Planning a record breaking scheme

Ed Rood

As a guy who has seen more than his share of July 4ths, I feel I am qualified to write about celebrating Independence Day, Iowa-style. After all, it’s a celebration of independence from a foreign dictatorship. 

Over the years, the Fourth has become something akin to other holidays in the Hawkeye State in that it is often involves a family get-together. However, because it takes place during the middle of the year, and summer, that makes it an ideal time for folks from all over to return to central Iowa to celebrate a true American tradition.

Being born and raised in this area, I get as caught up in this mood as everyone else. Usually there are so many things taking place it’s hard to really spend enough time visiting with all my friends and relatives who have joined us from afar. But at least I get to say “Hi” to most of them.

Ed Rood

That’s what makes walking through Nelson Park so special on the Fourth. It’s like a big family reunion. People I haven’t seen in years will be standing there just like they’ve never really been gone.

Problem is that some I’m sure I’d recognize anywhere suddenly become a familiar face I can’t put a name to. Actually, they’re probably trying to put a name to me, too.

That’s the tradition of the holiday and what makes it great. Those same people probably once walked with me down the same old paths in the park and shared the same excitement I did over some silly game or thrilling ride.

Which brings to mind my cousins from Indiana who would come back for a visit every Fourth. They lived in a much bigger town but still loved to celebrate here because it was a lot more fun.

Our big goal was to beat the “Carneys” at their game. We dreamed of being banned from a carnival game because we were too good. Our fathers had told us that the only way we could do that was “practice, practice, practice.”

So that’s what we would do a few days before the Fourth. The problem was that we could never duplicate the way they had their stands set up. The basket in the basketball toss was always at a slightly different height or angle than it should be. The weighted milk bottles were impossible to duplicate.

One game we knew we could replicate was the record toss. Every year the same guy would be there with boxes full of old 78 rpm records. All you had to do to win a prize was to break 3 records in a row by hitting them with a baseball. The year before we had worked in the stand and had paced off the distance from the throwing point to the records.

So the next year we practiced throwing baseballs at all the old records we could beg, borrow or steal. Soon we had broken most of the old records in town and we anxious to try our skill at the stand.

When the big day finally arrived we could hardly wait for the parade to end so we could get down to the park and start winning prizes. I’m not saying we were a little cocky but we had bragged so much that by the time we arrived at the park we had a dozen or so followers.

It didn’t take long to find the guy who ran the stand because you could hear him a block away. He was yelling something about winning a prize every time. We made a mad dash in his direction.

What we found was enough to make us cry. Instead of a record-breaking stand he had converted it to a wheel of fortune. Seems he had exhausted his supply of old records.

How does that old saying go: “The best-laid plans of mice and men ... ”

Hey, here’s to another great Fourth!

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.