Chicago Independence Day celebration made an impact on George

Published 6:55 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

I had the opportunity to spend a quick 36 hours in Chicago recently.  Having studied the life of George A. Hormel during his time in the Windy City, I now have more of a historic perspective of the place that influenced young George.  I didn’t have time to trace his steps during this trip, but from his writings I could better imagine the life he had while there.

The following excerpt from his autobiography, “The Open Road,” tells of an Independence Day celebration that made an impact on a 15-year-old George.

“As the Fourth of July drew near and Chicago prepared to celebrate, its streets and buildings broke out in a rash of red, white, and blue. Men stopped strangers in the street, inviting them to drink to the country’s health. They slapped each other on the back. “Yes, Sir, she’s a great country,” they said “worth fighting and working for.’”

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“Truly, there seemed to be a magic solvent in the words ‘liberty and justice for all,’ more powerful than any prejudice a man might have against his neighbor. And, listening to the people on the streets, in my uncle’s market, in the yards, it seemed that men still believed in this magic, despite misunderstanding, grinding poverty, and grueling work.

“The gold of the American dream had not tarnished yet. So under flags overhead, behind massed banners and bands, Chicago’s thousands paraded on July 4, 1876. Along streets packed with spectators—I among them—who yelled themselves hoarse, marched Germans and Swedes, Bohemians and Poles, Italians and Irish; white men and black freedmen, foreign and native-born. Sometimes they walked among Chicago’s blue-clad regiments who had fought so recently to preserve the Union; twenty thousand foreign born, ten percent of Chicago’s total population, had voluntarily joined the Union Army. Others marched in the ranks of their national societies or in their occupational groups. But no matter who they were or with what groups, I fancied, as I watched them march by, that they all felt themselves, as I did, to be as proudly American as though their fathers had landed on Plymouth Rock instead of Ellis Island.”

I hope you enjoyed your Independence Day celebrations and paused for a moment to really think about what it means to be American and FREE!

“The Open Road” is full of reflections by George Hormel that will inspire and teach you.  The book is now available in electronic format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers.  If, like me, you prefer to read a real book, copies are available at the Hormel Historic Home or at Sweet Reads in Austin.

Music @ the Mansion: Kate & the Kavemen

7 p.m. , Monday, July 8

Led by Austinite Kate Jordal, this regional act will perform classic rock and folk tunes in addition to current pop favorites.

Music @ the Mansion: Lehto & Wright

7 p.m., Monday, July 15

Minneapolis-based group performing modern interpretations of traditional Celtic and American folk music.  The musicians bring a fresh approach to the world of folk and folk rock.