Several years ago, I learned that during World War Two in England, children would ask the American soldiers for chewing gum by asking, “Any gum, chum?” Bubble gum and other candies were not otherwise available to them.
When I was very young, I remember my parents taking us to Niagara Falls for the day. Next, to the roller coaster ride at the Canadian National Exhibition, it was the most spectacular sight that my little eyes had ever seen.
We didn’t get to go on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, though. For those readers not acquainted with this boat – it is fantastic! The boat ride begins about a kilometer down the river. You get a raincoat and a sou’wester to wear while on the ship.
And then a neat thing happens – the boat goes right into the cascading, torrential waterfall – completely out-of-sight from the onlookers on both shores.
My dad did take us to visit the caverns – although I don’t remember a lot about it.
Another highlight of the day was when dad drove us across the Rainbow Bridge that connects Canada with the USA. Earlier, I’d been admiring the bridge from where we were standing to view the horseshoe falls. And there’s usually a rainbow on sunny days at the falls – it’s probably how the bridge got its name.
I don’t remember getting out of the car – so we probably didn’t see anything while in the States.
But I was thrilled to be there. It was the first time I’d ever been to a foreign country. And from what I could see, it was impossible to tell the difference between Canada or the USA. And we Canadians look just like our American neighbors, too.
However, I learned one troubling thing about my dad – he didn’t seem to like Americans. Dad kept his prejudices hidden from view and never spoke about hating anything or anyone because of their race, religion, or gender. He forbid anyone in our household to ever speak badly of anyone, and I know that he wasn’t a racist – but why did he not like the United States?
But I never asked him why until many years later. I was surprised by his answer.
Dad said that during World War Two, while stationed in England, they didn’t have much to eat. Dad said that they often shot rabbits and other critters to supplement the meager war rations. That was true for most of the Allied troops during the war except the Americans.
‘The Yanks had the best of everything,” dad complained. “Their pockets were always full of cash, and they had the best of equipment, too.”
He wouldn’t admit it, but it’s safe to assume that dad was suffering from envy. He didn’t hate Americans; he was just a ‘poor’ teenager who was jealous of what others had. And the ‘others’ were Americans.
I know that my dad didn’t hate Americans because after he retired, he and my mom traveled extensively around the world. And many of their trips were part of tour and charter packages – with people from all around the world. My parents made many friends – most of them American. Mom and dad had many ‘best friends forever’ in the States.
I’ll bet my last dollar that my dad loved Americans. But knowing him, he’d probably deny that he ever was jealous or envious of them. Either way, I’m proud that he was able to outgrow his silly opinion of our neighbors from ‘across the line.’
Several years ago, while volunteering at the cancer center, I had a chat about the war with Margaret F., a fellow volunteer.
As a young girl, living in London during the war, Margaret said that having candy or sweets was very rare. But when she and her friends spotted a member of the American armed forces, she/they would always excitedly ask, “Got any gum, chum?”
By the way, you may remember a love story I wrote about Margaret, several years ago.
Here is a link to that story: A Love Story
But Margaret didn’t hate or dislike the American soldiers and sailors – she probably envied them like my dad. It’s also interesting that other people from the UK who lived in the UK during the war – remember the same phrase, “Got any gum, chum?”
Regrettably, I’ve somehow lost contact with Margaret – not sure why, but that happens sometimes. Someone gives you the ‘cold shoulder,’ and they never tell you why?
And I’d rather give up all of my material things – than lose a good friend. The money will never buy you, friends – it only attracts ‘hangers-on.’
But I’ve never hated the USA or Americans, in general.
How could I? The only ones that I’ve ever known are a few hundred whom I worked with at General Motors Limited – and those were mostly business relationships.
I’ve always enjoyed going to the States – and have seen much of it over the past fifty years.
Most of my trips to the USA were business-related, and I didn’t get a chance to meet or spend time with any of the locals.
However, shortly after the 9/11 terror attack, I was going to a business function in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As the western regional sales manager, I was hosting two couples from Alberta. They met me in Toronto, and we’d be traveling together to Charlotte.
The airports in the States had recently been re-opened after the several-day-shutdown, and security was very tight. One of my customers approached me while boarding the plane. He explained that he and the others belong to a particular religion, which forbids them from standing for any national anthem. He asked if that would be a problem?
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I searched for the hint of a smile – hoping that my customer was joking with me. But he wasn’t smiling – he was serious.
Later that day, after we had checked-in to the hotel, I met my customers at the meet-and-greet party in the lobby. They gathered around a table, with drinks in their hands, and they all seemed to be having a lot of fun.
When I got to their table, I raised my glass to make a toast – but nobody followed suit.
One of the men told me that they don’t make ‘toasts’!
So, I apologized and walked away to another corner of the lobby.
An hour or so later, the banquet hall opened, and we all sat down at pre-assigned tables. There were probably several hundred people seated in the room – and they were mostly American. I was getting nervous waiting for what was sure to come next – the playing of the national anthem.
And then there was an announcement: “Please stand for our national anthem.”
Everyone in the room was soon standing – except my customers. I don’t think that I have ever been as embarrassed in my life.
And as I stood there surveying the room, I noticed that all the people were staring at my table! I spent the rest of the evening going to each of the tables and apologizing for any hurt caused by the people at my table not standing during the national anthem. All I could offer as an excuse was “it’s against their religion.”
However, I don’t think that my apologies were accepted that night, and I lived with the humiliation until two years later, at the next ‘Tech of the Millenium’ competition, held at Las Vegas, Nevada.
That night was very special for two reasons:
- My distributor’s customer in Saskatoon won the North American championship – and the technician won a brand new truck!
- My director of sales – Scott M. – told me he wanted me to read an article by the late Gordon Sinclair, a well-known Canadian journalist. Before that evening – I had never read the article. But as I read it to the broad audience, my eyes started to fill with tears, and my voice was breaking up with an emotion that I had no hope of suppressing.
Here is a copy of Mr. Sinclair’s 1973 article that I read to the audience that night:
The Americans by Gordon Sinclair (CFRB-Radio in Toronto on June 5, 1973)
The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French, and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971, and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.
As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did.
They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges, and the Niger. Today, the rich bottomland of the Mississippi is underwater, and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, Britain, and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.
When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries in to help…Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.
The Marshall Plan…the Truman Policy…all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.
I’d like to see one of those countries that are gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.
Come on…let’s hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 10? If so, why don’t they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or women on the moon?
You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times…and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them…unless they are breaking Canadian laws…are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here.
When the Americans get out of this bind…as they will…who could blame them if they said “the hell with the rest of the world.” Let someone else buy the Israel bonds. Let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won’t shake apart in earthquakes.
When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.
Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.
Our neighbors have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.
I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians. And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.
This year’s disasters…with the year less than half-over…has taken it all and nobody…but nobody…has helped.
When I finished giving the speech – I got a standing ovation – even though the words were written by another. But I enjoyed getting the hugs from many of the people in the room.
I still get emotional reading Mr. Sinclair’s powerful words – it’s a message that we need to remind ourselves today and on every day in the future.
So, today, as we remember 9/11 – let’s not forget that America is still the same country we grew up admiring from afar. And I know that I speak for 99% of Canadians. And although I can’t speak for all people – most of us on the planet believes the USA will once again rise to meet its challenges and win.
And if you’re a kind soul – you’ll give thanks to the USA, in your nightly prayers.
Dedicated to my American friends
With Hugs and Love,
Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):
Soldier in the Rain – lyrics
Morning clouds are gathering around as I stand on the bridge of the river
Years have gone since I was here, and I’m wondering how I differ
Taxicabs keep rolling by and a blind man asks for change
And here I stand a soldier in the rain.
Coming home was all I thought of … seeing my family and friends
They say love knows no distance but the lonely never ends
And all along the dreams that possessed my heart never were to plain
Here I stand a soldier in the rain
I remember years ago, I had so many plans
And now I watch the river flow,
Time has brought me here
With empty hands
Morning clouds are gathering around and the streets are full of reflections
A traffic light and the moon still bright, people going in different directions
I’ve thought about why I am here it’s just too hard to explain
And here I stand a soldier in the rain
In the rain, in the rain, in the rain
Songwriters: John Ford Coley / Sunny Dalton
Soldier in the Rain lyrics © Spirit Music Group, Sutjujo Music