Remembering Who Serves Whom and Why

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, July 9, 2006

e went to Yorktown, Va., on the Fourth of July — you know, the place the Brits gave up to Gen. Washington in 1781 — and sweltered in the heat and humidity. What a place to be on Independence Day!
    Since the battle in 1781 and some battles during the Civil War, Yorktown hasn't changed much. The buildings that were damaged during those battles were rebuilt and today are part of a national park. Except for the paved streets, the folks from those times would notice little difference.

Thomas Nelson house
Thomas Nelson is said to have ordered the shelling of his own home in Yorktown (above) when it was believed that Lord Cornwallis had taken it over in 1781. This photograph is from the Civil War, when the house was used as a hospital. (Photo: Library of Congress)
    Their parade begins with the only band of the whole thing, a fife and drum corps. The color guard carries all the flags that have flown over the town since 1781. Everyone stands and puts their hats or hands over their hearts with each and every flag that passes. Wow! If you don't feel patriotic on July 4 in Yorktown, you're not an American.
    I had those same patriotic feelings in downtown Santa Clarita during the parade every year. Yorktown had only four horses in the whole parade. In Santa Clarita, the horses almost used to outnumber the people in the parade. I missed that a lot. Of course I was never on the "end of parade" unit that scooped up what the horses left. I did enough of that in Pico Canyon.
    There were political candidates in the parade in Yorktown. It was neat to see the backside of horses followed by whole horses at the same time. I felt sorry for the horses at having to watch the politicians the whole parade.
    Yorktown had vintage cars and Santa Clarita had vintage cars. Nothing changed there. I don't like the idea of giving "antique" status license plates to cars from the 1960s. It just doesn't seem right, does it? Somehow a 1964 Pontiac GTO will never be an "antique" to me. Instead of a long line of corvettes there were 36 Volkswagens. Same idea.
    There is a large house in Yorktown that was owned by a Mr. Thomas Nelson during the Revolution. During the 1781 battle, he was an officer under Washington. It was reported — but still lacks proof — that he ordered cannon fire to be directed at his own home because it was thought that the British were using it as a headquarters.
    That, my friends, is patriotism without any pretense of "self." In fact Nelson died almost penniless after the war because he gave so much to the cause of freedom.
    Are we willing to do that today? Would we rise up in arms against an oppressive government and direct guns to be fired at our own homes? I doubt it. We can't even get enthused about an election. We're too comfortable with the "things" we have, to worry about what the government is doing to our freedoms.
    As I sat watching the Yorktown parade and wondering about and remembering the parade in Santa Clarita, I couldn't help but think about what our freedom means to us. I sure couldn't and wouldn't be writing this. No matter how patriotic my words may appear, some government agent would try to change them if we were not free.
    Without the freedom we enjoy, I may have been told to stay home and not travel to Yorktown. I may have had many checkpoints to pass through on my way there.
    Without our freedom of the press — or "media" as it is called today — you wouldn't be reading this paper or others unless the government allowed it.
    Lest we forget, we are the government. "We the people" control our own destiny and are what make this country great. We can never forget that elected folks are there to serve us; we never serve them. We must not let one elected representative ever become so powerful at any level of government that his or her name appears on parks, buildings, ships and whatever, when they are still serving us.
    Oh, no! That has already happened! We are serving the government. Rats!
    In the spirit of 1776, I implore my fellow citizens to take hold of their destiny again and work to elect a new county supervisor for the Fifth District. I also request that Mr. Michael D. Antonovich have his name removed from all those parks, open spaces and buildings on which it now appears, and become a humble servant of the people again.
    Mr. Antonovich, I hope you remember that not a single building, city or state had the name of a really great American patriot until after that patriot had been long dead and buried. Your naming of such sites after yourself follows in the footsteps of "not so great" Americans such as Hugh P. Long of Louisiana.
    If you want that legacy, you've earned it. All you lack is a Belle Star to complete the picture.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at His older commentaries are archived at; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].