The Fourth of July has many meanings to different people. But the one that needs to be remembered is that it represents our official freedom from the United Kingdom's rule.

For me as a child, it meant hot dogs roasted over an open fire alongside the house. The sound of the handle of the ice cream maker being turned and turned until that person yelled to get a break from cranking it. The whole family being together outside, sitting on kitchen chairs eating and laughing, while waiting for it to get dark enough to start the show.

Then the fireworks were set off on the front sidewalk by adults and us kids running around with sparklers. We also got to light those blacksnakes that grew as they glowed and then left a nasty black mark on the sidewalk.

When I got older, it was more organized with horseshoes, three-legged races, water balloon tosses, gunnysack races, running while carrying an egg on a teaspoon and other games. Picnic benches and blankets laid on the lawn at a local park were the venue then. But the day was still to honor America's birthday, and the red, white and blue flags were seen everywhere.

As an adult, I once went to a professional Fourth of July display and paid a hefty admission price to sit in the grandstands. The big problem with this show was that a wind came up and blew all the smoke from the fireworks displays right into the grandstands. Thus, we couldn't see most of the displays and choked on the smoke all night.

On our flag, red stands for the blood that was shed to gain our freedom. The white stripes represent the original 13 colonies, and they also represent purity and innocence. The blue color is for the perseverance and vigilance shown by the American people who fought so hard for our independence.

It is estimated that on July 4, 1776, 2.5 million people resided in the United States. Now that number could represent the population of just one city in many of our states.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston made up the committee that drafted our Declaration of Independence. And it was mainly written by Thomas Jefferson, who was regarded as the most eloquent writer at that time.

The term 'Put your Hancock Here,' when asking for your signature, came from the first signer of the document, John Hancock, who was the president of the Second Continental Congress. He wrote his signature with much flourish and made it the largest one on the whole document.

Just for your information, at the age of 70, Benjamin Franklin, as the representative of Pennsylvania, was the oldest one to sign.

At the age of 26, the youngest signer was Edward Rutledge, who represented South Carolina.

  • Please note that this year, for the first time ever, Pittsburg will not participate with Antioch in the Relay for Life. Pittsburg will have its own Relay for Life, to be held July 20-21.

    If you have cancer, had cancer or have a family member or friend who has experienced cancer, please join the Pittsburg Cancer Society for its Relay for Life. As a survivor myself, I can tell you that this is a very worthy cause and can use your support.

    For further information, please go to www.relayforlife.org/pittsburgca. That site will give you all the information you will need. If you don't have access to a computer, you can contact event Chairwoman Laura Calica at 925-914-0777.

    A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at carolleeolson@aol.com.