Whew! It’s hard to get settled down after the big “Celebrate America” blowout down the highway a few days ago. Seeing all the fireworks, the games, the neighbor who hasn’t brought back the lawn edger yet.
We had the same sort of hoo-ha in my hometown every Fourth of July, and the name was pretty similar, too: “Celebrate Hidden Valley.”
Of course, you’ve probably heard of Hidden Valley. They make a lot of salad dressings there.
Hidden Valley had all kinds of summertime celebrations when
I was a kid growing up, back during what we now call the “salad days.”
In the spring, there was the Immigrant Carnival. And after the fields were planted, there was the Farewell Until The Harvest Celebration.
There were all kinds of special events during the summer, too, but the “Celebrate Hidden Valley” festival was the really big one. It kicked off with a Friday night dance that was the social event of the season.
Despite the theme — “Come as you are” — people would spend weeks planning what they were going to wear. “Come as you are” was only a suggestion, of course, because I remember one year when four cousins were arrested when they went as they were.
The strangest thing about Hidden Valley, though, was that Hidden Valley wasn’t the original name for my hometown.
Originally, the town was called Griswold, in honor of Harvey Griswold, a famous innovator from a family of politicians well-known in History, which was the name of the small town four miles away from Hidden Valley.
Griswold, of course, was the inventor who first added carrots to cole slaw. He had a very peculiar way of walking, which some older readers may recall led to the “Do the Griswold” dance craze of the early 1950s.
He was also one of Hidden Valley’s most gifted public speakers, and I can still remember one of the speeches he gave at a “Celebrate Hidden Valley” celebration when I was a child.
He talked about how his grandparents were from the Old Country, from Romaine and Parmesan, but the more he talked, the more is sounded like Greek salad to me.
Even so, his words were entrancing. He spoke of adventures near and far. And a look of wistful envy washed across many faces in the crowd as he spoke of waking up and seeing the spectacle of sunrise over the Grand Croutons.
A series of unfortunate events soured the Griswold reputation in the years that followed.
There was that scandal when Griswold was caught substituting cottage cheese for bleu cheese in a salad dressing once, and his stock in town fell dramatically after a rival political family — the Kennedys — gained fame for their invention of ranch dressing. The town went crazy over the new taste, and the place was renamed Hidden Valley in their honor.
Griswold never got over it. He abandoned his plan to create a charitable trust and cut the town completely out of his will. Much of his fortune was squandered in the final years of his life. The rest, as many know, was left to History.
Next time: Just the facts.