When Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner," it was in response to the thrill of seeing our nation's flag still flying over Fort McHenry (near Baltimore) after a long night of shelling by the British on September 13 and 14, 1814. In fact, the original title of the song was "Defense of Fort M'Henry," and it contained four verses. Typically, only the first verse of the song is sung, and it ends with the question, "Oh say does that Star Spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?" It is not until the second verse of the original song that the question is definitively answered by declaring, "Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream: 'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!" Key saw the flag!
History lessons have a way of connecting us to something bigger than ourselves, gaining strength that is bolstered by the accomplishments of others. In our context, the United States of America is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave ... the brave men and women who have laid down their lives to preserve our freedom. Recognizing that there are different opinions about why we entered and continue to fight the present war, we support of our men and women in uniform. For over 200 years our armed forces have forged an example of pride, patriotism, and duty that continues to inspire our present day soldiers. They see the flag!
Bottom line, American soldiers of the past and present have heroically fought for our country's continued security. No small feat. Over 2,000 soldiers have died in our ongoing wars, and we grieve their passing and pray for their families. Others who have served valiantly return with life-changing injuries that bring daily challenges to themselves and their families. At the most basic level, as a proud American, the troops have our highest respect, admiration, and gratitude for their willingness to travel to distant countries to fight. But at a second level, hot rodders ought to recognize the fraternal relationship shared with our soldiers.
Military personnel and hot rodders go way back. Hot rodding started in the late 1920s and early '30s with stripped down and hopped up Model Ts and Flathead V-8s in '32 Fords. "Hot rodding" likely got its name from the "hot roadsters" that were blasting down the dry lakes of Southern California. In fact, it was deep in the Mojave Desert, at Muroc Dry Lake, the present site of Edwards Air Force Base, that many would say drag racing was born. In 1932 the Muroc Racing Association was formed to bring structure to the competition for which so many of these "hot roadsters" had been homebuilt. Drag races in those days were started by flagmen, often with four cars racing side by side. Hot rodders became known for continually pushing their cars to go faster, to gain the edge over the competitor. It was a phenomenal era of ingenuity and resourcefulness ... racers didn't make a call to Jegs or Summit for the latest performance part from Edelbrock, they made new parts, or modified existing parts. When World War II broke out, our nation's attention turned global, and our greatest generation emerged to set an example of valor for decades to come.
After WWII, many veterans returned home with an increased need for speed and performance that had been cultivated under the ravages of war, with skills gained repairing motor vehicles. The influx of WWII hot roddin' veterans led to the formation of the Southern California Timing Association in 1946. Oh, by the way, the guy that headed up the SCTA was none other than Wally Parks, the eventual founder of the National Hot Rod Association in 1951. Under the direction of publisher Robert E. Petersen, Parks would become the editor of Hot Rod magazine in 1949, until the NHRA was born two years later. Under the auspices of the NHRA, drag racers were given the opportunity to race in an atmosphere dedicated to driver safety and fast cars.
Hot rodding in those early years did not happen without the enthusiasm and genius of the WWII veterans. The same post-war minds working at the research and development labs at Edwards Air Force base were often found engineering the creative pursuit of building better and faster cars in their garages. The grand American spirit of mechanical creativity and fierce competition caused drag racing, and soon stock car racing, to explode in popularity. We've spent a lot of time with our military heroes right on the dragstrip, at the NASCAR tracks, at Bonneville, at the local car shows, or at the ultimate experience, the Super Chevy shows (pardon the shameless plug).