by Marshall Jamison
As a small boy growing up in historic Cambridge, Massachusetts, my first hero was the old man who lived next door and told me stories. On clear days he would be out early in the morning to watch his son run up the flag on the tall flag pole that stood in his blossom filled garden. His own experiences, real life stories of the Civil War, describing the heroism and glory of his comrades, found me a fascinated listener.
Then when I realized my own grandfather had served in that war as a Marine, could also tell true stories that thrilled my heart and mind, I become a hopeless hero worshiper, stirred by such tales of Valor.
My father fostered such feelings in his selection of my early reading. And so Galahad, Sir Lancelot, Robin Hood, Achilles, Leonidas, Richard the Lion Hearted, Jim Hawkins, Goddard at Yale and countless other brave fellows shared their dreams, goals and achievements with me. Though I never realized or understood it at the time, the finest example of achievement and overcoming hardship stood at my unknowing side.
My father, as a small boy a slate picker in the coal mines of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Valedictorian of his high school class, matriculated at Yale and did his graduate work at Harvard. A brilliant student and better teacher he lived his university’s credo, “For God, for Country and for Yale.”
A dedicated student of the history of America, and a master of discovering the joy in learning about it, he began to reveal the magic to my brother and me at the ages of five and three.
The richly historic area of Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts near the erstwhile home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow served as the introduction to the treasury. Capturing our childish attention at once were two large, ancient, black iron cannons that held their fire sufficiently for us to climb all over them. Across the way the Washington elm had stood bravely for over a hundred years, remembering its glory days when it shaded the commander-in-chief’s assuming command of the Continental Army. So even at our tender ages we were impressed and on our way to discovering what he meant when he called the area a part of America’s Holy Land.