Tag Archives: Russia

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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is on my mind today? Special Prosecutor…..Damn!

 

Election 11I do believe that this whole Russian business does call for a special prosecutor.  It is time to have an adult in the room and the issue settled.  I frankly am sick of hearing about it.

That being said, the gleefulness of the mainstream media and Democrats, as they convict the president almost daily with hearsay, reminds me of a story a veteran once told me, about himself and his best buddy.

These two young men were both stationed in Germany.  They enjoyed going out and having fun.  Heavy beer drinking and obliging women filled many an evening.

As it happened, on one of these occasions, the boys drank a bit more beer than they probably should have.  As they stumbled around dead drunk in the dark, trying to flag down a cab driver, they ran right into a very old, very ugly, very large woman.

The gal, while not having been created easy on the eyes, more than made up for that deficiency by having been blessed with a kind heart and a giving nature. She immediately offered to help the uniformed lads get a ride to her home where they could spend the night.

The boys did not remember another thing from that night.  When they awoke early the next morning they were in bed together with the ugly woman laying naked between them.

As she snored away in peaceful slumber, the soldier’s friend vigorously pointed at him and mockingly mouthed, “You did her, you did her!”

Well, my veteran friend, thought for a second about the situation.  He then decided that the best way to find out the truth was to just pull back the covers and reveal what was underneath. As he lifted up the blanket on his side of the bed, it was discovered that he still had all of his clothes on.

Then, his gleeful friend very slowly peaked under his side of the blanket only to shout, “DAMN!.”

 

Just Saying: Bullying and Political Theater

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Jennifer Holliday receiving death threats and backlash over performing at the Trump inauguration as reported in a CNN article is bullying pure and simple. It is not honorable. It is not justifiable and its sole goal is to silence opposing views. If the shoe was on the other foot and conservatives were doing this to Clinton supporters, they would be called new age “brown shirts” and rightfully so. Have Clinton’s supporters become the demeaning and intolerant tyrants that they profess to so vehemently oppose? In this case, it would appear so.

There is a vast difference between this type of mean-spirited tyrannical behavior and peaceful protesting. I condemn the former from any political source or group and wholly support the latter.
 
In addition, I believe that it is not honorable for the losing party’s elected members of Congress to boycott the inauguration of our next president. Have these members of Congress forgotten the first rule of politics…those that show up rule?  I cannot imagine the public and media outrage at Republicans had they refused to go to an Obama or Clinton inauguration. This political theater of boycotting the inauguration demonstrates a total lack of respect for the Constitution and Hillary Clinton’s adamant call during the presidential debates for the losing candidate and their supporters to respect election results and the peaceful transition of leadership. Their support for the politics of division will only serve to embolden our nation’s enemies at the cost of American lives when, not if, they test our new president.
 
Tomorrow I will watch the inauguration, be proud to be an American and celebrate the peaceful transition of power. I will pray for unity for our nation, respect for the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the rule of law; safety for our people; wisdom for leadership; and rigorous peaceful political debate. That all of our new governing officials come together with a sincere interest to do what is best for our nation as a whole and rediscover that our political system’s great strength has always been compromise.
 
I would encourage the members of Congress who are boycotting tomorrow’s inauguration to reconsider and take note of Trump’s philosophy of encouraging a “friendship” with Russia…it is important to keep your friends close, but more important to keep your enemies even closer….just saying.

Letter to my Grandson: Cat Warfare…A Delicious Cat

     Peter the Great                                              Furry  Yury

Dear Grandson,

Boy is it cold out this morning, you can really tell that summer is over for good.  We still have a lot of green leaves on our trees, but many of the trees in the neighborhood are already quite golden.  My neighbor across the street is having three really big trees cut down today.

Do you know who was as big as a tree? Peter the Great, who was born in 1672, ruled Russia as tsar or emperor from 1682 until 1725.  A tsar is the Russian word for king.  There were many things that made this guy exceptional.  Royalty or not, Peter stood head and shoulders above everyone because he was almost seven feet tall at a time when the average man was only five feet, seven inches tall. That is almost half a foot taller than Grandpa Doug, or the size of Abraham Lincoln with his stove pipe hat on.   Peter’s feet and hands were small, he had narrow shoulders and a small head for his size.  He was considered handsome by the ladies.  He also suffered from severe headaches and seizures which greatly embarrassed him.

Peter the Great, like French King Louis the XIV, witnessed and escaped dying in a violent political revolt when he was a boy about your age.  Both rulers were greatly affected by those experiences and as a result were very unforgiving of those who led or participated in government revolts.   While they both executed their fair share of rebels, Peter the Great, was much more of a hands on killer and swung the sword that cut off the heads of his enemies himself.  In fact, his oldest son, as ordered by his father, was convicted, tortured and only escaped execution by dying in prison first.  Your dad doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

Peter executed quite a few people during his reign.  He once chopped the head off of his wife’s boyfriend, pickled it in a jar and made her keep it by her bed as a reminder that he did not like what she had done. Aren’t you glad your dad just cans vegetables and apples?

While it was not all right for his wife to have boyfriends, Peter enjoyed having plenty of girlfriends when he was married.  However, he expected this girlfriends to follow his rules and actually executed one of them.  Her name was Mary Hamilton and being a guy who really valued education, Peter took the opportunity to show the crowd attending the execution the vertebrae, windpipe and carotid arteries of his lover’s severed head.

His love of education and progress is what made him Peter…The…Great.  At the beginning of his reign Russia was a backwards, weak, uneducated country.  Peter worked his whole life to reform Russia’s borders, government, church, schools and society.  He replaced many old traditions with new ideas that were modern, scientific and that copied the progressive governments of Western Europe like France, Britain and the Netherlands.  Peter ended Russian’s system of education by the church and established the first public schools.

Peter made Russia a world power.  He went to battle to expand his country’s borders and gave his land locked country access to several seas expanding their ability to make war and extend trade. Peter loved anything to do with boats and sailing.  He studied shipbuilding in the Netherlands, hired some of Europe’s best craftsmen and built Russia’s first navy. On September 12, 1698, Peter officially founded the first Russian Navy base, Taganrog, on the Black Sea.

In what was once a swamp, he built the city of St. Petersburg and made it Russia’s new capitol. The best builders and architects in the world were hired to ensure that St. Petersburg was a very modern city whose beauty, elegance and extravagance rivaled the famous palaces of the French.

During his travels in Europe, Peter admired French fashion and cleanly shaved faces.  He insisted that the Russian’s get rid of their old clothes and wear new more fashionable attire.  He also ordered Russian men, who all wore long beards at that time, to shave them off.  Those who chose not to, were charged a beard tax. To pay for all of his palace, navy and society building Peter raised a lot of taxes.  His royal highness’ high taxes led to more revolts among citizens, which were immediately stopped by brutal and violent armed force followed by more mass executions

Peter liked to collect things…palaces, jewels, art, ladies and dwarfs.  Yes, this very tall ruler collected really short people like kids collect Pokémon cards.  He loved having them around all the time and was even known to have naked ones jump out of giant pies for his amusement.  He bought them miniature ponies to ride and even hosted an all dwarf wedding.

In addition to collecting dwarfs, Peter the Great collected very expensive and beautiful artwork.  The paintings, statues and jewelry he purchased are still in Russia today and are kept one of the world’s largest museums called, “The Hermitage.”  That is also what President Andrew Jackson called his plantation, but that is another story.

In addition to its vast art collection The Hermitage, which used to be a royal palace, is home to an army of cats.  Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, became disgusted with the hundreds of rodents roaming the palace chewing on everything and spreading disease.  She issued an order for the best rat and mouse catching cats in all of Russia to be sent to her.  This cat army commanded by Furry Yury patrolled and kept Russia’s art treasures safe from gnawing mice and rats for over 200 years.

These art security cats survived many human generations, revolutions and wars, but died out during World War II when the Nazi’s surrounded and laid siege to the city of St. Petersburg, which had been renamed Leningrad during the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Over four million Russia defenders and civilians died during the siege and battles for the city.  Food ran out and many Russian’s died of starvation. Those that survived remember eating mice, rats and cats.  One girl recalled how her mother wanted to fix her grandmother’s cat for supper and the grandmother responded, “Do you want to kill my cat?”  The girl’s mother replied, “Do you want to kill your grandchildren?”  She said that cat meat was much more delicious than when they ate their father’s leather belts.

I hope and pray that neither or you or I will ever be that hungry.  It is important to remember to pray for those who are that hungry. Yes, children in many parts of the world still die every day from not having enough food to eat. That is why we shouldn’t waste food and should thank God with a table prayer before we eat for the blessing of having food.

Have a great week in school.  Be sure to practice your clarinet a lot and loud! I know your dad did.  I sent you a book of Christmas songs for clarinet players.  You should receive it next week.

Lots of Love and Hugs,

Grandma Pat