The year was 1976. Sadly, it's an admission of age just to say that I remember back that far, for I was in college at the time. It was the nation's bicentennial. I do not have any reason to believe I will see the tricentennial, so I am glad I was old enough to see this one, and young enough to enjoy it.
Two events stand out in my mind, in relationship to the July 4th festivities taking place in and around Western Pennsylvania that year. One was the Allman Brothers Concert at the now defunct Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa. The other was the Conestoga wagons coming through the tristate area.
The most significant thing I remember about the Allman Bros. concert, back in those days when concerts were still affordable to the general public, was the light up American and Confederate flags that were flashing on and off behind the stage, one on either side.
I do not believe, as many nowadays might interpret, that the Georgia-born southern rockers were making a political statement. I doubt that anyone even looked at it that way. It was the Allman Brothers, for crying out loud. They were playing Pittsburgh, Pa., not Montgomery, Ala. Sometimes a flag is just a flag.
More impressive, in the larger scheme, was the several weeks worth of events surrounding the Conestoga wagon trains coming through the area. My friends and I dressed in period costume and accomapnied the trains, as many were doing, either on foot or on horseback. It was an amateur historical reenactment.
Before going any further, I must remind readers that, in that context, tristate area refers to the conjunction of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. I was in college before I realized that other areas of the country are also called tristate, in their own locale.
Therefore, we were an area rich in applicable history. Every area has so much of its own rich history, if you take the time to discover it, and the area where I grew up was in the shadows of much of the Eastern colonies' struggles for independence.
In any direction, you could easily visit numerous Revolutionary War, or French and Indian War, historical venues. The wagon train that celebrated the bicentennial had begun its trek in New England, gone down to Philadelphia, and was joining the Appalachian Trail for a stretch before heading into the Northwest Territory, AKA Ohio.
The only lament that I had was that, due to work obligations, I could only travel and camp with the train for a weekend. I was, however, blessed to be able to do so for that amount of time. It may have been a golden time to be a college kid. Technology had made it possible for us to be aware of, and thus participate in, such events with ease. On the other hand, technology had not yet advanced to the point where it was an obsession that, for some, interfered with meeting and greeting new friends.
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: