The June 6, 1914 edition of the Mendocino Beacon announced that Mendocino would celebrate the Fourth of July for the first time since 1908. Those interested in contributing to the town’s plans were invited to attend a meeting that Wednesday at the Bank of Commerce (today’s Out of This World), on the corner of Main and Kasten Streets. Subsequent Beacons published plans for a two-day “clean” Fourth of July celebration: an “old time” [their words!] party to which all would be invited and in which all could participate. 

Crowd posing for photo on platform

Grindle Park July 4th celebration in 1914. Photo by Wood’s Studio, Fort Bragg.

What they meant by “clean” no doubt had much to do with the fact that in 1909 Mendocino had voted (narrowly) to “go dry.” Previous to that, ever since the U.S. Congress made Independence Day a federal holiday in 1870, Mendocino’s celebrations had hewed more to the grand Yankee Doodle Dandy tradition of eating, drinking, parading, and blowing things up. 

The new “clean” (and presumably sober) festivities started with a Ball on Friday, July 3, followed by a midnight chicken supper. The next day a picnic featuring roasted meat, potatoes and hot coffee would sustain the populace. Dancing on a newly built platform would begin after the pie and ice cream eating contests. The band featured throughout the two-day celebration was the apparently well-known “N.S.G.W. Band.” Its musicians were, we assume, members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, the fraternal organization founded in 1875 to preserve and document California’s historic places and structures. That some members had musical talents is not well-known, but not surprising.

Sporting events and contests would occupy the morning of the big day. Many of the races were held on Main Street opposite the fire engine house (originally on the south side of the street). These included a 50-yard dash for boys age 15 and under, with the same for girls; a 100-yard dash “free for all”; another for a distance of 220 yards; an obstacle race, sack race, centipede race, three-legged race, egg race for girls, fat men’s race, wheelbarrow race, and relay race. Contestants had to bring their own wheelbarrows for the wheelbarrow race. 

Nothing was written to indicate the criteria for entering the fat men’s race, so apparently that was a personal decision. The nature of the centipede race was revealed in a later issue of the paper, when the names of team members taking 1st and 2nd place wins were printed: there were five on a team. Of course, there was a greased pig contest, with the 75-pound pig supplied by Mr. Chris Ottoson of Comptche. The pig was raised on acorns and said to be “a lively critter.” 

There was to be no parade, but rather, everyone would follow the N.S.G.W. Band up from “the lot” at Main and Howard Streets (probably the east side of what is now Rotary Park) to the area cleared for the picnic and dance. This would be after the morning’s baseball game between the Albion Tigers and players recruited from Mendocino.

The outdoor dance took place in what later became Grindle Park, donated to the town as a public space by Joshua Grindle. The land was located in the Hills Tract. The dance required a floor so work on the platform began June 28. Perley Maxwell, Frank Mathews and John Triguerio took on the responsibility for its construction. The resulting dance floor measured 40 by 80 feet.  

The night would be capped off with a confetti battle. Participants were advised, “Be sure and load yourselves up with confetti and serpentine to fill the air with bright colors.” Originally, dry-compounded gun powder was known as “Serpentine” and was used, among other things, as a propellant in pyrotechnics, a grand Fourth of July tradition. They were further urged to “Turn yourselves loose and have a good time. Go to it!” (Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive, but still one wonders at “Go to it!”) 

This year, go to it on the 4th at the Kelley House lawn party, which offers the best parade viewing spots. DJ SlySir will spin your favorite dance music while you enjoy margaritas, wine and beer, plus non-alcoholic options and popcorn. Burgers and more will be available from the Alley Grill food truck. Admission is FREE, though we appreciate all donations! Thank you to our generous sponsors North Coast Brewing Company and Harvest Market.