Tag Archives: 4th of July

Letter’s From Grandma Pat: Three-fingered Kenny and 4th of July Trivia

july 4th

Howdy!  Hope that your week is going great and that you are having a lot of fun during your summer vacation from school.   However, fun, no matter how inviting or exciting, is never an excuse for not being careful and safe.  Brains were not made by God to set on a shelf, they are meant to be used. You have a good one, use it.

Which brings me to the point of this week’s letter…not blowing off your fingers or toes, or blinding yourself with fireworks. Fireworks are great fun to see, hear and have during our nation’s birthday celebration on the 4th of July.  However, they are dangerous and demand respect. I know its fun to shoot off a firecracker or two, but safe first!

I once knew a kid in high school that did not have respect for the power of gun powder. He became known as “Three-finger, Kenny.”  And, those three fingers were just gnarled and twisted red stubs.  The only good thing was that he could never again be a right-handed nose-picker.

Fireworks have been enjoyed by humans for a very long time. The first recorded fireworks rockets were made in China around 600 A.D and were used to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck and happiness.  I guess if all evil was chased away,  there would be only good luck and happiness.

Before fireworks were invented, there were explosives and projectiles used as weapons for war. The Chinese were the first to develop “black powder.”  Black powder is the earliest known chemical explosive, and is made with sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter.

I know you know what sulfur and charcoal are, but what is saltpeter? Saltpeter is potassium nitrate. In addition, to helping make explosives, saltpeter has been used as a food preservative since the middle ages…for over 1500 years.  It is interesting that saltpeter was used to preserve food, since, at that time, it was made from bat poop, or people or animal urine.  In fact, during the Civil War, women collected urine to help make black powder, but that’s a different story.

The first fireworks that the Chinese made were not colored.  They boomed loudly, but only produced faint golden light and orange flashes.  It wasn’t until the 1830’s that Italians added trace amounts of metals and other chemicals to produce the bright colors we see in today’s fireworks. The Chinese are still the biggest producers of fireworks in the world.

Once seen, it wasn’t long before fireworks became very popular in Europe especially among kings, queens and nobility.  The earliest recorded fireworks display in England was in 1486 for King Henry VII’s wedding day.  French kings shot off fireworks, among other things, at their palaces. The Russian Czar, Peter the Great, celebrated the birth of his son with five hours of fireworks.

The first display of fireworks in the New World was in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608.  The American colonists took to the idea of explosives for entertainment with their usual gusto and by 1731 the colony of Rhode Island banned fireworks due to, “mischievous use.”

It was John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the second president of our country, who felt that our nation should use fireworks to celebrate independence from Great Britain.  On July 3, 1776, he wrote a letter to his wife Abigail that said, ” The day will be most memorable in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfire and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward and forever more.”

Fireworks have been a part of 4th of July celebrations since the birth of our nation. Actually, even before the Declaration was signed, colonists used to celebrate the king’s birthday with the ringing of bells, bonfires, parades, fireworks and long public speeches. This tradition changed when the colonists declared their freedom from the English crown.  In 1776 many colonists held mock funerals for the English King to symbolize and celebrate the end of the monarch’s rule in America.

The city of Philadelphia, known as the city of brotherly love, got the colonists back on the high road when they held the first official independence day celebration in 1777. There were concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannon, muskets and fireworks. Also, in Philadelphia on July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence took place. The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence.

The July 4th holiday continued to be celebrated throughout Revolutionary War years. Soldiers fighting in the war, received a double ration of rum to recognize the day. The first state to make the day an official state holiday was Massachusetts in 1781.  The oldest, continuous, observance takes place Bristol, Rhode Island.  This city has had a 4th of July parade every year since 1785.  Thomas Jefferson hosted the first 4th of July celebration at the White House in 1801.

Folks did and do still take this patriotic holiday very seriously.  In Swan, Colorado, in 1884, angry miners blew up the post office, because it hadn’t supplied fireworks for their 4th of July festivities. I guess exploding dynamite isn’t as exciting as firecrackers and rockets.

Currently,  285.3 pounds of fireworks will be needed to supply the over 14,000 public fireworks displays and numerous private celebrations. American’s will spend $6.77 billion on food and will consume 155 million hot dogs.  To go with those hot dogs, $92 million will be spent on chips, $167.5 million on watermelon, and $341.4 million on beer.

But, is July 4th the real birthday of our country?

Not according to our second president John Adams.  The members of the Second Continental Congress from the 13 original colonies actually voted on July 2, 1776 to declare independence.  John Adams felt that July 2, should be the day for Independence Day celebrations.  The final draft of the declaration was approved by congressional committee on July 4.   It wasn’t until August 2 that all of the delegates finally signed the document.  However, when the document was sent to the printer, the date of July 4 was printed in big letters at the top of the sheets of paper.  So, July 4th it was!

The Declaration of Independence was actually designed by committee.  A committee of five to be exact.  The members were John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson wrote the actual document.  He was only 33 years old at the time.

The signers of the Declaration all knew that the penalty for revolting against the King was death.  Even knowing that they could be hung or shot for putting their names on the document, they signed it.  John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed it first, big and bold.  Fifty-six men, from the 13 original colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, signed.

It is not true that the declaration was the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  The first battles of Lexington and  Concord, Massachusetts, took place in April 1775.   Crispus Attucks, a fugitive African-American slave, was the first American to die when British soldiers fired upon the colonists in 1770, at the “Boston Massacre.”

The Americans were certainly out manned, gunned and financed during the Revolutionary War. At the time that the Declaration of Independence was issued the total population in the 13 original colonies was about 2.5 million people. (Our population today is over 300 million.)  In 1776 the city of London, alone, had a population of almost a million.

The cost of over eight years of war was immense.  Our nation spent over 151 million dollars to win independence from the king.  The war was also hard on the small population of the colonies. During the height of the war there were 80,000 men serving as militia or continental Army soldiers.  Over 8,000 soldiers were killed in battle, 17,000 died of disease, and 25,000 were wounded.  One in 20 able-bodied white males died. England had 24,000 soldiers killed in battle.

White men were not alone in serving in the Continental Army, so did African-American Slaves. Every state north of the Potomac river offered slaves their freedom in exchange for their service in the military.   While the northern colonies actively recruited black soldiers, the southern colonies were very opposed to the idea.  Between 5,000 to 8,000 African-Americans became veterans of this war. Black soldiers served as wagoners, cooks, waiters, craftsmen and carried weapons and fought.  Several all-black military units, commanded by white officers, saw action, fought bravely and gained a reputation as being, “the most neatly dressed, the best under arms, and the most precise in its maneuvers.”

It would be almost a century later and take an even more bloody Civil War to legally end the slavery of African-Americans.  Only then was the promise of freedom expressed in the Declaration of Independence no longer reserved for a select few, but became, as God always intended…a sacred human right for all people.

Here are some other interesting 4th of July facts:

The only president to have been born on the 4th of July was Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president born in 1872.

Three of the first five presidents died on the 4th.  They were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.  Oddly enough, Adams, the second president and Jefferson, the third, died on the same day in 1826, on our country’s 50th birthday.  Adams final thoughts were that all would be well because Jefferson still lived, he did not know that Jefferson had died several hours before him.

Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the only signer to recant his signature, swear allegiance, again, to King George III.  Traitor!

Every Independence Day the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies.  It cannot be rung, because of the crack in it.

Contrary to popular legend, Betsy Ross did not design the U.S. flag.   No one knows who sewed the first flag, but chances are it wasn’t Ms. Ross.  Her ancestors created the story a century after the revolution. This cute legend was kept going by being included in grade school books.

The modern 50-star flag was designed in 1958 by Robert G. Heft, a high school student. This teenager, from the state of Ohio, was given a history assignment to create a new national flag that included the recent statehood of Alaska and Hawaii. His flag design only earned him a B-minus from his teacher. However, after his design was chosen by President Eisenhower to be our nation’s new flag, the lad’s teacher changed his grade to an A.

Each color in our National flag has a different meaning. Red symbolized hardiness and valor. White is for purity and innocence. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice. The 50 stars represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes are for the 13 original colonies.

The patriotic song, “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British military officers before the Revolutionary War to mock the disorganized American colonists.

Our national anthem the, “Star Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and is set to the tune of an old British bar, or pub, song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” It did not become the official national anthem until 1931.

Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are responsible for the bald eagle becoming our national bird.  Benjamin Franklin, on the other hand, supported the wild turkey.

July 4th:

1944—United States troops fired a 1,100 gun salute at German lines in Normandy

1942—The United States air offensive against nazi-German began.

1939—The New York Yankees retire the first player’s uniform…Lou Gehrig #4

1914—The first motorcycle race in the United State took place.  It was 300 miles long.

1911—Ty Cobb goes 0 for 4 and ends a 40 game hit streak.

1911—Ed Walsh, White Sox, ends Ty Cobb’s 40-game hitting streak.

1895—The song “America the Beautiful” is published.

1894—Elwood Haynes successfully tests one of the first American made cars.  Top speed               was six mph.

1888—Prescott, Arizona holds the first organized rodeo competition.

1884—The Statute of Liberty is presented to the United States in Paris.

1828—Construction begins on the first United States passenger Railroad the  B and O                     (Baltimore-Ohio).

1817—Work began to build the Erie Canal.

I hope you have a wonderful time, safely, celebrating the 4th of July.  There really is a lot about our nation to celebrate.  And, despite all of the differences that our country seems to have at this time, I still believe the words of President John F. Kennedy hold true, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Sending lots of love and hugs,

Grandma Pat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Independence Day and God Bless the U.S.A!

Oliver's first 4th
Oliver our German Shepherd puppy’s first 4th of July!

Check out his videos on You Tube at: Oliver and Truman the German Shepherd buddies.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Watermelon: Old Fruit–Happy Pickle

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Watermelon is the 4th of July fruit. No summer picnic buffet is complete without serving this cold, sweet melon. Almost four billion pounds of watermelons are produced every year and it is easily the best-loved fruit in America.

With a low calorie count and filled with vitamin’s and minerals, especially Vitamin C, this fruit that has been a favorite of humankind for a very long time. The watermelon seems to have originated in southern Africa about 5,000 years ago. The wild African melons have flavors that vary from sweet to bitter. Watermelons are a part of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes cucumbers, as well as squash and pumpkins. Some varieties of this melon can weigh almost 70 pounds.

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There is evidence that Egyptians grew watermelon in the Nile Valley beginning about 2,000 years ago. Watermelon seeds were found at Twelfth Dynasty sites including in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

By the 7th century India was cultivating this delicious melon. The Chinese were enjoying watermelons by the 10th century. China to this day retains the title of being the largest producer of watermelons in the world.

Moorish invaders introduced watermelon to Europe. Evidence of the domestic production of this melon in Europe can be found as early as 960 A.D. European colonists and African slaves brought the watermelon to the New World. Spanish settlers grew the fruit in Florida as early as 1576 and its cultivation spread to Native Americans, New England, Peru, Brazil, Panama and many other colonies by 1650’s. Captain James Cook brought its seeds to Hawaii.

Contrary to what many people think, seedless watermelons are not genetically modified, but are sterile hybrids. These melons are created when male pollen containing 22 chromosomes per cell are introduced into a female watermelon blossom having 44 chromosomes per cell. The fruit of this melon marriage contains only 33 chromosomes making it sterile and unable to produce seeds.

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Charleston Grey Melon

When I was young the only watermelon variety that were ever for sale were the unstriped, light green, huge Charleston Greys. I have not even seen one for years, but their superior taste and texture will never be forgotten. Nor, will the memory of watermelon seed spitting contests between uncles, cousins, and siblings fade.

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After the melons were consumed the rinds were collected in a very large bowl or bucket to be saved to make one of my favorite spicy pickled treats. I hope you enjoy this recipe for Watermelon Pickles–The Happy Pickle.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Watermelon Pickles—The Happy Pickle

I love going for walks with my husband and our dogs. Especially on beautiful August mornings such as today. This morning’s dew on the grass was sparkling like diamonds, the crickets were chirping and the birds were singing above the soft whisper of the breeze rustling the aspen tree’s silvery leaves. Mornings like this always transport me back to lazy August days on the farm.

The first weeks of August was summer on a grain farm. It was when many of the outside chores with the crops are done until harvest. The crops are too big to cultivate or weed and picking the rocks out of the fields is done for the year.

Work in the kitchen slows down a bit too. Most of the summer berries are frozen, sauced or jellied. Canning season was finishing up for peaches, cherries, and beans and had not started…

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Minnesota National Guard Pie Fight Rescue–Serving up Patriotic Pie on the 4th of July

pie social

Traditions die hard in small towns and our church’s annual  ice cream social was no exception to this rule.  Each summer our church would hold an ice cream social usually as a fundraiser for our youth group –FLY–First Lutheran Youth.

My church was our town’s Swedish Lutheran Church.  In a small town with less than 600 people we boasted four churches.  Three were Lutheran…Swedish, Norwegian and German and then there were the Baptists. The basic difference between Lutherans and Baptists as far I could tell was that we could dance and they could not.

In my early teens, I was vice-chair of  FLY and my older more responsible cousin was chair. What I may have lacked in responsibility, I certainly more than made up for with a strong desire to help God out, great capitalistic attitude, endless creativity and boundless enthusiasm.

As it happened right about the time I became part of the leadership team for FLY, we needed to raise quite a lot of money to send our entire youth group on a mission trip to Holden Village in the state of Washington. Minus me as my parent’s would not let me go because of my bad asthma and I was a year younger than everyone else because I had been put ahead a year in school. I was not ever going to see Holden Village, but I did need to help raise the money so that the other members of our group could go and have a great time.  It was decided that our summer ice cream social would be one of our biggest fundraising events.

The first test of my leadership came from Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless.  This grey-haired paragon of virtue wore her hair in four Princess Leia buns, two on the side and two in the back all covered with a black hair net to keep the birds out. She stood over six-feet tall with a solid body mass of well over two hundred pounds of retired teacher who often used her head of the class Sherman Tank social skills to intimidate just about everyone in our congregation.

Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless decided she needed more food than just pies and ice cream at our church ice cream social…..? Using the strongest terms allowed without offending the Lord, she explained that she did not like when traditions were not followed to the letter in HER church and that the menu for the event needed to be changed to include barbecue beef on buns, potato salad and most importantly baked beans. It had always been done that way and it would always be done that way as long as she was a member of this congregation. If I did not follow her wishes she would have to take the issue up with the church council! 

Now, I would never want anyone to judge Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless harshly. She really wasn’t a bad person, she had just never learned to share anything except her opinion.

Expecting immediate capitulation from a shrimpy thirteen year old, she turned several shades of brick red when I respectfully declined to take her well-meaning advice. She snarled into my face that I would never raise any money without serving beans. Then, with those great watermelon-sized bosoms of hers heaving fake strands of pearls viciously from side to side with each angry step she took in her well-heeled black orthopedic shoes, she marched off in a gloriously righteous huff.

A sense of mercy for her descended upon me at that moment for she did not know who she was dealing with. I had been raised on the farm with an older brother and cousins and had survived all of their torment. As a member of a dairy farming family, I acquired a natural gift and excellent expertise in the art of staring down and taunting angry bovines.  This skill was successfully employed each spring when we needed to take the calves away from their mamas and into the safe warm barn.  In addition,  I had survived many a near deadly asthma attack and my doctor had just informed me that my heart was beginning to enlarge from the strain and that I would never live to see twenty.  I feared God and not much else.

But mostly I gained courage from instinctively knowing that I would have the full support of the all-male leadership of our church’s council. If they knew that all it would take to get her to offer her expertise on every ecclesiastical topic to another congregation was not serving baked beans at an ice cream social–that gaseous producing side dish would have been banned from the church’s potluck menus long ago.

It wasn’t just to spite her that I had banned a broader menu that included her cherished baked beans.  It was a practical matter of capital gain.  I needed to sell pies to make a profit and from past potluck experience I knew that when farmers, who had their bellies jiggled and overheated driving tractor in the fields all day, dashed into town to be a part of their community’s festivities and ate a plate full of baked beans they inevitably left behind more than just their free will offering and appreciation. It is hard to sell desserts to folks in a hurry to vacate a hot un-airconditioned church basement that smells like the barn just got cleaned out.

I must confess that my conversation with Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless made me ponder for a brief moment the wisdom of my present course of action for the ice cream social fundraiser. However, I  quickly came to the conclusion that if the good Lord wanted beans Miss.She Who Will Remain Nameless, who was full of them, would have been in charge not me.  Then, I focused on making the event a profitable success.

The planning  for the big ice cream and pie social went full steam ahead. Advertising posters were designed and strategically placed throughout our fair town. Requests to many a great cook for donations of homemade pies went out. The ladies of our church came through in spectacular form.  On the morning of the social many homemade apple, peach, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin and lemon meringue pies were delivered in mass. There were a few store bought pies, but these were always kept out of sight in the kitchen and served to the teenage boys who were doing the dishes.  If they wanted pie for free, they had to work for it.

Soon the church basement was quite filled with people enjoying delicious pie topped with a generous scoop of Minnesota made Land O’ Lakes vanilla ice cream.

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Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that we had more pies than people and were not going to sell out all of our pies.  What to do? Quickly our advertising signs were modified to say homemade farm fresh pies for sale. Then, deploying a blessing that our church youth group had in abundance….busty blonde teenage farm girls…were sent down by the highway next to the church to hold our advertising signs to attract additional customers.

This method of marketing our pies showed very little promise until God intervened on our behalf and supplied us with an entire Minnesota National Guard Convoy on its way to camp Ripley.  Well, those boys in all of those hot jeeps and trucks must have been really hungry because they noticed the signs the girls were holding right away and stopped to buy pie in support of our cause. Soon, the highway’s traffic came to dead halt, but our pies went flying out the door!

Eventually, a man in a very important looking uniform wanted to talk to the person in charge.  The pastor pointed to me.  Thrilled with my battle field promotion, and that we were were sold out of pies, I did agree to remove our signs–and their holders–as the poor man feared that otherwise his convoy would never make it to camp.

Yes, our pie social made a profit, the youth group had a great time on their trip and I, with a lot of help from the Lord and the Minnesota National Guard, had bested Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless.   The funny thing is that this was not the only time that God and the Minnesota National Guard have come to my rescue.

I would like to thank all the members of our nation’s military, Minnesota’s national guard and veterans for their service and sacrifice that has and always will protect the freedom of our nation and the liberty of its citizens.

This patriotic pie is the perfect dessert for any July 4th celebration or summer pie social.

Red White and Blue Patriotic Pie

1 (9-inch) baked pie shell
1 3/4 cups frozen blueberries, thawed, drained, reserve juice
1/4 cups fresh blueberries (for garnish)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
11-ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups strawberries, sliced
¾ cups strawberry glaze

Prepare, bake and cool a pie shell.

Thaw frozen blueberries and reserve juice.

In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup of sugar, cornstarch and gelatin and reserved blueberry juice plus enough water to make 1 cup.  Over low heat, slowly warm, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil and stir for one minute.  Add blueberries and cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. After the mixture has thickened, pour into pie shell and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Beat the cream cheese, milk and 2 Tablespoons of sugar until smooth.  Carefully spread over the cooled blueberry filling layer.  Arrange strawberry slices attractively over the cream cheese layer, leaving space in the center for the reserved blueberries.

Spoon glaze over the strawberries, fill the center with blueberries.  Refrigerate covered, for several hours and serve.

Strawberry glaze

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry jello

In a small saucepan, bring the first three ingredients to a boil until thick and clear.  Boil at least one minute stirring constantly.

Add 3 tablespoons of jello.  Cool completely.

Have a safe and happy Fourth, and God Bless our Nation!

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