A few days ago, my sister who lives in Austin, called to firm up our Fourth of July plans. For many years, she and her daughters, now teenagers, have spent the holiday in Galveston. It’s a tradition. Fourth of July is usually a day at the beach, feasting on good barbecue and culminating with the city of Galveston’s fireworks show.
I detected a faint gasp when I broke the news the city had canceled the show over pandemic fears. She understood. Still, COVID was messing with another tradition, another memory and it was getting old.
We immediately began reminiscing about Fourth of Julys past — my father at the grill, making burgers while we floated around the pool, a cold Fresca in reach.
My sister still plans to spend Fourth of July in Galveston and we still plan to celebrate, but in a revolutionary retro way. In a salute to the past, we’ll grill burgers and persuade my nieces to try Fresca, which launched a comeback few years ago, or attempted to, anyway.
We probably don’t need psychologists to tell us that during crises, we all tend to lean into nostalgia. Consider this from a 2009 New York Times article: “As the recession continues taking its toll, marketers are trying to tap into fond memories to help sell what few products shoppers are still buying. The time-machine tactics are primarily evoking four decades — the 1950s through the 1980s.”
Nostalgia, whether for the games we played, food we ate or music we enjoyed in happy times, isn’t just for people of a certain age. A few years ago, nostalgia-based campaigns began resonating with the millennial audiences, which brought us the resurgence of “Pokémon Go,” among other phenomenons of the 1990s.
Our cover photo for this issue evokes Surfin’ USA beach days of the 1960s. While we were reviewing cover photos, Coast Monthly Design Editor Melissa Rivera pointed out the sky resembles those retro, multi-colored bomb pops that James S. Merritt and D.S. Abernethy invented in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 30, 1955.
We had on our hands a postcard from the past.
Inside this issue, you’ll find a vintage Fourth of July spread from venerable old Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks and some backstory on the ’62 VW Beetle gracing the cover.
Marketers tell us we’re all seeking simpler times and that’s true, but complicated. Historians will rightly argue the 1960s and 1970s weren’t simple at all. American democracy always has been beautifully messy.
A more likely explanation is that when we can’t plan for the future, we revert to the past.
As we flip the burgers and try out old and new recipes this year — Alicia Cahill’s Blueberry Galette in this issue definitely will grace our table — my sister and I will celebrate U.S. Independence and the fortune of living in this nation. And we’ll make new memories for which one day we’ll be nostalgic, I’m sure.