Wednesday, July 1, 2015
My Bicentennial Painting
Every year when the 4th of July is looming I think of one of our more memorable July Fourth holidays. You were not part of that holiday but I have probably mentioned it to you sometime.
As you know, Sunday, July 4th 1976 was the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and during the previous year there were many festivities/events all over the country leading up to the big crescendo. The big day was a nation-wide festive celebration, which you undoubtedly enjoyed with your family.
Festivities included elaborate fireworks in the skies above major American cities. President Ford presided over the fireworks display in Washington, D.C. that was televised nationally. An international fleet of tall sailing ships gathered in New York City on Independence Day and then in Boston about one week later. Navies of many nations sent warships to New York harbor for an International Naval Review held the morning of July fourth. President Ford sailed down the Hudson River into New York harbor aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Wainwright to receive salutes from each visiting ship and a salute from the British missile cruiser HMS London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made a state visit to the United States to tour the country and attend the Bicentennial festivities with President and Mrs. Ford. Their visit aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia included stops in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
You may remember that at that time, Pat and I were living on Parkview Avenue in Pittsburgh, while I was in graduate school. I’m sure there were many festivities in Pittsburgh on the big day, but instead of enjoying them, we drove to the Hallman homestead on West Plank Road on the Friday evening before the big day. We thought it would be nice to visit Mom (Marie), Aunt Pauline, and some others for the holiday. We also hoped you and your family might make the trip from eastern Pennsylvania to the old homestead. Unfortunately, you and your family could not join the Hallman festivities. However, you were extremely lucky that you could not make it to the homestead during that very hot weekend. You lucky dogs!
It was nice to see Mom during that “Festive Fourth.” It was also nice to see Aunt Pauline who was visiting. However, we soon learned that the “Two Sisters” had plans for us that were not as festive as we expected. They informed us that they needed help with some chores, which didn’t surprise me. That property and house was large and difficult to maintain. In addition, Mom was not financially well off, so paying someone to help was not always feasible.
However, Pat and I began to get a little nervous during the Friday evening conversation with them and that feeling soon morphed into an “Oh please I don’t want to know what they have in mind!” feeling. However, it did not take long for them to inform us that they were in the process of “Painting the Exterior of the House!” Hearing that put the fear of God into me. I had previously helped Dad paint some of the house, but he had died about seven years earlier so he wouldn’t be there to help with this job. Mom and Aunt Pauline told us they were only painting one side of the house, but which side? Immediately I thought “Please not the west or east side!” Those were the largest and highest sides and I didn’t (and still don’t) like heights.
On Saturday, I found myself painting the west side of the house and believe me, it was not fun. First, there was some fairly significant blistering of the old paint on that side of the house and I had to scrap most of those blisters off before any paint could be applied. Then I had to apply primer to the bare wood where the blisters had been scraped off. However, I was able to begin painting the top coat by midday or so. To be fair, Aunt Pauline, and Pat helped put a little paint of the lower part of that siding. However, I was responsible for most of the painting. The “Two Sisters” sitting in their two lawn chairs maintained a constant surveillance of the entire painting process, which included them pointing out areas that needed more attention. I painted well into that Saturday evening.
Sunday, the day of the big Bicentennial celebration was surreal. I’m sure you would have found it very amusing to see me on Sunday during the Bicentennial 4th of July celebration, when I was painting the high part of that side which included an area under the peeked roof. Of course we didn’t have any scaffolding to stand on, which would have made the process easier and a lot safer. Therefore I was hanging by a thread on a very high extension ladder silently praying that I didn’t slip off of the ladder and break any bones during a 20-foot fall to the ground without any parachute or padding to help me.
Of course Pat was not excluded from the fun. She helped paint some of the lower parts of the siding, but when that was finished, the “Two Sisters” did not give Pat any relaxation time. Instead of allowing Pat to sit in one of the audience chairs to help critique Clark’s painting skills, Mom and Pauline strongly encouraged her to pull (and dig) weeds out of the very long gravel driveway from the highway to the house. Of course Pat acquiesced and did some driveway weeding. I think she just needed some time away from the “Two Sisters.”
While the entire country was celebrating its 200th birthday, Pat and I were under the control of the “Two Sisters.” They were two assertive women, but they also could be funny, considerate, and loving. They both had a big influence on me as I was growing up and I’m grateful to them for many reasons. I think of them often.
Although it was not the Bicentennial celebration we wanted to experience, when Pat and I think back to that day we find it to be very humorous. I wish you and your family could have been there to share the labor and the snippets of joy. By the way, I have steel siding on my house and I am not inclined to recreate that celebration.