Currents
Somber Anniversary
Some of the topics we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

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    Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942. The Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Waco is named for Miller.
    courtesy National Archives
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    The Christmas pyramid in Fredericksburg was handcrafted in Germany.
    Christie Bourquin | courtesy Fredericksburg
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    A stick of butter bought in Texas doesn’t look like a stick of butter bought on the West Coast.
    Studio G | Shutterstock

Seventy-five years ago this month, the bombing of Pearl Harbor launched the United States into World War II and changed the course of world history. A Texan emerged that day as an unlikely hero. … As the holiday baking season moves into high gear, you probably don’t think twice as you grab butter off the shelf at the grocery. Maybe you should.

 

Texan’s Heroics at Pearl Harbor

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which forced the U.S. into World War II.

On December 7, 1941, Doris Miller of Willow Grove was a mess attendant on the USS West Virginia. Dorie, as his shipmates called him, was gathering dirty laundry just before 8 a.m. when the first bombs blasted his ship.

As an African-American sailor limited to servant duties in the segregated Navy, he had not received gunnery training, but he went to the main deck during the attack, manned a 50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun and fired until he ran out of ammunition.

“It wasn’t hard,” Miller said. “I just pulled the trigger, and she worked fine. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one of those … planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”

He became the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross, awarded for courage under fire. On November 24, 1943, he was serving on the USS Liscome Bay in the South Pacific when it was torpedoed. Miller was one of the 646 sailors who perished.

 

A Churning Divide

The butter sticks that Texans cook with differ from those west of the Rockies. Butter was packaged in long, skinny sticks in the eastern part of the U.S. long before dairies in the West began packaging operations. When they did, they produced short, squat sticks of butter called “Western Stubbies.”

Texas and the eastern U.S. use butter sticks called “Elgins”—pronounced EL-jins—named for the Elgin Butter Company of Elgin, Illinois. The Central Texas town of Elgin, known as the Sausage Capital of Texas, is pronounced EL-gin.

 

Fredericksburg’s German Christmas Pyramid

The centerpiece of the holidays in Fredericksburg is the wooden German Christmas Pyramid that lights up Marktplatz starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and continuing through the first week of January.

Called a Weihnachtspyramide in German, the carousel-like tower is 26 feet tall.

Pyramids are traditional decorations from centuries ago in the country’s eastern mountains. They were created, in part, to teach children Bible stories. Some believe the custom of Christmas trees evolved from this art form.

 

Did You Know?

During the Reformation and up until the middle of the 1800s, Christmas often was not celebrated because merry-making was seen as unchristian. After about 1840, celebrating Christmas became more widespread. December 25 was declared a federal holiday in the United States in 1870.

 

Can’t Find UL? Don’t U Worry!

Most of us recognize the UL mark, an emblem that stands for Underwriters Laboratories and appears on packaging of electrical products that have passed tests in a safety certification lab.

But did you know that UL is not the only emblem of safety for appliances—just the best known? Besides the UL emblem, safe products can bear any of 14 other certification marks from labs in the U.S. or Canada, including ETL from Intertek Testing and CSA from the Canadian Standards Association. For a complete list, visit osha.gov and search for “safety marks.”

 

Worth Repeating

“Watson … if I can get a mechanism which will make a current of electricity vary in its intensity, as the air varies in density when a sound is passing through it, I can telegraph any sound, even the sound of speech.”
— Alexander Graham Bell