I hear they are changing the name of Ely Field (pronounced ee-lee, for you who are non-Lambertvillians) to Ely Park. That’s fine with me. At least no disrespect is meant to the Ely family, who gave the land to the city to be used for recreational purposes. Not like what happened to Walkup’s Woods.

Walkup’s Woods (also named for the family that donated the land) was what the town park was called in Crystal Lake, Illinois, when I was a child there. It was a huge natural amphitheater with a copse of trees in the middle, the perfect place for a Fourth of July fireworks display. Everyone brought blankets and spread them on the grassy slope. The more daring ones sat closer to the bottom, where the noise and the action were most intense. We all brought snacks and drinks.

I have no recollection of anyone’s dog freaking out because of the firework noise. There weren’t a lot of dogs in town, that I remember. We all had cats, and of course we left them at home.

The ones who actually freaked out were WWII veterans.

It seems that one year the organizers of the fireworks arranged a special display in the copse of trees, white flashes and loud bangs simulating a real firefight. Everyone said it was just like a real firefight, including the men who had seen a few. It went on for what seemed like ages. Then we had the colored fireworks that flew up in the air and were pretty, but by that time all the people with PTSD had been well and truly triggered. I think they went home and took aspirin or drank whiskey, or whatever you do for that, even before the good fireworks started.

Shortly afterward the city fathers, noticing that all the Walkups were dead and gone, decided to change the name of the park. They ran a contest for the best name. When the contest was over Walkup’s Woods was changed to Veteran’s Acres, rather unpoetically, I thought.

The Walkups were forgotten. The simulated firefight was never again produced.