“As a matter of fact, we met each other on the Fourth of July,” said Dan Reade, about his first encounter with his wife and fellow Independence Fourth of July grand marshal, Kelly Reade. “We met at 7-11 on the Fourth of July 40 years ago,” Kelly added.
They spent that July 4, 1973 shooting fireworks off over San Dimas Reservoir. Kelly grew up in Southern California, while Dan’s family moved there after a childhood in Courtland, Calif. When their children got to third and seventh grade, they were looking to relocate. “I was raised in a small town,” Dan said. “I missed that so bad.”
Before leaving for an Owens Valley vacation 22 years ago, Dan told his supervisor at Stater Brothers that he was going to find another job, that they wanted to get out of L.A. “Good luck,” his supervisor said.
They stopped in to a sporting goods store in Lone Pine for an inflatable mattress. Danny Harris, the owner, said to get up to Mairs Market, that they desperately needed a butcher.
After a night at Lone Pine Campground, they stopped in. “I walked up to Billy Mairs,” Dan recalled, “and I said, ‘I’m looking for Billy Mairs.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ And I go, ‘Well, I hear you’re looking for a butcher.’ And his jaw dropped. And he goes, ‘You’re kidding me.’ And I go, ‘No. Is there a problem? If you’re not looking for a butcher …’ And he goes, ‘No. I was just standing out on the sidewalk 10 minutes ago going, ‘God, please bring me a butcher. Can you please bring me a butcher?’ I go, ‘Well here I am. I can walk in here right now.’ So I fixed his meat case all up for him, and he paid me for the day, and then we went on our way up to Big Pine.”
The family continued on their camping trip and then came back through Independence, where Billy hired Dan. Dan gave notice down south, and they sold their house. “We’ve been here ever since,” Dan, who’s since become the butcher for Joseph’s Bi-Rite in Lone Pine, said.
Kelly interviewed with Inyo County, and won work as a temporary and then permanent staff member, landing in the personnel department within the year. “It’s a fun job,” she said. “I get to work with people. I have a short commute. You get up and you walk across the street, especially in the fall when people are starting to burn the wood stoves, and it’s almost like being on vacation.”
The two quickly became involved in community life. “When we got here, we got active in the school,” Kelly remembered. Their daughter was in Girl Scouts and their son was in Boy Scouts, which pulled them into Christmas Eve festivities at the Independence courthouse. Kelly and Dan are also part of a group of volunteers that took over the Fishing Derby from the Chamber of Commerce several years ago.
The couple’s involvement with the Fourth of July in Independence took off shortly after they moved to town, when the Drew family decided to end their decades-long responsibility for the barbecue pit. “That thing’s been there close to a hundred years, is my guess,” Dan said of the pit. “That pit is about six feet deep, three feet wide and eight feet long. It’s brick-lined all the way around. We get about two cords of wood. You light it about seven o’clock at night, then you feed it until about midnight, then you rake the coals back and forth until you’ve got an even heat all the way across.” The crew then soaks the burlap bags filled with meat, drops them in the pit, closes the lids, and buries it overnight. This year, they’ll cook about 400 pounds of meat, wrapped and seasoned by the “meat crew” a few days prior. “When you uncover it,” Dan finished, “a little bit of steam comes up, the coals are completely out, and the meat is hot.”
This July, their son Nathan will take over the job. He’s ready, according to his parents. “All the kids have always helped,” Kelly said. In addition to their son Nathan and his wife Riannah, they have a daughter, Hayley, her husband Donny, and two grandsons, Julian and Noah, living in Independence. Dan’s ready, too. “Now I’m going to be the old man sitting back, going ‘do this, do that,’” he claimed.
“Everybody comes home,” Kelly said of Independence Day. “It’s like a family time. You see the kids who grew up and are gone, and they come back on the Fourth. You either see them on the Fourth of July or you see them Christmas Eve with their kids at the courthouse waiting to see Santa. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun.”
About being grand marshals, Kelly repeated something she feels strongly about. “It is an honor that they thought of us,” she said, because there are so many people in town who contribute. The Fishing Derby, Christmas Eve, July Fourth – they’re all group efforts, according to Kelly. And look at the school board, boosters, Civic Club, Friends of the Hatchery, coaches, the fire department and other organizations in town, she and Dan continued.
“Everybody does their part,” she concluded. “We do what we do, and it’s not a lot. It’s just part of living in a small town.”