The Forest Hills Gardens once hosted lavish Fourth of July Festivals from morning until evening in areas including Station Square and the Tea Garden, along Greenway Terrace, and Olivia Park. This tradition was organized and sponsored by the Men’s Club of Forest Hills in 1914. Festivals were under the jurisdiction of The Fourth of July Committee until September 13, 1920, when the Celebrations Association of Forest Hills Gardens was organized.
It is time to turn the clock back a century to July 4, 1921. Opposite the Seminole Avenue clubhouse, a celebration was in full swing. A flag raising ceremony began at 10:30 AM. “Up the Greenway they marched, and then down the Green until they came to the Flag Pole – Town Criers, members of the American Legion, and distinguished citizens. The Crier, in old-time garb, called the people to attention, the Flag was raised, the Choral Club sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ and every man, woman, and child stood at attention,” read the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin. A prayer was recited by Rev. W.P.S. Landers of St. Luke’s Church. The Choral Club performed, and then pastor, Dr. David Latshaw of the Church-in-the-Gardens stated, “There is a new love for the Flag in this country since the World War. It is a symbol, standing for freedom, liberty, and justice.” He continued, “With a Flag which stands for service and sacrifice, which sometimes calls for the citizens to die for it but more often demands the harder thing, that we live for our country’s ideals, we have an inspiring symbol. May we never fail the Flag!” Attendees pledged allegiance.
The Welcome Home Committee had F. Clark Thompson present to famed sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman a testimonial designed by the notable industrial designer and illustrator Walter Dorwin Teague. It honored Weinman’s patriotism and talent in designing the WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial on Flagpole Green, which commemorates 102 community residents. The Choral Club then led the number, “America.”
Prior to The Inn Apartments (20 Continental Avenue) existed the Inn tennis courts, which is where the “Inns” were defeated by the “Outs” unanimously. E.H. Conway, Captain of the Inns, chaired the committee. The tournament consisted of three sets of singles, where Stewart Gayness won over Raymond Bell, Dr. Davenport, Jr over William Dunklin, and Charles Orr over Fred Koschwitz. For the doubles, Gayness and Jack Ortgies defeated Dunklin and Bell, and Davenport and Orr defeated Koschwitz and Albert Wright, Jr.
Children had a ball as resident Fred Andrew Stone, a vaudeville star, circus performer, and Broadway and film actor performed, along with his friends. Stunts were underway with a lasso, and Fred cracked a whip that was seemingly full of firecrackers. A traditional “Punch and Judy” puppet show followed. Adults participated in various contests, where gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded. The program featured a leap frog race, the Affinity Race, and a wheelbarrow race.
The Hon. Job Hedges, a producer of epigrams and an after-dinner orator, delivered an Independence Day address in Station Square, which was considered a stimulating call to the higher ideals of citizenship, an unflinching application of the test of common sense to many political catchphrases, and an appeal for political honesty and lofty idealism.
As the afternoon was underway, attendees participated in a grand circus parade throughout Forest Hills, which was accompanied by a forty-piece regimental band. Then a circus in regulation ring featured vaudeville and acrobatic troupes.
A total of one hundred servicemen were invited as special guests of Forest Hills. As a result of the American Red Cross’ Forest Hills branch’s role, wounded veterans were entertained on the north, in addition to within Forest Hills Gardens. Chair Mrs. Lawrence Abbott of the Lest We Forget Committee wrote, “When the men assembled at Deepdene Road and Underwood Road after the play, it was a delight to see their happy faces. None of them seemed unduly tired and all expressed themselves as having had a great time. They all were courteous and profuse in their thanks on leaving. Each man was given a box supper, a box of candy and a ticket entitling him at some future day to get a supper at the Service Club and go to a movie show.”
Olivia Park, a natural amphitheater, became center stage for “The Flying Door Mat,” a masque by Ralph Renaud for the Gardens Players. All age groups found it entertaining, as it featured a man-eating mosquito among its characters. Jewel Aldrich and Lyla Wilson sang from the elevations of the park, “We are the voices that call you into delight out of the arms of care.” The play included dances; a Morris dance, a Greek dance, and a Russian rhapsody, arranged by the well-known Louis H. Chalif, where students contributed seven divertissements pertaining to a sylvan setting.
A regimental band concert took place in the evening. Guests began dancing and observed dancefloor stunts in a dance pavilion. The publication read, “Myriads of soft yellow lights mingled with the red, white, and blue bulbs and hundreds of flags festooned from the poles, with the large yellow standards bearing the insignia of Forest Hills Gardens, at each one of the four corners of the Square, the scene presented was one never to be forgotten.” The Celebrations Association purchased 150 US Navy signals and 50 US Flags. It continued, “The Station Square was a fairyland at night when young (7 to 9 PM) and older danced to their hearts’ content (until 1 AM). It was a day of joy and pride, thanks to the public-spirited people of the town, who worked and gave generously to make it so.” The Choral Club presented patriotic music with leader Bruno Huhn and Mrs. Charles Scammell on piano, with bell-like vocals by Jewel Aldrich.