By David Rogers. July 7, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — It was a parade entry that overshadowed all others in Blowing Rock on Saturday, even if many among the teeming throng crowding Main Street were too young to fully appreciate the moment.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Gnarled hands waved in acknowledgment of the crowd’s cheers, but what memories must have churned inside the heads of the Appalachian High Country World War II Veterans. Most were in their late teens and early 20s in 1941 and 1942, when the U.S. was thrust into war first against Japan in the Pacific, then against Germany and Italy in Europe. The innocence of their youth was disrupted by an American military response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and an Adolf Hitler-led Germany’s aggression in Europe, including against U.S. economic interests.
They wave, but they also remember experiences of what the cheering crowd must never know.
World War II was the deadliest of all conflicts in human history. It was marked by more than 50 million fatalities, mostly civilians in China and what was then called the Soviet Union. There were massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, premeditated death by starvation, strategic bombing and, of course, the only two uses of nuclear weapons in war.
Once youths, these 90-somethings survived WWII and returned to lives as husbands and fathers, dedicated employees or entrepreneurial business owners. But like with others described by Tom Brokaw as members of “The Greatest Generation,” the scars of growing up during the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and being thrust into theatres of a great global war are etched in the wrinkles on their proud visages. They wave, but they also remember experiences of what the cheering crowd must never know.
As it has in every year, Blowing Rock’s 4th of July Parade (held on July 7th this year) reflected all of the goodness of Americana. Being an election year, the incumbents and candidates for state senator, house representative, county commissioner and clerk of court, among others were all in attendance. Businesses used the occasion to advertise themselves while celebrating a system of governance permitting a market-driven economy that allows them to be successful. Neighborhoods and subdivisions marched and rode down Main Street, rejoicing in the quality of life in their little corner of the High Country. Dance troupes clogged their way into the hearts of spectators and young baseball all-stars basked in the adoration of well-wishers for their accomplishments.
A macabre sense of humor indeed…
There were curious moments, even paradoxes. For a 4th of July parade celebrating America’s 242 years of declared independence from England, it struck many people as hilarious that the Queen, Prince Harry and Prince William were in town, celebrating, even if faux appearances. A macabre sense of humor indeed, those men and women holding the masquerade ball-style masks tightly against their faces to obscure their true identities lest they be called a Benedict Arnold.
For an America that until recent years reveled in its ethnic diversity, it was fitting that this year’s parade included a melting pot of Triumph, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, and Lamborghini among the Cadillacs, Fords and Chevys.
We didn’t see Elvis, but we saw a car bearing his name on a license plate. Near the end, there was a vintage Blowing Rock fire truck, a bell being loudly rung by a hand-pulled rope. Close behind was a NEWER fire truck serving to remind all that, in spite of itself, Blowing Rock’s history is steeped in change.
Surely that sign was splashed by a few tears as she was crafting it.
Perhaps the most poignant, bittersweet parade entry entertained up and down Main Street, from beginning to end. A former member of the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners, Bobbie Ball has served as the unofficial “town clown” for both the 4th of July and Christmas parades for a reported 28 years. Face meticulously painted and sporting a big red nose, including a flower sprouting from her hat, Ball has ridden her bicycle up and down the street to the delight and fascination of thousands of munchkins over the years. This year, her bicycle sported a sign that you just know had to have been splashed with a few tears as she crafted it, “My Last Parade.”
Morning rains threatened to put a damper on things, but the weather cleared just in time. The crowds seemed to pour out of every nook and cranny of Blowing Rock, not just lining the street, but pushing well onto the roadway, from both sides.
This year’s parade took a little longer than usual. Parade entry drivers thankfully crept along, ever watchful for young kids escaping the clutches of their parents’ hands to jump out and seize yet another piece of candy.
It was yet again another Blowing Rock parade of which Norman Rockwell would be proud.