For Me the Fourth of July Echoes With Memories of My Dad and John Philip Sousa Marches

2 Jul

“Get up, get going, you are wasting the best part of the day,” my father would say early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. As teenagers all we wanted to do was sleep in on the weekends. But my Dad often had other ideas. He had chores he wanted us to do. If the talking did not work, he would play his favorite John Philip Sousa marches to wake us up. Heck, he would play marches all the time. He loved his Sousa marches.

I think we were the only children in North Bergen and the world who did their chores to John Philip Sousa marches. I can still see us lining up as a joke with mops and brooms marching around our house while the music blared. We would try to clean in time to the music. Well I would: vacuuming in time, dusting in time, ironing in time.

Dad loved his Sousa. Whenever I hear a march, I get the urge to clean. But I am able to resist. However, I do think of my Dad and his Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops collection (RCA Victor Label) of John Phillip Sousa marches. I can still hear “Stars and Stripes Forever” on an endless loop in my mind. But Dad had an entire collection of the Sousa marches. And we learned them all!

Needless to say, the Fourth of July was Dad’s favorite holiday. Those Sousa records would come out days before the Fourth as Dad prepared. You know my Dad could not sing at all. He tried, but he had no sense of pitch when he sang. But he would conduct along with the music, swinging his arms as if he was really in charge. I can remember seeing such joy on his face while he listened to the music.

His second favorite march was “Hail to the Chief.” Played whenever the President of the United States enters a room, with first the “Ruffles and Flourishes” introduction, “Hail to the Chief” made my Dad happy. In our house, he was the chief. And when he played that song he was letting us know who was boss. He would talk about his dream of one day having the song played for him.

And it happened. Dad served as president of his synagogue for 11 years. At a dinner honoring him, I mentioned his love of this song and his love of Sousa,   and his dream of hearing it played for him one day. When he came up to do his speech, the dance band spontaneously played “Hail to the Chief” in his honor. My Dad welled up with tears. He really was the President and he felt so honored.   I think my Mom, my siblings, our spouses and the two grandchildren there also cried out of pride and joy for Dad.

Dad did not only play his music on cleaning days. He brought his Sousa collection up to the Catskills. Since we had a very private four acres of land, he was able to play his Sousa as loud as he liked. And he liked to blast it out. I still have the sound of those brass instruments echoing in my mind.

And the times he got to see  any orchestra that played the marches live…Oh my!  That was the best for my Dad. Hearing the music live was even better than records or CDs. But I will say, his Arthur Fiedler records were his favorites.

When I think of his love of Sousa marches, I must also say that he loved the sight of a bald eagle.   Imagine my Dad, a proud veteran wearing an eagle or an American flag t-shirt, listening to John Philip Sousa marches on a relaxing weekend in the Catskills. Well he was relaxed, we were all wound up with the resounding booming music of Sousa.

Sousa wrote music for over 50 years! So there are quite a few marches to listen to over a weekend. He actually wrote almost 140 marches. And my siblings and I probably heard all of them at one time or another.

Among my favorites are the “Semper Fidelis March” written for the U.S. Marine Corps; “The Thunderer,” and the “U.S. Field Artillery,” which is the march for the US Army. (Sousa actually revised this melody, which was written by someone else.) Dad would ‘sing’ along with this last one, because it is the music to “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” As a proud army veteran, he loved to sing this song.

For me the joys of the Fourth of July are not just the picnics, bar-b-ques,  the fireworks and the celebration of our country. For me  it is also time to listen to John Philip Sousa marches and remember my Dad.



Arthur Fiedler and Boston Pops “Stars and Stripes Forever’:

Marine Band plays “Hail to the Chief.” :

John Philip Sousa’s Marine Band playing “Semper Fidelis March”:

US Army Band plays, “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”:


2 Responses to “For Me the Fourth of July Echoes With Memories of My Dad and John Philip Sousa Marches”

  1. Susan July 8, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Loved your story, Ellen! What a wonderful memory of your dad. I think I remember the music the weekend I spent in the Catskills with you in “77!

    • zicharon July 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

      He loved his music. He also played Gershwin, classical music and show tunes. But his John Philip Sousa was his favorite. 🙂

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