Family Picnics

We had many picnics while the men worked together. We just put our food together and ate wherever the men were working. There were no special foods. We just ate out at the picnic table.

Fourth of July picnics usually centered around my mother-in-law’s birthday. Her birthday was actually July 6 but we celebrated whenever there was time. My sister-in-law always made the cake. That was her specialty.

We usually grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and added salads and fruit. If we gathered for supper, the men then left to do their evening chores. After chores were done they would return to eat cake and ice cream.

One of grandma’s last birthdays was at her home. She had just gotten out of the hospital so we all descended on her place to celebrate with her. Even her sister came to help her celebrate. We took a lot of pictures so we have those memories to cherish.

As long as they were still taking in hay we did not go to the fireworks nearby. We did not attend the parade either. It was a day of work with just a break to celebrate.

The ladies and the children stayed together while the men did the chores. When the children were older they went home, too. Often, we played games. Other times the children just played. It was a good time for the cousins. They really enjoyed being together.

I especially remember one year when the children were small. It was a heyday for the men. I fixed lunch which we ate outdoors on the porch. Then, I prepared a treasure hunt for the children. First, we made some Fourth of July hats. They donned their hats and then followed clues to find a treasure. I drew pictures for the clues since neither of the children were able to read. The treasure was popsicles from the freezer. The children liked that activity so well that they begged over and over to have another treasure hunt.

When I was growing up my family always had a picnic on the fourth of July. I remember times when it was so cold that we picnicked in the garage to keep warm. In the evening we gathered fireflies in jars to watch.

I remember popping caps with stones. We put the caps on the sidewalk, then hit them with the stones. A few of the children had guns that held caps. They often let the rest of us take a turn with the guns. People think of guns as being bad. We thought of them as fun. Never did we think of killing anyone with them. They were just toys.

No guns were allowed in school yet I often saw the children aiming at each other with fingers when they played. They did not mean anything by it. Life was different then. Now guns have become deadly weapons wielded by youngsters with an axe to grind about something. What happened to that innocent play that we used to have?

One year we hosted the fourth of July picnic at Hickory Heights. Our house was not finished but I had a kitchen so we could prepare food. A neighbor came to eat with us. She brought watermelon. We sat on the edge of the porch and spit the pits to see who could get theirs the farthest.

One family brought some fireworks. We set those off after chores. The sparklers were out earlier. We always had sparklers.

When I was growing up we always included the great-grandparents. Sometimes we had a picnic at my great-grandmother’s house. She had six children so when all of the families got together there was a bunch of us. Great-grandma was a little lady who sat rather hunched up. They always had a comfortable chair for her to sit in.

Some years we went to my aunt and uncle’s cottage. If we were there it was a big family picnic. I remember my great-grandfather attending one picnic at the cottage. There are pictures of him sitting in the rocking chair and watching the children play. It was a nice place for all of the generations.

The children would go down to the beach to swim. There was always an adult with us. We jumped the waves and skipped stones. We did not often lay on the beach. As soon as we were out of the water we changed out of our suits and resumed our play.

The picnics I remember were a lot of fun and — we always had plenty of food.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at