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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
I have apparently jumped over the generation gap in more ways than one. My nightly computer regimen begins with a look at the Yahoo news page and of late I have noticed that I do not recognize any of the politicians, movie stars or many of the sports figures in the news. I read these names and I ask myself, ‘Who are these people and what have they done to warrant all this front page news’? After I research the names I answer myself, ‘I don’t think they deserve a news story’! In my opinion there are also a few too many stories about 60ish year old female stars with toned abs and still able to wear daring bikini swimsuits while the younger stars are baring it all or wearing nearly nothing. (Yep, I am envious) I call this clickbate. I also watch “YouTube shorts (short videos) on my cell phone, primarily the shorts about cats and whatever current court trial with which I am interested but these shorts are random and the occasional car chase or stupid human tricks videos are interwoven between the cute cat videos. I have become increasingly aware of cop bating shorts which concern first and second amendment rights. I support these rights but some of these people are just wasting our officer’s time by engaging them in superfluous conversation. Granted it is our right to film in public but some of these people just seem to want to get in trouble, just my opinion and it is a waste of my time to watch these clickbate videos.

Then I jump to the music news page, here again I have no clue who the current pop favorite bands are so when I “Googled” them I still had not heard of them or their music; but I can tell you who the top all time favorite bands are; Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Rolling Stones; this is Google’s list, I would have to add Aerosmith, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, James Gang. As I peruse the sports page the only name I know is LeBron James and the only reason I know his name is because of his association with Michael Jordan. The Entertainment news page is just as mystifying; I have no clue who many of the actors are with the exception of Bryce Dallas Howard who is Ron Howards daughter, you know “Opie” of the Andy Griffith TV show. I guess, I am still in the world of the 1970’s, but you know that was a pretty nice place to be. I joked with my 96 year old Mom about feeling like the world is passing by me and I had to laugh because she had no clue about any the people I was remembering and began to tell me all about the movie stars and sports figures of the 1940’s and 1950’s; so I guess I won’t worry too much about the current world news.

Here we are again already to celebrate July 4. My goodness this year is flying past me and I am thankful for that because the last two years seemed much too long. I have been checking all the area town celebrations and it looks like everything is a go for this year. It is nice to know we will have some semblance of normalcy this holiday. Charleston will be celebrating the fourth in Morton Park on July 3 and the 4 with fireworks at the Coles County airport. ( There will be a free concert by “Rick K and the Roadtrip” at 6:30 p.m., and “the Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band” at 8 p.m. on July 3. The Mattoon, Illinois annual Independence Day Parade lineup begins at 8:00 a.m. and the parade begins at 9:00 a.m. on July 4. Having attended all of these functions over the years, I know you will be sure to have a fun filled weekend.

A little history about our July 4 that you might not know: in the beginning the Democrat and the Republican party were one party and they disagreed with the Federalist Party. An excerpt from the Zane Baker website (  “By 1817, John Adams complained in a formal letter that the new America seemed uninterested in its past. But that changed shortly after that. After the War of 1812, the Federalist party started to come apart, and the new parties of the 1820s and 1830s all considered themselves inheritors of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party. Printed copies of the Declaration started to circulate again, all with the date July 4, 1776, listed at the top. 

The deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826, even further helped to promote the idea of July 4th as an important date to be celebrated. Celebrations of the4th of July became more common as the years went on and in 1870, almost a hundred years after the Declaration was written, Congress first declared July 4th to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. Further legislation about national holidays, including July 4, was passed in 1939 and 1941”.

You might be surprised at the menu for the first July fourth celebration at the White House. According to Yahoo history, “On the first celebration of America’s birthday, John Adams and his wife, along with thousands of other Americans on the East Coast, enjoyed a meal of turtle soup, Yup, you heard it right—green turtle soup. The traditional meal also included poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas, boiled potatoes, Indian pudding, and apple pandowdy”. That is a far cry from hotdogs, BBQ, potato salad and pop.

We had huge family picnics at the park when I was a kid. I don’t recall any July fourth parades in my younger years, but there was always music in the bandstand at the park and in later years fireworks at the fairgrounds in Taylorville. I liked it when our fireworks were at the pond on the EIU campus. We could walk to them, if we so desired, and by that time I was pretty worn out after our picnic, which was usually at Fox Ridge State Park if we were actually home on the fourth. We started taking our vacations around the fourth and spent many of those trips celebrating in towns around the country. I was particularly fond of the many times we attended July 4 celebrations on the East Coast, especially if the displays were around water. My all time favorite July fourth fireworks display was in the year we visited Madeline Island which is an island in Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Not only did we watch the fireworks from the hotel gazebo but there were many other displays we could all around the shore line and the simultaneously scheduled finale was spectacular.

What is your July 4 favorite picnic food? Mine is fire roasted cabbage and hotdogs. Mom would clean and wedge heads of cabbage and wrap each wedge in foil with salt and a couple tablespoons of butter and Daddy would throw them in the campfire and turn them as we roasted our hotdogs. The cabbage would be slightly smoky and browned but still firm enough for us to hold the wedge in our hands and we would let the butter drip down our chin while we ate. In later years we made the roasted cabbage on the grill but it never tasted quite right without the wood smoke flavor. If we were vacationing out East we might attend a fish boil or chowder festival and out West it was all BBQ. If we were down south we would seek out fried chicken and up North, if we were close to Canada, we would have Poutine with hotdogs. (Canadian Poutine is French fries with curd cheese and Canadian gravy)

My Mom made the best dessert for July fourth celebrations. It was very simple and colorful. She would make a large bowl of fresh whipped cream with a bit of extra sugar and fold in fresh sliced strawberries and whole blueberries. Sometimes she would serve it on homemade shortbread or sliced angel food cake but if money was tight she would simply serve it in a bowl which was the way I preferred to eat it. Since I am a strawberry rhubarb fan I like to make that for the fourth but I add blueberries for the topping and the addition of the blueberries makes the shortcake even better.

Have a safe and fun July 4!

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake
Rhubarb and Strawberry 


* 250 grams rhubarb- 


* 250 grams strawberries 

– stem removed and 

roughly chopped

* 1/2 tablespoon water

* 1/2 tablespoon caster 

sugar (+ extra if fruit is 

not sweet enough)

* 125 grams Butter – 


* 115 grams Caster sugar

* 215 grams self raising 

flour- sifted

* 1 egg

* 1 heaped teaspoon 

brown sugar

* 1 teaspoon raw sugar

1. Place the fruit, water and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Stew slowly until the fruit has broken down. Set aside to cool.

2. Melt the butter and add the sugar, flour and egg. Mix until it forms a loose dough like mixture.

3. Place 2/3 of the mixture into the base of a lined slice tin, pushing down firmly with your hand.

4. Place a layer of the cooled fruit mixture on top and sprinkle with brown sugar.

5. Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the dough on top of the fruit roughly. It does not need to cover the slice completely as it will expand.

6. Sprinkle with the raw sugar.

7. Bake in an oven on 170 degrees for 25-30mins or until the top is golden.

8. Cool before cutting or serve warm with custard, cream or ice cream.

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