Cover Story - June 30, 2010

Woodside memories: A grand and glorious Fourth

by Marie Krenz

I take holidays in stride even though most of them require planning and effort. Especially Christmas. What should be an important religious event usually turns into nonstop card writing, gift purchases, cooking, and decorating.

Thanksgiving is an easier day. The family gathers at our old home in Woodside, and everyone pitches in to help. Someone picks the last of the rusty hydrangeas for the table, and we all enjoy the first of winter's fires as the day grows cool. We all contribute to the traditional dinner, which changes little from year to year.

I no longer like Halloween as the change to standard time brings on early darkness. As a child I loved Halloween and especially the parade in the schoolyard as we marched to a lively Souza record played on a standing Victrola. We children wore costumes made from orange and black crepe paper and even kept them on for the food sale that followed. I always bought the same lunch: Chocolate milk, a hot dog, and a slice of the cake my mother had contributed to the event.

But the best holiday of the year, bar none, was and is the Fourth of July. Each summer of our childhood we left foggy San Francisco the day after school closed to spend the entire vacation in Woodside with Grandmother and our uncles.

We always had a big gathering with family and friends on the holiday. The day was so important that each year my mother bought me a Fourth of July dress. I remember one in particular that was blue and white dotted Swiss with blue smocking.

I recall my uncles barbecuing steaks, Mother preparing chile con carne, and Grandmother standing by the stove, stirring a rich custard for the homemade ice cream. The boys and I took turns with the crank on the freezer until it became too difficult to turn, and the adults took over.

Each year, our uncles bought a box of fireworks. My brothers and I divided the packs of firecrackers, punks, and sparklers, which we lighted all afternoon. After dark the grownups shot off a huge array of skyrockets, pinwheels, and heaven knows what else. Today I shudder to think of the damage that could have resulted had a fire occurred.

Today we no longer have the fireworks, although we sometimes manage sparklers for the children. We do decorate the table and also the outside with flags and red, white, and blue streamers.

Many years ago when the old high school of my uncles was demolished, they bought the flagpole and had it transported to Woodside. Ever since, we always display the colors on the Fourth of July, and after dinner we have a flag-lowering ceremony. The children bring out a large box of service hats from World War I and World War II, and everyone dons his favorite.

If there is a bugler with us that day, he plays retreat as the flag is slowly brought to earth. Everyone stands at attention as a former seaman first class and a former Navy captain carefully fold the colors in the prescribed manner. Then, corny but heart-warming, we sing "America the Beautiful." After that it's time for ice cream and watermelon.

Labor Day has always been a sad holiday for me. It means the end of summer, the return to autumn activities. We do, however, have all the memories of a happy Woodside summer and an especially joyous Fourth of July.

About the author: Marie Wagner Krenz has been visiting or living in Woodside since the late 1920s, when her grandparents purchased a home there. Go to for information about a new mystery book she has published.


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