Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: July 1991 Volume 29 Number 3, Pages 98–100

The Fourth of July at Daylesford

Louise H. Kneass

Page 98

Everyone loves a celebration, and nearly everyone loves fireworks! There have been gorgeous displays for hundreds of years in Europe, on occasions of royal births or weddings, on Guy Fawkes Day in England of course, in our deep South at Christmas and Memorial Day, and in a hurrah in Cincinnati when the Reds achieve victory. In the rest of the United States, most of us think of fireworks and the Fourth of July.

For some years there has been legislation forbidding private displays of fireworks because of the many accidents following unsupervised rockets, cherry bombs, and other firecrackers. However, fireworks at Daylesford did continue for thirty-five years, providing joy and excitement to the friends and neighbors of the Kneass family.

On July Fourth 1924, the Strickland Kneasses began to invite a few of their friends to join them on the lawn for punch and a few delicious moments of glittery fireworks. After the George Kneasses moved to that house on the hilltop the celebration continued, and grew vastly. Much-appreciated contributions from generous friends helped finance the gala evenings.

During the thirty-five years of these Independence Day parties, several hundreds of all ages would gather annually on the lawn before dusk, lugging steamer-rugs, picnic baskets, and, of course, children. One of the earliest memories of one grandchild is of wandering from group to group, hearing family news, welcoming newcomers, and being herself introduced to everyone.

Page 99

Such preparations! First, after the huge fatal explosion at the Strafford fireworks factory, an official permit had to be obtained, and after new houses dotted the old golf course, a large bond had to be posted. Then the fireworks were ordered specially from the Delaware plant, carefully selected for variety and popularity. (The great favorites were the "goldfish", which rushed gaily about the sky and were always wildly cheered.) When the ban on fireworks was first in place we had to drive to Camden, on The Day, to meet the delivery van -- all very hush-hush , -- but later the large foil-lined van came to Daylesford, and the factory-owner, Mrs. Donato, would join me for coffee and a chat after supervising the careful stowing of the "pieces" in the old stable. She became a friend, and wise advisor.

Invitations were sent to friends and neighbors, and our boy-on-a-bicycle delivered flyers to local newcomers. Cordial announcements appeared in the social column of the summer weekly newspaper run by the children of Daylesford (circulation 20 copies).

Arrangements were made for beer-on-draught for the grown-ups, and for tubs of ice cream and hundreds of cones for the children. Friends with strong wrists were enlisted to scoop the ice cream, a hard job even when done in shifts.

Special orders of sparklers were also provided for the children's parade, which began at dusk to keep the impatient little ones from driving their parents crazy while waiting for the true dark.

During several years entries for an Art Show came in ahead of time, to be hung on the outside walls of the house, and strings of lights were fastened 'round the porches and through the nearest trees.

The canary had to be boarded out, 'til one year this was forgotten and he was found dead the next morning, poor Birdie. The beguiling Irish setter was also banished, to save his digestion from kind picnicers.

Came The Day! We learned from the weather man that "oncoming whiteness" was a dreaded prediction, but only twice in all those years were we ever panicked by heavy showers, and never was the event postponed. The two years that we tried celebrating at our beloved Penny Farm, twenty-five miles away, were risky, because there was no telephone there, so no communication. When the barn roof one year had to be dramatically defended from sparks we meekly returned to Daylesford. In later years, after the Daylesford population increased, the Berwyn Fire Company obligingly sent a fire truck to stand by. It was fun to learn from the police that along the pike for two miles cars were drawn up along the shoulders, watching the fireworks up on the hill.

Of course the big old American flag on its pole must be put out under the eaves of the third floor. Bins for trash were dragged out to strategic spots, and a few chairs were brought out for the elders.

Page 100

One of the heaviest chores was the digging of deep holes, beyond the tennis court, for the various sizes of mortars for firing the pieces. An experienced team of kin and friends planned the hour-long program, arranging the sequence and allocating each rocket to its proper size of mortar. Only once was there a real moment of concern, when a rocket was dropped into too large a mortar, and the fiery dragon leaped out onto the ground and began a wild chase of the hapless bombardier. As soon as the audience saw that all was safe, however, everyone relaxed -- and hooted with laughter.

One other chore always enjoyed by the children of the house was the trip to the Berwyn Ice Plant to fetch the huge blocks of ice for the cooler coils of the beer keg, and to keep from melting the vast quantities of ice cream after the steaming dry ice was removed.

As the evening ended the families with small children departed, and those remaining would re-group to lie on the grass, singing old songs for a blissful hour ot two.

To think that in all those years no snapshots were ever taken! -- but memory serves. Quite often I meet someone who says, "You wouldn't remember me, but as a child I used to come to your fireworks."

Happy Days!


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