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By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State. She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of
Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care. She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials. Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
Celebrate America (Part II)
By Marge Knoth
The Land of the Brave and the Free! How blessed we are to live in America. So many
things have happened in our nation’s short 225 year history. Many soldiers have given
their lives for the freedom we enjoy. So let’s together review a little of American’s rich
history, and then we’ll show you ways to use this material in your activity program.
Last month we discussed Christopher Columbus, the Jamestown Colony, the
Plymouth Colony, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Flag, Betsy Ross,
the Confederate States of America, the dollar bill, the Louisiana Purchase, the Alaskan
Purchase, and the history of some great patriotic songs.
Well, now, as radio star Paul Harvey would say, “Let me tell you the rest of the story”! I
wrote to you that Christopher Columbus, when discovering America, actually landed at
a small island in the Bahamas which he promptly claimed in the name of the King and
Queen of Spain. That was true. But since I wrote it, my husband and I have had the
privilege of spending eight days in the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti. An what a
surprise I got! The people in the DR were quick to tell me that theirs was the island
where Columbus had landed and he called it Hispaniol. But even better, the
missionaries we stayed with took us on a four-hour trip across the island to Santa
Domingo to see the house Diago, Columbus’s brother, had built and where
Christopher Columbus actually lived. The house was huge, more like an old
courthouse, built from extremely large rectangular stones maybe three to four feet long
and 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide. There was only a road between the house and the Carribean
Sea. A large statue of Columbus graced the entrance to the grounds. Within eyesight
was a prison, similar to the house, where Columbus was imprisoned. I didn’t get the
full story behind that, but local people tell that he got caught up with the idea of gold and
riches, as did many of the early explorers, in his later life. They also tell that anyone
arriving in the New World had to first report to the DR to get clearance before sailing to
any other island or territory. They say the Spanish also took possession of Cuba and
what is now Florida. As a result of Columbus’s discovery, people in the Dominican
Republic being of Spanish descent, speak Spanish. Those at the other end of the
island in Haiti, being of African descent, speak Creole, a form of French.
After we discussed the Jamestown Settlement last month, I saw a special on the
history channel about it. Most of the settlers died and one scholar made a good case
that it was not due to starvation as has been thought, but to arsenic poisoning. They felt
there may have been a spy in the group who did not want the colony to succeed. He
claims that arsenic poisoning was commonly used in England at the time.
Not long ago I also wrote to you about Walt Disney’s life. Another surprise for me!
While at church one Sunday, I struck up a conversation with an old gentleman named
Jim Sieger. Not knowing I had recently written about Disney, he began to tell me about
his claim to fame–knowing Walt Disney. I visited 88-year-old Jim in his retirement
home to discuss their relationship. Jim said he first knew Disney in Kansas City,
Missouri when Walt Disney and his brother Roy started their first studio. Jim
remembers that studio was a building in the Disney’s back yard. Several years later
Jim was working for Kodak when he received notice that he was to take a leave of
absence from his job and come to California to meet with Disney. Jim said, “I was
there in two days.” He continued, “As I walked into the studio all the artists heads
turned to look at me (apparently not many got to meet with the star). I said (humbly) ‘Mr.
Disney, how did you know about me?’ Mr. Disney looked me directly in the eye and
said, “Well, it’s my business to know!”
Jim showed me his most treasured possession--a large autographed photo of Disney
with a personal note to him written on it in Disney’s own artistic scrawl. In the
background of the picture were pencil drawings of the various cartoon characters
Disney had conceived. Jim spoke softly and with much warmth, “Ahhh, you’ll never hear
me say anything bad about Walt Disney. You can quote me on this, ‘He was one whale
of a guy!’”
The Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson felt this document he had written
was finished on July 2, 1776. In fact, John Adams, Jefferson’s close friend, wrote to his
wife that future generations would be celebrating our Independence Day on July 2nd.
But it wasn’t to be. The Congress heavily edited Jefferson’s Declaration, removing
sections that attacked King George III for bringing slavery to America (southern states
who were prospering because of slavery wanted this part removed as did wealthy
northern merchants who made money importing humans beings from Africa for slavery
purposes). The Congress also deleted Jefferson’s admonition to the English people
and added a phrase: ‘’with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” It is
believed the Congress made Jefferson’s version more concise and readable. John
Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration that could cost the signers their very lives.
He said, “We must all be unanimous, there must be no pulling different ways; we must
all hang together. Jefferson urged each signer to “mutually pledge to each other our
lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Benjamin Franklins added,
“Yes, we must all hang together. Or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
When the Declaration was read to the public in Pennsylvania there were bonfires,
ringing bells, and other displays of excitement. When read in New York, a 15-foot- tall
statue of King George III was torn down by the Sons of Liberty. The head of the statue
was sawed off and the rest was made into bullets.
The Boston Tea Party
For various reasons, Colonists decided not to sell in the Colonies tea from the East
India Tea Company. Being near bankruptcy, the tea company struck up a partnership
with the British government. Three British ships filled with unwanted tea sat in the
Boston Harbor for three weeks in spite repeated warnings to return to England. It
seems that a royal governor in Boston, working against the “Sons of Liberty”, was
blocking papers necessary for the ships to leave. He even appointed two of his sons
as East India Tea Company consignees. In retaliation some of the Colonists, with their
confidence bolstered by punch spiked with rum and applejack, had had enough. On
December 16, 1773, about 50 prominent Boston men boarded each of the three ships.
With smeared grease and lampblack on their faces and dressed as Mohawk Indians,
they boarded the ships. Other men standing for independence followed them. With
block and tackle the men began bringing the tea up to the deck and dumping it into the
Boston Harbor. It took just three hours to empty 342 chests of Ceylon and Darjeeling
tea worth a bundle of money. An eye witness wrote that though it was night, it was as
light as day because of the many torches and lamps. He continues, “Although there
were many people on the wharf, entire silence prevailed–no clamor, no talking. Nothing
was meddled with but the teas on board. After having emptied the hold, the deck was
swept clean, and everything put in its proper place. An officer on board was requested
to come up from the cabin and see that no damage was done except the tea.”
The names of the men taking part are not known for sure because a printer who owned
the list destroyed it when he died in 1803. It is suspected that some notables on the list
were Paul Revere and Dr. Thomas Young who was John Adam’s family physician. The
tea party resulted in severe punishments from England which further incited the
Colonist to seek their independence.
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
As the Declaration of Independence proclaimed our freedom from Britain, Common
Sense was effectively a declaration of war against Great Britain. You might wonder why
these few powerful men would risk their fortunes and their very lives to rebel against the
mother country. Thomas Paine summed up the feelings of Colonists’ frustration with
England’s treatment of them in his pamphlet Common Sense. It was much like one of
today’s “Letters to the Editor”. It is too long to print, but I’ve given you a few excerpts.
But Britain is the parent country say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct.
Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families;
wherefore, the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or
only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by
the king and his parasites, with a low, papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the
credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of
America. This new world has been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and
religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender
embraces of a mother but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of
England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues
their descendants still. I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a
single advantage that this continent can reap by being connected with Great Britain.”
Everything that is right or natural pleads for separation, the blood of the slain, the
weeping voice of nature cries, `TIS TIME TO PART’ Even the distance at which the
Almighty hath placed England and America is a strong and natural proof that the
authority of the one over the other was never the design of heaven...
The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish
Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do
ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the new United States of America. Artists
and intellectuals admired the determination of Americans and wanted to express it in a
monument to honor them on their 100th anniversary as a nation. Frederick Bartholdi
was the artist for “Lady Liberty.” Its huge proportions represented the vast New World
itself. The 305-foot-tall statue was fashioned from 450,000 pounds of hammered
copper plates, enough metal to make 30 million copper pennies. Over 300 hundred flat
metal plates were shaped by pounding them with mallets of various sizes. This
shaping technique is an ancient craft. The statue’s nose is 4-1/2 feet long, each eye is
2-1/2 feet wide, and the face is 17 feet from chin to brow. Bartholdi’s inspiration for the
face was his mother’s. The crown represents the seven continents. The hollow statue
was originally to be filled with boxes of sand to support it, but it was then decided to
build an iron tower within. Four spiral staircases are inside the statue.
Actually creating the statue took over ten years, but, in all, it took 21 years to plan it,
sculpt it, and get the funding. It arrived in the United States on Jun 17, 1885 in 300
pieces packaged in 214 crates. A pedestal was begun but funding ran out in three
weeks and worked stopped. Pulitzer, a prominent newspaperman, raised funds by
offering to print in his paper the names of children and adults who would donate. With
the $102,000 he raised, a 154-foot-tall pedestal was built. It was nearly as tall as the
statue itself. A 6000 ton slate of granite was used.
When the unveiling day arrived, President Grover Cleveland lifted the French flag from
the Lady’s head. Though the statue was a “Lady” representing liberty, women were
barred from taking part in the festivities. Suffragettes, though, chartered a boat and
crashed the ceremony. Using megaphones they made quite a disturbance. Nearly one
came to view the gigantic gift from France. Today the 225-ton copper statue rests on
Liberty Island (formerly called Bedloe’s Island) in Upper New York.
How To Use This Information
1) Use the Boston Tea Party as a party theme.
* Read the Tea Party incident to the residents.
* Ask nearby school students (or able residents) dress as Indians and act it out.
* For refreshments serve Ceylon and Darjeeling tea.
2) Near a patriotic holiday hold an “Independence Week”.
* Have a display of flags, the 13-star one, the 48, and the 50-star flag.
* Locate a British flag, too.
* Have someone dress as a Revolutionary soldier.
* Discuss events leading up to the War such as the Stamp Act or the Boston Tea Party.
* Read the Constitution to residents. It’s clear and straight forward and can be fun to
discuss each section..
* See how many residents can recite the Preamble to the Constitution.
* Challenge residents to recite the Preamble to the Constitution with you.
* Discuss the founding fathers:: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas
Paine, Nathan Hale, etc.
* Show photos or picture books of this time in history.
3) Show a movie about the Statue of Liberty (available at many libraries.)
* Discuss the movie and the statue--its mammoth size, the cost, the time it took to
* Ask who has ever visited it
* Display a huge pile of pennies for residents and calculate how many times that
amount it would take to make 30 million pennies (amount used in the Statue).
4) Hold a Disney Week.
* Show and discuss photographs of characters Disney popularized.
* Have a Mickey Mouse Day.
* Supply Mickey Mouse ears for everyone.
* Invite the community to bring in their “Mickey’s” and hold a contest for oldest, most
* Show cartoons.
* Show a Disney movie.
* Let resident try their hand a cartooning. (Check out a beginning cartoon- drawing
book from the library.)
I’m sure you can come up with many more ideas from this material. So have fun, and
until next month, God bless you all. Marge.
The People’s by Almanac by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, 1975
The Young United States Edwin Tunis
Family Encyclopedia of American History, Reader’s Digest Books
Revolutionary War Quiz and Fact Book by Jonathan N. Hall
Movie: The Statue of Liberty