Many will recall and few are soon to forget the events of the year 1976.
I, for instance, remember well the original bicentennial days. We were a nation joined at the hip and all holding each other’s hands, collectively speaking, all for the purpose of recognizing and celebrating the 200th anniversary of this nation, by which I mean this country, that is, the United States of America, which 200 years before had, as you know, formed itself, with the help of the forefathers, who carried in their minds (and hearts) the words of our constitution, which still rings true today, mostly, I mean more or less.
The bicentennial bug bit simply everyone that year. Flags flew from the porches and rooftops and eaves and rain gutters and window frames and shutters of every home. Men and women affixed flags to their cars and trucks. Everywhere you looked there was a new outbreak of patriotism breaking out. Tiny flags appeared on desks. Still tinier flags sprouted from the lapels of coats of old men who favored the aftershave known as Old Spice. If you name me something
- something like a T-shirt or a hat or a bumper sticker-chances are good - scratch that, chances are very very good-that that something was decorated with flags and offered for sale in 1976. Festooned with flags as the old adage goes. Or is it emblazoned? I forget which. It may not be an old adage is the thing.
All across the nation, school kids trained for then entered presidential trivia contests. The competition was quite competitive. One of my favorite books that year, by which I mean it was a book I read, was Facts about These Fabulous Fifty States, which seems related somehow, when I think about it, but maybe I’m wrong, who knows.
I knew a guy who could fluently pronounce the names of every vice president forwards and backwards both.
For eleven months of 1976 I was seven years old. For a little more than two-thirds of the year, my brother was four. We got ourselves some flag tattoos on our arms, the upper part, on the outside? Up near the shoulder region? In any case, they’re on the arms that are on the same sides as our right hands. All the parents of all the kids were giving the kids these tattoos. That’s what I remember. I’m not really sure why. I do know I had a flag T-shirt, I think, and wore it until yellow moons marked the armpits. (These would be from sweat, the yellow moons.) Then I wore another, second shirt over my flag T-shirt, like a long-sleeve one? Over the other one? The one with the flag? So that the flag still showed but not the aforementioned yellow moons.
On my school bus, which I rode both to and from school, all the kids talked about presidents from the days of yore. Some kids carried slam books in which friends confessed to paper private thoughts about the various presidents past and present. Meanwhile, back on the bus, it was all Who was the smartest president of all time? Who was the strongest? If George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant got into two separate time machines and traveled to this year (I’m writing this as if I’m speaking from the past as if it’s the present, so, if it helps, substitute “1976” for “this year”), or if Washington hopped in his time machine, stopped to pick Grant up in his day and age, and then journeyed on to 1976, if they then teamed up, Grant and Washington, could they whoop the asses of Buchanan and Taft or what? I consistently voted undecided. Taft was massive. Wasn’t Taft the massive one?
One girl on the bus, she loved Abe Lincoln. To show her devotion, she wrote, “I love Abe Lincoln, the 16th President, also known as the Great Emancipator” all over her notebooks and folders until they were just about covered with writing, and then she carefully and painstakingly traced over the letters comprising the words, “I love Abe Lincoln, the 16th President, also known as the Great Emancipator” so many times and with such furious and energetic vigor that she bore “I love Abe”-shaped holes right through her notebooks and folders. Either that or her pen would explode right there all over the place and that would be the end of that.
Someone said to me that the Abe Lincoln girl carved his name into her leg, which maybe explains why all of a sudden she was riding a different bus, and a seat opened up.
The winners — I’m speaking again of those contests, the presidential trivia ones? Back when I was talking about that stuff? — the winners took places of honor and esteem in any number of parades. I should say parades occurred only about every single day of the week. Parades with fireworks and parades with Shriners on motorized tricycles with those pop-a-wheelie wheels installed on the back. Parades pretty much around the clock. As well as parades with music and lights and the smell of hotdogs in the air. (Also cotton candy.) Even those who didn’t win the contests got to march in quite a few parades, because the ranks needed filling in and the numbers required strengthening and because that seemed fair.
But those heady days are behind us now, sadly. I’ve said before I suspect we’re not likely to witness celebrating of that magnitude in our lifetimes again, because I just don’t think we will, ever.
The movie, I’ll give the movie four stars out of five, though parents of children under four would be wise to exercise all appropriate caution due to several realistically depicted surgery scenes.