American Classics to put you in a patriotic mood
From picnics to patriotism, the Fourth of July means something different to everyone. But all would agree the essence of summer is contained in this most rousing of holidays.
Independence Day has been a federal holiday since 1941, but the tradition of celebrating it dates back to the American Revolution (1775-83). In 1776, the representatives of the 13 Colonies voted in favor of independence from Great Britain and on July 4 adopted the Declaration of Independence as written by Thomas Jefferson. The first organized celebration occurred in Philadelphia the next year, complete with one cannon shot for each state, a parade, fireworks, and red, white and blue decorations. Massachusetts became the first state to make it an "official" holiday in 1781, and ever since, the Fourth has been celebrated with pretty much the same hoopla we enjoy today.
To celebrate our most patriotic of holidays, we've rounded up some American classics you can watch, read, wear and even eat -- Happy 4th!
Hollywood loves a good war movie, but when it comes to the American Revolution some of the best have little to do with actual combat. Here are some of the best from a long list ("Drums Along the Mohawk" anyone?).
• "The Patriot" (2000)
Mel Gibson defends his home from the ruthless British during the Revolutionary War in this vivid, action-filled epic. While some critics faulted it for historical inaccuracy, audiences loved this sweeping tale brought to life by a fine cast, including the late Heath Ledger.
• "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942)
A flag-waving musical starring James Cagney as the legendary Broadway songwriter George M. Cohan. He won the best actor Oscar, but the real star of this feel-good classic is the music: "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Over There" and "Grand Old Flag."
• "1776" (1972)
Look for fun, not realism, in the movie version of the Broadway musical about the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. This rather lighthearted portrait of the Founding Fathers is enlivened by songs based on actual correspondence of the time.
• "Johnny Tremain" (1957)
This Disney classic is a great family introduction to the War of Independence, adapted from Esther Forbes' novel about a young silversmith apprentice who comes of age as the war is fermenting. Paul Revere and other big names come to life during the Boston Tea Party, the battles of Lexington and Concord, and other historic moments.
• "Independence Day" (1996)
OK, an attack by giant spaceships filled with vicious aliens isn't exactly the Revolutionary War, but this fast-paced science-fiction adventure is filled with what were state-of-the art effects and great action sequences. Will Smith headlines a terrific cast that defends Earth against the alien invasion on the Fourth of July.
The English may have invented apple pie, but we Americans perfected it. Still, there are those who would argue that blueberry pie is the true American classic, or George Washington cherry. How about mixed berry or that particular slice of Americana, strawberry rhubarb? Here are some local farm markets with the best pies in town:
• Patty's Farm Market, 703 Freeport Road, Aspinwall (412-781-1212)
The farmer's wife, Patty Held, makes the pies herself from fresh fruit grown on the family farm. Peach, sour cherry and berries are big right now, and Patty's freezes its surplus fruit to make pies year-round. That's why its apple pies are so delicious even this time of year -- especially with cinnamon and nuts!
• Sand Hill Berries, 304 Deerfield Road, Mount Pleasant (724-547-4760) and at many local farm markets (see www.sandhillberries.com)
Famous for its open-faced glazed berry pies, Sand Hill Berries is a popular draw at many farm markets. Raspberry rhubarb, bumbleberry, black raspberry and raspberry cherry are a few of the favorites. With a top crust the 10-inch pie can weigh 5 pounds!
• Harvest Valley Farms Farm Market and Bakery, 6003 Cunningham Road, Richland (724-898-FARM)
The pies are made by the Gardner Pie Co. in Akron, Ohio, a family-owned operation that began in 1945. Harvest Valley features an extensive selection including a pie of the week (this week it's blackberry), but also try the banana blueberry oatmeal bread.
• Grandma's Country Oven Bake Shoppe at Schramm's Farms & Orchards, 1002 Blank Road, Jeannette (724-744-9873)
Grandma Kathy Young makes her pies from scratch. This time of year the bakery is selling strawberry and strawberry rhubarb.
• Soergel's Orchards, 2573 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park (724-935-1743)
Peach blueberry, "Fruit of the Forest," red raspberry and all the traditional fruit pies join a list of cream and nut pies at the popular farm market. And if you're feeling ambitious, it stocks great baking supplies.
When it comes to summer classics, these looks are quintessentially American and so timeless they've been worn by generations.
Keds has been charming crowds with comfort and clean-cut style since 1916. The crisp white sneakers with thick rubber soles were dubbed the "feel-like-every-day's-a-Saturday" shoe and, later, the Champion. Over the years, it's undergone some makeovers, such as the Champion in chambray bandana or red bandana prints ($45 at www.keds.com). Whether patterned or plain, Keds are as all-American as apple pie.
Slip on a pair of Ray-Ban aviator shades and step into the cool life. For 75 years, these shades have had a way of making us feel as though we're on a cross-country road trip along Route 66 in a red convertible Camaro with the wind tousling our hair. The classic style is $159.95, or $209.95 for polarized lenses, at select retailers including Eyetique and the Sunglass Hut (www.ray-ban.com/usa).
Seersucker blazers are a way to put some prep into your patriotism. Pair one with a polo shirt, khakis or shorts and be the best dressed at the beach-side barbecue. A two-button sportcoat at JoS. A. Bank Clothiers (www.josbank.com) is $295.
Madras may be the former name of the capital city of India, but the colorful cotton plaid has become an American staple. The personality the fabric brings to apparel is a perfect complement to a multihued firework display or a radiant sunset. Madras shorts for men from Lands' End are $45 (www.landsend.com).
Once worn to denote team membership, the polo shirt has been expanding its reach to the tennis court, golf course, casual Fridays and beyond since the early 1900s. Ralph Lauren assigned a new purpose to the short-sleeved pullover: luxury leisure attire. A classic white polo from Ralph Lauren's Blue Label is $85 at most fine department stores and www.ralphlauren.com.
Indulge in more than fireworks and freedom fries this Fourth of July and spark the spirit of revolution within yourself. Any one of these books will have you marveling at the miracle that was the American Revolution:
• "1776" by David McCullough.
• "John Adams" by David McCullough.
• "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow.
• "Paul Revere's Ride" by David Hackett Fischer.
• "The Federalist Papers" by John Jay.
• "The Sherwood Ring" by Elizabeth Marie Pope (for young adults).
Want to go all out next year for the Fourth? Turn to the Charles Keath catalog (CharlesKeath.com), simply the best place to stock up on everything patriotic when it comes to home decor. From classic bunting in 100 percent cotton to fiber-optic flags, red-white-and-blue rugs, wooden folk art, Fourth of July doormats, stars and stripes dishes, party accessories, even furniture. The column wrap is $39, the welcome mat is $45 and the wreath $215.
First Published July 3, 2012 12:00 am