Evelyn and I started the club because we wanted a club. We were the oldest on the street, or at least the oldest of the young kids, and we felt it was our duty to organize activities for the others. Evelyn was nine at the time, and I had just turned ten. We would ask our mothers for money for refreshments and prizes, and they would give us whatever change they had handy. We would walk to Vee’s Variety and buy Tootsie Rolls, the ones that cost only a penny, and packets of Kool-Aid. Then we would ask our mothers for sugar to put in the Kool-Aid. We held our meetings in our clubhouse. Actually it wasn’t ours. It was a tar-paper shack that Evelyn’s brother had built in their back yard, but he didn’t seem to be using it anymore. Because it had four walls and a roof, we thought it was grand. We had a bag of pickle pins that one of my father’s customers had given him, green plastic pins shaped like pickles with the number 57 in the middle. Everyone who joined got a pin, and we had a lot of pins left over. That was how our club got its name.
I don’t remember which of us first thought of a parade, but we were running out of ideas for field-day-type races and games, and we were giving away a lot of Tootsie Rolls. A parade was easy. Everybody came dressed as something or brought something to bang on. We had no music, but we had noise. Evelyn and her sister Joan had a supply of dancing costumes that could be customized, made to look patriotic. I had had only one year of dancing lessons, and my choices were limited to a tutu that I had grown out of or a ghost outfit that glowed in the dark. Neither was especially appropriate, so I settled for shorts and a t-shirt and an Uncle Sam hat that my mother paid 25 cents for at the 5&10. It was made of cardboard and had stars and stripes all over it, and it matched the flag I carried. Evelyn wore one of her dancing outfits and twirled her baton. I didn’t have a clue how to twirl a baton, but I had an Uncle Sam hat. Joan showed up in a costume that she said represented Miss Liberty, whoever that was. Kirsten and Donna and Betsy and Marcia wore red, white, and blue and brought flags and noisemakers. My brother refused to march with us, but he let us borrow his toy drum. We gathered at the end of our dead-end street early in the morning of the Fourth of July, and we started to march. The parade route took us up our street and back down again. People came out of their houses to watch us go by. Some had cameras. It was exciting!
We did this every year for what seemed like a long time but couldn’t have been. By the second year people were lining the streets with movie cameras. (Well maybe there was only one movie camera.) But by the third year Tootsie Rolls and Kool-Aid had lost their magic, my brother’s drum had a hole in it, and somehow my beloved Uncle Sam hat had gotten dinged. Besides, Evelyn and I were growing up.
So that’s how it ended. We grew up, we grew apart, we moved away. The bag of pickle pins seems to have disappeared, although it may be in my brother’s attic. Evelyn and Joan are gone. Kirsten lives in California. I don’t know where in the world Donna, Betsy, and Marcia ended up, but I hope they are happy. My brother is the only one who still lives on our old street, but his cat, Trixie, spends more time there than he does.
Those were the best parades of my life, and no abundance of flags, floats, marching bands, or Clydesdales could have made them more spectacular. I’m not big on fireworks or picnics or flag-waving, at least not without my Uncle Sam hat, but oh what I wouldn’t give for one more Fourth of July parade with the Pickle Pin Club!