By RENE TORRES
Special to the Parade
According to HomeofHeroes.com, “on September 8, 1892 a Boston-based youth magazine The Youth’s Companion published a 22-word recitation for school children to use during planned activities the following month to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. Under the title, ‘The Pledge to the Flag,’ the composition was the earliest version of what we now know as the Pledge of Allegiance.”
The Oath of Allegiance surged in popularity among adults during the patriotic fervor created by World War II. But it was not until June 22, 1942 that the words that children had recited for about 50 years that it became official.
One year later, “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge as part of their daily routine.”
In Brownsville, during the 1920s and thereafter, school children demonstrated their respect to “Old Glory” on a daily basis. It was a morning ritual at Washington Park School (which is shown here from the UT Austin American History Library, Robert Runyon Collection) for staff, teachers and children to stand at attention to salute the flag.
At 8:30 a.m. each day, 400 children stood in silence with eyes fixed on the flag as they prepared to honor the red, white and blue. When Mrs. Annie Putegnat, school principal, gave the word, all children with hands over heart, like a well-orchestrated symphony recited the Pledge of Allegiance. No child ended their salute and/or lowered their hands until the last word was spoken.
The flag was run up just before the opening of classes each day. The boys and girls gathered outside the school building in separate groups. The Pledge was followed by singing “America” before going to their classrooms. After the morning ceremonies concluded, students moved orderly into their learning environments where a photo of George Washington had a special place in the classroom.
Were the kids of then forced to recite the Pledge? No, the kids just did it. It was an era when if an adult told you to do something — you did not question his or her authority. Unfortunately, the patriotism, obedience and respect of then have lost out to the political correctness of today.
Somebody said once, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Mrs. Putegnat, where have you gone?
Note: When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, why are we supposed to put our right hands over our hearts?
According to Mike Buss, deputy director at the American Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis — “The right hand is used because that hand historically has been the one to hold a weapon, so a salute with an empty right hand is seen as a peaceful greeting.”