I have what I consider to be a pretty patriotic family. Mom insisted that we put up our Old Glory on Memorial Day and it will most likely festoon the old homestead at Sunset Drive until Labor Day. It’s a tradition, as her father, my “Pappy” flew an American flag at his house every day.
It was by the fence, next to the street at the foot of his back stairs. It is a part of the background of my life. He was unabashedly a patriot and wanted all the neighbors to know. I remember the day it needed to be replaced and I got a civics lesson on the proper disposal of a retired American flag.
That was just one of many civics lessons I would learn at the foot of my grandfather. He made me learn the state capitals (all of them) before I was eight and I knew more than I could really comprehend about the “Big War” before it ever came into school curriculum.
Pappy, born in 1905, had the misfortune, to hear him tell it, to be too young for World War I and too fathered-up for World War II. But he did not let that fact deter him from doing his part for “the effort.”
My mom was just a little girl at the height of World War II, but she remembers it as being not a time of fear or trepidation, but a time of unity, togetherness and a bit of excitement.
Pappy was a neighborhood air raid warden. Mom recalls getting the call that “Charlotte is dark,” and Pappy going into action. The drill was on, sirens were blared and all the lights went out, lest the enemy be able to find its target in the northern part of the Queen City, where my grandparents lived. Everyone was commanded to be silent.
My grandparents had special blackout shades for their house so that limited light could still be used in the process of the drill. Pappy would roam the neighborhood looking for violators of the dark and quiet practice that I am sure they believed would one day save their lives. I have no clue what the punishment was for infractions, but I am sure the guilt alone would have been sufficient.
In this day of unmanned airplanes and precision missiles, the air raid drill seems a little quaint now. But in those days, it was deadly serious, I bet.
My Pappy took the tires off his car and put the family transportation on blocks, as both rubber and gasoline where rationed and preserved for our boys “over there.”
My mom recalls planting a Victory Garden and going to the train station and bringing soldiers and sailors home for dinner. It was just what you did and took pride in it.
Pappy was very conservative and we believed that Archie Bunker was a Yankee version of James Brown McCall. He didn’t like FDR, but kept a small statue of Douglas McArthur, complete with corncob pipe and sunglasses, on a bookshelf. I guess he didn’t have much use for Harry Truman either, come to think of it.
But he loved his country with a fierceness that you don’t see much today. To not support the war effort would have been an abomination and I can only shudder to think what he would think of our country today.
All of this to explain why I remain optimistic about our nation, regardless of how the political winds of war blow. We have come through so many hard times in our 236 years … wars, economic depression, epidemics like polio and tuberculosis.
And we’re still here and I believe, that if we hang together, we will prevail. Pessimism about the state of our nation is tantamount to surrender and I assure you, Pappy would have had none of it.
So, on this 236th anniversary of the founding of our great nation, let’s remember what is really important. Our freedom to speak our minds without fear of government reprisal, the ability to worship as we please, our right to justice and yes, even our right to own weapons for the protection of our property. And the list goes on. We are so truly blessed.
Have a safe and happy Independence Day. Fly your flag and be grateful.
My Pappy would be so proud.