The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 3, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The Eastside Celebrates America’s Bicentennial

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am

East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

Here on the Eastside, the Fourth of July tends to be something of a low-key affair these days.  Here in Redmond, the annual Derby Days festival generally takes place a week after the Fourth, so most of the time little is done by the city to celebrate the Fourth.  Kirkland and Bellevueeach have their respective civic celebrations and requisite fireworks displays, and then there’s always the ones in Seattle (well, only one this year, since the 4th of Jul-Ivar’s show seems to have been cancelled.)  Beyond that, there’s generally not much to do.  Throughout the Eastside and most of the area personal fireworks are banned outright (a subject that remains a sore spot with your Blogger, but that’s a topic for another post that I’ll just go ahead and spare you from) so aside from fighting the crowds at one of the public fireworks displays, you’re pretty much on your own.  That doesn’t mean that people won’t find a way to celebrate.  For some people, that means heading off to somewhere that fireworks are allowed and setting them off there (the unincorporated Kingsgate area of Kirkland is one of the few places on the Eastside in which fireworks are allowed still, although if Kirkland’s proposed annexation of the area is approved in the November elections this will undoubtedly change) and for others it means going and finding some activity of their own.

Of course, some Fourth of July celebrations are bigger than others, and few have been bigger than the celebration of America’s Bicentennial on July 4th 1976.  For this Recycled Newspaper, I thought I’d take a look through the local newspapers around this time period, and see how the Bicentennial was celebrated here on the Eastside.  For the purposes of this post all of this material comes from the East Side Journal, but virtually all of this can be found in identical form in the Bellevue American issues from the same time period.  At this point, the Bellevue American had bought the East Side Journal, and within a few months of this the two papers would merge with each other to form the Daily Journal-American.  In fact, although it is not included here, one of the papers from this time period included the first in a series of editorials discussing  the upcoming merger of the two papers and explaining the rationale behind it.  Nonetheless, that was still a few months off at this point, although it might be covered at a later date.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at how the Bicentennial was celebrated on the Eastside, after the jump.

East Side Journal, June 26 1976

East Side Journal, June 26 1976 - Click for larger version

A week prior to the Fourth of July, the paper printed this list of some of the major activities planned on the Eastside to celebrate the holiday. Although most of these are generally the type of things you’d expect to find at Fourth of July celebrations, there are a couple of things that stand out. The first of these is the fact that Bellevue wasn’t actually doing anything on the Fourth of July itself, opting instead for a “July Fourth plus Six Days” celebration the following Saturday at Robinswood Park. If I had to guess, I’d say this was probably done in order to allow the celebration to take place on a Saturday rather than the Sunday that the Fourthfell on in 1976. Redmond, on the other hand, was wasting no time getting to the festivities and was lighting off their thousand-dollar fireworks show a day early. To contrast this with the present day, over in Kirkland this year’s civic fireworks display was in doubt due to $15,000 in lost grant money, but significant donations from a number of Kirkland businesses helped to make up the difference, and the approximately $22,000 required to put on the city’s fireworks display.

East Side Journal, July 1 1976

East Side Journal, July 1 1976

Meanwhile, the biggest event on the Eastside during this time period was the second annual Marymoor Heritage Festival, featuring all sorts of arts and crafts, ethnic foods, singing and dancing, among other events.  This festival was held annually at Marymoor Park  through 2001, at which point it became a victim of cuts to the King County Parks budget.  During the time it was held, I did get an opportunity to attend the festival a couple of times, and the festivals I attended were largely similar to this one, although over the years a few additions came and went, including things like a temporary above ground swimming pool and an expanded livestock exhibit. 
East Side Journal, July 1 1976

East Side Journal, July 1 1976 - Click for Larger Image

Elsewhere on the Eastside, the Kirkland Congregational church was completing the restoration of their 95 year old church bell, just in time to join a chorus of bell-ringing all across America on the Fourth.  This bell, which was cast in 1881 by a foundry in New York, had been silent since 1963 when it was relegated to a concrete pad on the church grounds.  Through fundraising efforts by the church’s congregation and donations from the community, a total of $5,300 was raised to fund the restoration of the bell, which was to ring once again for the first time at the Bicentennial.  The Kirkland Congregational Church’s website includes a significant history section which  provides more details on the bell and its restoration, as well as a significant amount of other history of the church.

Today the bell remains atop the church and presumably also remains functional.  The Kirkland Congregational Church is found at the corner of 1st Street and Fifth Avenue in Kirkland, across from Kirkland City Hall.

East Side Journal, July 3 1976

East Side Journal, July 3 1976 - Click for larger version

On the day before the Bicentennial, the July 3rd edition of the East Side Journal (as well as the Bellevue American, as noted above)  included a number of editorials and other features related to the Bicentennial.  This editorial ran on the front page calling for modern Americans to pay more heed to the Founding Fathers,  a lecture in print that some people out there could probably use to read and pay attention to these days.  As you probably already saw on the way in, at the top of this post is an illustration by David Horsey which was also included in this particular issue.   Horsey, now a two-time Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist, actually got his start with the Journal-American as a reporter before moving across the lake to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1979.

Finally, in this edition of the paper, several pages were devoted to a section entitled Newspapers and American Independence.  In addition to printing out the text of the Declaration of Indepenence in a period style (complete with all ƒorts of anachroniƒtic characters), this section also included the pictures of several of its signers (as seen above) and an article explaining the role of newspapers in printing and disseminating the Declaration across the colonies. 

Here is a closer, hopefully more readable version of the article shown above.  For those readers out there who might have napped through a Social Studies class or two (myself included) you might actually learn a thing or two by reading this.  I know I did.  Apparently this particular article was part 18 of a series, but I did not see any other similar articles in any other editions of the East Side Journal, although I didn’t bother to look too extensively.  Based on some of the text not shown, it appears that this series of articles originated from the Minneapolis Star, and there was an address one could send to in order to get these in pamphlet form.  I’m guessing this pamphlet might even be floating around somewhere, and if someone happens to know where it is I might be interesting to find it.

In addition to what is shown here, there were a number of other articles related to the Fourth (including the inevitable  “Youth blows off fingers in fireworks accident” article in the following Thursday’s edition) but in the interest of actually getting this out before the Fourth of July, I will leave it at this.  So for those of you out there reading this (all three of you) have a safe and sane Fourth of July (or otherwise, if you wish) and maybe see about listening to some of your founding fathers every once in a while, OK?

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1 Comment »

  1. Interesting reading on how the celebrations have changed over time. I enjoy comparing local histories–keep up the good work.

    Comment by slamdunk — July 3, 2009 @ 2:37 am


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