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Tag Archive: Erma Bombeck

Jul 01

Fourth of July memories– it’s really the patriotism we love, not the potato salad. From my archived columns, first published July 3, 2006, in the Examiner, an eastern Jackson County daily newspaper.

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

–Erma Bombeck.

fourth-of-july-picnic

Ah yes, I remember that “iffy” potato salad and the flies, too, at many a Fourth of July celebration of my youth.

The Fourth of July is a happy holiday bringing back delightful memories, but maybe it is more than the family picnics and fireworks that I remember and love.

Maybe it is the patriotism, 1950s style, not the potato salad, that makes it such a happy holiday.

For instance, one of the things I remember most about past Fourth of July celebrations is a television monologue given by the late great comedian Red Skelton in honor of Independence Day.

For younger generations who may not know this, Skelton was a comedian who rose to stardom between the 50s and 70s delighting audiences coast-to-coast with his weekly comedy television show.

After all these years, turns out I remembered very few details about Red Skelton’s then famous “Pledge of Allegiance” monologue. However, I do recall how much I loved his performance at the time.

If you search the Internet, you will find it easily, the YouTube video of Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance, 1950 style.

Skelton tells a story about how his teacher Mr. Laswell of Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite, something monotonous.

Mr. Laswell remarked to the students, “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?” He continued.

“I—meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge—dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance—my love and my devotion.

To the flag—our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

The United—that means we have all come together.

States of America—individual communities that have united into 48 (now 50) great states; individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the republic—a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it is from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.”

Red Skelton’s entire rendition of Mr. Laswell’s speech is too long for this column.

However, I will share with you here his final admonition to his students, “We are one nation so blessed by God that we are incapable of being divided, which means, boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.”

Yes indeed, it is this kind of patriotism that I love and remember, but not so much the “iffy” potato salad.

Happy Fourth! May it be patriotic and memorable, even if you can’t keep those pesky flies off the potato salad.

Jun 30

Fourth of July memories– it’s really the patriotism we love, not the potato salad.

(From my archived columns, first published on July 3, 2006, in The Examiner. The Examiner is a daily newspaper published Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.)

fourth-of-july-picnic

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

–Erma Bombeck.

Ah yes, I remember that “iffy” potato salad and the flies, too, at many a Fourth of July celebration of my youth.

The Fourth of July is a happy holiday bringing back delightful memories, but maybe it is more than the family picnics and fireworks that I remember and love.

Maybe it is the patriotism, 1950s style, not the potato salad, that makes it such a happy holiday.

For instance, one of the things I remember most about past Fourth of July celebrations is a television monologue given by the late great comedian Red Skelton in honor of Independence Day.

For younger generations who may not know this, Skelton was a comedian who rose to stardom between the 50s and 70s delighting audiences coast-to-coast with his weekly comedy television show.

After all these years, turns out I remembered very few details about Red Skelton’s then famous “Pledge of Allegiance” monologue. However, I do recall how much I loved his performance at the time.

If you search the Internet, you will find it easily, the YouTube video of Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance, 1950 style.

Skelton tells a story about how his teacher Mr. Laswell of Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite, something monotonous.

Mr. Laswell remarked to the students, “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?” He continued.

“I—meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge—dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance—my love and my devotion.

To the flag—our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

The United—that means we have all come together.

States of America—individual communities that have united into 48 (now 50) great states; individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the republic—a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it is from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.”

Red Skelton’s entire rendition of Mr. Laswell’s speech is too long for this column.

However, I will share with you here his final admonition to his students, “We are one nation so blessed by God that we are incapable of being divided, which means, boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.”

Yes indeed, it is this kind of patriotism that I love and remember, but not so much the “iffy” potato salad.

Happy Fourth! May it be patriotic and memorable, even if you can’t keep those pesky flies off the potato salad.

Jan 12

Do we really need new sheets, calendars, housecleaning and new thoughts in January?

“If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it” – Erma Bombeck

Adaptation is what we need in January, we tell ourselves this time of year.

I do not know about you, but the older I become the less adaptive I care to be.

Encarta Encyclopedia describes “alteration” as the state of changing to fit new circumstances or conditions, a revision if you will.

It is curious to me that I used to love change, but now I am not so sure I like it.

Come January most of us resolve to try something new. Buy new sheets. Try to understand a calendar that begins on a Monday. Move the chairs and furniture around, put away Christmas decorations, clean the closets, think new thoughts and look at life differently. And oh yes, if there is time, organize those photographs that reside in boxes in the basement or in files on one’s computer.

I began these January tasks by putting away Christmas decorations and thoroughly cleaning the house. However, I quickly became bored and instead spent the afternoon watching two back-to-back chick flicks, popped popcorn and enjoyed a Root Beer. Don’t tell the spousal unit.

The next day I attempted to take down Christmas decorations again, and this time as I was carrying two many boxes and sacks down the basement steps, twisted my knee and fell on my wrist. No serious damage was done, although I am wearing support braces on both appendages.

So much for housekeeping. You see, as Erma Bombeck once said, “Housework can kill you if done right.”

Then there are the annual January white sales in all my favorite stores, and I am confident this will be the year I replace the sheets. Maybe I will cover the sofa and buy a new bedskirt and comforter set as well. Usually by the time I decide what I want, the sales are over.

New calendars arrive, but some of them begin with Monday instead of Sunday. I cannot fathom these at all, so I probably will not use them. I have to wonder who designed these calendars, some 23-year-old commercial art student fresh out of college? Don’t they know we baby boomers have to have our calendars start on Sunday because that is all we have ever known? Ok, Ok, I suppose they are designed for the business week, but why?

As I was saying, we baby boomers may like to think we are open to new ways, but truth be told, we drag our feet kicking and screaming into the new year and into anything new at all. The old year and our old ways were just fine with us.

Farmers in the Midwest, have a saying for our January conundrum, “Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none,” like last year.

In many ways though, last year did bother us a lot. Every year does.

So, we contemplate change each January and hope that this January change will actually happen, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Although come to think of it, according to Washington Irving, “There is a certain relief in change, even though it may be from bad to worse As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place!”

I think I am ready for February.

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