Photos by Chris Hardy
“Citizens. Citizens, news from Philadelphia” shouted Brian Brosnahan, the Sage of Laidley Street. He stood on his front steps, preparing to list the abuses of King George III.
“Down with the King,” sang a chorus of Fairmount Heights and Glen Park patriots, their clothes festooned with red, white and blue bunting, their hands waving Old Glory as they thronged around Brosnahan’s house on the 100 block of Laidley Street. The house was the culmination of a two-block Fourth of July parade that had begun at Fairmount Street.
“He places taxes on us without our consent,” barked Brosnahan, his tricorn hat perched jauntily atop his head. “What say you, citizens?”
“Down with the King!” thundered the 300 parade goers, their children and dogs at attention.
“He has quartered troops among us without our permission,” bellowed Brosnahan, sounding now less and less like Thomas Jefferson, the sage of Monticello, who stuttered and who was shy of audiences. “What say you, citizens?”
“Down with the King!”
“We have suffered a long train of offenses,” boomed Brosnahan. “We have petitioned for redress of our grievances………….”
“Rebel!” shouted a neighborhood minuteman, dressed in a grey T-shirt and anxious to get the oratory over with and begin the public fare of grilled hot dogs, potato chips, watermelon, cupcakes and soft drinks, all provided by Eliza Brown and the organizers of the Sixth Annual July 4th Laidley Street parade.
“…………….And when a tyrant has proven to be an unfit ruler of a free people, it is time for these colonies to become free and independent states.”
The crowd signaled their assent for the towncryer’s rhetoric.
Earlier, before Brosnahan began his elocutions and after his wife, Laurie, had led revelers in a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the parade, celebrating our 1776 break from England, began with a vintage Corvair convertible leading legions of celebrants along Laidley Street. Intermingled among them was a 12-member marching band, the St. Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band, adorned in blue T-shirts emblazoned with the logo: “May the Funk be with You!”
The band trumpeted “Yanke Doodle Dandy” as the parade inched along Laidley Street, which had been closed by order of the SFPD.
Mary Huizinga, who lives on Chenery Street, brought her dog Chester, who was adorned in a red, white and blue ribbon collar. Chester tagged along in her wake and was freshly groomed, befitting a birthday celebration of such epochal proportions.
Amanda Riccetti and her 17-year old daughter Jennifer walked in tandem, their tri-color skirts rivaling Chester’s patriotic hues.
“I only dress like this on the Fourth of July,” said Riccetti, a resident of Laidley Street for six years who operates a Montessori school. “This parade is community building, a safe way to celebrate without dangerous fireworks.”
Along side her, Jean Rocchio, a fifteen-year resident of Laidley Street, handed out miniature American flags.
“This is an old fashioned thing,” she said. “It’s a neighborhood thing, but people come from everywhere to be here.”
One of those people, Jim Forsman, who wended his way up the hill from 28th Street, has been attending the parade since its inception.
“I’m from Kingston, Washington,” he said. “This parade reminds me of there. It’s charming and done locally.” Holding an unfurled American flag in his right hand and keeping his dog safely leashed with his other, Forsman stopped to listen to the Ambassadors of American Culture, the St. Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band, begin a rendition of “The Saints Go Marching In.”
“This is about people,” said Forsman, “Hot dogs, too. What more can you ask for?”
Maybe a fire truck?
As people sat on sidewalks munching frankfurters and others circled one another conversing, a fire truck from Diamond Heights Engine Company 26 pulled up on the other side or the Harper Street cordon. A homeowner continued hosing water onto his dusty car a few feet away while kids scampered onto the red engine. Indulgent parents lent helping hands. A firefighter stood by the truck, making way for a mother to snap digital photographs, her son jungle-gyming throughout the vehicle’s Spartan interior.
Moments later, six year old Alex Roberts sat with his grandparents, Kay and Ray Roberts, who have lived on Laidley Street since 1981, where they raised their son Chris. Alex could hardly contain himself.
“They answered a fire call from Florida Street,” he told his mother, Brenda, who had just walked off with the All-American baking award for the best theme-based cake, awarded to her by Joe Schuer, owner of Destination Bakery.
In the street, the brass band segued into “America the Beautiful.”
“I’ve lived here since 1961,” said Lloyd Grotheer, a resident of Laidley Street for 50 years. “I’ve seen several generations come and go.”
As if on cue, the Roberts clan began folding up their lawn chairs that dotted the sidewalk. Founding father Ray Roberts, a retired attorney, hauled two chairs up his front steps. Chris and Brenda Roberts ushered their daughter, Catherine, 4, and Alex into their SUV. Another couple walked by, carrying a barbeque grill, which slipped from their hands and clattered to the asphalt. They righted the grill and continued back toward Fairmount Street.
“There’s no place better than here,” said Grotheer. “No place better than San Francisco.”
A few yards down the street, only yards from idyllic Harry Street, Brian Brosnahan stood talking to a friend who donned a San Francisco Giants World Championship T-shirt.
“Such a beautiful document,” he said, speaking of the Declaration of Independence and the nation it spawned. “It laid the seeds for all to see.” Only minutes before he had begun reading from that “explanation of independence,” what one patriot had called “the world’s best editorial.”
“…………We hold these truths to be self evident, “ Brosnahan spoke from the steps of his home, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Brahmin, who has lived on Laidley Street for a decade, listened to Mr. Jefferson’s persuasive words from the slopes of Fairmount Hill.
“I’m grateful to live here” he said, “and proud to be an American.”