Category Archives: Personal Stories

How America’s Pledge of Allegiance Differed in World War II

 

 

The Pledge of Allegiance we recite today is different than the one recited by the characters who populate the Maggie Sullivan mysteries, and by America’s real-life citizens throughout the 1940s.

Do you know how it differs?

It’s a matter of only two words.

Those words, and the change, were drilled into my brain because of my mother, one of the women whose stories, hijinx and attitudes inspired the Maggie Sullivan series.  She was a teacher.  The summer before I started first grade, she insisted that I be letter perfect on two things before the first day of school.

One was The Lord’s Prayer.  I’ve always found her emphasis on that one a little odd since I don’t recall ever saying it in school.  We weren’t a particularly religious family.  We went to church on Sunday, I said “Now I lay me down to sleep…” at bedtime, and I had a nice little rhyming prayer I could say before meals if requested.  Still, the exotic language of the King James version of The Lord’s Prayer delighted me.

The second thing I was to memorize was the Pledge of Allegiance.  Memorizing was never a problem, and it wasn’t long.  What made it stand out was my mother telling me that it had just been changed.  Two words had been added, she said.  Many people would probably still recite the old version.  I wasn’t to correct them. (Why would she possibly think her only child would do such a thing???)  I was simply to say it the right way.

In case you’re not familiar with the way the pledge was changed, here’s the version recited from 1923 to 1954:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The new version, which coincidentally was issued at the height of the McCarthy Era, contained two new words:

“under God”

Did they change America?  Did they make allegiance to the flag stronger?

For further reading: http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

 

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A County Nurse of the WW2 Era

Before World War II plunged countless American women into factory jobs and vacancies left by men who had gone to fight, the two careers most open to women were teaching and nursing.  They required professional training, and women who underwent it were looked up to in their communities.

Today, author Anna Castle shares the story of her grandmother Saima (pronounced like “sigh”), a Greatest Generation woman who enjoyed a long career as a county nurse.  Other photos of Saima and two nursing student friends appear on the Share Stories page.

by Anna Castle

Saima Lydia Johnson was born on the farm in 1907, the newest member of a small Finnish farming community near Brocket, North Dakota. Her father had homesteaded there along with some dozen villagers from northern Sweden. His name was Johanni Perälä, changed to Johnson at Ellis Island. (That explains why my great-grandfathers on both sides had the same name. The Norwegian ‘Johnson’ never told anyone his original name.) Her mother was also a Finnish immigrant named Hana Uusitalo.

Saima taught grade school in Brocket for several years after she finished high school. Then she applied for a scholarship to the nursing school at St. Michaels Catholic Hospital in Grand Forks and was accepted. She worked in the ‘cook shack’ all summer cooking for the men in the fields and saved money to buy a new coat and shoes and a ticket to Grand Forks on the train.

Saima and two other nursing students work in the Cook Shack.

Saima and two other nursing students work in the Cook Shack.

“I think she must have been a wonderful nurse,” my mother, Carmen, said.  “I would often meet one of the nuns or people she had taken care of and they would praise her. My dad meanwhile, considered it a disgrace that his wife would leave the home to work. At first he expected meals on time and everything to be the same. Later he sort of ignored her career but at least didn’t criticize.”

Saima was appointed public health nurse of Grand Forks County and worked for some years there before retirement. She kept the county clean, visited the schools to inspect for lice, worked with the doctors at the end of the TB struggle before penicillin.

She married Emilio Acosta, originally of Puerto Rico. Emilio served in both world wars and went to the University of Missouri on a VA scholarship. He earned a Ph.D. in Spanish and got a job as a professor of Spanish at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. He and Saima had three children.

The couple are buried in the Finnish cemetery near Brocket, where Acosta is the only non-Finnish name.  His headstone is distinguished by the tiny flag of a veteran. We don’t have flags to commemorate county nurses, although their service was every bit as important to the health of this great country.

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Anna Castle writes the Francis Bacon mysteries and the Lost Hat, Texas, mysteries. She’s earned a series of degrees — BA Classics, MS Computer Science, and PhD Linguistics — and has had a corresponding series of careers — waitressing, software engineering, assistant professor, and archivist. Writing fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. Find out more at www.annacastle.com.

 

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