Patriots’ Day, aka April 19, is a special day which brings back happy memories of being a boy growing up in Concord. I like to think of it as Concord’s national holiday. It was a day of great excitement, beginning with the sunrise salute of the Concord Independent Battery.
One year, a state official, who resided on Lowell Road near where the sunrise salute was performed, complained about the noise of the cannons at such an early hour. It was rumored that, in subsequent years, the cannons were aimed directly at his house!
Once the sunrise salute was complete, the Battery retired to Rodday’s stables in the Southfield Circle part of town to prepare for the parade and to warm up. They saddled the horses, organized the stronger horses into teams and hitched teams to caissons and wagons.
The parade stepped off from Stow Street. It included marching bands, military units, local town officials, school bands, and various scouting groups. Some of us were Boy Scouts. Our troop marched in the Patriots’ Day parade and it was a big deal. We underwent extensive practice (no double sessions though) to keep in step and in formation as well as to learn how to skip a step to get back in step with the troop. Speaking for myself, I was always in a ”zone,” focused completely on how I was marching and not cognizant of the crowds along the parade route.
When the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed, Concord did not comply with the law and continued to celebrate Patriots’ Day on April 19. Concord maintained its independent path until the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, Easter, fell on April 19!! (I confess to checking the internet for Easter’s definition.) A spirited discussion ensued about celebrating Patriots’ Day on Easter. In the end, it was clear that celebrating two major holidays on the same day would not have enhanced the celebration of either holiday so Patriots’ Day was celebrated on Monday and that tradition continues to this day.
April 19 was also the start of the fishing season. Some friends fished at Walden Pond or White Pond* and seemed to catch more fish than we “city” kids who fished the Mill Brook. We fished the brook from behind the Concord Cooperative Bank and Unitarian Church to the edge of town behind Richardson’s Drug Store. At that point, the brook went under the town buildings and road before emerging on the other side of Anderson’s Market. Some daring kids actually climbed on the beams underneath the town, although they did not get very far.
As I grew older, Opening Day of fishing season became an occasion for an early morning fishing trip with my father, to a pond in Westford or Littleton. (He had heard from a guy…) My father was a resolute fisherman who tied his own flies. One morning we were trolling with a couple of his wet flies in the canoe that he had given his wife, my mother, for Christmas one year. One can only imagine her excitement. On their first excursion in the canoe, she was holding the bow of the canoe as my father made his way to the stern of the canoe. Before he could reach his seat and turn around, the canoe capsized. Hmmm.
In any event, on the pond this one particular morning there were numerous other boats with people fishing. And many of them were catching fish. We were not. From time to time, my father would yell out “What are you using?” “Worms” was the consistent answer to his question. “Dad,” I said, “why don’t we land and dig some worms with our paddles?” He replied, “That would not be fair to the trout!”
*A note about White Pond. My Concord grandmother was a multi-generational Wheeler who grew up on the Frank Wheeler Farm on Rt 117. She was an enthusiastic fan of Thoreau and very particular about the details of our town. White Pond was not White’s Pond. If you referred to it as White’s Pond, she corrected you. There is a story that a motorist interrupted her gardening for directions on how to get to White’s Pond. With little or no hesitation, she sent the motorist, not to White Pond a couple of turns away but, to a White’s Pond in some distant community.