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God Bless America and Happy Fourth!

July 4, 2018


Happy 242nd Birthday, America!


Happy Fourth of July to all!


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



When my paternal grandfather was born in Levone, Italy, on April 12, 1879, the United States of America was almost three months shy of its 103rd birthday.  Like all four of my grandparents, James Massa (SR.) came through Ellis Island in the very early 1900s.  Five days before the Fourth of July celebration of 1910, my grandfather married Elizabeth (Liza) in Indiana.  My paternal grandparents, as well as my maternal grandparents–all from the Levone Valley of Northern Italy–became proud citizens of the United States.


I think they were quite brave and adventuresome to leave their homeland and set sail for a new home in another country.  I do wonder what they were thinking when they sailed by the Statue of Liberty, passed through Ellis Island, and settled in the coal-mining area of Indiana’s Vermillion County.


Much to my dismay, my grandparents and parents–all of whom were bilingual–did not want us of the second generation to learn Italian:  we were to learn English very well.  Since Italian was spoken in our home and their homes, I could understand some of their dialect; however, despite taking an Italian class as an adult, I have never become fluent in Italian.  (Learning more of the Italian language is still on my “bucket list.”)


My grandparents and parents were patriotic citizens of the USA.  One distinct memory which I have of my paternal grandfather is that his favorite song was “God Bless America,” as sung by Kate Smith.


Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born on May 1, 1907 (or 1909), in Greenville, Virginia.  Known as “The First Lady of Radio,” Kate Smith was a contralto whose career spanned from 1926 through the bicentennial year of the United States.  During her radio program on November 10, 1938, Kate Smith introduced Irving Berlin’s anthem “God Bless America,” which was a hit by 1939.  After a fifty-year career and ten years of retirement, Ms. Smith passed away on June 17, 1986.


I imagine that on the picturesque farm in Klondyke, Indiana, my grandparents, as well as their youngest child (my Aunt Kathy) and youngest of four sons (my Uncle Jules) listened to the radio broadcast of Kate Smith’s performance of “God Bless America” in 1938 and on Independence Days in subsequent years.


Of all the sentiments and wishes on Independence Day, the title of Irving Berlin’s song does express our thoughts in the best way:  “God Bless America.”


MUSICAL NOTE:  On the internet, you can easily find quite a number of versions of “God Bless America,” sung by Kate Smith, as well as other artists.


Hoping you are enjoying a most Happy Independence Day,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 4, 2018, Wednesday




From → Uncategorized

  1. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    This year I celebrated the 4th of July with Aunt Kathy and Lisa on a Viking cruise on the Danube River on route to Vienna, Austria. Dinner onboard included American picnic foods plus a cake decorated in red, white, and blue. While I appreciated the thoughtfulness, I missed celebrating the patriotic holiday in the USA. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of our loved ones who were so proud to live in America. Love, Mary

    • Hi, Mary–Many thanks for taking the time to comment while you are cruising down the Danube River!  We look forward to your visit here during Milwaukee’s Bastille Days Festival.

      Hoping that the three of you very much enjoy the final couple of days of your tour!

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Enjoyed this post as I always like to read about your immigrant grandparents. The morning of the 4th we were waiting for the rain to stop in Siren, WI and happened to see Elia Kazan’s “Amerika, Amerika” not realizing it was 174 minutes when we started. The part about Ellis Island made me think of your poem about the Statue of Liberty which I later shared with my brother’s family. They loved it! Hope you and Willow are enjoying the break in the weather.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks for your comment and a very special thanks to you for sharing my Statue of Liberty poem with your family in Minnesota.

          Oh, yes!  We are delighted with having a couple of days of very nice weather.

      More soon!  Enjoy this lovely Saturday!  Alice and Willow

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