Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Patriotic Program and Communism Day

At my elementary school patriotism was important. Every year Westridge Elementary School put on the Patriotic Program and it was a big deal. Each grade prepared songs and there were occasional small group numbers starring people like Annelise Dejesus, etc. The gym was packed all the way back to the cafeteria and there was fancy looking sound and light equipment. To my young mind it was the most important thing that happened at our school. I remember Miss Broadbent would direct us by raising her hand up or down depending on how the pitch of the song changed. My favorite Patriotic Program was in 2nd grade when we painted paper grocery bags as camouflage costumes for our performance of the anthems of each branch of the armed forces. "Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail, and those caissons go rolling along." "Anchors away my boys, anchors away. Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day, day, day, day." And so forth. I'm sure those that participated still remember it.

But our patriotic instruction didn't stop at celebrating the USA. The administration made sure we knew just how bad our freedom-hating ideological opponents were by holding "Communism Day." This was our chance to learn what life might be like in a communist country. We must have had Communism Day just once or twice because I only have a few specific memories of it. At lunch you didn't get to choose from the menu--you were assigned at random. And you had to be very quiet in line. I was disappointed to be assigned pizza because I hated the cafeteria pizza. My other specific memory was of recess. Instead of having free play we were forced to stand in a circle and do whatever some teacher said--because everyone knows communists don't let kids play. The end result of all this was me being convinced that communist governments controlled every aspect of their citizens' lives--a lot like in A Wrinkle in Time come to think of it.

The irony of all this is that when Taliatha asked her college roommate from Russia if they hated Americans or were taught how our country was bad she couldn't remember anything of the sort. I have heard however, that kids in China were told to eat all of their food because the poor capitalists in America were starving. Meanwhile we all had Rocky IV to teach us how bad the Russians were. When we played soldiers Americans vs. Russians was not uncommon. Do any of you fellow Westridge alums remember anything else about Communism Day? If you didn't attend Westridge how did your family or community make sure you knew the commies were bad?


  1. First of all I remember singing the armed forces anthems. I also remember singing "A Kinder Gentler America" and "1,000 Points of Light" immediately follow HW Bush's inauguration. Even then at that young age I felt the songs favored the GOP a little too much and were trying to sway our young minds to the right. Lousy Maag family.

    Second of all, I was thinking about communism day recently! It only happened once in my memory, maybe in 3rd or 4th grade? I remember instead of playing at recess we WALKED IN A CIRCLE SILENTLY! I remember having my head down and putting my hands behind my back and walking in a circle wishing I could play kickball.

    What's so interesting is that the cold war was basically over by the time we did this. The Berlin wall fell when I was in 5th grade, and the USSR dissolved not long after that. I really don't know whose bright idea that was, or why we were made to go through it.

    If some school in the future tries to pull something like this on Atti I'm going to be a quite annoyed. Let's take our limited understanding of something "different" (government, culture,etc) and brainwash our kids into thinking it's bad rather than teaching them properly. How did our parents let this happen?

    I guess communism day is probably in the past. Maybe our kids will have 'Taliban Day' or 'Hezbollah Day'.

    I also remember 'Giraffe Day' where they pinned little paper giraffes to our shirts, and we had to be SILENT ALL DAY. If we didn't say a word we kept our giraffe and at the end of the day got something for it. It seems like if we talked we lost our giraffe and got beat with the switch, but my memory is a bit fuzzy about all the details.

  2. That's right we walked in a circle! I remembered something about the big painted circle out on the blacktop but I couldn't remember what it was exactly.

  3. i didn't got to westridge. but i did got to a school where they sent you home if you wore white socks and they enforced a "tucked in" rule with an iron fist.

  4. So I apologize if I am putting my mark on a blog unwanted, but did any of you at westridge remember slave day in 5th grade? I believe my year was the last because two kids ran away it is funny the things the school was able to do.

  5. Welcome aboard Craig--Chambers I presume. Slave Day?!? You've got to be kidding me. They must have done that after I left.

  6. I remember slave day. Holmes, while you were in the 5th-6th grade combination with all of the smarty pants, I was experiencing the worst day of my Westridge life. I was a slave to Shannon Davis (I think). I think that at some point I broke down and cried because I just wanted it to be over. I was such a wuss. Then again I still cry on the football field from time to time.
    I must of been off track for communist day. I wish I could have been there for that, then I could better understand why we won the cold war.

  7. I seem to remember others talking about 'slave day' but I don't seem to remember it. Maybe I was an 'owner' and not a 'slave'.

    I also remember Kirk crying from time to time in elementary school, but I figured it was he was a big guy, he's got a big heart. I also remember Kirk minding his own business eating hot dogs at the turtle Reams our senior year, and some freshmen came in and had their minds BLOWN that he was eating at Reams like they were. It was their own 'celebrities are just like us' moment.

  8. Kid 1: Dude, check out Moose eating that hot dog.

    Kid 2: I know, look at him, he's just eating it!

  9. Ah the Patriotic Program. The thing that bugged me is that Westridge turned it into Song Fest after the end of the Gulf War. It never was the same. I still say the highlight was Wind Beneath My Wings - 6th grade, with troops behind us. Eat that, other grades.
    I wish I remembered Communist Day, because I don't remember anything about it. It sounds incredibly boring. Why no brown shirts for us?
    Slave day was the worst. I was a docile slave, so Alana McGee was a pretty lucky slave driver. I should have high-tailed it for somewhere else.
    I think that Hezbollah Day would be a disaster - you'd have the teachers pull kids aside and they'd be suicide bombers - ship them into the neighborhood and push a button that would blow a gallon of ketchup all over the block.

  10. Man, so many Westridge memories come flooding back; I totally forgot about the whole "off track" thing. I don't think my grade ever had "commie day," but I definitely remember "slave day" when I gave an eloquent tongue lashing to the kids in my class who said they would have helped the Underground railroad but were doing nothing to solve the current problems the world was facing. Wow, what a little jerk I was. I also remember a day when we had to use our left hand for everything if we were right-handed. I think they called that "Sympathy for lefties day."

  11. I have never been more proud of going to Grandview.