Ladyfisher

This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

July 1st, 2002

The 4th in the 40's


Norman Rockwell painting I could have sworn Norman Rockwell did a Saturday Evening Post cover which is burned in my memory. I searched the Internet for two afternoons looking for it - and if it exists I didn't find it. I was looking for a painting of a portly gentleman, white hair, dark blue uniform sitting on a chair with his tuba on an old fashioned bandstand, the victorian-type structure where town band concerts were held. Standing as close as possible was a kid, in absolute awe.

I really wanted you to see that painting (which probably only is in my mind) because it was so typical of the 4th of July event where I spent my summers growing up. That day, for little me, was full of joy and wonderment.

Norman Rockwell painting

For the 4th, the bandstand in the little park right in the middle of town, was always swathed in red, white, and blue bunting, the community band, in their crisp uniforms played nothing but John Phillip Sousa - all the best of all marches. The closing piece was the Stars and Stripes Forever. I've written about the 4th in Rogers City, Michigan before, and when I think of what is best about America, what patriotism is all about, I 'see' the 4th in Rogers City.

This was all long before politically correct, Ralph Nader and terrorist attacks. The most incorrect thing which happened in Rogers was to call the Post Master the Post Mistress! (She was a woman). That was really bad! This all took place while World War II was at it's worst.

There was a free ox roast before the band concert. The ox was cooked over a hardwood fire on a spit outside, under the stars (started the night before) and food was laid out in iced containers. You got a plate, your silverware and went through the line choosing what you wanted. When you reached the ox, a slab was sliced off and placed on a bun. Park benches were everywhere and folks visited back and forth. In the shade was a huge mysterious tan-colored wet mound. Eventually the big wet canvas tarp was removed and ice cream tubs stacked on huge blocks of ice were revealed. The kids were first in line. Men in white shirts with the sleeves rolled up scooped ice cream until dark. That's when the fireworks started down on the beach.

Going to public school in Bay City, Michigan from grade school until I graduated from high school, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer were said first hour every morning. Students from the radio/tv class lead both from the main office intercom, and it was considered an honor to do so.

Norman Rockwell painting The National Anthem was also honored. I remember standing in our living room, (yes, we stood anytime we heard it then,) right hand over my heart, listening to the National Anthem on the radio at the start of a Detroit Tigers baseball game. To do otherwise would have been an insult to our country and our flag.

At parades, men removed their hats (unless they were military) and stood quietly at attention with hand over heart as the flag passed by. Those who were military saluted the American flag as it passed. Surprising as it may seem, kids stopped whatever they were doing and also stood at attention, hands over their hearts. It simply was the right thing to do.

Norman Rockwell painting of Lincoln Delivering the Gettysburg Address

It was also required at my school, 8th grade I think, to memorize Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I wonder how many of today's students even know what it is - or why it was given. As much as I would like to turn back the clock and return America to a better time, I know I can't.

But I can encourage you and yours to read aloud the following this 4th of July, 2002. Share it with your family. Let them hear these words which helped frame the face of America.

The Gettysburg Address
Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

JC and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday - hug your family and go fish! ~ LadyFisher

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