american

A mob of American colonists gathered at the Customs House in Boston, on the cold, snowy night of March 5, 1770. They called themselves Patriots, and they were there to protest the occupation of their city by British troops, who were sent to Boston in 1768 to enforce unpopular taxation measures passed by a British parliament that lacked American representation. I suppose it is possible that the colonists would have agreed to increase their taxes in an effort to help pay for the Seven-Year War, but the reality is that they were not asked…they were told, and it was to be forced upon them. They were not going tolerate that…so they would fight.

For their part, the British would also not be moved, and they were prepared to fight. British Captain Thomas Preston, the commanding officer at the Customs House, ordered his men to fix their bayonets and join the guard outside the building. The colonists…somewhat less prepared, responded by throwing snowballs and other objects at the British regulars. As the snowball fight commenced, Private Hugh Montgomery was hit, and not knowing what hit him, he discharged his rifle at the crowd. With that, the other soldiers began firing too, and when the smoke cleared, five colonists were dead or dying. They were Crispus Attucks, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick and James Caldwell. Three more were injured. Although it is unclear whether Crispus Attucks, an African American, was the first to fall as is commonly believed, the deaths of the five men are regarded by some historians as the first fatalities in the American Revolutionary War. After the massacre, the British soldiers were put on trial for war crimes. Strangely, patriots John Adams and Josiah Quincy agreed to defend the soldiers in a show of support of the colonial justice system. When the trial ended in December 1770, two of the British soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. As punishment, their thumbs were branded with an “M” for murder. In my mind, that is such a minor punishment, for what we view as such a major crime. I’m not sure if I think that any of the British soldiers were really guilty of murder, or even manslaughter, because it seems to me that in a moment of panic, the soldier mistakenly thought he was in eminent danger, when in reality, it was simply a snowball. Still, the punishment really didn’t fit the crime for which it was given.

The Stamp Act was called the “Boston Massacre” by the Sons of Liberty, a Patriot group formed in 1765 to oppose it. The “Boston Massacre” was viewed as a battle for American liberty and just cause for the removal of British troops from Boston. Patriot Paul Revere made an engraving of the incident, depicting the British soldiers lining up like an organized army to suppress an idealized representation of the colonist uprising. Copies of the engraving were distributed throughout the colonies. This was to help reinforce negative American sentiments about British rule. The colonists needed as many in their ranks to be onboard with the battle, and so any depiction of the British as cruel slave masters would help.

The American Revolution officially began in April of 1775, when British troops from Boston fought with American militiamen at the battles of Lexington and Concord. The British troops were under orders to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington and to confiscate the Patriot arsenal at Concord. Unfortunately for them, the Patriots were several steps ahead of them, and neither of the missions were accomplished because Paul Revere and William Dawes rode ahead of the British to warn Adams and Hancock and to rouse the Patriot minutemen.

The British forces were forced to evacuate Boston eleven months later, in March 1776, following American General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights. Oddly the eight-year British occupation of Boston ended with a bloodless liberation of the city. General Washington, commander of the Continental Army, was presented with the first medal ever awarded by the Continental Congress for the victory. It would be more than five years before the Revolutionary War came to an end with British General Charles Cornwallis’ surrender to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia.

Apartment living is something many people do, and while they might dream of a house, or even have one, there can be reasons for having an apartment too. The oilfield would be one example of the need for a second place to live. Often, oil field workers must travel to the worksite. Once there, they have to stay there for a time, because traveling to and from home twice a day is just not feasible. Many oilfield companies provide living quarters for their employees. Sometimes it is a local motel, sometimes apartments, and sometimes, as with off shore drilling operations, companies must get innovative.

Some living quarters for oil field workers is quite a bit different than others. The Edda oil rig in the Ekofisk field, 235 miles east of Dundee, Scotland had just such an unusual housing arrangement for the employees who worked on the Edda oil rig. The Alexander Kielland platform was a floating apartment unit that housed 208 people. The floating apartment complex was located in the North Sea. The majority of the Phillips Petroleum workers were from Norway, but a few were American and British. The platform was held up by two large pontoons. It had bedrooms, kitchens, and lounges, and provided a place for workers to spend their time when not working. It was truly a comfortable home away from home…for the most part.

On March 30, 1980, at about 6:30pm most of the residents were in the platform’s small theater watching a movie. There was a storm brewing, but although there were gale conditions in the North Sea that evening, no one was expecting that a large wave would collapse and capsize the platform. Everything happened very fast. The wave hit, and things began to collapse. Within 15 minutes of the collapse, the floating apartment complex had capsized. It was so fast that many of the workers were unable to make it to the lifeboats. The Royal Air Force of Great Britain and Norwegian military both immediately sent rescue helicopters, but the poor weather made it impossible for them to help. Of the 208 people onboard, 123 drowned. The nightmare scenario seemed impossible, but a subsequent investigation revealed that there was a previously undetected crack in one of main legs of the platform. That had caused the structure’s disastrous collapse. The Alexander Kielland sat in the water for three years before it was salvaged.

In 1799, in an area of the Caribbean Sea that had been listed as off limits for American ships, the English cutter, Sparrow intercepted the American brig, Nancy. The Nancy was in a place they should not have been, but the captain, Thomas Briggs produced papers claiming the ship was owned by a Dutchman. The captain of the Sparrow was skeptical, suspecting a smuggler. The problem was that he lacked evidence as to the true status of the Nancy, or the real reason for her trip. Due to his doubts about status and a lack of trust of the Nancy’s captain, the Sparrow’s captain sent Briggs to Jamaica to have his case heard by the vice-admiralty.

It turns out the captain of the Sparrow was not wrong in his doubts. Two days later, another English ship, the Ferret, caught a large shark near the coast of Haiti. When the cut the fish open, they found in its belly the papers of the American ship Nancy. Apparently, the Nancy’s captain, Thomas Briggs had thrown them overboard before getting false Dutch papers in Curacao. It was simply a fluke that the Ferret somehow managed to catch the very shark that ate the real papers. I suppose that if the Nancy’s captain had used any common sense at all, he would have burned the papers, and then thrown the ashes overboard. The likelihood of having any useable paperwork after they were burned, would be extremely slim. The valid papers for the Nancy were dubbed the “shark papers.” They were produced in court, and the Nancy and her cargo were confiscated.

The Nancy truly was an American sailing vessel, even though the captain tried to hide that fact. It was a type of ship noted in sources as either a brig or a brigantine, and it had been chartered to transport war supplies during the American Revolutionary War. When Michael Fitton, captain of the schooner Ferret, tender to HMS Abergavenny, cruised the Mona Passage in company with Sparrow, commanded by Mr Whylie, the two accidentally separated for a few days. On rejoining, Fitton invited Whylie by signal to come to breakfast, and while waiting caught a large shark that was under the stern. In its stomach was a packet of papers relating to an American brig Nancy. When Whylie came on board, he mentioned that he had detained an American brig called Nancy. Fitton said that he had her papers. A shocked Whylie exclaimed, “Papers? Why, I sealed up her papers and sent them in with her.” “Just so, those were her false papers; here are her real ones,” replied Fitton. Proof positive. The fate of the Nancy and her captain were sealed. The shark’s jaws were set up on shore, with the inscription, “Lieutenant Fitton recommends these jaws for a collar for neutrals to swear through.” The papers are in the museum of the Royal United Service Institution.

Anyone who knows anything about the space program, knows about the disasters that have come out of it…or at least some of them. One of those disasters, the breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia, happened 18 years ago today, February 1, 2003. The breakup upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere took the lives of all seven astronauts on board, in a way that we can only imagine as horrific. The best we can hope for following the tragedy is that the astronauts were killed instantly, so they did not suffer in what followed the breakup. It was a horrible day for the United States, and for NASA, but what followed that terrible disaster was a truly remarkable phenomena.

It is tragedies like the Space Shuttle Columba that bring out the true American spirit. Feelings are set aside, and you suddenly see people hugging each other to comfort them. Columbia broke up in the skies of East Texas on its way back home to Kennedy Space Center. Almost immediately after losing the craft, the NASA world and many others, converged on the small town of Hemphill, Texas. Everyone wanted to help, and many who were not called into service, volunteered. The Space Program had become so commonplace and so routine that such an event came as a horrible shock to this nation and to the world. Suddenly we were glued to our television sets or radios, waiting for news, hoping against hope that there might be survivors, but knowing that it was clearly not possible.

It wasn’t just the NASA teams who showed up for this tragic event. Restaurants gave free meals to the workers. People reported anything they found so it could be documented and processed. The townspeople were there to offer comfort to those in need, because lets face it, these astronauts were members of the NASA family, and NASA (as well as the rest of the nation) was in mourning. As time went on, more and more searchers converged on Hemphill and the surrounding area. The local heroes continued to step up, giving any kind of support needed. This might seem like a small feat to some people, but this search went on for three months. That is a long time to care for so many in such a small town, but it was desperately needed, and gratefully received. After a long, drawn-out search, the teams had found all the seemed to be going to find, and almost as quickly as they had arrived, the teams were gone, and the small town of Hemphill, Texas was quiet again, but it would never be the same again. Three months in 2003 had changed it forever. The people who lived there in that time will never forget what they did back then, and we will never forget what they did. It was an awesome feat of kindness and love for our fellow man.

In a war, there are many heroes, and all too often, many of them are unsung heroes, who heroic acts all but go unnoticed. Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban was one of those heroes, who actually became an Urban Legend, because of his uncanny ability to seemingly come back from the dead. Urban was one of the most decorated American officers of World War II. He fought in seven campaigns and was wounded seven times. Each time he was wounded, he seemingly came back to life…so often, in fact, that the Germans gave him the nickname “the Ghost.” When he was given the Medal of Honor, his citation referred to ten separate acts of bravery during the Normandy campaign alone.

To name a few of the heroic and maybe just a little bit crazy acts of bravery, Urban took on multiple enemy tanks with a bazooka, all while walking on a cane because he’d broken his leg landing on Utah Beach. He organized multiple counterattacks after nearly having his leg blown off, then breaking himself out of the hospital, hitchhiking to the front, immediately throwing himself into battle, running into an abandoned tank and driving it toward the enemy line with no crew!! He was wounded again and again, but refused to be evacuated. Finally, a bullet in the throat took him out of combat for good. His reign of terror against the Germans was over, but not his life. Once again, the Germans couldn’t kill “the Ghost.” Urban recovered, survived the war, and lived until 1995. Urban died on March 4, 1995, in Holland, Michigan, at the age of 75. The cause of death was a collapsed lung, reportedly due to his war injuries. He is buried in Plot: Section 7a, Grave 40 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

“Matt Louis Urban was a highly decorated United States Army combat soldier who served with distinction as an infantry officer in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations during World War II. He scouted, led charges upfront, and performed heroically in combat on several occasions despite being wounded. He retired after World War II as a lieutenant colonel. Urban received over a dozen individual decorations for combat from the U.S. Army, including seven Purple Hearts. In 1980, he received the Medal of Honor and four other individual decorations for combat belatedly for his actions in France and Belgium in 1944. In Section 7a of the “Prominent Military Figures”

Matt Urban was born Matthew Louis Urbanowicz in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrant Stanley Urbanowicz, a plumbing contractor. His mother Helen was born in Depew, New York. He attended East High School in Buffalo, and graduated in 1937. Urban had three brothers: Doctor Stanley (Urbanowicz) Urban, Arthur (Urbanowicz) Urban, and Eugene, who died in 1927 from appendicitis. In the fall of 1937, he enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, majoring in history and government with a minor in community recreation. He graduated on June 14, 1941, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. For reasons unknown, he used the name Matty L. Urbanowitz during his last year of college. While at Cornell University, he was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the track and boxing teams, and the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. Nevertheless, his greatest accomplishment was that of the Urban Legend known as “the Ghost.”

It has been 74 years since 17,740 Americans gave their lives to liberate the people of the Netherlands (often called Holland) from the Germans during World War II, and the people of Holland have never forgotten that sacrifice. For 74 years now, the people of the small village of Margraten, Netherlands have taken care of the graves of the lost at the Margraten American Cemetery. On Memorial Day, they come, every year, bringing Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own. Of the 17,740 who were originally buried there, 9,440 were later moved to various paces in he United States by their families. “What would cause a nation recovering from losses and trauma of their own to adopt the sons and daughters of another nation?” asked Chotin, the only American descendant to speak on that Sunday 4 years ago. “And what would keep that commitment alive for all of these years, when the memory of that war has begun to fade? It is a unique occurrence in the history of civilization.”

The people of Margraten immediately embraced the Americans, who had come to their aid when they needed it most. The town’s mayor invited the company’s commanders to sleep in his home, while the enlisted men slept in the schools. The protection against rain and buzz bombs was welcomed. Later, villagers hosted U.S. troops when the men were given rest-and-recuperation breaks from trying to breach the German frontier defenses, known as the Siegfried Line. “After four dark years of occupation, suddenly [the Dutch] people were free from the Nazis, and they could go back to their normal lives and enjoy all the freedoms they were used to. They knew they had to thank the American allies for that,” explained Frenk Lahaye, an associate at the cemetery.

By November 1944, two months after the village’s 1,500 residents had been freed from Nazi occupation by the U.S. 30th Infantry Division the town’s people were filled with gratitude, but the war wasn’t over. In late 1944 and early 1945, thousands of American soldiers would be killed in nearby battles trying to pierce the German defense lines. The area was filled with Booby-traps and heavy artillery fire. All that combined with a ferocious winter, dealt major setbacks to the Allies, who had already suffered losses trying to capture strategic Dutch bridges crossing into Germany during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.

Now, the U.S. military needed a place to bury its fallen. The Americans ultimately picked a fruit orchard just outside Margraten. On the first day of digging, the sight of so many bodies made the men in the 611th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company ill. The bodies arrived in a procession of trucks and trailers. Death hung in the air over the whole village of Margraten. The sight of so much death caused a few of the people helping with the burials to become ill. They suddenly made a break for the latrines. The first burial at Margraten took place on November 10, 1944. Laid to rest in Plot A, Row 1, Grave 1: John David Singer Jr, a 25-year-old infantryman, whose remains would later be repatriated and buried in Denton, Maryland, about 72 miles east of Washington. Between late 1944 and spring 1945, up to 500 bodies arrived each day, so many that the mayor went door to door asking villagers for help with the digging. Over the next two years, about 17,740 American soldiers would be buried here, though the number of graves would shrink as thousands of families asked for their loved ones’ remains to be sent home, until 8,300 remained, and still, the graves are cared for by the town’s people, as if the dead were their own loved one. Not only that, but they have taken it upon themselves to research the deceased, and learn of their lives as a way of showing honor to these fallen heroes.

On May 29, 1945, the day before the cemetery’s first Memorial Day commemoration, 20 trucks from the 611th collected flowers from 60 different Dutch villages. Nearly 200 Dutch men, women and children spent all night arranging flowers and wreaths by the dirt-covered graves, which bore makeshift wooden crosses and Stars of David. By 8am, the road leading into Margraten was jammed with Dutch people coming on foot, bicycle, carriages, horseback and by car. Silent film footage shot that day shows some of the men wearing top hats as they carried wreaths. A nun and two young girls laid flowers at a grave, then prayed. Solemn-faced children watched as cannons blasted salutes. The Dutch, Shomon wrote, “were perceptibly stirred, wept in bowed reverence.” All they do for these heroes is because they have vowed never to forget.

Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess were senior officials in the British Foreign Office and in 1951. They were trusted diplomats, but they had a dark side. They were well known to have left-leaning ideas, and eventually their ideas moved them so far out of line with the jobs they had that it was suspected, if not known that they had become spies for the Soviet Union. Maclean and Burgess were two of the original members of the notorious Cambridge Spy Ring, which was a ring of spies in the United Kingdom, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II. They were active at least into the early 1950s. Four members of the ring were originally identified: Kim Philby (cryptonym: Stanley), Donald Duart Maclean (cryptonym: Homer), Guy Burgess (cryptonym: Hicks) and Anthony Blunt (cryptonyms: Tony, Johnson). Once jointly known as the Cambridge Four and later as the Cambridge Five, the number increased as more evidence came to light.

The group was recruited during their education at the University of Cambridge in the 1930s…hence the term Cambridge. There is much debate as to the exact timing of their recruitment by Soviet intelligence. Anthony Blunt claimed that they were not recruited as agents until they had graduated. Blunt, an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, was several years older than Burgess, Maclean, and Philby; he acted as a talent-spotter and recruiter for most of the group save Burgess. Several people have been suspected of being additional members of the group; John Cairncross (cryptonym: Liszt) was identified as such by Oleg Gordievsky, although many others have also been accused of membership in the Cambridge ring. Both Blunt and Burgess were members of the Cambridge Apostles, an exclusive and prestigious society based at Trinity and King’s Colleges. Cairncross was also an Apostle. Other Apostles accused of having spied for the Soviets include Michael Whitney Straight and Guy Liddell.

The group was radical in their dealings, so I’m not sure that anyone was overly surprised when both Maclean and Burgess disappeared from England in 1951, although they may have assumed that they were assassinated. For years there was no trace of them, and I suppose people began to forget all about them. Nevertheless, there were rumors that they had been spies for the Soviet Union and had left England to avoid prosecution. For five years, nothing was heard of the pair. British intelligence suspected that they were in the Soviet Union, but Russian officials consistently denied any knowledge of their whereabouts.

Then, on February 11, 1956, the pair resurfaced and invited a group of journalists to a hotel room in Moscow. Burgess and Maclean were there to greet them, give a brief interview, and hand out a typed joint statement. In the statement, both men denied having served as Soviet spies. However, they very strongly declared their sympathy with the Soviet Union and stated that they had both been “increasingly alarmed by the post-war character of Anglo-American policy.” They claimed that the decision to leave England and live in Russia was due to their belief that only in Russia would there be “some chance of putting into practice in some form the convictions they had always had.” They were convinced that the Soviet Union desired a policy of “mutual understanding” with the West, but many officials in the United States and Great Britain were adamant in their opposition to any working relationship with the Russians. They concluded by stating, “Our life in the Soviet Union convinced us we took at the time the correct decision.”

While the surprise news conference solved the mystery of where Burgess and Maclean had been for the past five years, it did little to settle the question of why they had gone to the Soviet Union in the first place. Their statement also did not clear up the issue of whether or not they had spied for the Soviet Union. Evidence from both British and American intelligence agencies strongly suggested that the two, together with fellow Foreign Office workers Kim Philby and Sir Anthony Blunt, had engaged in espionage for the Russians. Both men spent the rest of their lives in the Soviet Union. Burgess died in 1963 and Maclean passed away in 1983. I don’t suppose we will ever know all of the British and possibly American secrets they shared with the Russians during those years, only that they were treasonous traitors.

Most people think that English came from England, and of course, it did, however, in England prior to the 19th century, the English language was not spoken by the aristocracy, but rather only by “commoners.” Back then, English used to belong to the people, and I suppose that might explain some of the “incorrect” uses of the language which have been so severely attacked by contemporary English speakers. Prior to the 19th century, the aristocracy in English courts spoke French. This was due to the Norman Invasion of 1066 and caused years of division between the “gentlemen” who had adopted the Anglo-Norman French and those who only spoke English. Even the famed King Richard the Lionheart was actually primarily referred to in French, as Richard “Coeur de Lion.”

In my opinion, this dual language society would have caused numerous problems. The indication I get is that neither side could speak the language of the other, but I don’t know how a monarchy could rule, if the “commoners” could not understand the language and therefore the orders of the monarchy. French was spoken and learned by anyone in the upper classes. However, it became less useful as English lost its control of various places in France, where the peasants spoke French, too. After that…about, 1450…English was simply more useful for talking to anybody. It is still true that British royals and many nobles are fluent in French, but they only use it to talk to French people, just like everybody else.

To further confuse your preconceptions about the English language, the “British accent” was, in reality, created after the Revolutionary War, meaning contemporary Americans sound more like the colonists and British soldiers of the 18th century than contemporary Brits. Many people have made a point of how much they love the British accent, but I think very few people know the real story behind the British accent. In the 18th century and before, the British “accent” was the way we speak herein America. Of course, accents vary greatly by region, as we have seen with the accents of the south and east in the United States, but the “BBC English” or public school English accent…which sounds like the James Bond movies…didn’t come about until the 19th century and was originally adopted by people who wanted to sound fancier. I suppose it was like the aristocracy and the commoners, in that one group didn’t want to be mistaken for the other. After being handily defeated by the American colonists, I’m sure that the British were looking for a way to seem superior, even in defeat. The change in the accent of the English language was sufficient to make that distinction. Maybe it was their way of saying that they were better than the American guerilla-type soldiers who beat them in combat…basically they might have lost, but they were superior…even if it was only in how they sounded.

My niece, Siara Harman is one of many girls who were cheerleaders in high school and college. She even won a State Championship and a Grand National Championship with the Kelly Walsh Cheer Squad in 2011. Since it’s beginnings, cheerleading has come a long way. In fact, I doubt if today’s cheerleaders would recognize their earlier counterparts, if they saw them back then. Siara was a skilled cheerleader, and very athletic, and we are all proud of her cheerleading years.

The roots of American cheerleading are closely tied to American football’s roots. The first intercollegiate football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton University and Rutgers University in New Jersey. By the 1880s, Princeton had formed an pep club. Organized cheering started as an all-male activity, as many sports do. As early as 1877, Princeton University had a Princeton Cheer. Basically, it was a fight song that was documented in the February 22, 1877; March 12, 1880; and November 4, 1881, issues of The Daily Princetonian. This cheer was yelled from the stands by students attending games, as well as by the athletes themselves. The cheer, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!” remains in use with slight modifications today, where it is now referred to as the Locomotive. Princeton class of 1882 graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota in 1884. He took with him the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota. The term “Cheer Leader” had been used as early as 1897, with Princeton’s football officials having named three students as Cheer Leaders: Thomas, Easton, and Guerin from Princeton’s classes of 1897, 1898, and 1899, respectively, on October 26, 1897. These students would cheer for the team also at football practices, and special cheering sections were designated in the stands for the games themselves for both the home and visiting teams. On November 2, 1898, the University of Minnesota was on a losing streak. A medical student named Johnny Campbell assembled a group to energize the team and the crowd. Johnny picked up a megaphone and rallied the team to victory with the first organized cheer: “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” With that action, Campbell became the first cheerleader in America. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer today. In 1903, the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded.

In 1923, at the University of Minnesota, women were finally permitted to participate in cheerleading. However, it took time for other schools to follow. In the late 1920s, many school manuals and newspapers that were published still referred to cheerleaders as chap, fellow, and man. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s, when collegiate men were drafted for World War II, creating the opportunity for more women to make their way onto sporting event sidelines. As noted by Kieran Scott in Ultimate Cheerleading: “Girls really took over for the first time.” A report written on behalf of cheerleading in 1955 explained that in larger schools, “occasionally boys, as well as, girls are included,” and in smaller schools, “boys can usually find their place in the athletic program, and cheerleading is likely to remain solely a feminine occupation.” During the 1950s, cheerleading in America also increased in popularity. By the 1960s, some began to consider cheerleading too feminine an extracurricular activity for boys, and by the 1970s, girls primarily cheered at public school games. However, this did not stop its growth. Cheerleading could be found at almost every school level across the country, even youth leagues. In 1975, it was estimated by a man named Randy Neil that over 500,000 students actively participated in American cheerleading from grade school to the collegiate level. He also approximated that 95% of cheerleaders within America were female. Since 1973, cheerleaders have started to attend female basketball and other all-female sports as well. As of 2005, overall statistics show around 97% of all modern cheerleading participants are female, although at the collegiate level, cheerleading is co-ed with about 50% of participants being male.

DadIn the United States, you don’t often expect to become friends with a Russian man, but that is exactly what happened with my dad, Allen Spencer. Dad was working at WOTCO in Casper at the time, and his friend, Vladimir worked there as well. For Vladimir, the United States was the epitome of the word freedom. He loved the United States, and as an immigrant, who loved the United States, he wanted to learn the language. He was working very hard on it when he and my dad met. Dad was excited about Vladimir too. He had never known anyone from Russia, and really, never expected to. He told Mom and my younger sister, Allyn Hadlock that there was a Russian man working with him and he wanted to learn Russian so he could talk to him.

Dad bought a Russian/English dictionary, and began to study it. He had some specific phrases he wanted to learn, such as, Hello, How are you, Do you like America, and Do you have a family. Every night they sat down at the table to work through the dictionary, figuring out what he would say next. They also learned that certain symbols, Russian Dictionary some that we use today, could mean something very different in Russian. The American symbol for “ok” is a good example. In Russian that symbol, with the circle of the thumb and forefinger, is a cuss word. It is very similar to flipping someone the bird. They laughed about that one. Then, when Dad wanted to say Dirty Rat, Allyn told him to use that American symbol for ok, because that should do it. That really got them laughing, and it still makes Allyn laugh to this day when she thinks about it.

I think the thing that Vladimir liked so much about my dad was the fact that he tried to learn Russian, and that he reached out to a foreigner too. Vladimir and his wife didn’t have very many people that he could visit with…at least not in Russian. He was just so pleased that Dad was actually learning Russian. I’m not saying that Dad was fluent at Russian. In fact, his Russian could be considered comical at times, but the main thing was that he tried. Dad and Vladimir became the best of friends, and mom and Vladimir’s wife were friends too. They were invited to dinner at Vladimir’s house, and his wife made Borscht. Borscht is a beet soup. Now, I have to tell you that Dad must have really felt a friendship with Vladimir, because Dad hated beets, but he ate that soup. They told Mom and Dad that in Russia the people didn’t have very much meat, so their meals consisted of potatoes and vegetables. They were able to buy more meat now Russian wordsthough, since coming to America, so when they had their American friends over for dinner, they bought meat for the Borscht…mostly because Americans are used to eating meat.

Vladimir and his wife wanted to be like the American people, because they loved this country. The did their very best to Americanize everything they did, because they wanted to be true Americans. This was the true melting pot…every foreigners dream, and they wanted to be a part of it. Dad and his Russian co-worker became good friends, and Vladimir always appreciated Dad’s efforts to make him feel at home in a new land.

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