United States

John Philip Sousa and The Stars and Stripes Forever

Perhaps nothing expresses patriotism more than a parade—an Independence Day parade to be more specific. Old Glory and its honor guard lead the parade with the stars and stripes fluttering in the breeze. Following the flag is a band most likely playing The Stars and Stripes Forever.

The Stars and Stripes Forever is not only one of the most recognizable marches of all time but is the official march of the United States and one of the most popular marches by John Philip Sousa. I challenge anyone to listen to it and not feel a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye, or goose bumps on the arms. As popular as this tune is, it is only one of over 300 musical works composed by Sousa and only a third of those works were marches. It was composed during a voyage home after a tour of Europe and was reported in his obituary as one of his favorites. It was also the last piece he conducted the day before his death.

Other popular pieces composed by Sousa include Semper Fidelis (the Marine Corps march), The High School Cadets, King Cotton, El Capitan, Liberty Bell, Manhattan Beach, The Thunderer , Washington Post and many others.

Sousa was a man of many talents and was very prolific. In addition to his famous marches he also composed operettas; ten operas; a number of suites; The Last Crusade for orchestra, choir and organ, considered his major work; wrote three novels; a full-length autobiography; and was an avid trapshooter. He is known as the father of organized trapshooting in America.

A timeline of Sousa’s Life

John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. Nov. 6, 1854, the third of 10 children. He is a true product of the American melting pot, a child of immigrant parents. His father was born in Spain of Portuguese parents and his mother was born in Bavaria.

He began his musical studies at the age of 6 studying voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone and alto horn. It is said he had perfect pitch. When he was 13 his father enlisted him in the Marines as a musical apprentice to keep him from running away to join a circus band. (His father played trombone in the U.S. Marine band at the time.) In 1875 he was discharged from the Marines and began performing the violin with a touring company. He eventually took over as a conductor and conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.

In 1880 he returned to Washington to be the leader of the U.S. Marine Band. He conducted The President’s own band serving under presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur and Harrison. In 1892 he resigned from the Marine band and formed the Sousa Band. In 1900 Sousa’s Band represented the United States as the official band to the Paris Exposition.

Between 1900 and 1905 The Sousa Band made three successful European tours. In 1910 the band took a World Tour which included New York, Great Britain, Canary Islands, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Hawaii, and Canada. In 1917, during World War I, Sousa joined the U.S. Naval Reserve at age 62. He was a lieutenant and was paid a salary of $1 per month.

After the war, between 1919 and 1932 Sousa continued to tour with his band. He championed the cause of music education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composers’ rights, testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928.

Souse died March 6, 1932 in Reading, Pa. at the age of 77. According to his obituary he died of “an attack of heart disease.” He was in Reading to conduct the local Ringgold Band in its 80th anniversary concert as its guest conductor.

John Philip Sousa’s obituary

Also included in his obituary, as reported by the New York Times in an attempt to explain his musical career and patriotic enthusiasm, it said:

Mr. Sousa was born in Washington in 1854. The fact that his father was a musician and a member of the Marine Band which his son was later to lead, combined with the marital spirit of Civil War days of his youth in Washington, served to give his talent the bent which made him the “march king” to all the world for a quarter of a century.

Regarding Sousa’s service record the New York Times reported:

One thing on which Mr. Sousa prided himself was his service record, it being his boast that he had seen service with the army, the navy and the Marine Corps. The latter was represented by his service at the head of the White House Band. During the Spanish- American War he served as musical director for the Sixth Army Corps. In the World War he organized bands at the Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Ill.

Sousa’s worldwide influence

Sousa’s influence even reached Broadway thirty years after his death. Meredith Wilson’s hit musical The Music Man had its roots in Wilson’s years playing flute and piccolo in Sousa’s band. Wilson’s band experience and small town Iowa roots inspired him to write the Broadway and motion picture hit The Music Man starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

John Philip Sousa was the beloved March King of the U.S. and performed before over a million people. His influence was felt by many around the world and he was, perhaps, the best ambassador for America and its ideals during the early years of the twentieth century. During this Independence Day celebration you will hear several of Sousa’s compositions and I bet you, you can’t listen to them without tapping your toes and feeling an emotional stir in your soul. Hurrah for the flag of the free!  

 For an interesting read and to learn more about Sousa’s life click on the link below for The New York Times obituary from 1932.





Cinco de Mayo: A salute to our Mexican neighbors

Français : Poste - États-Unis - Cinco de Mayo

Français : Poste – États-Unis – Cinco de Mayo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Americans love to party. If we don’t have something to celebrate we find excuses. Two of the biggest party days of the year just happen to celebrate countries known for their libations. This Saturday we will salute our neighbor to the south with Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

On March 17 we honor Ireland with green beer and whiskey and on May 5 we honor Mexico with tequila, tacos, and margaritas. These days are marked with lots of drinking and eating special foods but mostly drinking. The same people who were running around wearing buttons saying “Kiss me I’m Irish” in March will be wearing sombreros and tossing back shots of tequila this Saturday. This is just as the marketers for the alcohol companies planned. They were instrumental in promoting these two holidays beyond their original meanings. (For the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day and its history seeWho Was St. Patrick? (http://notesfromthepond.com/?s=St.+Patrick%27s+Day)

What is Cinco de Mayo?

But, what is Cinco de Mayo and why do Americans celebrate it more than the Mexicans themselves? In Mexico it is more of a regional celebration with most of the observances located in Puebla where the incident occurred. Contrary to what most Americans think, it is not the Mexican celebration of independence (that is Sept. 16). In Spanish, Cinco de Mayo means the fifth of May and it marks the day in 1862 when a ragtag army successfully defended the town of Puebla against a much larger and better equipped French army. If it weren’t for what happened that day most of Mexico and the U.S. could be speaking French today.

Why Americans don’t speak French

The year is 1862 and while the U.S. is embroiled in the Civil War, Mexico is weakened after years of fighting the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the Reform Wars in 1860. With a treasury nearly bankrupt, Mexican president Benito Juarez announces a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years. In response to this announcement, France, Britain, and Spain sent their naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Spain and Britain negotiated a settlement but France’s ruler, Napoleon III, saw an opportunity to establish an empire in Mexico and the U.S. by giving aid and support to the Confederate south.

Historians argue that France’s real goal was to break up the American Union by aiding the Confederacy. Many feel Napoleon planned to use Mexico as a base to back the Confederacy. Lincoln and his secretary of state remained neutral in the Mexican situation knowing they could not fight both the Confederacy and France at the same time.

Importance of the Puebla victory

When the Mexican army of only 4,000 defeated the French army twice its size (8,000) and better equipped, this gave a tremendous morale boost to the weary Mexicans. It also kept Napoleon III from supplying the Confederates which gave the U.S. more time to build a more powerful army. The renewed army eventually defeated the Confederates at Gettysburg 14 months later which then led to a quick end of the Civil War.

So Saturday, when you go to your favorite Mexican restaurant remember there is a very good reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Without that small band of Mexicans gallantly standing up against some of the best trained soldiers in the world it could have meant the downfall of not only Mexico but also the U.S. Let’s lift a glass and say gracias to our Latin neighbors for without them we could be saying, “Parlez-vous francais?”











Columbus, Home Sweet Home

Montage of Columbus, Ohio images. From top to ...

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This week Columbus is celebrating its 200th anniversary; so, I feel I must take time to honor the city that has been my home for the last 43 years. Happy Birthday, Columbus!

Like so many others living in Columbus, I originated somewhere else. But that is part of what I loved about Columbus when I first arrived in 1969. So many others had come here from somewhere else but were eager to welcome you and make you feel at home. It seemed we were all a part of a growing city and we looked to the future with optimism. We worked together to make this a great city and place to work and live. There has always been a feeling of “can do” in the city. As a result of this I have watched the city I love grow from a medium-sized mid-western city to a thriving, vibrant, metropolis. A city that is proud of its past and looks forward to its future.

Big city with a small town feel

Columbus is a big city with a small town feel. Ironically, that is also one of Columbus’s biggest drawbacks—at least according to the outside world. It is often criticized as having a small town mentality and has been derogatorily called Cow Town. That name no doubt comes from its farming origins and the fact that Ohio State University began as an agricultural school with cows roaming pastures within the city limits. I even recall pictures of cows in the pasture off Lane Avenue with the city skyline in the background. I guess if you are trying to sell Columbus as a sophisticated modern city that image is self-defeating.

 Columbus is surrounded by many small communities, each with its own unique history and flavor which helps to create that hometown atmosphere. We have German Village, the Italian Village, Victorian Village, the Short North, Clintonville, Beechwold, Worthington, Westerville, Dublin, Powell, New Albany, Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, and Bexley to name a few. Each area has its own particular architecture, shops, and restaurants that help define what home is in each neighborhood. Most neighborhoods are populated with neighbors who are friendly and look after one another—a place where we can still feel safe in an ever-increasing hostile world. Why then should we feel we need to apologize to the big sophisticated cities for wanting to maintain this atmosphere?

PR people and marketers are busy trying to make us another New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Why? We have something better than all of those cities. We have people who are genuinely down to earth and who want the best for themselves, their neighbors, their state, and their country. Unlike those larger fast-paced cities where the unspoken rule is to rush down the street never looking anyone in the eye, we actually look at the stranger on the street, we are not afraid to smile at them and occasionally say hello and wish them a good day. We have been known to strike up a conversation with strangers waiting in line or seated at a table next to us in a restaurant. These are the things that should be the heartbeat of a great city, not how many museums, art galleries, sports facilities, or concert venues we have (although Columbus has a good many of these).

A melting pot of food and cultures

Columbus is the home of many different cultural groups and as a result numerous delicious and exciting ethnic restaurants. The Germans were perhaps the first large ethnic group to call Columbus home and German Village boasts wonderful old and new restaurants brimming with brats, beer and kraut along with newer and lighter cuisine. The Brewery District is reviving the old German staple—beer in all its incantations. Many handcrafted micro breweries have sprung up in the last several years not only in the brewery district but in other parts of the city as well.

 Columbus is also the home of a large Hispanic population. Scores of Asians, Somalians, and those from the middle East have also migrated to Columbus in recent years. Columbus is the typical American melting pot. Perhaps it is no coincidence we were an important stop on the Underground Railroad. That is not to say we haven’t had our share of racial strife at times but just call it growing pains.

Because of the unique mix of people and their tastes, Columbus has been called “Test City USA”. Frequently new products will be tested on Columbuscites before going nationwide.

Famous people from Columbus

Many famous people have called Columbus home. Those include: Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I ace, famous race car driver, and entrepreneur; writer James Thurber, golfer Jack Nicklaus, WWII pilot, Paul Tibbots, who dropped the first atomic bomb; boxing champ Buster Douglas; Gen William Henry Harrison during the War of 1812; artist George Bellows; zoo director Jack Hanna; Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas; the Limited founder Les Wexner; first man to orbit the earth John Glenn; first and only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin; Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes; and someone who called Columbus home involuntarily—O. Henry when he was a guest of the Ohio State Penn.

Home of many businesses

Columbus business community is alive and well, even in this down economy. It is the home (there’s that word again) of several insurance companies the largest of which is Nationwide Insurance. It is also the seat of government and the home of several universities, the largest being Ohio State University. It has a thriving arts scene and sports scene. In addition to the Buckeyes we have the Crew (professional soccer), the Blue Jackets (professional hockey), and the Clippers (farm team of the Cleveland Indians baseball) with their award-winning ball park—Huntington Park. The world’s largest private research organization, Battelle Memorial Institute also calls Columbus home. Battelle’s research lead to innovations such as Xerox copiers, CDs (compact discs) and tamper resistant packaging.

Several large chains have their home base or beginnings here including The Limited, Wendy’s Hamburgers, White Castle hamburgers, Net Jet (formerly Executive Jet), Big Lots, and all the ladies know about DSW shoes.

Several firsts occurred in Columbus including the first junior high school and the first kindergarten in the U.S., the first public school for the blind in the U.S., and the first teaching hospital in the U.S. (Starling medical College/St. Francis Hospital on the site of Grant Medical Center). Ohio State was the first football stadium to be built with two decks. Abraham Lincoln first learned he had been elected President during a stop at the State House, and the first transcontinental flight began at Port Columbus. The first shopping center, Town and Country Shopping Center opened here in 1949. The Columbus Zoo gained notoriety when the first captive born gorilla, Colo, was born here in 1956.

Three important organizations were founded here—the American Federation of Labor, the Temperance League, and the NFL.

Better than the City of Oz

I was absolutely captivated by Columbus when I first came here for the Ohio State Fair in the mid 1960s. I vividly remember coming into the city on the newly built I 71. Helicopters were buzzing around the interstate giving fair visitors rides around the city. The Fair was big, exciting, exhausting, fun, dirty, and delicious. The smells along the midway were mouth watering. That is where I had my first Schmidt’s Bahama Mamma. I can still recall the smokey flavor coming straight off the grill and the juicy pop it had in my mouth as I bit through the sausage casing. I recall driving out of the city looking backwards through the back window and watching the fireworks closing the fair for the day and thinking this was better than the City of Oz.

All of this was new and exciting for a girl from the hills of West Virginia. My boyfriend at the time came with us that day. Several years later we married and made Columbus our first choice as a place to call home. As luck (or fate) would have it, we both found jobs very quickly and moved here as soon as possible after graduating from college. We never looked back.

Home at last

James Thurber said, “Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen and in which almost everything has.” I think that is a perfect description as it suggests a certain excitement and spontaneity. As Columbus celebrates its 200th birthday and marketers continue to search for a catchy phrase I offer my own humble contribution—

                           COLUMBUS, HOME AT LAST—HOLEY COW!


Below is a picture taken on that momentous day of my first visit to Columbus. Left to right are: my mother, Phyllis; my sister, Bari; my future husband, David; my brother, Kelly; and my father Jim (I’m the one behind the camera). Notice the OHIO gate in the background.

MOVIE REVIEW ON VIDEO: The Conspirator Is for those with Inquisitive Minds

Lithograph of the Assassination of Abraham Lin...

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The Conspirator is an excellent movie but not everyone’s taste. If you are in the mood for a mind numbing movie to kill a couple of hours then this is definitely not the movie you want; but, if you are a history buff and want your thinking and beliefs to be challenged, then you are in luck.

This post Civil War drama (directed by Robert Redford) centers on two minor characters in history who were on the fringes of the Lincoln assassination. Even though they were insignificant players, they played a major role in our legal system and the reconstruction period. It is the story of the trial of the conspirators behind the plot to kill Lincoln and one very unlucky and lonely lawyer appointed to defend one of the conspirators. Frederick Aiken, brilliantly played by Scottish actor James McAvoy, must defend Mary Surrat (Robin Wright) owner of the boarding house where the plot was constructed. As he fights for her rights he is abandoned by his fiancé, friends, social club, and colleagues.

Aiken, a Union war hero, becomes the unwilling defender of Mary Surrat, a southern sympathizer. Aiken tries to get out of the appointment but gradually begins to believe in her innocence. She is being tried in a military court even though she is a civilian and he sees that her rights as a citizen are being violated. He argues she is being denied her right to be tried by a jury of her peers.  However, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, played by Kevin Kline, wants her tried quickly to quiet the unrest and help the country heal after the devastation of the war and death of a president. What is implied is that he also wants her found guilty as quickly as possible so the uproar can be put behind them.

The real conflict of the movie is whether or not the rule of law will prevail. The rule of law, as defined by Lexis Nexis, an online legal source, is the principle that no one is above the law….The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy.

Mary Surrat was found guilty and hanged; but was she guilty or not? According to Roger Ebert’s review, “They require us to think our own way through the case and arrive at our own opinions.” After the trial Aiken was instrumental in creating a law that requires civilians to be tried in civilian courts—not a military tribunal. The case and its consequences have relevance today. Can you imagine the hysteria if a similar scenario happened today? We would have 24 hour news services screaming for justice (remember the Casey Anthony case?) and angry mobs everywhere.

Our country is founded on the rule of law. That is, the law—not a single person, monarch, or even mob—has the final say. Our legal system and government aren’t perfect and many decisions have been handed down that were not popular; but it is the best system around. We have over 200 years that prove it. Look at what is happening in Libya, Egypt, Syria, etc.

Major criticism of the movie is that it is slow and I am sure it is to those accustomed to bang’um up and shoot’um up movies. However, I found it very engrossing and thought-provoking. I am happy to see that the producers, The American Film Co., have two other projects in production. One is a story about abolitionist John Brown and another about Paul Revere’s ride. I strongly recommend Sarah Palin see that one.

 I highly recommend this for history buffs, attorneys, and those with inquisitive minds. It brings a brief but important moment in history alive and puts us right in the center of it. You can almost feel the heat and contention in the courtroom.

I give it an A-.





Bring on the parades—this is the 4th of July

Cake made by Marth Smith to honor new citizen Shaheena Arthur

This is the Fourth of July holiday weekend and in true American fashion many communities are exercising their right to open debate.

As communities prepare for the big celebration of America’s independence, many people are voicing doubts over everything from whether or not candy should be thrown into the crowds lining parade routes to how many politicians can march in the parade or whether or not we should even celebrate our independence with parades and fireworks. I say Bah Humbug to all of the Scrooges!

I love everything about the 4th of July. I love the parades with the bands, countless American flags, endless number of politicians, civic organizations, boy scouts and girl scouts, swim teams, little league teams, neighborhood kids riding decorated bicycles, military units and honor guards, screaming fire engines, and miles of red, white, and blue crape paper. I love it all!  This is true Americana—a microcosm of our nation passing before our eyes.

My heart swells with pride when the flag flutters in the breeze and I have a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat as military units and aging veterans go by. I can never hear the national anthem without choking back tears thinking of the many sacrifices made so I can stand proudly and proclaim I am an American. The business of politics can get pretty nasty but I am thankful I live where we can openly voice our disagreements without fear of imprisonment or death.

I admire the immigrants who left everything behind to come to a new land. I wonder what my ancestors endured coming to this country. I think of my original ancestor who was brought to these shores to fight for King George in 1774 but became a turncoat and fought for the colonists under Col. Washington. What motivated him to make such a bold move? I find a hint in the family history that was recorded the 14th Day of January 1933. It reads:   

 Great Grandfather Moore, whose name was James Moore was born near Dublin, Ireland, and came to this country with a regiment of Irish soldiers, attached to the British Army during the Revolutionary War. In fact, his name was not Moore, but Fitzpatrick, but being Irish, and not at all in sympathy with the British, but knowing the methods of the British in his homeland, he lost no time in leaving the British cause and enlisting in the Continental Army under Washington, and took the maiden name of his Mother, which was Moore. Since that time the name of Moore has been borne by all of his descendents.

This country has always been the land of immigrants, the melting pot of nations, and I am puzzled at the animosity toward certain groups. Each ethnic wave that came here endured a certain amount of prejudice but still people came. I am happy to say I have friends from many different nations and I call it my smorgasbord of friends. We have joyfully celebrated as each one has taken the big step to become a citizen. Over the years I have known people from Cuba, Mexico, Germany, and China who took the oath to become naturalized citizens. One of our country’s newest citizens is our neighbor, Shaheena Arthur from Pakistan, who became a citizen on June 21. She was so excited to become a citizen and our small group of neighbors who helped her celebrate was happy for her.

So bring on the parades, the bands, the flags, and the politicians. Bring on the beer, brats, and burgers and cap off the night with a grand display of fireworks. This is our nation’s birthday, its celebration of independence, and this is how we celebrate. We cannot let this momentous occasion be lost to history for if we don’t celebrate then it will be forgotten. It is a way of bringing everyone together to celebrate something we all believe in—the greatness of our nation.

 Somehow we have all learned to live together and combine our many experiences to forge one great nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


New citizen Shaheena Arthur with husband Lenin Kailasammani and daughter Saira Mani