Happy Independence Day, all of you who are stuck inside reading right now. I hope your day is free of worry and stress.
As a child, Independence Day was my most worrisome, stress-filled holiday. I didn't like loud noises and fireworks, damn, they were LOUD. I don't remember a thing about the 4th of July in 1976, the 200th anniversary of our country, but I'm willing to bet there were a few loud noises that day that sent me diving under my bed.
At that time, baseball cards hadn't quite become the solace that they are today. I was in just my second year of collecting cards and the meaning of those cards had yet to develop beyond "got it, got it, need it."
No, when I wanted to get away from it all, I would read. I liked books for sure, but magazines were the coolest and most desirable periodical on the planet at the time. My grandmother -- who grew up on a farm -- had bought me a subscription to Ranger Rick magazine in 1975. I still remember the picture on the first issue I received, from July of that year, a giant cardinal head on a green background.
When 1976 came around, the Bicentennial was addressed in anything and everything. Ranger Rick magazine was no exception. The January '76 issue arrived, featuring a bald eagle on the cover with a red, white and blue theme. The Bicentennial was here. Time to get your spirit on!
I wasn't a big animal lover as a kid, I didn't even have a pet, but what kid doesn't like creatures of all kinds? I looked forward to the arrival of Ranger Rick magazine every month, and became aggravated when I realized the magazine paired up May and June and August and September so I wouldn't receive an issue in the mail during May and August.
I couldn't tell you much about what was inside each Ranger Rick magazine -- stuff about animals and conservation, I guess -- but I absorbed everything inside.
I remember when the July 1976 issue showed up. On the cover was a giraffe. I was a bit surprised, as this was the big month for the Bicentennial and even I knew at age 10 that a giraffe had nothing to do with the Bicentennial.
However, when those explosions were going off that night, you can be sure I had my head stuck in that issue of Ranger Rick magazine. I was not looking at any pretty fireworks. Tell me about that speckled frog, raccoon.
Today, fireworks don't bother me. I don't seek out 4th of July events because I loathe traffic and crowds much more than loud noises these days. But I can see fireworks from my backyard when the nearby park ends its annual concert with a lights&noise display.
Instead of hiding under my bed, I head outside and watch them. When it's over, I go back to my baseball cards, which replaced Ranger Rick magazine as my favorite viewing material probably around 1977.
Today, I happen to be looking at cards with a patriotic theme.
A little more than a year ago, I decided to attempt to complete the 1976 Hostess and 1976 Kellogg's sets. They are among the most patriotic sets ever produced and they give you an idea how much the Bicentennial was on everyone's minds that year. How Topps was able to restrain itself from plastering everything in red, white and blue that year, I have no idea.
I have a long way to go with both sets. I admit I haven't done much with either collection lately. It's been months since I've acquired any cards from either set.
This is the extent of my '76 Hostess cards. The good news is the majority of these I have obtained within the last year. And there is still six months left in the year to go out with a BANG.
I've done even less with the '76 Kellogg's cards. The above five are all I have for that collection, again most have arrived within the last year.
Both of these sets are fragile and vulnerable to the elements. That does make me squeamish as I prefer uncracked Kellogg's cards and well-trimmed Hostess cards. But, like our country, these cards are both imperfect and beautiful. In 1976, I didn't even know they existed, but they were probably the best cards that were issued in the year of our Bicentennial.
In year 241 of our country, I will rededicate my efforts toward acquiring more Kellogg's and Hostess cards from 1976. Those cards evoke happy memories of Ranger Rick magazine and unpleasant memories of shielding myself from another year of explosions.
If only I knew about those oddballs then. Armed with Ranger Rick and those red, white and blue cards, I may have actually had the courage to get out from under the bed.
(P.S.: I mentioned on Twitter that I had a good idea for a 4th of July post. Then I figured out that I've done it already).