Way Back When: Patriotic Song

Way Back When: Patriotic Song title=
Way Back When: Patriotic Song
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(Image: Library of Congress)

By Betsy J. Green

During World War I, John Christian, an African-American man who worked as a steward at the SB Elks Club, wrote the lyrics to a patriotic song titled, "Uncle Sam is a Grand Old Man." The music was written by another local, George Clerbois.

The chorus ends:

"When he starts to fight, you bet he's right:

Uncle Sam is a grand old man."

On New Year's Eve in 1918, a group of folks assembled on the steps of the Post Office [now the Santa Barbara Museum of Art] and sang the song. Christian later received a letter of thanks from California Governor William Stephens.


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com​

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bjgreen Feb 23, 2020 11:57 AM
Way Back When: Patriotic Song

This is a comment to RHS: The United States entered World War I only after it discovered that Germany sent a secret telegram to Mexico stating that if Mexico attacked the U.S., Germany would support Mexico and help it regain part of the territory it had lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. More on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimmermann_Telegram

RHS Feb 23, 2020 12:52 PM
Way Back When: Patriotic Song

Wow. Can't stop the lies. The US did not enter the war because of the Zimmerman telegram. The Zimmerman telegram did not urge Mexico to attack the US. It said, if the US entered into the war against Germany on behalf of France and England that Germany would support Mexico in an attempt to regain that part of Mexico which the US had stolen in the Mexican American War (which jingoists and US empire builder wannabes started to acquire more land). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimmermann_Telegram) And, the reason informed people point out facts is not to "piss on everything good" but to hopefully get thoughtful people to pierce the propaganda and lies that we are sold from childhood (and this happens everywhere by the way). We need to reason and know the truth, not just knee-jerk a salute to a buzz word.

CelesteBarber Feb 23, 2020 11:45 AM
Way Back When: Patriotic Song

Why do those on the extreme left -- far, far extreme left -- have to piss on everything good that is said about our country? (And in this instance, anonymously.) Since when was it non-existent or wrong for African-Americans to love this country? Study our history. Blacks fought and died in the Revolutionary War. From our nation's birth and before, there were many, many ordinary people who fought against slavery black and white: Abolitionists, Underground Railway "conductors"; our martyred President Lincoln (the last casualty in a war that took thousands of lives). African-Americans have contributed so much to this country in the sciences, arts, the law, and politically. Why shouldn't they have the right to love it as citizens? Betsy Green's story was interesting and just right for a Sunday morning -- like everything she writes regarding Santa Barbara history.

RHS Feb 23, 2020 10:02 AM
Way Back When: Patriotic Song

How disgusting. A black man living in Jim Crow era and descendant from a nation that protected slavery of his ancestors is so indoctrinated in jingoism that he succumbs to the urge to defend US intervention in war that was between European monarchies. Thousands of US soldiers lost their lives in that futile and absurd endeavor. No "democracy" was made safe. Colonial empires were protected. Nothing to cheer about.

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