Hard Times

My mother would come over to help out at this point. We used a thin rubber hose about five or six feet long. When my grandfather sucked on the hose and got the brew flowing, he would quickly hand it to me. It was my job to fill the bottles, working my way from one to another, trying my best to avoid spilling a drop.

My mother’s job, kneeling next to me, was to carefully and firmly work the capper in order to get a tight seal. My grandfather would then get at the other end of the line, stacking the bottles in cases. Finally, the finished product was ready to move on out. We had a crude but effective small batch operation going.

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In March 1931, our fourth grade class had a short history lesson the day after an act of congress officially approved the “Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. We stood up in class and sang the new anthem as best we could, in our pre-pubescent voices.

The American poet, Francis Scott Key, wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” while he was held by the British during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Later, his words were put to the tune of an old British drinking song and it became a patriotic 19th century American favorite.

I’ve always maintained, however, that congress made a mistake. They picked the wrong song. They should have selected “America,” written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. Smith’s simple and very moving work became the most popular song in the entire history of American music. And every school kid in America can reach all the notes, too.

My country. Tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land -where my fathers died.
Land of the Pilgrims’ pride.
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

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One other World War I aviation saga I wanted to see as a kid in the early ‘30s was Howard Hughes’ aerial spectacular, “Hell’s Angels”, starring that platinum- haired bombshell, Jean Harlow. “Hell’s Angels” was a talkie. I never did get to see it, though. Later on, somebody told me the aerial dog fights were terrific, but the sound wasn’t so good.

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