Dear precious brothers and sisters,
When time came to write our column, From our Pew, there was so much we wanted to say, but what? I must say our hearts feel like someone stabbed us and left us bleeding. The Lord has commissioned us to spread the Good News that He is alive and will never leave us. As Bob always writes, “The times were bad but we walked through it, not around it; not ignoring it, not avoiding it; we walked through it.” We have been doing a great deal of praying. We, at Journeys of Faith were commissioned to spread the Faith, to share all the Lord has given us. But the United States of America is our country, our land blessed by the Lord and His precious Mother. My brother and many other brothers and sisters laid it on the line, risking their lives and in many instances losing them. If this land of ours is worth fighting for on the battlefield, it is worth fighting for at home – to preserve our way of life. If our column will bring back memories of a time of innocence for you, then we praise Our Lord! Brothers and sisters, OUR GOD LIVES AND HE IS IN CHARGE! LAY YOUR CARES DOWN BEFORE HIM! HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN! GO TO CHURCH; HE IS WAITING FOR YOU. ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE! OUR LOVING GOD IS WITH US!
The following is an excerpt from our book, Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, written in 1999. Ask yourselves why we are bringing this to you now! You know, We love you!
“While the crowds pressed around Jesus, He began to speak to them in these words:
`This is an evil age. It seeks a sign. But no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign for the present age. The queen of the south will rise at the judgment along with the men of this generation, and she will condemn them. She came from the farthest part of the world to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, but you have a greater than Solomon here. At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh will rise along with the present generation, and they will condemn it. For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here.’”_
How did it happen? How did we go from faith and fidelity to deception and betrayal?
“Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end…”_ I still remember those days, the good old days, days filled with innocence, love and caring for one’s family, friends and neighbors, days where children revered their parents and grandparents, where the family stuck together, days of trust, days of honor, days of patriotism. Yes, we thought they would never end.
My childhood was a simple one, a life filled with awe and wonder, where with other neighborhood children, we would take hours to determine which candies we should buy for the precious penny we had to spend. They were days of dressing up as Mommys and Daddys, the Mommy serving the Daddy make-believe tea and fresh bread my Nana had made.
In the heart of Brooklyn, what would be called a ghetto or barrio today, was a neighborhood, more like a small village, where everyone knew everyone else, with many aunts and uncles (some really only friends whom we respectfully called Aunt and Uncle). You were never alone; at least one mother or grandmother was hanging out the window, at any hour of the day or night, watching your every move and reporting any mischief you got into, to your parents. We felt safe! It was a world of innocence, with coal stoves and wood-burning stoves warming our bodies and cooking our food. I can still see the dust particles floating up to heaven on the rays of the sun; I can feel the warmth of the sun streaming into our kitchen on the third floor of the apartment house we lived in. I can still feel the warm tears flowing down my cheeks when we moved away from that neighborhood as I waved good-by to everyone and everything I had ever known, and to the Age of Innocence.
We believed in our country! We placed our hand over our hearts when we pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Tears came to our eyes, and our voices choked up a little as we sang the National Anthem of our country. We were Americans! When it was time to vote, an electricity filled the air, an excitement, with Daddy explaining the electoral system to us, the importance of casting our vote, and the merits and shortcomings of the different candidates. We were all involved, even those of us who were too young to vote. At four years old, I campaigned clandestinely, while my mother was on duty as one of the inspectors at the Polling Place. Franklin D. Roosevelt badges covering every inch of my favorite red coat, I would find myself being lifted bodily and carted to the other side of the Polling signs, when I wandered too close to the Barber Shop where the voting took place.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was our hero! We would have done anything he asked of us, even die; and many of our loved ones did! It was a time of patriotism and pride—We were Americans! Oh those were days of flags waving and speeches on the street corners, everyone crowding around the speakers or hanging out their windows to hear their platform. We believed in our country! We believed we had a personal interest in the destiny of our nation. What we said or did made a difference. We were important; we counted!
When did my world start to fall apart?
I grew up quickly when at ten years of age, we moved out of the beloved neighborhood. My family moved uptown (socially), from an eight-family, four-level apartment house into a four-family apartment house with only two levels in a neighborhood of two-level houses. The smells were different; the familiar fragrance of Italian sauce cooking, wafting through the halls into our apartment was missing. The language was different. No more Italian music accompanied by amateur opera singers emanated from open doors of the apartments across from us. There were no open doors; our new neighbors stayed to themselves. They didn’t sing. I missed the tinkling of banjos and accordions, neighbors sitting on their stoops, singing along, sometimes to the wee hours of the morning. In my new neighborhood, people sat on their stoops, to beat the sweltering heat of the summer; but no singing rose to the heavens. No sounds filled the halls of our new four family house. There were no future Carusos or Lanzas, or Sinatras or Vic Damones. The laughing, crying sounds of a passionate people were absent. I longed for even a tiny touch of the familiar.
There were no more Feast Day celebrations, with people wearing huge aprons (to match their abundant size), cooking sausages and peppers, hot chestnuts and other Italian goodies, their push carts lining the streets. No more processions of statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, Saint Anthony or St. Lucy, or some other important patron Saint being proudly carried high in the air on a litter by the men of our neighborhood, proud to be given the honor of being part of the honor guard.
My friends and cousins were still in the old neighborhood, and although they and my old haunts were just six blocks away, it was like a dream world, long ago and far away. And so I buried myself in practicing my piano and excelling in school. My birthday fell on a Tuesday in 1941. I was thirteen years old, finally a teen-ager. I felt as if I had shed my childhood, and was well on my way to adulthood. But I was not interested in boys. I vacillated between wanting to be a lawyer, defending the poor and downtrodden, or being a missionary in Africa.
Then the war broke out. December was extremely cold in 1941. We were planning for Christmas as best we could, considering we had not fully pulled ourselves out of the Depression financially. But we looked forward to giving some small gift to each member of the family, to show how much we loved one another. My family had the radio on that Monday, December 8, 1941. We had heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor the day before. We turned the radio to the evening news, when we heard our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring war on Japan. I’ll never forget that speech he gave to us on that occasion. “Yesterday, December 7, is a day which will live in infamy.” My big brother, along with many other fine young men immediately went down to the recruiting office on Tuesday morning and volunteered for service in the military!
Rationing was never really a problem for us; we had learned early to stretch what little we had. Coming out of the Depression, we made everything go a long way. Dainty suppers became the patriotic cry. We ate lots of bread to fill us up, and pasta prevailed. The war news got worse and worse, with the listing of those who had lost their lives for flag and country becoming longer and longer. We resumed going to processions, now supplicating the Lord through His Mother and all the Angels and Saints to bring our brother back home from the war in Europe.
They were hard days; but we survived, because we had a common cause which united us; we were no longer Italians and Jews, Germans and Irish, Blacks and Whites, Browns and Yellows; we were Americans. Rosie the Riveter became a badge of honor as our patriotic ladies donned dungarees (called jeans today) and men’s shirts, rolled up at the sleeve, put their hair in a net, and took up the slack in the defense plants, doing the jobs the men had done before they went overseas to fight the war to keep our homeland safe. Even our movie stars got into the battle. Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart joined up; Bob Hope and Betty Grable entertained the troops overseas, and the Andrews Sisters became a household name. USO was a haven for our homesick boys, where the average guy and gal could do their part for the war effort to give our fighting boys a little taste of home while they were away from their own home towns.
The war finally came to an end; we were victorious as we knew we had to be; we had God on our side. Our loved ones began to come home; many came back wounded, some physically and some mentally; the common denominator was they were never to be the same. The war had taken its toll on them, and on us. We were proud, but we were tired.
The triumphant G.I.s returned to streets lined with cheering crowds and banners welcoming them. Our boys and girls were home. They had held back the enemy and saved our country and preserved our way of life. They were heroes. As our fighting men and women shared some of the horror stories of war, a little more of our innocence was taken away from us. President Roosevelt was our president; he was our leader! We recall the opening of his first Inaugural Speech: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then he brought us through the Depression. In 1941, he brought us through our worst hour of darkness; we almost made him king of America. If he hadn’t died in April of 1945, just before the end of the war, we would have made him king.
After the war, there were rumors that President Roosevelt knew about the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor a week before it happened, but no one believed any of that. We blamed the Navy for having all those ships so close to each other in port at Pearl Harbor, making them such an easy target for the Japanese. President Roosevelt would never have allowed our soldiers and sailors to be put in such jeopardy and die the way they did during that horrendous attack.
Then, in 1947, as the Cold War accelerated, we became aware of just what had been given away to the Russians at the Potsdam and Yalta conferences. Russia had been given carte-blanche in eastern Europe! They didn’t declare war on Japan until the day after the Atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, and yet they were given territories as a reward, for what? Certainly not for having participated in that war. Most of the spoils of war were given at the Yalta Conference, which dictated pretty much the terms of the Potsdam Conference; the Soviet Union receiving a good chunk of China, as well as great parts of Europe.
By this time, Roosevelt was dead, but the decisions he made at Yalta lived on for decades. However, no one pointed a finger. We speculated that our Allies, mostly the USSR, did not act as ethically as we did. Josef Stalin took advantage of the fact that our President was on death’s door and on heavy medication at the Yalta Conference (he died within two months on April 12, 1945) and Harry Truman was just no match for Stalin. The USSR broke the agreements they had made at the conferences. Our friend, the one we were taught in school was our ally, became a dangerous enemy. And we let it happen! Feeling helpless and more than a little impotent, we resumed our lives; but somehow, we lost some of that strong feeling of patriotism. It was the end of the age of innocence!
The article above is based on our book, “Beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, Prophecies and Promises.” by Bob and Penny Lord.