You Look Good For Your Age

May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please,

but as the opportunity to do what is right.”

- Rev. Peter Marshall

NC is known for freedom. Charlotte already had one Bi-Centennial celebration in 1975. I saw President Ford that day speak in Freedom Park. That was for the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which is one of the two dates on the NC State flag, the other is for the Halifax Resolves.

Now it was July 4th, 1976. I am standing on the tallest building in East Charlotte on East Independence Blvd. It’s sometime after 9:00pm, and Skyshow ‘76 was underway. The transistor radio was tuned to the 50,000 watt radio station, 1110 WBT-AM, who paid to put on the biggest fireworks show in the Southeast. It was our nation’s Bi-Centennial. There were the $2.00 bills and the Bi-Centennial quarters that everybody had to save. It was a busy day. When you are 11 years old, it seemed really important to celebrate this milestone right. There was the parade at the community pool, all the moms dressed in coordinating patriotic sundresses, my dad wearing those tired Bermuda shorts, the cookout that followed, eating watermelon, watching old guys relive their youth playing softball, and the sparklers before watching the fireworks to top off the day. I’m trying not to knock off the pigeon nests, but inching to get the best spot to see. There were 40 or so of us on top of the building who had access to the roof and worked in the building, with some friends. But because it was on the radio, felt like millions must have been watching and listening to the explosion timed with the radio signal, though Charlotte only had 322,000 residents back then. I’m wearing some poorly cut cut-off blue jean shorts. It seems if you lay them the wrong direction to cut, they are really short in the wrong places. You only get one chance to cut them. My white t-shirt was not only dirty and stained but by now smelly. But it did not matter, I was on top of the world. Doing what every other American must have been doing, celebrating history. Where were you on that historic day?

In the Cause of the Right, -

Rev. John B. Gaither,

Chairman, Orange County Republican Party