I grew up to the Paur family at 14th and College, and they were famous for their 4th of July parties. As a child, I watched their preparations with awe. There were so many people cooking and setting things up in the back yard and the garage getting ready for the 4th of July parade that it was all I could do to stay out from underfoot.
The side of the Paurs’ house and back yard ran along 14th Street, so it was an ideal place to see the 4th of July parade in Racine. People in Racine take the parade very seriously, staking out places along the route on Main Street the night before with blankets and yard furniture.
The Paurs’ garage faced 14th Street, and they always had the door open during the parade. There were tubs of ice with bottles of soda and bottles of beer. Everyone was invited to have some soda (for kids) and beer (for grownups). The kids always looked at the beer but I don’t remember anyone trying to take any.
The parade route started (still does) at the intersection of Goold and Main Streets. It went South all the way down Main Street to where Main turns onto 14th Street, then continued down 14th to the SC Johnson campus. The parade ended in the SC Johnson parking lot. It went past residential neighborhoods, parks, schools, and the entire length of Downtown Racine. The Paur house was located one block after the parade turned down 14th Street. Throughout my childhood, that parade was always known as the largest 4th of July parade in the Midwest. It included everything from politicians and beauty pageant winners to marching bands from all over the US to elaborate floats to community dance groups cheer squads showing off their moves.
The parade started at 9:00am, but don’t forget the importance of the “pre-parade”! The pre-parade started at 8:45am. It included fire trucks and equipment that represented fire departments from Racine and surrounding communities as well as some military vehicles from local posts.
I remember sitting in my lawn chair waiting, what seemed like forever for a child, for that parade to finally reach the Paur house near the end of the parade route.
Remember the giant smoked salmon they’d always have laid out for the 4th? It would be the entire fish, head and all, and you’d be scooping out meat from its side on a cracker. Freaked me out a little as a kid.