By Christopher Harper
Vietnam veteran Bill Poulton stood on the bandstand erected on his farm in Muncy, Pennsylvania, and asked the several hundred spectators to stand.
With almost military precision, the assembled crowd rose, placed their hands over their hearts, looked upward to the American flag nearby, and said the pledge of allegiance.
I hadn’t seen such a display of unity and patriotism in many years. It was a striking reminder that my wife and I had chosen well when we decided to leave the woke environment of Philadelphia and move to Muncy, a town of 2,500 people in central Pennsylvania.
After the pledge, the crowd settled back into their lawn chairs to listen to The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra perform a collection of old American tunes from around the turn of the 20th century.
Nearby, Boy Scouts sold hot dogs to raise money for their troop, and the Muncy High School band and choir offered burgers at another stand. The Muncy Historical Society provided free popcorn.
“It was a slice of Americana,” one of the organizers told us. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have put it any better, and the scene just a few blocks away from our home was reminiscent of a Rockwell drawing.
Rick Benjamin, the orchestra leader, provided background about each of the songs, including tunes from Scott Joplin, John Philip Sousa, and some lesser-known composers. Our neighbor, talented soprano Bernadette Boerckel, sang some of the selections, such as “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Gus Edwards. She led the crowd in a rendition of The Pan Alley Song Medley, which included “The Sidewalks of New York,” “Sweet Rosie O’Grady,” “A Bicycle Built for Two,” and “The Band Played On.” Muncy Ragtime Band
As twilight merged into nighttime, the orchestra erupted into an encore by John Philip Sousa, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
On a cloudy, summer evening, this verse seemed particularly appropriate:
“Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.”
And I didn’t see anyone wearing a bleeping mask!