Way Back When: Patriotic Song
(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.