New Hampshire Tidbits: A 1944 “Sour Grapes” Party on the 4th of July

We live in an age of uncertainly.  The recent outbreak of covid-19 has turned our lives upside down.  With the Fourth of July approaching, many of us are seeking normalcy.  We want to be able to do everything the way we have always done it.  But for now, we need to find new ways to do things, just as our ancestors did in troubled times.

In 1944 the United States was in turmoil, amidst war on two fronts, and rationing was common.  People then, too, wanted to celebrate events in a near-normal way.  And so that brings me to this story.  It is about suggestions for families to celebrate the Fourth of July in 1944.  We should learn from this.

The Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) of 1 July 1944, page 2 published a unique story for its readers that year.

What with gas rationing, food rationing and everything it probably will be a somewhat restricted Fourth of July. Yet the fathers, husbands, and sons fighting on the far-flung battlefronts to maintain the independence that we celebrate the Fourth of July would surely want us to take note of this great day despite their absence. So let’s have the traditional spread, but keep it simple, and show that we recognize this is a particularly solemn Fourth.”

Better stay in your own back yard this Fourth of July and keep out of trouble. You can throw a “sour grapes party” for your friends or family–a parlor picnic in your own cool living room, a porch barbecue, or a gardening party with a nice cool shower within reach.

After all, the beach isn’t much fun on a hot day. Remember how the flies used to bite and the sand got all mixed up with the hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches? To say nothing of the little ants that crawled into the lunch basket or the mosquitoes that had no respect for persons.

Then there was that clambake, outing or picnic given by the club or chamber of commerce. Invariably it would be a sweltering hot day and the game program would be singularly unsuited to your personality. There would be a potato race. One foot tied to the other, to somebody else, or to a rock. Everyone red in the face, exhausted, panting.

Between times you’d be chasing Junior, who usually would manage to fall in a lake, burn himself with a firecracker, or put a toad in Mrs. McGillicudy’s lunch basket.

Then there was that drive home. Long lanes of stop-and-go traffic with everyone deciding to return home at the same time. Usually you wondered why you started out in the first place. The only satisfaction was limping out of the car, kicking your shoes off, and hoping you could beat the rest of the family to the shower.

If you’d been rowing you could depend on blistered hands, a near-broken back or a lobster-red body to take to your job the next day.

This year you can plan your recreation to suit the weather and your temperament. There are store-bought games that numbers of persons can play including some outdoor ones like badminton and table tennis. Or everybody can just decide to relax under that old apple tree.

Not that mosquitoes, ants and bugs won’t find their way into your backyards. But at least you may have some home remedies for dealing with the pests. String up some lamps to electrocute the rascals. If one does escape your trap there is always some anti-sting remedy waiting in the medicine chest.

–Food is the Main Topic–
Of course, food is always the main topic for Fourth of July. Even if you’re going to have a stay-at-home Fourth, you are probably racking your brain for what to eat. Make it a little out of the ordinary.

Decorations are easy enough. Just use red, white, and blue in some fashion and you are all set. The Fourth of July platter suggested below will supply its own color scheme. And the people next door, whom we hope you have invited will exclaim over your resourcefulness.

Luncheon is a good time for the Fourth of July party–after everybody’s come home from a morning of sports, perhaps. They’ll all be hot and hungry and a platter such as the one illustrated will look inviting, particularly if it is backed up by long cold glasses of limeade as this one is. Somehow, there’s no drink more cooling than one made out of limes. Here’s how to fix the platter and make the limeade:

1 loaf un-sliced fresh bread
1/3 cup prepared mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horse-radish
6 cups potato salad
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 pound sliced bologna
1/2 pound sliced liver sausage
1/2 pound spiced pork
1/2 pound spiced ham
Cut off all crusts from bread; slice bread very thinly. (Its easier if bread is first chilled in refrigerator.) Mix mustard and horse-radish and spread on the bread slices. Roll up each one and tie with red, white and blue ribbon. Combine potato sald and chives (saving a teaspoonful to sprinkle over the top) and mound in the center of a large serving platter. Stand a small flag in the center. Arrange sliced meats around the salad. Placed rolled up sandwiches in a ring around the meat slices.

3 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
Peel of 2 limes
1-1/2 cups limes juice
Lime slices
Combine water, sugar and lime peel and boil gently five minutes. Cool and remove peel. Combine with lime juice. Pour over ice in tall glasses and garnish with lime slices.

A plate of raw vegetables, arranged with an eye to color would be a perfect accompaniment.  For dessert, Fourth of July, there should really be ice cream.

Yep, you’re certainly lucky this year. No car to worry about with flat tires and Junio dripping ice cream on the upholstery, no mosquito bites, no ants in your sandwich or sand in your teeth–Happy Fourth of July!


The Horrible History of 4th of July Accidents From New Hampshire Newspapers (2016)

New Hampshire’s 4th of July: Freedom to those who have virtue to defend it (2013)

100 Years Ago: The Tidal Wave Ships of July 4th 1918 (2018)

New Hampshire: Facts and Myths of July 4th (2006)

New Hampshire Tidbits: Not on the Fourth of July (2019)

100 Years Ago: Fourth of July 1917 (2017)

A New Hampshire Fourth of July — 200 Years Ago (2008)

July 4, 2007: New Hampshire’s Just Expectations


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3 Responses to New Hampshire Tidbits: A 1944 “Sour Grapes” Party on the 4th of July

  1. Cathleen Cullity Manning says:

    Good read, Janice. Happy Fourth!

  2. Amy says:

    Good advice then, good advice now. Except the sandwich sounds gross, and the limeade is a dentist’s dream—one and a half cups of sugar to three cups of water! Happy 4th, Janice.

    • cowhampshire says:

      Amy, I agree with you, the party platter and drink would not be my choice either. But the point is that throughout history there have been crises where people had to be willing to change their usual routines. Thanks as always for reading and posting. Happy 4th Amy! — Janice

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