Nostalgia, for me, is at its highest when summer festival time rolls around. One of the advantages of warm, sunny days among my memories is that there always seemed to be something interesting to do. I love adventure and opportunities to enjoy new experiences. This is why I feel so ill-suited for this particular period in American history. I especially mourn the passing of Yankee ingenuity when individuals were more likely to “do their own thing,’’ unlike today when people seem to want to only do what others are doing. In my youth, people took pride in inventing games to play and challenges to overcome.
Movies are big things in my neighborhood, where everybody crams into a room to watch films together. I preferred the old days when children spent their time with other children and adults associated with other adults. In my opinion, this made family time special. Nowadays, togetherness is so common that it doesn’t surprise me when parents and children so often get on each others’ nerves.
Basket-dinners and festivals were the one occasion I associate with family time. This year, it seems I have attended a festival every weekend. Except around public swimming pools, it’s one of the few places where I see children outside, away from some kind of electronic equipment.
Music festivals are always popular and though several communities around the state held Juneteenth celebrations this month, I always feel compelled to say Aug. 4 has been Emancipation Day for African Americans in Missouri for more than a century. Juneteenth Day originated in Texas and commemorates the occasion when former slaves in Texas learned of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had occurred six months earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln. The proclamation freed slaves in states that were in rebellion against the Union, such as Texas. Missouri slaves were freed by an act of the legislature the governor signed Jan. 11, 1865.
Some people are surprised when they find out about Emancipation Day. African Americans who have moved here from other states since the 1960s are often unaware of this celebration, as are other people who are unfamiliar with black history.
When I was growing up, my family traveled to Clinton every year for this event, which probably accounts for much of my nostalgia in the summer. Hundreds of people from surrounding communities would gather for the day of food and festivities. I still have vivid memories of standing around a game board pitching pennies and participating in the pony rides.
The thing I remember most about the celebrations was how closely knit the communities were. In those days, all Missouri communities, urban and rural, retained a semblance of the state’s agricultural value system. If someone’s car broke down on the highway, everyone going in that direction pulled off the road to lend a hand. Even neighborhoods in the cities were like small towns. Adults looked out for one another and the children.
I think many of the social problems we face today came about as a result of our becoming so enamored with the quality of life made available by technological advances that we thoughtlessly cast aside much of the value system brought from the farms. Neighborhoods these days resemble deserted movie sets, where the only people you occasionally catch a glimpse of are mail carriers and others making deliveries. One gets the impression residents might believe that the sight of a human might somehow spoil the view. At least when people still hung their clothes on the line you knew the houses were occupied.
The amazing thing is that many believe this is the only way to live. They don’t want to see their neighbors and they are happy their children rarely go outside. They want to spend the majority of their leisure time with television or computerized games. Of course, a lot of these people have no idea why they are frustrated, bored and want out of their relationships.
I hate to think of all the wonderful experiences I would have missed by staying inside the house with my family while life was unfolding outside, all around me. For example, last week in Higginsville I had my first encounter with the Tom Bass Riders of American Royal fame, and I talked to a Buffalo Soldier in full dress uniform. Now, is that cool or what?
As far as I’m concerned, the stuff of nostalgia doesn’t get any better than rubbing shoulders with a little bit of history while embracing community. What a way to spend the day, or better still, a lifetime.
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Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.