We pause," says the radio announcer, "to honor America," and as
prelude to the afternoon game, we get a rendition of "The Star
Spangled Banner" by a local thrush, or perhaps a glee club. All to
the good. I like the occasions when a Canadian team comes down, or
we go up, and we honor Canada as well, giving us two anthems, with
the visiting team's coming first.
This was extra fine at The Forum in Montreal, where a gifted
baritone stood on the ice to blast the rafters with "The Star
Spangled Banner," and then would do "O Canada" in both French and
English. Starting in French, he finished in the other, and he was
followed by a short and impressive silence in both tongues that
decorated the loving friendship of both sovereignties one to the
other. Then the Bruins and the Habs went at each others' throats,
and everybody had a good time.
This effort at bilingual patriotism always reminds me, and I
grow sentimental, of Gen. John J. (Blackjack) Pershing - who
commanded our doughboys in the Great War - and his heroic handling
of the French language when he arrived in France. You can look it
up. (See note at end.) It was after England and Canada had been
involved with the Huns for some time, and aid from America was much
I wasn't quite 10 and I don't remember any consecutive
incidents, but I do recall fragments of this and that as we went to
battle. I can remember the crowds standing in line with ration
tickets to get sugar, but I don't remember if we got any sugar. I
can remember a decorated general who came to school and gave us a
recipe for home-baked bread that would win the war, and we were to
take it home to our mothers. We sang "The Star Spangled Banner,"
and when my mother looked at the bread recipe she said it would
cost 25 cents a loaf more than the bread she always baked. I
remember the general also passed out little flags, and we sang,
The arrival of the first convoy of troopships at Le Havre,
bringing US soldiers to France, was a vast event, and preparations
were carefully made. First, General Pershing, who knew no more
French than the word "taxi," was coached by a linguist to exclaim
(with gestures), "Lafayette! We are here!" His gestures would
include a sweep of the harbor to show the thousands of boys in
khaki drawn up topside and hanging in the rigging, with the
protective escort of a flag-decked Navy. The general, naturally,
was to deliver these historic words, a thank-you for aid in the
American Revolution, in French.
He was, his instructor confided, letter-perfect.
It is well to reflect that at the time there was no television.
Wireless was in use, but there was only rudimentary radio. …