by Don Allen

I love comic strips. Have since I was a kid. Opening up the Sunday newspaper and getting out the 4 page, colored comic section. My favorite of all time is Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. Garfield, by Jim Davis, comes in a close second, and those were the two that I read the most growing up. I must own about 5 Calvin and Hobbes collections and about the same number for Garfield.

I didn’t read Peanuts, by Charles Schulz, much when I was a kid. It always seemed a bit old, a bit simple, so I never really looked at it. As the years have gone by however I looked at it more and more, and realized that it’s actually a really good strip with some very funny jokes. So when I ran across The Bumper Book of Peanuts here in the Library I decided to go through it.


The Bumper Book of Peanuts

The book is very conveniently separated by topic, such as “Baseball”, “The Great Pumpkin”, “Thanksgiving” etc. My personal favorite is, given my love of sports, “Baseball”.  Somehow Charlie Brown is the manager of the team, and always makes himself the pitcher, even though he’s terrible. In one strip, he pitches the ball, which immediately gets hit right back to him so hard that he ends up losing his clothes. His friend/rival, Lucy, is then shown giving him back his clothes, telling him that “…and we found your cap over two blocks away, and one of your shoes three blocks away, and one of your socks two blocks away, and…” to which Charlie Brown yells “ALL RIGHT!” in exasperation. Made me laugh.

Reading these strips now I can appreciate what a genius Charles Schulz was, so I started researching the strip. He created a strip where there’s nary an adult in site, yet we have a Beethoven playing youth in Schroeder, an “ace-fighter pilot” dog and worldwide icon Snoopy, and a bevy of strong female characters such as Marcie, Lucy, and Peppermint Patty. In 1968, Schulz introduced Franklin, an African-American kid, into the strip. Tellingly, Schulz specifically made sure that Franklin was seen as going to the same school as the other (white) kids, which in 1968 was a very divisive subject. Schulz said that someone had once written him saying “I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.” Schulz didn’t respond.

While Schulz died in 2000, his work is incredible and continues to run in newspapers in re-runs. The Bumper Book of Peanuts is a lot of fun to read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a piece of American comic-strip history. It’s available here.

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The American Flag- “Old Glory” and other interesting facts

by Don Allen

Being an American, the American flag’s story has been almost a birthright, taught since I was very young in school. Betsy Ross sewing the first flag for George Washington. 13 red and white alternating stripes (7 red, 6 white) symbolizing the original 13 colonies, two of which, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, I call home. 50 five-pointed stars representing the 50 states with a new star added everytime a state joined the Union to the blue canton (or rectangle in the upper left area of the flag). Every day in class reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while looking at the flag, hand over heart.


Current flag: 50 stars, created in 1960 after the addition of Hawaii as a state, with 13 stripes (7 red, 6 white)


But as is often the case the “story” of something can deviate from the historical facts. The Betsy Ross story of meeting George Washington and helping him design, and then sewing, the first flag, with the stars in a circle? All but certainly a myth created much later. Most historians name Francis Hopkinson, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as designing the first flag, with the 6-pointed stars in rows, rather than the 5-pointed stars of the “Betsy Ross” flag that are still used today.


The flag that inspired the national anthem of America, “The Star-Spangled Banner”? 15 stars with 15 stripes (8 red, 7 white) to represent the two states of Vermont and Kentucky which had been admitted into the Union in 1795. The 15/15 flag would remain until 1818, by which point there were 20 states. Congress, after nearly two years of debating the issue (begun in 1816), finally passed the Flag Act of 1818, signed into law by President James Monroe, which permanently set the stripes at 13 (7 red, 6 white) to honor the 13 original states, and mandated that on the July 4th following the official admission of a new state, a new star would be added. So for example even though Hawaii became a state in August of 1959, its star wasn’t officially added until July 4th, 1960.


The “Star-Spangled Banner”, note the 15 stripes (8 red, 7 white) representing Vermont and Kentucky


And very recently I realized that I didn’t know the story behind the nickname “Old Glory”. Where had it come from? Who had named it that and when? Working in a library dedicated to America, I did the most sensible thing and looked for a book. And I found a couple of good ones on the history of the flag right here in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library. The first one is a fascinating pictorial history called Long May She Wave: A Graphic History of the American Flag by Kit Hinrichs and Delphine Hirasuna with photography by Terry Heffernan (available here).

long may she wave


The great thing about this book is that it isn’t just a history of the actual flag, although it does give that, but it also has different representations of the flag as well. For example, in the chapter “The Flag In Celebration” it has a fanstastic picture, taken in 1917 at the United States Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois, of 10,000 cadets forming a “living” flag. It’s a black-and-white picture, but it is still absolutely amazing.


10,000 cadets forming a “living” flag at the United States Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois, circa 1917


One of the best sections of the book, in my opinion, is the chapter “The Flag in Politics and Protest” which has representations of the flag that are not always American positive. One such example is this strikingly powerful “Indian Power” image created in 1975, which according to the caption,

“Designer and Graphis magazine publisher B. Martin Pedersen boldly illustrates the diminishing power of the American Indian over the centuries in this limited edition print”.



I didn’t find any information on where the name “Old Glory” came from in that book, so I kept looking and found Flag: An American Biography by Marc Leepson (available here).



This book is fascinating. The first chapter gives a brief history of flags, along with the story, throughout North American history, beginning with a brief blurb about the standards that the Vikings may have brought with them when they reached Newfoundland in the 10th and 11th centuries. It goes through the British and French flags during the colonial era, and the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. Chapter Two begins with the “Continental Colors” (aka “Grand Union Flag”), used from late 1775 until 1777 and then it’s off to the races, tracing the evolving history of the American flag.


The “Continental Colors”/”Grand Union Flag”, the first national flag of the fledgling United States. Notice the “Union Flag” canton. It doesn’t contain the Irish red saltire (x-shaped cross), as Ireland wouldn’t join with Britain for another 26 years.

I finally found where the term “Old Glory” came from on pages 116-118. Whaling captain William Driver, from Salem, Massachusetts, was given a 24-star flag sown by his mother for his 21st birthday, the same year he became captain of his own ship, the Charles Dogget, in 1824. According to Leepson, Driver was moved to call it “Old Glory” the first time he hoisted it on his ship. He retired from whaling in 1837 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee after the death of his first wife. He would fly it three times every year (it was too large to fly regularly, being a massive 10 feet x 17 feet): George Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd); St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th, which was also his birthday); and the 4th of July. In 1860, his wife and daughters removed the old stars, sewing on 34 new ones to bring it up to date. Driver himself sewed on a small white anchor in the lower right corner of the blue canton.

Fast forward a year and America is embroiled in the Civil War. Driver, although living in the south in a Confederate state, was a staunch Unionist, and refused at least twice to hand over the flag to Confederate soldiers, eventually hiding it inside a quilt. When Union forces occupied Nashville in 1862, Driver, according to Leepson,

“celebrated that event by liberating Old Glory from inside the quilt, taking it with an escort of troops from the Sixth Ohio Regiment to the Tennessee State Capitol building and hoisting it from the Capitol’s dome…[this] event also popularized the name ‘Old Glory’ as a nickname for the American Flag”.

Driver gave the flag to his daughter, Mary, in 1873 (he died in 1886) who held onto it until 1922, when she donated the flag to President Warren G. Harding, who gave it to the Smithsonian where it still resides.


Original “Old Glory” owned by Driver. Notice the white anchor in the lower right corner of the blue canton. Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History



Do you know any other interesting facts about “Old Glory”? Let us know in the comments below!




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UEA American Scholars…..on the RADIO??!?!

by Don Allen

On July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, Danielle and I will be on BBC Radio Norfolk, the Chrissie Jackson Book Club program, to discuss Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set A Watchman.


The book is Lee’s second published novel, and is set approximately twenty years after the events of her legendary classic To Kill A Mockingbird.  Scout Finch has grown up, and after moving away returns home to find that everything is not as she remembers.

The book created quite a bit of controversy, both for the change in personality that appears to paint Atticus Finch as something other than the hero from Mockingbird, and for the details of its actual publication and whether or not Harper Lee was in the right state of mind to truly consent to it being released.

So join Danielle and I on the radio for a bit of discussion!

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The Friendly Invasion – Visit East Anglia

Seventy-five years ago the first of over 300,000 US servicemen arrived in the east of England to fight what was to become America’s longest battle of World War Two.

For the locals, their welcome presence signalled the biggest cultural and landscape impact of any event since the Norman Conquest almost 900 years earlier.

A rural backwater would soon be changed by the United States Army Air Force personnel, who brought to rationed England previously unknown items such as Coca Cola, chewing gum, peanut butter, Swing music and nylons. It was as if, just like in The Wizard of Oz, a monochrome landscape had suddenly gone technicolour.

The Friendly Invasion, as it became known, has left an indelible mark on East Anglia, and the sacrifices and bravery of those men have not been forgotten. The Eighth Air Force, The Mighty Eighth, suffered 26,000 fatalities, 3,000 more than the Marines in the Pacific, with a loss of 4,145 heavy bombers.

They are remembered at the American Air Museum at Imperial War Museum Duxford, at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, the Second Air Division Memorial Library at Norwich and at many airfield museums across the region, all staffed by dedicated volunteers determined to honour those from across the Atlantic who fought to preserve democracy, liberty and free speech.

Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker was the first to arrive on February 20, 1942, in civilian clothes, via Portugal. What was to follow became the greatest air armada in history. Their first mission was on July 4, despite their own planes not having arrived. But so determined were they to go on that symbolic date that they borrowed RAF bombers!

Later in the war, at peak strength, The Mighty Eighth could dispatch over 2000 four-engine bombers and more than 1000 fighters on a single mission.

‘This is a story that is unique to East Anglia,’ says Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East Anglia, the region’s tourism organisation which has created a new Friendly Invasion project working with US and UK museums and memorial groups. ‘But it is not as well-known as the road from D-Day to Berlin, or the campaign against the Japanese.’

Visit East Anglia is hoping that the announcement that a new HBO series based on Donald L Miller’s Masters of the Air book is being made by the production companies of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg will encourage more Americans to discover the rich heritage their forebears created.

‘Masters of the Air is entirely about the Mighty Eighth in East Anglia. We want Americans to come and see where Grandpa Joe came to serve and where Grandma Mabel maybe came from,’ adds Waters. ‘This is a story as much about social history as military.’

East Anglia’s links with America stretch back to the Founding Fathers – the highest percentage of passengers on The Mayflower came from the region. Abe Lincoln’s family came from the East of England, Thomas Paine, who wrote the pamphlets that arguably saved the Revolutionary War for George Washington, was born in the East of England, as was John Rolfe, who created The Special Relationship by marrying Pocahontas in the first inter-racial church wedding in north America and whose tobacco crop helped save Jamestown from bankruptcy. Where it not for Rolfe, Americans might now be speaking Spanish, French or even Dutch!

‘In inviting Americans to the region to experience The Friendly Invasion, we also want them to enjoy our contemporary visitor offering,’ says Waters. ‘We have wonderful links golf courses, two whisky distilleries, medieval castles, ‘Downton Abbeys’ in abundance, two cities in medieval Norwich and university Cambridge that are great for shopping, culture and arts, this is the rural home of the Royal Family, and, of course, we have superb spa hotels, fabulous fine dining, afternoon teas and quaint country pubs.’

After Band of Brothers aired on HBO, tourism in Normandy saw a 40% uplift in visitors from the US. Visit East Anglia is hoping that can be replicated with Masters of the Air.

‘In 1942 Americans came to the east of England,’ adds Waters. ‘Now we’d like to invite Americans back. They can be assured of a welcome as warm and friendly as their compatriots received seventy-five years ago.’

For more details visit the website, visiteastofengland.com

First published in The American magazine (www.theamerican.co.uk) June 2017


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