Is Our Past Our Future?

Perhaps nothing destroys a political system more quickly and efficiently than paranoia. The situation can be grave enough when one party to a quarrel believes the worst of the other, when it pictures its opponents as conspirators. But when both sides see the other as ruthless, treacherous, and unwilling to abide by the rules, then all room for compromise disappears.

These words were written by author T. J. Stiles, but not about today’s America. They appear in Stiles’ award-winning, 2002 biography, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War.

Stiles’ theme is that one cannot know Jesse James without having a thorough understanding of the immediate time and place in which he lived, which in Jesse’s case, means not just in Missouri, but in Clay County, Missouri, a jurisdiction almost bordering Kansas. When his older brother, Frank, rode off to fight alongside other secessionist Missourians in the spring of 1861, Jesse was 13 years old, and Clay Countians had already been fighting Kansas Jayhawkers on and off for seven years. The social dynamics of Missouri were complex to say the least with cosmopolitan St. Louis in the east and “Little Dixie” running along the Missouri River which bisects the state. It wasn’t just a matter of slave-holders versus abolitionists; indeed, more than a few slave owners believed that it was the Union who would best preserve slavery.

This post is not meant to be a book review, but at least a thimble full of the above background is helpful, because our social dynamic is also quite complex, and the quoted lead paragraph does apply to the United States today.

So:

Have we arrived today where Missourians arrived in 1861? Has all room for compromise disappeared? If so, what are you going to do about it?

One final thought: Stiles points out that as 1862 dawned, there was no middle ground. Those who tried to stand that ground were consumed by both sides.

Food for thought that is hard to digest.

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Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo

Today’s entry is a story of discovery, although it’s possible that I’m the last person to discover this particular discovery, namely, the song, “Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo.”

I often listen to 1940s Radio, a wonderful Internet station broadcasting commercial free from Great Britain that plays music from the 1920s through the early 1950s with a special emphasis on swing. 1940s Radio loves the American classics, but also—as one would expect—plays plenty of British music from that period. The other night, “Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo” came floating across the Internet pond and into my ears for the first time.

In a sweat to learn all about this song, I turned to YouTube and there, much to my surprise, were 13 different videos all featuring this tune, which was originally released in 1955 by one Alma Cogan. Who was she? (Or am I the only one who has never heard of her before as well?) According to her Wikipedia page she “was an English singer of traditional pop music in the 1950s and early 1960s. Dubbed the ‘Girl with the Giggle in Her Voice,’ she was the highest paid British female entertainer of her era.” She charted a huge number of records in Britain many of which were covers of American female singers such as Rosemary Clooney. “Never Tango With an Eskimo” reached #7 on the U. K. singles chart, by the way.

I would love to know what inspired writer Tommie Connor to pen such a fun ditty, and you DO know Tommie Connor, though probably not by name. Connor is the author of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Clearly, the man had an impish sense of humor. (No doubt there is some busybody out there right now ready to be offended by the use of the term Eskimo or for that matter, offended that some Brit with a penchant for penning odes to an affair between a housewife and a mythical gift-giving being, culturally appropriated the tango in an effort to, of all things, make people smile. If such people would kindly book passage on a rocket and launch themselves into space, many of us would contribute towards the cost of the ticket. But I digress.)

There are videos of Alma singing “Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo,” but I have chosen a dance video from a 2013 episode of the British television show Strictly Come Dancing for your enjoyment. The song is played in its entirety, and the dancing is sure to bring a smile to your face. Let’s be about the smiles.

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Sophie Tucker

When last we spoke in this blog, I stated that I would return to the subject of Sophie Tucker. As I had mentioned, Sophie had been arrested for singing bawdy dance songs such as “The Grizzly Bear” and the “Angle Wiggle Worm,” and any dance that draws the disdain of the class of people known as “dance masters,” always piques my interest. I remember hearing about Sophie Tucker since I was a child—Sophie died in 1966 at age 80, so our lives overlapped by 9 years—but I had no idea really who she was. Turns out, she was something, indeed.

She was Mae West before there was a Mae West. She sang bawdy songs, a phenomenon that today we would label as “empowering female sexuality.”  (We like to append serious sociological labels on such things these days, apparently in an attempt to squeeze every last drop of joy from the thing, but I digress.) I get the distinct impression that Sophie sang such songs because they were fun and funny, but with the understanding that “funny” often contains truth expressed with a smile. The lyrics were direct, but not explicit as are today’s lyrics which sound more like instructions on how to insert Tab A into Slot B, which come to think of it, is a great title for a Sophie Tucker song.

Most famously, Sophie came to be billed as “the last of the red hot mamas” having recorded “Red Hot Mama” in 1924 and “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas” in 1929. This latter song is particularly hilarious and I would invite you to click on this link for the full lyrics. Here is a sample:

Now it may be snowing,

But when I get going,

Oh baby, I’m hot!

You can keep your collegiate charmers,

Their lovin’ isn’t worth a dime!

Away up in Alaska where the natives freeze,

An Eskimo left my hut in his BVD’s!

Sophie loved her fans and regularly sent personal notes inviting them to shows. She also corresponded with many GI’s during World War II. By all accounts, she was a very warm person—one might say that she was not only a red-hot mama, but a red-hot friend as well.

Sophie was a large woman, who thought nothing of her size. “I Don’t Want to Get Thin” from 1929 is one of her recordings, which also include “Life Begins at Forty” from 1947. The themes expressed in these songs might strike us as rather “modern,” but they are simply a reflection of a person who was happy to be who she was and didn’t question it. One is tempted to say that Sophie Tucker was ahead of her time, but it is more accurate to say that she was timeless.

If you enjoy stories about larger-than-life people, then you should get to know Sophie further. Visit the Sophie Tucker website and also watch the 2014 documentary, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, which is detailed on the website and available on Netflix and YouTube.

With that, I leave you with this, a typical Sophie Tucker song, sure to bring a smile.

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The Devil on the Dance Floor Once More

The folks who lived 100 years ago, at least the ones who considered themselves keepers of the community standards, cast a very disapproving eye on dancing. In a January entry of this blog, I noted that the Winchester Star ran a clipping in their “Out of the Past” feature from January 17, 1920 in which the dance masters of America had grown apoplectic over dances such as the “half-Nelson, body hold, and shimmy lock.” In July of 2019, I discussed the commandant of the Virginia Military Institute’s warning to his charges not to bring any “unidentified girls” on campus for the final ball of 1919, especially if the cadets planned on doing the “Shimmy” or “cheek dances.”

Today’s edition of “Out of the Past” (September 28, 2020) features yet another such story. It seems that a reader of the Star who lived in New York, sent our Winchester paper a clipping from the New York Times stating that one Dr. John Roach Straton, in a sermon to his charges at Calvary Baptist Church, declared that he favored extending prohibition to dancing. Yes, he meant that Prohibition with a capital P. “These dances have come from the underworld of Paris, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, and Oriental cities,” said Dr. John Roach Straton, who then named the “French Can-Can, Argentine Tango, Boston Dip, Fox Trot, Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, Jazz-Shimmy, The Cheek to Cheek, and the Grizzly Grapple.” Stratton, by the way, was a very famous minister during his day and has his own Wikipedia page.

My second thought upon reading this was that the next erotic Fox Trot I do will be the first erotic Fox Trot I’ve ever done. (The dance was only six years old in 1920, by the way.)

My first thought was I have to know all about the Grizzly Grapple. Lo, and behold, Sonny Watson’s streetswing.com has an entire article on the “Grizzly Bear,” which is clearly the same as the Grizzly Grapple. A couple would basically bear hug each other and then imitate the movements of a bear. No doubt the bear hug part was what the good reverend and others found problematic. The article also features a brief video illustrating part of the dance, as well as a nice history, noting that Sophie Tucker was arrested “for singing the ‘Grizzly Bear’ and the ‘Angle Worm Wiggle.’”

A video of Sophie singing “The Grizzly Bear” appears below. The lyrics reference San Francisco, which must have been a particular den of iniquity (must have been a bear’s den) since streetswing.com notes that the Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot, and Texas Tommy also began there.

I don’t know who Sonny Watson is, but his streetswing.com is a treasure trove of information on old dances. The entry for the Boston Dip, which was developed in 1870, notes that the “Boston dances’ were slow waltzes, and the Dip was just a dipping variation in the Boston, “done by a huge step that would make the knees bend or ‘Dip’ the body down and was danced with the partners holding their hands on each other’s hips.”

I’m pretty sure that it was the hip holding that sent Dr. John Roach Straton into the stratosphere of moral indignation regarding the Boston Dip. Indeed, he informed his congregation that “It is a well-known fact that a large proportion of girls who fall come to their moral ruin through the dance, especially the public dance halls.” This is demonstrably false; otherwise, boys would have been lining up to take dance lessons.

So, what have we learned here today? One, that Dr. John Roach Straton was 100 years too early in his quest to rid the world of vulgar dancing. Vaguely suggesting something sexual on the dance floor is a far cry from Cardi B. Two, Sonny Watson’s streetswing.com is a great site and if you are interested in these old swing dances, then click on the link and explore! Three, I need to further investigate Sophie Tucker, whose song, “Red Hot Mama,” includes the lyrics, “I could make a music master drop his fiddle; make a bald-headed man part his hair in the middle, ‘cause I’m a red hot mama, and I’ll have to turn my damper down.” Then, there’s “Makin’ Wicki Wacky Down in Waikiki,” but I’ll save that subject for another time.

 

 

 

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California’s Climate Change Non-Sense

Recently the Governor of California and Senator Kamala Harris posed for a photo in front of a smoky, charred background, and proclaimed that “climate change is real,” meaning that climate change contributed to the wildfires currently raging throughout the state. The argument goes that the fallen timber that has accumulated on the forest floors is dryer because of higher temperatures, and therefore more likely to ignite.

This is non-sense.

You don’t have to be a scientist to reason this out, you only have to answer a few common sense questions, the first one being how long does it take for firewood to dry? This article, one among many, suggests that it can take anywhere from 3.5 months to 3 years for firewood to dry depending on the type of wood and the climate. For most wood in most places one can estimate that it takes 9-12 months to dry. Cut ends dry faster, so it is universally recommended that firewood be cut in lengths of approximately 16 inches. This article suggests that humidity level is actually more important than temperature. The drier the climate the faster the drying time. A commenter on this thread wrote, “I wish I had the source but I remember reading that wood doubles its rate of drying for every 20F increase in temp outside.” In other words, for every 5F increase in temperature, wood will dry 25% more quickly. I can’t find any verification for that, but let’s throw it onto our information pile.

Let’s go way out on a limb (pardon the expression) and assume that every branch and log on the Golden State’s forest floors is no longer than 16” and that the variety of wood lying there takes one year on average to dry. Let’s add to that an assumption that California’s average temperature has risen 5 degrees in the last 10 years. Applying those assumptions, one concludes that the trees and branches that have died nine months ago are as dry as if they had been lying there for one year, or in other words, as dry as they need be for optimum burning. That is an incredibly small percentage of the total amount of fuel that has been lying on the forest floor for decades. The wood that was there 9 months ago adds nothing to the climate change argument for the simple reason that wood cannot get dryer than dry.

Sasha Berleman, a fire ecologist, explained to Mother Jones in 2017 that “We have 100 years of fire suppression that has led to this huge accumulation of fuel loads.” Fire suppression means that California and the Federal government have spent their time and our tax money fighting small fires instead of managing them. The preferred management method according to this fact sheet from the California Environmental Protection Agency is through prescribed burns, which have been performed on only 11.3% of California’s forests between 2008-2018, according to this article. While the (relatively) small fires are being suppressed, the fuel for catastrophic fires continues to accumulate. All this is true whether the climate is changing or not. Anyone who has ever seen a brush fire or even built a large bonfire knows that once you get it going, it will burn whatever you throw on it no matter how wet or green the wood may be.

Clearly, climate change has nothing to do whatsoever with the wildfires currently raging in California. If we are going to “follow the science,” then by all means let’s follow the science, remembering that science is an ongoing process which constantly develops, modifies, and abandons theories based on newly observed facts. It’s not a religion, though talk of “deniers” (read heretics) and faith that excludes facts demonstrate that climate changers are adherents to a creed, not science.

Yes, the climate changes. That’s why there are fossils of sea creatures in West Virginia and palm trees once grew near the Arctic Circle. Of course, one of the primary tenets of science is drawing conclusions from a proportionately sized sample. Temperatures and other data have been collected in the modern sense only since 1880. The Earth, and its current climate are a tad older than that. Drawing conclusions based on data collected over the last 140 years is irresponsible. It’s not really science, and the wild conclusions based in part on such limited data is the Climate Change religion’s version of the Apocalypse.

Data must not only represent an adequate sample size, it must be put into perspective. The fact that Texas has “more forest and higher temperatures than California” yet “rarely struggles with fires,” and obviously shares the same climate, provides a little—actually, a great deal—of perspective. Likewise, the fact that the acreage consumed by wildfires so far in the United States exceeds a little over 7 million acres, which is not even half of the acreage consumed by wildfire in most years between the mid-1920s through the mid-1940s. In 1930 and 1931 wildfires consumed over 50 million acres.

Michael Shellenberger, who was named a Time magazine “hero of the environment” in 2008, and who has serious concerns about what is now taking place, writes that many scientists are simply wrong about the effects of climate change and, therefore, are wrong about potential solutions. Just this past November, he wrote,

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.” 

Shellenberger notes that the Netherlands have “managed” the problem of living below sea level for 400 years.

These scientist-evangelists are doing their best to put the fear of Climate Change in their believers, but Shellenberger’s article is a profound and compelling antidote to such fevered thinking. Once more, here is the link. I urge you to read it. I urge Gavin Newsome and Kamala Harris to read it as well, but I suspect the palm trees will return to Canada before that happens.

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A Pilgrimage to Bedford

Martha and I recently visited the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, which as regular readers of this blog know, is one of our favorite places. Now that the Bedford Boys Tribute Center has opened on North Bridge Street, Bedford has become more of a mecca than a destination.

4,415 poppies frame the flag.

The reason for our most recent visit was a display of 4,415 poppies—one for every casualty on June 6, 1944. The flowers may have been plastic (poppies are out of season), but the inspiration they provided is very real. As we strolled through the Memorial, I found myself taking photos of the same statues and vistas that I always do, and I realized that it is because that while the emotions they inspire are not new, those emotions are always renewed; always fresh and immediate.

The Bedford Boys Tribute Center adds a great deal to the immediacy. To visit the center is to exist in multiple times all at once. This non-profit museum is not only the caretaker of the Boys’ relics, but of their memories, and indeed, of the love that the town still feels for their 20 sons, husbands, and brothers who lost their lives on D-Day. Linda and Ken Parker, the caretakers (I cannot call them owners—one does not own the collective memory of a community) are to be commended for their work and their effort to write the story of the town’s healing. That healing, by the way, is an ongoing process.

Of course, if you have an interest in World War II, you should visit Bedford. If, however, you are inspired by sacrifice and you love America, then you should take a pilgrimage to Bedford.

There is no such thing as a “lifeless” statue here.

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Basement Baseball and Book Reviews

There has been a baseball tournament of some sort or another taking place in my basement since March 23rd. The first, which I reported on in April, pitted the 1971 American League teams against one another—this is because those are the teams I ordered when I purchased my Strat-O-Matic baseball game back in 1972, when I was 15. At least, I think I was once 15, but that life might have been a movie I saw once. The Baltimore Orioles won this tournament.

I enjoyed that so much, I bought all the 1941 teams and set up a tournament for them. The Boston Red Sox won the American League bracket, while the Brooklyn Dodgers won the National League bracket. The Dodgers then defeated the Red Sox in the Championship Series 4 games to 3. (In real life, the Dodgers lost the 1941 World Series to the New York Yankees.)

Naturally, I had the 1971 Orioles play the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers—the Birds lost in 6 games.

I am keeping the ball rolling, so to speak, by creating a Best of the Worst Tournament that pits the 8 worst teams from both years against each other. All of these teams were wiped out in the first round, so these players will get a little more playing time. Sadly, for you Washington baseball fans, Senators teams from both years qualified. So did both Philadelphia teams from 1941. In fact, the ’41 Senators (with a real-life .455 winning percentage) have already eliminated the Phillies 3 games to 1 in the opening series of Round 1.

That fourth game was # 125 overall.

The average time of game is around 25 minutes. I could tell you for sure, but it’s not a statistic that I care that much about, even though I record it for every game. If you’d like any teams stats, the Tournament All-Star teams or League Leader stat sheets, feel free to request them.

Professional baseball has been non-existent or a mess this year, but in my basement, it’s fun and free.

***

As for the “book review” portion of this post, please leave one, especially for Swing Time, which you may not have had time to do yet. It helps a great deal with the Amazon rankings, and, of course, I appreciate it very much. Click on the link, sign in, and leave your review! Doesn’t have to be long—a sentence will suffice.

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To the Baltimore Orioles on Boycotting Last Night’s Game in Tampa

Yesterday afternoon, when Roch Kubatko reported that the team had voted unanimously to play last night’s game in Tampa, I took solace in the fact that my team was standing up for facts over emotions. I tuned in to watch the game in the evening, but got the impression from Scott Garceau that MLB had cancelled the game. Then, this morning, I read on the MASN website that my team decided not to play last night’s game. My team took a hike. I thought that I would be angry or disgusted, but I am surprised to find that I am hurt. At 63, I’ve been a Baltimore Orioles fan since Wally Bunker toed the rubber for the Birds, but now my team has decided to voice a political opinion in direct opposition to my own. You see, I would not take a day off from my job to protest the wounding of a wanted felon, especially one who was wanted for sexual assault, and was in the process of drawing a weapon on the police.

A childhood home.

You did this in the name of “social justice,” a term none of you can define because its definition is so nebulous that it has become, not a term for justice, but for justification. It is used to justify vandalizing public buildings, assaulting police, harassing citizens, and burning down businesses. Your boycott of last night’s game says that you justify those things, too, but I don’t.

So, how can the Baltimore Orioles remain my team?

Put another way, perhaps in terms that you will better understand, I am paying you to play baseball. As individuals, you can hold any political position that you want, but your contract with me is to entertain me. You broke the contract, one that I have held as sacred since I was 7 years old, but one for which you clearly have no regard. If I were your garbage collector and decided that I needed to not pick up your trash this week because I wanted “social justice,” you would probably call the sanitation department and report me. You’re entitled to your beliefs, but your sense of entitlement is beyond offensive—it is hurtful.

I won’t be able to bring myself to watch tonight’s game, but not because I’m boycotting the Baltimore Orioles or Major League Baseball. I’ve been jilted, and right now, to even see you, is too painful.  I admit that I’ll probably cave at some point—maybe by tomorrow—because those childhood heartstrings are numerous and sensitive and I’m not sure that my adult self can reason with them.

All I know now, however, is that you threw me over; threw me over for a criminal who resisted arrest. You threw me over to support rioters on his behalf. You threw me over because you could. I, and others like me, have kept you in ready cash for so long, that you can afford to take us for granted.

You’ve left us incredibly sad. Not that you care.

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Friends, Post Cards, and Special Nights

As you know, the Valencia Ballroom appears on the cover of Swing Time and plays a prominent role in the story. It occurred to me recently to search for old photos of the place, and sure enough, there were several postcards listed on e-Bay illustrating what it looked like back in the day. I posted the eBay listing to Shenandoah Valley Dancers, our local dance community’s Facebook page and by the next day, someone had bought the postcard. I mentioned this to my friend Shea, and added that I hoped it was someone in our group who got it.

It was.

A much more colorful Valencia, probably from the 1940s.

Turns out that Shea bought it as a gift for me, and it came with a surprise. When we turned the postcard there was the autograph of famed jazz and big band drummer Buddy Rich, along with the autographs of Johnny Angelo and Lynn Warren. Those two names I did not know, but it seemed to me that these “other two” must have been part of whatever band Rich was playing in at the Valencia on a particular night. I couldn’t find any reference to either on the Internet; therefore, I turned to Craig Orndorff, a friend of mine, who produces a wonderful syndicated radio program, Seems Like Old Times. A local boy from Woodstock, VA, Craig is something of an expert on the old bands, as you’ll discover if you listen to his program. (And you should! Here’s the link to his website.) He was able to tell me that Johnny Angelo was a tenor sax player, and that Lynn Warren was a vocalist with the Ray McKinley Orchestra. Further research turned up this recording of Warren singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from 1947 with that orchestra. Interestingly enough, McKinley was a drummer for Glenn Miller before starting his own band, and is someone whom Buddy Rich cited as influencing him.

Of course, I wonder about the night or nights these autographs were obtained. In my mind’s eye, I see a happy dancer, maybe with his girl on his arm, approaching these three who are hanging out at the side of the stage during a band break. They sign his card and he—or more likely she—tucks away this souvenir of a special night in a shoe box where she kept special things. One night followed this night, which was followed by another and another until it had been years since that night at the Valencia. When the kids or grandkids found the post card, they could not know of the special night; probably never even heard of Buddy Rich. (Clearly, the eBay seller hadn’t!)

I know there was a special night at the Valencia, though, because that card still vibrates with the joy of that evening. There have been thousands of such moments there, and imagining such moments is what inspired Swing Time in the first place.

The Valencia post card illustrates two points: First, joy is like energy—it cannot be destroyed, and second, I am very fortunate to have the many friends that I do. They are the fortune that I have accumulated in a lifetime of special moments. . . . Oh, I guess there is one more point. Always turn over old postcards. You never know what may be on the back!

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Feel the Joy That Still Lingers

I would like you to take a moment about 6 o’clock this evening, maybe a little after, to pause and reflect on the fact that 75 years ago, President Harry S Truman was announcing that the war with Japan was over. Try to imagine the joy and the relief. So many days of sacrifice had been spent in order to bring about this day.

The narrative below is from I’ll Remember You All. The characters are mine, but the details were largely taken from a story in the Winchester Star, August 15 edition. What they termed a “snake dance” we now call a conga line.

Read, reflect, and above all, remember. That’s the least we owe the boys and girls–for that’s what they were–who saved the world

13 August 14, 1945: VJ Day

I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese Government . . . in reply to the message forwarded to that Government by the Secretary of State on August 11. I deem this reply a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan. In the reply there is no qualification.

Arrangements are now being made for the signing of the surrender terms at the earliest possible moment.

Margaret Bittner sprang from her seat in front of the radio. President Truman was still talking, but Margaret had heard all she needed to hear.

“My God, Gerald, it’s over! It’s really over; the whole thing is over!”

She grabbed Gerald, who could only smile, and skipped about like a child. She stopped suddenly.

“Come on!”

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know, but let’s go!”

Without waiting for Gerald, Margaret burst out the door and ran down to Peak Street. She hadn’t actually run anywhere in 20 years, but then, at this moment, she felt 20 years younger. She saw people streaming from the Paramount Theater. The manager had stopped the movie and had run into the theater shouting, “The Japs have surrendered! The Japs have surrendered!” She soon heard a commotion coming up the hill. The entire work force at LeBeau’s had abandoned their sewing machines and were running into town. The fire siren began to blare, and soon the fire truck formed a one-vehicle parade, which turned randomly up and down the streets of Marsh Point. It was soon joined by an old farm truck driven by Tom Marsh. He was waving out the window, while Millie waved from the passenger’s side. Buck was standing in the bed, hanging on with one hand and waving with the other. So was Hannah and every one of the Victory Farm Volunteers.

The parade quickly numbered 10 vehicles and 200 marchers, but came to an end just as quickly when it became apparent that there was no one left in any house to parade past. The celebration itself was just beginning. Separate groups had begun to snake dance throughout town, and the idea that they should join their lines together seemed to occur simultaneously as they danced their way toward each other. More and more people joined, and soon the giant dance line was actually snaking its way across the bridge. A roar of laughter arose from the front of the line, when they saw, coming down the Queen City Pike, a group of snake dancers from Mike’s Place. Johnny Hall was in the lead, and Veronica was hanging on to his hips, kicking and smiling and singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” along with the rest of Mike’s patrons. Mike and Joyce were bringing up the rear.

The entire group—which is to say, most of the citizens of Marsh Point and the surrounding area—made its way back across the bridge and into town. People milled about, hugging first one neighbor, then another, then acquaintances, then strangers, not that there were many of those.

Johnny and Veronica found the Marshes, along with Hannah and Joe, across from the Paramount. They were soon joined by Margaret and Gerald. Johnny reached for Buck and hugged his fellow Marine. They had survived it all and had lived to see this moment. Instinctively, the others, who had taken note of this long embrace, knew that they were thinking of their comrades who had not made it to see the end.

“Now, Elizabeth can come home,” said Margaret, when Johnny and Buck separated. “If we had her here tonight . . .”

“Don’t worry, Miss Margaret,” as Johnny had taken to calling her now that they were sharing the Bittner’s home, “She probably got to send the telegram to MacArthur telling him that the Nips were finished. We’re just out here making noise, and she’s out there making history!”

Margaret smiled. The boy had a way of cheering her up.

“Mike!” hollered Gerald, seeing his old friend making his way through the crowd to join them. “Who’s tending the bar?!?”

“Nobody. After about 10 toasts to the news and Truman and MacArthur—”

“And the Marines,” interrupted Joyce.

“—And the Marines, everybody just danced their way out, and I mean everybody! So, we just locked up behind ’em and joined ’em!”

“Come to think of it,” added Joyce, “I don’t think we actually locked the place.”

“Nobody cares tonight,” said Mike, who suddenly turned to Hannah and Joe. “Don’t you kids ever forget this night. And what it cost.”

“How could they?” asked Johnny. “How could any of us?” he added, then began to laugh. “Look.”

He pointed up at the theater marquee, which read, “Jack Benny in, The Horn Blows at Midnight.”

“Well, that’s appropriate!” said Gerald. Indeed, it was well past midnight before folks started to drift home, and even as the first light of the new day began to show, a car crossing the Rowatoba bridge could be heard honking its horn.

My parents saved two newspapers from that time. The other is dated December 8, 1941.

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