I fell in love with American history my junior year in high school. New to Warren Lincoln High in September 1965, Mr. Harvey leaned his tall figure against the lectern and expounded on the points he’d written on the chalkboard.
An average student who preferred extracurricular activities to academic studies, Mr. Harvey mesmerized me with stories and characters who built the United States of America upon our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and those who later fought to uphold the ideals therein.
George Washington and Andrew Jackson, for instance. Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Harvey painted the picture of Martha Washington and Rachel Jackson waving goodbye to the first and seventh Presidents as they rode away on horseback to another call of duty.
However, I forgot Mr. Harvey’s history lessons as a young mother. My husband and I managed a few family American history experiences: one to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello while visiting my mother in Kentucky, and the other on our way home from Disney World to tour Charleston, South Carolina.
After numerous references to Charleston’s “brick over stucco” facades, the humorous driver of our horse and carriage pointed to Fort Sumter and turned somber. “That’s where the first shot rang to begin the Civil War.”
At last, in 2016 while leaving Nashville after a family wedding, Mel and I stumbled onto the lane leading to Andrew Jackson’s plantation. The first sight of The Hermitage revived the image of Rachel waving between two columns.
Oh, the true force of tangible history and glorious memory when in agreement! As we toured Andrew Jackson’s house, Rachel’s Tomb and surrounding gardens, my love for American history awakened.
Anticipating my mate’s retirement the following January, an idea came to mind as we turned onto Highway 1 toward home. “Let’s celebrate your retirement next October with a trip to Washington D.C., Monticello, and Mt. Vernon.”
Amongst masses of people from the world over, we began our self-guided “I love America” tour in Arlington Cemetery and Lincoln’s Memorial. The following day we walked the Presidential Portrait Gallery and massive National Art Museum. There, we listened to a docent’s excellent lecture of a portrait of Martin Luther.
An agrarian at heart, the beautiful, productive grounds of Monticello and Mt. Vernon moved me most. Three paw-paw saplings from Monticello’s garden center now grow in our little plantation to honor Thomas Jefferson.
Yet, beholding Washington’s tomb, and then his beloved Potomac from the back porch of his house remain foremost in my mind. A fresh gratitude for our first president and founding fathers sustain a thirst to learn again American history.
Dear Reader, of several books we inherited from my in-laws’ estate is a textbook titled The History of the United States, copyright 1933. I quote from page 159: “(Washington) refused to accept any pay for his (military) services, asking only that his own expenses and the money he had advanced to pay and feed the troops be returned when convenient.”
I wonder if Mr. Bernard Harvey remembers this significant bit of American history.
Contact Iris at email@example.com.