

The 4th of July in Boston – synonymous with hot dogs, burgers and sweet corn on the barbecue, mounds of potato salad, beans, ice cream, strawberries and watermelon juice dripping down your chin. And that is just during the day! Most towns – small or large – will do their best to put together a fireworks show. Residents will start to gather as the sun sets, laying out blankets and vying for the best spot to see the show. None can rival that of Boston; it is a spectacular firework display synced with the Boston Pops playing at the Hatch Shell – an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the Charles River. The finale is always the best part – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by real cannon fire!

4th July - B fireworks

Fourth of July fireworks over Boston!

Boston and the nearby area hosted some of the Revolutionary War’s major events – the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and of course, the Boston Tea Party. Boston’s rich history and role in the Revolutionary War is one part of what is celebrated this weekend, but it is also about community and getting together with friends and family. Small towns will host parades and fairs, and family reunions are common. The emphasis may be on one period in US history, but feels less about a revolution that overthrew a colonial power and more about the creation of an identity and community that today is represented by a weekend filled with events that always feel like home for me: a day where everyone brings something edible  (and usually a lot of it) along to share, spends the day eating, laughing, chasing children to apply more sunscreen, swatting mosquitoes and wrapping it all up by laying on the grass and watching some spectacular fireworks.

A few more interesting reads about the American Revolution

4th - gloriouscause 4th between 2 worlds 4th - 1776

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July 4 – American Independence Day

It all started in 1776 with this declaration:

Some celebrated in the early days by naming places


Today it’s more common to have a BBQ


And congregate to watch firework displays


or watch Independence Day parades


It’s also popular to buy your own fireworks to shoot in your front yard


But some states have firework bans


And a few only allow small fireworks like sparklers


A few creative people can find the joy in most things


Some like to up-size the fun


But really it’s not about the fireworks but the celebration of America’s identity

070911-N-4007G-008 SAN DIEGO (Sept. 11, 2007) - American flags bearing the names of victims from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, adorn a makeshift monument at the Balboa Park 2007 Freedom Walk. Service members and residents from the San Diego community showed their support through the walk to remember those who lost their lives on that day. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Gaines. (RELEASED)

If you’re interested in finding out more about American independence, check out some of the books we have available here in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

revolutionary summeridea of amerdecofindrevforkids

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California Dreaming: Memorial Library Travel Section Exposes the Hidden Gems of California from Wine Country to Black Bears

This week we have a guest blog from Sarah Salmon, the Activities Coordinator at the Millennium Library. In it she details the highlights of her most recent adventure to California and all the helpful hints and tips she gained from reading some of the books in our American Travel section. Read on:

In Sarah’s words,

I like to travel and explore new places. The amazing landscapes, national parks and cities of America are favourite destinations and thanks to the collection of travel books held in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library I’ve just completed an amazing trip exploring California with my husband and parents.

NO CALIn recent years we’ve travelled to the National Parks of the South West and also New York but without the books, and staff, in the library we’d never have managed to plan such a successful trip. When we started the planning 18 months ago we knew that we wanted to visit Yosemite and San Francisco but not much more than that; but by borrowing the travel guides in the library focusing on the area, especially Eyewitness Travel: San Francisco and Northern California, we discovered that there were many more National and State Parks in the area and slowly our itinerary grew into a fabulous trip during which we saw natural and man-made wonders of the world, stayed in the heart of the wine country in a luxury hotel and then in an almost silent lodge in a National Park with hardly any visitors.

Coming from a very flat county, mostly at sea level, the scenery of Northern/Central California was amazing and the highs were many.

storm clouds over the Sierra

Ansel AdamsMy personal favorites were landscape related, for years I’ve been a fan of the photographer of Ansel Adams and so the chance to see his studio, and take a short photography course that took me to locations where some of his most famous photos were taken was a dream come true but perhaps the joy of just taking a walk and seeing bear was the true highlight…

Salmon Bear If you are planning a trip to the States I do recommend popping into the library and looking at the travel guide collection, and the travel writing books stored next to them, as they really will help you discover some hidden gems. I’m now waiting to borrow, National Geographic’s Guide to State Parks of the United States, to start planning my next adventure.

We at the Memorial Library would like to thank Sarah for her amazing blog and for telling us all about her California adventure. Sarah’s blog could not have come at a better time since next week marks the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National State Park and we will be displaying many of our books which celebrate Yosemite and American state parks in general.

If her trip has inspired you, stop by the Memorial Library to browse our extensive  travel collection. You can browse online here but here are a few to get you started.  Where would you like to go?

state parks


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Christmas in America: Palmer, Alaska

Palmer, Alaska

Matanuska Valley farm

A farm near Palmer in the Matanuska Valley. There are worse places to settle.

Today I’m checking out another small town out of the way of most people: Palmer, Alaska, in the gorgeous Matanuska-Susitna Valley. This place was basically wilderness until 1935, when FDR’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration chose 200 families out of the Great Lakes region to colonise it. (These were folks used to the cold.) They arrived, laid out their tents, and began clearing forest for farms. You can imagine what that first winter was like when I tell you that 120 babies were born there in the following year. Continue reading

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