Our family celebrated Independence Day

America was even greater then.

Father would have been 101 years old today, 4 July 2020. Jerome L. Blaska was proud that he was born on the Fourth of July, fought in WW2, served in the state legislature, and raised a hard-working family. He was also proud of his field crops. He shared his birth date on Independence Day with older sister Evelyn (Owens) (1910) and younger sister Juanita “Dolly” Blaska (1920).

CyLeading4thParade

Uncle Cy leads the parade

As a result, Independence Day was an even more consequential event at the John M. and Rose (Schuster) Blaska farm house on County VV east of Sun Prairie dating at least to 1910. In my very young years, the celebration was held on that farm, then at Angell Park in Sun Prairie.

My Boomer generation of the family mostly associates the celebration of our nation’s birth date — for it was a celebration (not an occasion to denounce) — with Uncle Cy’s stewardship of the tradition.

Deal the cards

Cyril and Grace (Counsell) Blaska hosted annual Independence Day parties at their farm north of Watertown full of beer, buttered sweet corn and peas. And red, white and blue flags, balloons, and streamers. Everywhere! After eating the younger set played volleyball and the older generation settled into euchre — the ladies at one card table, the four brothers at another table.

(Aunt Evelyn, who became a professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, titled her autobiography: Deal the Cards. Her book relates how Grandma Rose, well into her 90s, is told that son John Jr. has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She thinks on that for awhile, then announces “Deal the cards.”

(Many years later father Jerome was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; the Lovely Lisa asked how he felt about it. He responded, “I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.”)

Cy Blaska was known as the King of Corn and the Prince of Peas, given his leadership role in Wisconsin vegetable processing. Cy liked to direct the operation through a bullhorn. One year Bulgarians situated at Uncle Greg and Cousin John’s dairy operation were invited. They loved waving the American flag. Cy barked into the bullhorn: “Would someone please feed the foreigners. Feed the foreigners.”

Fourth July picnic 1939

The Blaskas’ Independence Day picnic July 4, 1939; Grandma in the middle and Grandpa on the right. Dad is wearing the fedora.

Among the family were a smattering of priests and ancient religious nuns. Still remember Cy’s amplified voice commanding “Feed the priest. Will someone please feed the priest.” Father Val Schuster — kin to Grandma Rose (1885-1979) — of Oconomowoc married us. His brother Wilfred started St. Maria Goretti Church here in Orchard Ridge, Madison. They grew up on the farm across the road from ours.

Boil the sweet corn

Brother Mike, Cousin John and cousin-in-law Gordie Howe (Margaret Blaska) boiled the sweet corn. Cy chased various blood relatives out of the kitchen because they were not preparing the peas properly. He paid my wife the ultimate complement, “You’re the best Blaska of them all” after he approved of her peas.

Uncle Greg liked to gig his older brother by transplanting a stalk of field corn from his farm — it came up to a man’s armpit — into Cy’s field, which was only knee-high, then tease him about it. It was a competitive family.

Also political, which meant a lot of speechifying. The various members had run for and served on city councils, town boards, county boards of supervisors, school boards, and the state legislature. As well as farm and veterans organizations. Cy co-chaired WI Democrats for Nixon in 1972.

As darkness fell on Cy and Grace’s farm, a huge pile of brush chock-a-block with high grade explosives was doused in gasoline and then lit. For good measure, your correspondent retrieved his father’s firearm and fired into the exploding fury.

BlaskaFamilyGroup-c1982

Should have given my sweetheart a laminated card the first time she was exposed to the family to identify the crowd of cousins emanating from the nine Blaska siblings of the Greatest Generation. (circa 1982)

The last of the Greatest Generation left us in December 2016 — Laura (Klein) Blaska (Mrs. Gregory) formidable in her own right. They farmed great-grandpa’s land. Sad to say, we, their descendants, have let the tradition lapse except, one year, for the remarkable Jessica (Blaska) Grady, John and Liz’s daughter.

The nine Blaska siblings, most of whom came of age during the Great Depression and five of whom served in WW2, were raised Catholic, Democrat and close to the soil. As were their children. We learned that one worked for what they got. It was expected that you serve the larger community. We loved our state and nation, we fought injustice. 

We never thought that we were the problem with America. Not then, not today.

Are you?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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19 Responses to Our family celebrated Independence Day

  1. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    The Gotch never met anyone of substance that wasn’t proud of his roots; seems you fit the bill.

    Been on farms in every one of WESconsin’s 72 counties. To a one, the sweet corn lovers said the ONLY</b they'd ever have it is to get the water boiling first THEN go cut the ears.

    And which of the mighty-short-maturity varieties did Uncle Cy plant; Sugarbaby or Sugar-n-Gold?

    Happy 4th of July, all!

    The Gotch

    Like

  2. hodgeman1 says:

    Thanks for sharing that bit of history! Happy 4th to you and yours!

    Like

  3. Gregory Anderson says:

    Enjoy the 4th of July post about the Blaska clan. Truly inspiring to read such a great family history which laid the foundation for future generations to work hard, have faith and a devotion to work for the greater good of the community and state.

    Like

  4. madisonexpat says:

    God BLaskAmerica!

    Like

  5. Gordy Sussman says:

    Happy Independence Day to you and yours. It should escape none of our notice that Dave’s homage to kith and kin would, in saner times, evoke admiration and appreciation. Today it would be condemned as white privilege. Let us all take the opportunity to appreciate our blessings of liberty and rededicate ourselves to (continuing to) form a more perfect union.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. sahmpaw says:

    You are rich with a wonderful family heritage. Your dad and two of his sisters were born on the 4th of July? I have three babies all born in the same month and the second and third a day apart. I took measures to make sure the third wouldn’t be born on her brother’s birthday. Your post reminds me of what’s really important, though – family and legacy.

    Like

  7. Marge Bils says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing! I’m German & my parents immigrants who appreciated what the United States offered them. They had a good work ethic & expected their daughters to have the same. Family was everything to them. My family wasn’t big , so we celebrated everything: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. I never met some of my relatives, because they lived in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.
    I am so thankful I was born in this country & can’t believe there are some who view Socialism & Communism in a positive light.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carmine J Giannattasio says:

    Happy 4th of July to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Roy says:

    What a great family memory to share on this 4th of July! Reminiscent of my Mom’s Irish family heritage with her ten brothers and sisters growing up during the depression each achieving varied degrees of success achieved through hard work, determination and grit!
    Happy 4th of July!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pANTIFArts says:

    A happy family is but an earlier heaven. – George Bernard Shaw

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cornelius Gotchberg says:

      THAT quote is going on The Gotch’s quote laden blotter!

      But Good God man; CHECK_YER_PRIVILEGE!

      The Gotch

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Batman says:

    Yeah but,
    BLM and Freedom Inc. et al. resent this blog post because if blacks had received their 40 acres and a mule they could create a similar celebratory family history post but instead they have no legacy of family wealth/assets to pass forward and therefore destroying people and property is the only way left to communicate with evil whitey and blowing shit up is all the Fourth of July is good for.

    What say all you privileged white folks?

    Signed,
    disgruntled black person(s)

    Like

  12. Lars says:

    Thank you for sharing your family history.
    We are blessed by God to have been born in the Greatest Nation ever conceived.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. pANTIFArts says:

    I was born about 80 years too late. If you were a kid in 1910, the Fourth of July was a big deal. You knew all about the Revolution, and you still had Civil War veterans. – Clive Cussler ( American adventure novelist and underwater explorer)

    Like

  14. richard lesiak says:

    Kayne West is running for pres. as a repub. It is a happy 4th of July after-all.

    Like

  15. William B. says:

    Cornelius Gotchberg says: July 4, 2020 at 10:41 am The Gotch never met anyone of substance that wasn’t proud of his roots; seems you fit the bill.

    Been on farms in every one of WESconsin’s 72 counties. To a one, the sweet corn lovers said the ONLY</b they'd ever have it is to get the water boiling first THEN go cut the ears.

    And which of the mighty-short-maturity varieties did Uncle Cy plant; Sugarbaby or Sugar-n-Gold?

    Happy 4th of July, all!

    The Gotch

    Cy probably planted Jubilee (su variety)

    What Gotch says is true

    The corn would start turning to starch as soon as it was picked

    Not like today’s corn (se or sh2 ) might go 10 or 12 days before turning to starch

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    Go figure; all this talk about sweet corn, and The Gotch gets a targeted ad for this T-Shirt.

    THEN: Four short years ago, Feel the Bern was LUVIN’ him some good ol’ U. S. of A. and Mt. Rushmore.

    NOW: Were Lefty to be anything but a smarmy collective of flaccidly enfeebled halfwits, the Cancel Culture/Twitter Mob would be unmercifully eviscerating the old Socialista twit 24/7.

    Ah Lefty; so MUCH emasculating ignominy, so little time!

    The Gotch

    Like

  17. Bill says:

    Hi all, found this speech given on the 150th anniversary of our Republic made on July 5th of 1926 by then President Calvin Coolidge. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/speech-on-the-occasion-of-the-one-hundred-and-fiftieth-anniversary-of-the-declaration-of-independence/
    I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this speech especially in light of our current situation here in this country.

    Thanks and have a great rest of the weekend.

    Like

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