Born In 76


Born in 76, 1776 to be exact. The proud parents were the future first Chief Justice John Jay and his wife. The boy’s name was Peter Augustus Jay. You might say this child was one of two children born in 76, the other was a girl.

The boy did fine, followed in the footsteps of his father, serving the public good, and the legal profession. The girl did fantastic, and Jay, one of her founding fathers, did all he could to support her.

It was Jay who helped, along with Hamilton and Franklin, to negotiate the treaty of Paris, that ended the Revolutionary War. England at first, did not want to recognize in the treaty, our independence. Jay stopped negotiations until this was agreed upon. Jay, one of the writers of The Federalist Papers, and the other signers of the treaty, knew how vital this recognition was to our new country.

Yesterday I was reading some of the everyday acts of Liberty’s founders. They raised the money needed during the war. Others like Jay in Spain, were ambassadors, striving to gain young Liberty a place at the table. Much like a Dad, who quietly, consistently works to give his child every advantage, these men did.

Like Peter Augustus Jay, she followed in their footsteps. Seeing her children, generations of Americans through hardships. War that tore at her heart, but resulted in freedom of an entire race in 1865.  

Young men and women of every race, ethnicity, and background have marched beside her as she stood against everything from nazism to communism. From the cannon smoke of Yorktown, to the sandstorms of Kabul, she learned her fathers’ lessons well.

Now today, this generation of her children remember the sacrifices and consistent duties of men like Jay, Washington, and Franklin. What we must also realize is that, we are truly related to both Liberty, and her parents. For it is now become our duty to hold dear those truths they saw as self evident.

One of which was how they viewed themselves, and their child. They saw themselves, even in disagreement, as citizens of one new country. Men of different viewpoints, forged together by the love of an idea, given birth to through blood, sweat, and tears. An how they saw her, the fledgling child they produced.

As one that should be given the chance to change the world, with the full support of her family. Today, we don’t just barbecue and talk of something that happened long ago. We join together for a meal, as a family, and recall the sacrifices that made us, our parents, and generations of this 1776 family.  

Let us, while celebrating, feel the weight of the mantle passed to us. Knowing that our individual opinions are far less important, than the integral heritage that unites us. We are sons and daughters of liberty, descendants of the founders, and Americans by The Grace Of God!

Hisbits: World War 1

Whether the first bullet hit him or his wife, I’m not sure. Either way, the blood soon covered the hole exposed in both the bodies and the fabric which the assassin’s weapon caused.  

A very real, and very deadly secret society, known as the Black Hand, personally selected six men to ensure the success of the plot. Princip was the name of the man who ended the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. 

The two, one victim and the other murderer, were loyal to their countries. Archduke Ferdinand to Austria, being the heir to the throne. Princip, to both Serbia, and a Slavic section of Austria that longed to be free from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like the echoes that were to come, Sophie was the first innocent casualty, many more would follow. 

The Slavs and Serbia shared a common genetic history, one that enhanced the desire to join together into one greater unit. The name of that goal was to be a nation known as Yugoslavia. Itself, now a ghost of history past. 

It may well have stayed a story on the other side of the world, had it not been for the demands of the territories involved, and their friends. Austria demanded justice, issuing an ultimatum to the Kingdom Of Serbia.

No less than the head of the Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin was behind the plot. Perhaps this was the reason that Serbia only partially complied with the demands. Austria, along with their ally Germany invaded Serbia.  

Russia, an ally of Serbia, prepared for war. Germany’s two leaders, Kaiser Wilhelm, and his Prime Minister Von Bismark, saw the opportunity to invade Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.  

Russia attacked both Austria, and attempted to invade Germany. Unsuccessful, they were violently repelled by the German war machine. While only a small part of Northern France was occupied by Germany, the costs of the war on it would be deadly.

At war’s climax, 1.4 million French soldiers would give their lives, in a short time, 4% of the entire population of France was gone. 27% to 30% of their entire military would be killed in a war that began with one bullet.  

Great Britain, an ally of France, declared war on Germany. Before the War, Great Britain was in trouble itself. Political problems divided the country. As horrible as the bloodbath known as the Great War, before it’s sequel was, it unified Britain.  

They not only had an ally to save, they had an enemy to despise. 850,000 lives would be sacrificed by the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland to save France. A man named Winston Churchill helped to develop the military vehicle known as the tank.

The power of Britain’s military wasn’t enough. No matter how proudly the Union Jack flew over British vessels, they needed another ally. That’s where the Dough Boys came in.

This was the term used to describe the American Army and Marine soldiers that, as the popular song said, went “Over There” to fight for France’s liberation. The phrase was taken from a fried dumpling soldiers would consume which became what we now call the doughnut.

The reason our soldiers joined the fight sounds like a scene out of a summer movie. A German U-Boat, what you and I would call a submarine, sank the British cruise ship Lusitania, with 128 American passengers onboard.

America, who had been neutral, had enough. Even the peace loving President Woodrow Wilson, was now ready for war. To wearied soldiers on the battlefield of France, 10,000 Americans a day arrived to take up their rifles. The Yanks, as they were also called, against the soldiers of the combined forces of Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.

It could have been billed like an Ultimate Fighting Championship, Black Jack versus the Black Hand. General Black Jack Pershing, the only American General ever to go on to share the same rank with General Washington, lead the conflict.

As bombs burst around them, from the foxholes of the French and Belgian countrysides, heroes were forged, and villains began their dark journey. Among the heroes was a young corporal named Harry S Truman. Among the villains, another corporal, by the name of Adolph Hitler.

Before Hitler would attempt his annihilation of the Jews, and Truman would fight to champion both their cause, and their homeland, they were soldiers. Men, joined in a conflict, which began between two men, and an innocent spouse who gave her life by her loved one.

The war that only lasted four years resulted in over 17 million giving their lives. Of that number, only 11 million were military, the rest were civilians. We lost 744,000 of our countrymen to the conflict that ignited between two kingdoms, half a world away. Not all that were hurt died, the estimated list of dead and wounded combined was at least 38 million people.

This Great War, this horrible conflict, did more than result in reorganizing borders, propelling future leaders, and altering an entire globe. The horrible black cloud that was World War 1, would position men and women which would fight, an even greater conflict.
Had World War 1 not occurred, we may not have had a Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson to answer Pearl Harbor, or stand beside of Churchill.  

There may not have been a Harry Truman who risked his entire reputation to stop Japan, controlled not by it’s Emperor, or it’s people, but by warlords. The same Truman would sign the paper recognizing Israel as a free nation for the first time since the Roman Empire.  

The question is not was War necessary, but what the result of it was. America began a journey that freed not just France, but inspired countries across time zones and continents to follow the example of Washington, and Lincoln. This conflict, this Great War, this horrible conflict, need never be forgotten, but viewed as the forging of an even greater purpose. One that would be only begin to be revealed some twenty years later in it’s second installment.

HisBits Escape Route

If you grew up in the heart of the Cold War, you would hardly think of 1940’s Siberia, as a path to freedom. However, that was exactly what it was to some 2,100 Polish Jews. Thanks to a Dutch Consul and a Japanese Diplomat, thousands escaped to freedom via Siberia’s railroad.

After the invasion of Poland in 1939, many of the Jewish population found temporary safety in Lithuania. On June 22, 1941 Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union. They would ultimately fail, and be repelled, but not before a million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi death squads.

It was during this period that Polish Jews sought safe haven in Lithuania. It was there they were blessed with two unlikely heroes. Men who partnered together, working feverishly to spare as many they could. Their names were Jan Zwartendijk, and Chiune Sugihara.

Before the War, Zwartendijk, worked for the Phillips company, a maker of radios and light bulbs. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the Soviet’s occupied Lithuania, he became acting Dutch consul in Kovno, Lithuania. Sugihara was the first Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania. He communicated with the Polish underground to spare as many lives as possible. While Zwartendijk issued visas to the Dutch colony of Curaçao, Sugihara facilitated their path to Tokyo.

In one of the most dangerous times in history, with little or no provision, families boarded rail cars in hope of safety. They traveled via the Trans Siberia rail line to Japan, and from there, made their way to San Francisco. Against the backdrop of Nazi executions, an oppressive Soviet regime, and a hostile Japanese government, these men defied the odds.

Their valor granted thousands the opportunity to make, not only a better future, but any future at all. During the time of the Holocaust, an era of tremendous pain and heartbreak for the Jewish people, these men made a difference. They were normal people in abnormal times, but they answered the call.

A call to do what they could, so others could do what seemed impossible. In signing their name on slips of paper, they too defeated Hitler. They essentially told him, that his plan for annihilation would not win, with every life they spared.

Often, the call to act isn’t a super human feat, but a very simple one. If we will look for it, opportunities are around every corner. On a personal level, who is standing in our path today, that needs our help? It maybe as easy as listening, or sharing a cup of coffee and a smile. A simple act of kindness may enable them to make the journey from fear to personal freedom.

HisBits: Harpo

  He was a comedian, husband, father, and pre-cold war spy. His name was Arthur Marx, but you may know him as Harpo. He played the silent, but vibrant, one of the four brothers.  

Forgetting your lines could be a deadly weakness for a comedian, but in Harpo’s case, it made his career. This was how he became the pantomiming one of the brothers. It was a deficiency that secured his place in Hollywood history.

Leaving school at eight years old, when not able to pass second grade, he joined the work force. He sold newspapers, worked in a butcher shop, and was an office errand boy, all while adding to the family income. In 1910, Arthur would help start the family business.

He, along with brothers, Julius and Milton created the group, the Three Nightingales. All the names would later change. They became the first version of the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Gummo, and Harpo.
The army would call on Gummo to leave the group. So the oldest and youngest brothers, Leonard and Herbert, would step in as Chico and Zeppo. Eventually Zeppo would join Gummo in offscreen theatrical management. 

Of all Harpo’s adventures, the most exciting was an unscripted one. In 1933, he spent six weeks on a goodwill tour. During that time, he would transport secret messages to and from the US embassy in Moscow, at the Ambassador’s request. Harpo had to carry them on him for up to ten days at a time. They were taped to the inside of his leg under his clothing.  

Three years later, he would marry his bride of twenty eight years, Susan Fleming. She encouraged his love of painting, making elaborate frames for his art.  The two of them loved children, adopting four. He said once that he wanted to fill every window of his home with a child waving goodbye. To them, kids were never an after thought, they were their reason to come home.

Harpo valued listening and learning. Even though his unconventional way of playing the harp was part of his success, he spent a lot of money learning the proper technique. One of the few times he spoke on stage, was his last performance. He talked for several minutes as he announced his retirement, and how much he would miss performing.

It proved one thing, Harpo wasn’t a man without something to say, but one who knew when to speak. Words used properly have value. Talk isn’t cheap, as long as you consider beforehand what you’re about to say.  

He was the quiet clown in a troupe of them. Yet his kindness resonated throughout the family. Arthur was a gentleman who loved performing, and loved his family even more.  

Hisbits: Pyle, Sprague, and Lawson

Wikimedia Image
Wikimedia Image

When I think of the Andy Griffith show, I think of some roles individually, and others as a group. Of the groups, two that come to mind are Floyd and Goober, and Goober and Howard. In today’s #Hisbits, I would like to spotlight the actors behind the roles.Goober

George received a Bachelor Of Science degree in 1952. After that, he joined the Air Force, and later taught High School. He was accepted into the American Theater, and upon graduation from it, appeared in two Broadway plays. George decided to move to Los Angeles and to try television in 1962. Two years later, he would take the role that America fell in love with on the Andy Griffith Show, Goober Pyle.

[tweetthis]…you don’t have to prove how smart you are, instead, seek to share as much love and laughter with others as you can.[/tweetthis]

His other work included the Walt Disney company. He had animated roles in three different films, the Aristocats, Robin Hood, and the Rescuers. Lindsey would play the character of Goober in two other shows, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw. His last series as Goober would actually be the longest he ever played the mechanice. His work on Hee Haw spanned 1972 to 1992, twenty years.

George was as kind as the character, raising over 100,000 for the Alambama Special Olympics through seventeen years of a celebrity Golf tournament bearing his name. He also served as the Head Coach for the Winter Games in the Minneapolis, Minnesota Special Olympics National Competition. Lindsey setup the George Lindsey Academic Scholarships at University of North Alabama, his home state, as well as a film festival there.

The man famous for playing an uneducated, but kind hearted country bumpkin, proved something in the process. That was this, people may not only be much smarter than they appear, they can be even kinder than you first suspect. He embedded the same layering in the character of Goober Pyle, showing that you don’t have to prove how smart you are, instead, seek to share as much love and laughter with others as you can.

Howard

Every character on the Andy Griffith show had something unique to their costumes that fit their personality. From Andy’s lack of tie, to Barney’s constant wearing of it, to Goober’s hat, and Floyd’s barber’s coat, they all pointed to aspects of the character’s personality. For Jack Dodson’s Howard Sprague, it was the bow tie, the perfect prop for the lovable county clerk.

Andy himself chose Jack, after seeing him on broadway. He would return to the theatre in 1985, and to Howard Sprague on the reunion movie, Return to Mayberry. Before this, he was Ralph Mouth’s Dad on Happy Days.

My favorite Howard episode was the one where his quick thinking not only secured the local Church’s foundation, but the relationship of the people closest to him. Friends and family meant more than anything to the character of Howard Sprague. The same was true of Jack. While he played the perennial bachelor, the actor enjoyed a long marriage to art director Mary Dodson, from 1959 to his death in 1994. The bow tie loving everyman, quietly did his work, and faithfully cared for those around him.

Floyd

To tv watchers, he was Floyd The Barber, but to radio listeners, Howard McNear was the first Doc Adams on Gunsmoke for nine years. His old friend, Parley Baer, later Mayor Stoner, was Chester on the radio show. McNear, a San Diego native, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After this, he came to prominence playing Clint Barlow on the radio serial Speed Gibson and the International Secret Police.

[tweetthis]Challenges may alter the way we do things, but they don’t have to stop us from doing them…[/tweetthis]

He was good in authoritative roles, but preferred comedy, and it fit him like a glove. In 1958, on Leave It To Beaver, he guest starred as a barber named Andy. Three years later, he would become Andy’s barber. A stroke forced him to first leave the show, but Andy asked him to return.

Even though it took the use of the left side of his body, the show made allowances for that. Any episode where you do not see Floyd walking, means that it was after the stroke. Even in those scenes where it showed Floyd standing, a frame was holding the actor up.

Disabilities are not easy, but Howard McNear proved they do not have to be either career, or life ending. Before and after the stroke, Floyd’s value to Mayberry was priceless. Challenges may alter the way we do things, but they don’t have to stop us from doing them, just ask Floyd.

Trios

In our life, we are blessed enough to be a part of certain groups. Some are families, teams, and organizations, the joy of them is the fact that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Too often, we allow pride to sabotage great relationships for the spotlight. Aren’t you glad that Andy Griffith didn’t feel that way? Instead, he assembled a crew of people that did their best to make everyone shine, and in the process, each left behind characters that we will always remember.

Hisbits: Sarah Of NASCAR

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Her name, Sarah Ashley Secoy, the first patient ever to survive acute myeloid leukemia. At six years old, a businessman’s employees told him her story. He was Bill France Junior, head of NASCAR.

He telephoned her father with a promise, to spread her story for an international donor across the world. He filled the airwaves with her plight, including funding a duet, “Sarah’s Song”, that France promoted to tens of thousands of radio stations.

After a six year hospital stay, in a germ free chamber, a match was found. The millions France helped raise paid for her treatment. Her survival lead to treatments that has saved thousands of children’s lives.

Perhaps Bill France Junior understood the needs of this family because his business was more than fast cars and money.  His Father, Big Bill had started out running a gas station and house painting.  He built the business, not only for his family, but with them.  Bill Junior ran a bulldozer to build Daytona International Speedway.

Many look at NASCAR as simply cars speeding around an oval track. When most race fans see an event, the names Petty, Earnhardt, and Waltrip come to mind. From now on, every decal filled car I see, will remind me of something else. I’ll think of a man who literally used his power, as a vehicle, to save the life of a little girl.

Hisbits: Keep Flying

imageShe was donated by the British, and trained by Americans, to serve in war torn France. In spite of wounds that cost her eye and a leg, after being shot down, she took flight to save 194 soldiers.

Cher Ami, or Dear Friend, was a carrier pigeon, the band was the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th division. American Major Charles Whittlesey and his men were pinned down in the battle of the Argonne between the enemy and allied forces. Having lost over 400 men, a message had to get through.

We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Two other pigeons had been sent with messages, both had been shot down. Cher Ami had to survive. The enemy saw her rise from the camp and opened fire for several minutes. She was shot down once, but continued on.

The messenger arrived at camp, covered in blood, and shot through the breast. Traveling 25 miles in 25 minutes, she saved the lives of 194 men. Army medics worked feverishly to save the pigeon’s own life. In the end she survived, albeit half blind and minus a leg.

None other than General Black Jack Pershing escorted her to a boat for America. Once in the states, Cher Ami became the mascot of the Department of Service. France gave her the same medal it gave to French and American soldiers.

This was only one of the twelve important notes that she had delivered. Cher Ami knew that, in spite of the bullets fired at her, the message must get through. This small carrier pigeon defied everything to fulfill her mission.

Today in cities across this world, pigeons are called pests, in war they’re called heroes. The difference isn’t the bird, but the message it carries. Don’t allow those who view you as a pest, to keep you out of the air. You have a mission and a message, carry it through to victory!

Hisbits: Roy Acuff

imageSunstroke caused it, the premature end of his baseball career. It was followed by a nervous breakdown, and then while recovering, he began to perfect his violin skills on the porch after sunset. He would be called the king of Country Music, Roy Acuff.

The young athlete was trying out for a minor league team, the Knoxville Smokies. They were affiliated with the then New York and now San Francisco Giants. Several collapses followed the sun stroke, and he had to accept that baseball was not his future.

For a long time he couldn’t be outside until the sun went down. His Father, a Baptist Minister, gave him records of locally famous fiddlers that influenced his style. In 1932 he joined Dr Hauer’s medicine show. With no microphones, Roy learned to sing loud enough to be heard. This skill would propel him to fame very soon.

He left the medicine show circuit in 1934 and formed the band, the Tennessee Crackerjacks. Roy’s version of the Gospel song, The Great Speckled Bird, landed the band their first recording contract. They also recorded The Wabash Cannonball in 1936.

In 1938 they changed their name to the Smoky Mountain Boys, and joined The Grand Ole Opry. The first audition didn’t go well, but the second gained them the spot. Shortly after that, the dobro player Beecher Kirby joined the group. Roy had met him at a Knoxville bakery. The man would become famous as Bashful Brother Oswald, his stage name.

In the forties, the band went to Hollywood, appearing in at least four pictures. Roy played a singing sheriff in Night Train To Memphis. He also starred in Home In San Antone.

A dispute with management caused Roy to leave the Opry in 1946. A few years earlier he and Fred Rose had formed Acuff-Rose Music. They signed Hank Williams Sr in 1946. Their company became the most important publishing company in Country music.

The non Opry years saw Roy run and lose the Governor’s race for the Republican ticket in 1948. As well as several years touring the western states. He eventually returned to the Opry, but wasn’t as popular as the younger singers, Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold. Roy considered retirement, but had a resurgence in the early seventies.

On March 16, 1974, Roy was the headliner all over again. That night, the Opry moved from the Ryman to the Grand Ole Opry house. The first show began with a picture of a 1939 Roy and the Smoky Mountain Boys. A recording of George Hay introducing them was followed by a live performance of the Wabash Cannonball.

Before his death in 1992, he would be given both the National Medal Of Arts, and a lifetime achievement award from the John F. Kennedy Center. Roy also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. The title that described the singer, yo-yo and fiddle player best, was the one I grew up hearing, Roy Acuff, King Of Country Music.

Hisbits: The Voice Of Otis

imageHe was Goofy, Owl, and Otis. Hal Smith’s career was about playing characters people loved. Most didn’t know Andy and Barney’s lovable still finder, was also Disney’s favorite dog. From Mayberry to villains of Scooby Doo, he lent his voice to countless classics.

The Petosky, Michigan native was born in 1916. He spent his formative years in Massena, New York. After High School, he married Louisa in 1936. They would remain married for fifty one years, until her death.

From around the time of his marriage, he was a Disc Jockey until 1943. Then, Hal joined the United States Special Services. It was a theatrical unit, entertaining the troops, during World War II.

Once the war was over, it was time to travel to Hollywood. Parts in multiple TV shows from Dennis the Menace to Red Skelton began his career. Between 1960 to 1968, he was Otis Campbell. The kindly town drunk, according to Don Knotts, didn’t drink in real life.

A decade prior, he began his other legacy, one that would entertain generations, voice work for animation. When the first man to play Goofy, Pinto Colvig died, Hal took his place. His other Disney roles included Owl on Winnie The Pooh, and Flintheard Glumgold on Ducktales.

Hal worked for Hanna Barbera on such shows as Quick Draw McGraw, and Huckleberry Hound. From 1960 to 1961, he filled in as Elmer Fudd, when the original actor passed away. More than once, he gave his voice to Winnie The Pooh himself. It is rumored that a character Hal played on Space Angel, Taurus, inspired Gene Roddenberry to create Star Trek’s Mr. Scott.

Hal’s role as Goliath, in Davey And Goliath, spanned 1959 to 1975. His later animated roles were equestrian, playing Phillipe the horse in Beauty and the Beast, and Jafar’s stallion in Aladdin. Radio listeners knew him as Mr Whittaker on Focus On The Family’s Adventures In Odyssey.

In 1986, along with Andy and the rest, they filmed Return To Mayberry. Only over time, Otis had changed. He was still lovable, but now he sold ice cream instead of drinking.

The character had his own key to the jail, while the actor had one to our hearts. From a leg of lamb to outsmarting Barney, Mr Campbell could do it all. Apparently so could the voice of Mr Smith. Isn’t it ironic? Otis always wanted Andy to read him a story, while Hal Smith made a life out of telling them.

Hisbits: The Study Of History

  Canon fire, secret alliances, romance, and discovery, these are the events of history. For too long school children have been condemned to see it regulated as a memorization of dates. At some point, people turned one of the most interesting courses of study, into a boring textbook.

A handful have sought to change this. The writers David McCullough and Dorothy Kearns Goodwin are among them. Their books, 1776 and A Team Of Rivals have made adults aware that history never had to be dry and lifeless. Documentarians like Ken Burns, with The Civil War, sought to bring it to life as well. History is about our heritage, not a collection of times.

Rugged men and women braved the wildernesses of this, and other countries, to turn them into places where the ongoing generations could live safely. Kings fought wars over the destiny of continents. Men went to space to explore God’s intricate designs in the Heavens.

All of this is history, whether you remember a single date or not, you’ll never forget the lives involved. Stories such as how a German Prince fell in love with an English princess who went on to become of the most powerful rulers Britain had ever seen. The life of Victoria and Albert is not only fact, it’s one of the great love stories of history.  

Learn how the conqueror of France’s men discovered the key to unlocking Egypt’s mysteries. It’s a new way to view Napoleon. One more Hisbit, did you know he was born on an island called Corsica, and not on the French mainland.  

This should be the way both children and adults learn history. This is what our Hisbits articles are about. To share with PruittWrites readers a love of history at its most exciting. 

We hope that you enjoy learning not so much the when’s of history, but the bits and pieces that are real life adventure and intrigue.