Yankee Doodle Dandies

Sunday, July 4th, 2021
To all you Yankee Doodle Dandies
        “Hip, hip, hurrah” to and for all of us who have a love affair with the greatest country in the history of the world, the way we believe, and pray it will remain forever. This is to the United States of America, the very grandest on Earth. Cathy and da harv will be celebrating all this day and into this evening, along with Dorothy Zukoski, Cathy’s mom, who arrived from Chicago this Wednesday last. We will spiritually be raising my most expensive pre-iced glasses of single malt scotch in honor of God, family, country, friends, to any and all who have helped to predicate, with hands clasped tightly together, simply stating who and what we stand for as Americans.
        …A little da harv history as remembered by a nine-year-old patriotic realist: Born and bred, lived, and will remain thrilled by growing up when it was a good thing to root for the winning team. Always we fought for the downtrodden, or at least that was the way it was explained to me. The odd thing about most of us who began our lives as first-generation Americans, somehow never considered ourselves to be downtrodden. We were all believers in our American dream. Each and every one of my friends heard the same thing at home.
Women shipfitters working onboard the USS Nereus at the U.S. Navy Yard in Mare Island, circa 1943. (Department of Defense)
        In our home on Friday nights when the sun disappeared for the day, we gathered around quietly, watching my mother light the candles. It was a time for our family—regardless of how dysfunctional we might have been—to give thanks for our blessings, and for our soldiers’ and sailors’ safety. The last words of the prayer were always the same: “God bless America! Amen”.
        Note: At this point, my father, if he was home from work, led us with a musical chant. That part was a tradition cultivated by him and his nine brothers and sisters when he, too, was a child like me. It was always upbeat. The translation from Hebrew to English was, “Let us happy be.” Many of the pieces I was able to play on the trumpet were the music picked up from the bible. Years later, I discovered those same musical passages were being used as background in our films.
        The year was 1942. Once again, it was my father and I alone together attending a movie. It was an era when audiences felt the passion, one and all, applauding our American flag when it was shown on full screen before the film began. Everyone in the audience, one way or another had a direct attachment with World War II. My father had been exempt from the draft because the age limit for being drafted was thirty-eight, or being the parent of two or more children. Dad was age forty with three children. I had reached the ripe old age of nine.
        So there we were, a forty-year-old and a nine-year-old, about to experience one of the great films of all time: “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. As the story reveals, it was the life and times of George M. Cohan, a famous vaudevillian song and dance man, who was also known as one of the great composers of the era. The song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” tells within its lyrics how Cohan was born on the fourth of July (in actuality his birthday was July 3rd).
        George M. Cohan was one of those individuals who left his mark on society. Immigrants from everywhere imaginable fell in love with his patriotic bent. He was the king of Broadway doing his thing. My father fell right in with the immense crowd of “Cohan followers”. Like father, like son. My fire had been parentally lit.
        When we walked out of the “movie house” (as my Dad referred to it) we were singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” together, with countless others. I can’t imagine anyone other than James Cagney playing the lead role. It was lock, stock, and barrel all Irish-American!
*Lock, stock, and barrel is a merism used predominantly in the United Kingdom and North America, meaning “all”, “total” or “everything”.
Lyrics to “Yankee Doodle Dandy”
I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy
Yankee Doodle, do or die
A real live nephew of my uncle Sam’s
Born on the Fourth of July
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart
She’s my Yankee Doodle joy
Yankee Doodle came to London
Just to ride the ponies
I am a Yankee Doodle boy

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