Concord Observer: Patriots Day, past and future

May 6, 2024

By Ken Anderson Columnist 

When I was a boy, the holiday was celebrated on April 19, and we called it April 19th. Later, it fell victim to the celebration of holidays on the nearest Monday, so that is when we celebrate Patriots Day. 

In the early years of my company, my office was on the second floor of the building that now houses Main Street Markets. I had not given any thought to giving my employees that day off until the first year that our work was interrupted by the parade.

We enjoyed the parade and it became a regular holiday, even after we moved to Damon Mill Square in West Concord.  

Patriots Day meant, in order: the Battery firing their cannons at dawn, the opening of fishing season (at dawn), the parade, and families. 

Even when my father was in the Battery, we were startled by the roar of the cannons and their echo across town.

The author’s father, William Wheeler Anderson, center, with the Concord Independent Battery. Photo courtesy of Ken Anderson

Some mornings, we went to the sunrise salute. Other mornings, as members of a Battery family, my brother and I “fell out” with the Battery. We served as powder monkeys who brought bags of gunpowder to each cannon.

After the early ceremony and before the parade, the Battery retired to the stables near Riverdale Road to organize the horses and caissons and warm themselves with steaming cups of coffee.

Fishing — and friends

Fishing season: I rarely caught anything except the thrill of fishing as soon as it was legal. Some of us fished the Mill Brook, while other friends went to Walden Pond and White (not White’s) Pond. They usually did better than we did, although they didn’t get the chance to explore the brook as it went under the town.  

The day brought out generations of families that lived in the town during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The Battery had members of the Macone, Smith, and Wheeler families, among others. 

Anderson’s wife, Lynda, and Tim Warren viewing the parade from atop a ladder on the library lawn. Photo courtesy of Ken Anderson

My uncle held court in front of Anderson’s Market. Recognizable faces with forgotten names peppered the crowds. Many of our police officers were ex-Concord High School football players who lived in town.  

Early in our lives, we marched in the parade (as scouts, likely). Later, some friends, town officials and luminaries, as well as the Battery, were in the parade. 

I especially looked forward to the parade because of the old friends who were there: Harold Goranson, Van Doty, John Boynton, Maryann Campbell, Cheryl and Debby Rush, Elaine Thompson, and Ginger Dee, to name a few. In later years, we could show off our kids to each other.

(Patriotic) partying

In 1975, the 200th anniversary of Patriots Day, a massive celebration was planned. 

While it might be hyperbole to say the town shut down to the hordes massed at the border, people who did not reside here had to demonstrate some connection to Concord to get into and sample the flavor of our celebration. 

Spectators took to the trees to view the 1975 commemoration. Photo courtesy of Ken Anderson

The town was electric. The Patriots Day ball was packed, with a dance floor at a venue on Emerson Playground. The Center was like the midway of a beach town, with people streaming through all day and all through the night. The parade was serpentine and seemed to go on forever.

As we approach another half-millennial celebration of Patriots Day in 2025, I am inclined to consider the difference half a century can make. 

The author in 1975. Photo courtesy of Ken Anderson

 In 1975, I was approaching my 29th birthday, newly married, renting an apartment in Watertown, and embarking on my dream career as an actuary. We were optimistic, young, and ready to party on the biggest Patriots Day of our lives, and the future seemed unlimited. 

On the eve of 2025, facing the most important election of our lifetimes, I am hopeful that we are free to celebrate Patriots Day 2025 with as much enthusiasm and vitality as we did in 1975, now with our three children and seven grandchildren — a family we didn’t imagine as we walked through town in 1975 at sunrise.