Skip to main content

My Brush with History

Two Handshakes Away

June 2024
1min read

My mother loved parades and early on imbued me with a love of same. An incident at one sticks in my mind. I believe it was in 1926 or 1927. I can’t be sure as I was only a small boy then.

While standing on the curb in Newark, New Jersey, watching a Decoration Day parade pass by, I found myself near a group of seven or eight ancient Civil War veterans. I looked over their beards, their blue Grand Army of the Republic coats and broadbrimmed campaign hats, and I wished I could grow a beard like one of theirs. One old soldier called, “Sonny, come over here,” and “Sonny” obediently did. He said, “Shake my hand,” and I did. “Now,” he said, “you’re only two handshakes from the Revolution.” When he was about my age, six or seven, he had shaken hands with a veteran of that war.

I fully intend someday to pass on this membership in an exclusive club to another young hand. He’ll be three shakes from the great event. We certainly are a young country.

--John Clark Alberts, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force (Ret)

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate