Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 7, 2016

Standing the test of time

By Brooks Taylor

By BROOKS TAYLOR

Mt. Pleasant News

It is said that the test of time is one of the most important benchmarks of success. If that is true, Old Threshers passes with flying colors. The love of the event has been passed on through generations (61 years of generations, that is) and where would the celebration be without the volunteers?

Something this large would be impossible without hundreds of volunteers and the volunteers truly are the backbone of Old Threshers. Seldom do you see five-day celebrations any longer, most are confined to three days maximum. So the length of Old Threshers makes it unique.

Speaking of length of time as a measuring stick, Salem’s Old Settlers doesn’t have to take a back seat to any community event. Salem just had its 128th annual Old Settlers. Wow, that is nearly hard to fathom. Old Settlers began long before vehicles were seen on roads, airplanes in the skies, the telephone and most of the modern conveniences we enjoy today.

The length also means that fourth generations are now organizing and participating in the event. The fact that Old Settlers keeps happening is a testament to community pride.

Salem’s ability to pull it off every year is reminiscent of another long-standing Labor Day event in northwest Iowa. Graettinger, a stone’s toss from Minnesota, has had a Labor Day celebration for over a century. I can’t remember exactly how long, but I know Graettinger is not far behind Salem in longevity. Like Salem, Graettinger is a small town with about 800 population. Labor Day is Graettinger’s rallying cry and is the culmination of a lot of work by many.

I have been in many communities where special events have come and gone. The usual reason for the demise is that the same people do the same things each year. They become burned out and there isn’t anybody willing to take the ball and run with it. Many of these communities have been larger than either Salem or Graettinger. I am sure there are organizers in both communities who have been doing this for years. They aren’t doing the work for self-gratification, they are doing it out of a love for the community in which they live. Labors of love are generally the best and the staying power of Old Settlers in Salem and Labor Day in Graettinger prove it.

Want to take a walk? Then do it on Friday, Oct. 7. That is when Iowa is going to have its Start Somewhere Walk. The walk is the symbolic kickoff to the Healthiest State Initiative announced by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in August.

The goal of the initiative is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation within five years as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In 2010, Iowa ranked 19th among the healthiest states.

Organizers of the Iowa Start Somewhere Walk have announced a goal of breaking a world record by having 250,000 Iowans participate in simultaneous one-kilometer walks Oct. 7 at noon. The current record is claimed by Canada, which had 231,635 participants in simultaneous one-kilometer walks throughout the country in 2007.

One kilometer is the equivalent of just over six-tenths of a mile, so you may not even break a sweat while contributing.

To pledge participating in the Healthiest State Initiative and the Start Somewhere Walk, Iowans can go to www.iowahealthieststate.com. Over 100 walks have already been scheduled.

Finally but probably most importantly, this is 9/11 weekend. Many times events slightly drift from memory after a time-period. I doubt, however, that will ever be the case with the terror caused on Sept. 11, 2001. I would imagine that many of you remember what you were doing the exact moment you heard about the attacks.

Although silver linings often cannot be found in tragedies, there have been several that arose from 9/11. One of those silver linings is renewed patriotism, patriotism that has not diminished in the years following.

That patriotism is demonstrated daily by flags hanging outside houses, lapel pins and through songs. 9/11 brought a renewal of the song, “God Bless America,” a song I personally like better than the national anthem.

There is a story behind the song. The time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

This was the era just before TV and long before the Internet. Radio shows were extremely popular and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers. No entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith. Smith was also large in size and might not have made it big in the age of television, but with her voice coming over the radio, she was the biggest star of her time.

Smith was also very patriotic. It hurt her to see Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring. She had hope for America and faith in her fellow Americans.

She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she went to the famous American songwriter Irving Berlin (who also wrote “White Christmas”) and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good about their country. When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her. He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, 22 years before (in 1917). He gave it to Smith and she worked on it with her studio orchestra.

Smith and Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from “God Bless America.” Any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from the song.

Now you know the rest of the story, and no, we never will forget 9/11.