Mike’s Idaho 4th Of July Memories

Whenever I think about Independence Day, my most vivid and favorite memories come from when I was a kid growing up here in Idaho and how our family celebrated the 4th of July every year. I grew up on the prairie in North Central Idaho near Grangeville. Every 4th of July our family began the day by attending the breakfast at the Greencreek community center. As long as it wasn’t haying season, our whole family would take the day off and spend the entire day in Greencreek. I still remember the food served for breakfast every year….Eggs, toast hash browns and sausage patties and orange juice.

Greencreek is a small community about 5 miles outside of Cottonwood.  Only about 20 people lived in the town at the time, but the claim to fame was that Greencreek, once made Paul Harvey news, because Greencreek towns people  allegedly drank the 2nd most beer per capita in the world.

We didn’t really drink that much beer, it just seemed like it, because of our community center held weddings receptions almost every weekend all summer. This was primarily a Catholic community and there was no such thing as a dry wedding. As a matter of fact when one of my sisters got married, she had a semi-dry wedding and that meant only 2 kegs of beer. Most wedding receptions had somewhere between 5 and 20 kegs of beer depending on the size of the reception. So with only 20 people living in the town, it looked like they were drinking a whole lot of beer every week. And thanks to Paul Harvey, Greencreek was put on the map for their beer drinking prowess……And now you know the rest of the story.

Greencreek, back then consisted of a church, a garage, post office, a bar, a general store and the community center. The town was so small, that as kids we could run around and our parents didn’t worry about us getting lost or getting in trouble, because there wasn’t a lot to do.

Fireworks were also legal back then. You could buy roman candles, bottle rockets and M-80 firecrackers. I can remember many a time sitting in the church parking lot, drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette lighting fire crackers and smoke bombs with my cigarette and having bottle rocket and Roman candle fights.  Now keep in mind, that I was only 12 or 13 at the time, but the 4th of July was the one day of the year that parents didn’t seem to pay too much attention to you if you had a cigarette in your mouth, because they knew that you needed the cigarette to light your fireworks. As for the beer, well, let’s just say it was a different time back then and my parents looked the other way when it came to having an illegal cold beverage on a hot 4th of July Holiday. I’m not condoning how I celebrated the 4th of July, I am just admitting that things were way different back then.

After breakfast, the community center miraculously changed into a bingo parlor. The 4th of July Bingo game lasted until late in the afternoon, and there were chances to win some pretty cool prizes every time you got a bingo.  After Bingo it was time for the annual 4th of July games in the cow pasture next to the Community center. The games included things like, sack races, 3 legged races, egg toss, hay bale races, keg toss and a watermelon eating contest, which I excelled in by the way. The winners of each event would get a few dollars as a prize, which of course was used at the general store to buy more fireworks and cigarettes. Yes even the store cashier looked the other way when it came to selling cigarettes to minors. Like I said, it was a very different time back then.

The next day, my mom required us to turn in all our unused fireworks and cigarettes. There were never any unused fireworks, but, I really did use cigarettes to light my fireworks, and I didn’t enjoy smoking anyway, so it was no problem giving up the smokes.

It’s been many years since I attended a 4th of July celebration in Greencreek, but they still continue today and my parents and brothers and sisters and their families still attend, although there is no more minors smoking or drinking and the post office, bar and general store are long since gone. My parents actually owned the bar for a short time. They turned it into a daycare bar…as in it was a children’s day care during the day and after the kids went home, it became a bar in the evening. But that’s a story for another time.

I’ve enjoyed many different 4th of July celebrations since then, but I always remember most, the 4th of Julys spent on the prairie in Greencreek Idaho as a kid…..and it had a lot to do with how much freedom, we as kids enjoyed for that one hot summer day every year….. And after all, isn’t Freedom, what Independence Day is all about?

I hope you enjoy your 4th of July, where ever you are spending it and can only hope you make as many memories as I did as a child growing up in a small town in Idaho.

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