I was chillin'. It was the last day of school and school was over. Hallelujah! No more days of having to wake up uncooperative boys to get them ready for school. Nope. Not for 3 more months.
Since I knew that we were all safe to sleep in, and two of my boys were spending the night with friends, I lounged on the couch (Yes, I am from time to time a couch potato), and turned the TV on to a movie channel. That particular night, they were having a special weekend of nothing but war movies. And the particular movie that was on was "Patton." Seeing this movie again brought back a flood of memories.
This is a movie that I have watched numerous times. This is an old favorite for me. And I can never watch it without remembering the first time that I saw it at the old Ritz Theatre in my hometown.
I went with my sister. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I don't remember the rating, but I do remember that I heard more cursing in one place than I had ever heard in my life. Back then, cursing was a really big deal. Now, not so much. And not only was I amazed by all of the foul language, but there was a man in the movie theatre who laughed every time that Patton cursed in the movie. He didn't just chuckle, he laughed out loud, very loudly. And I can remember that my sister and I wound up watching this man almost as much as we did the movie, because, well, to tell the truth, he was making a scene in the theater. But we couldn't say anything, because he was an adult, and we were just kids.
Whenever I see the movie "Patton" to this day, I think of this man. Who was he? Is he still alive? Does he still watch this movie? Does he still laugh when he hears the vulgarity? What in the world was so funny in the first place?
I especially like the scene in the movie where Patton is talking about feeling like he had participated in the great battles in history in a former life. This scene is mystical, and arouses my curiousity about life after death.
After watching this movie at the theater, I remember checking out a biography of General Patton in our school's library. The movie definitely made me more interested in this important figure in the military history of our nation.
And last of all, this movie reminds me of a story told by my grandmother. My grandmother, Mamaw, we called her, lived in Opelika, Alabama. This is about 30 minutes to an hour from the Georgia line. And along the Alabama-Georgia border is the Chattahoochee River. The same one that was written about in a country-western song.
According to my grandmother's story, General Patton was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia during World War II. This was about 1 to 2 hours away from Mamaw's house in Opelika. Fort Benning was near Columbus, Georgia, which is said to be a sister-city to Phenix City, Alabama. The two cities are separated by the famous Chattahoochee River and the Alabama-Georgia state line.
At that time in history, Phenix City, Alabama was referred to as "sin city." The legend has it that Phenix City was as dangerous as any city in the nation. There was a big prostitution and gambling ring in that area at that time. The corruption and resulting crime was so bad at one point, that Marshall Law was implemented for a few weeks to get the city under control.
One night, quite a few of General Patton's soldiers went in to "sin city" to have a good time and apparently succeded. But too much so, for they were arrested and put in to jail. The problem for General Patton was that his soldiers were to deploy in the next couple of days, and he felt that he needed them. So he contacted the authorities in Phenix City to request that his soldiers be released from jail so that they could deploy. The officials would not comply.
So, the story goes that General Patton got angry and insisted that his soldiers be released. Again, the local officials refused. General Patton informed them that if they did not release his soldiers, he would have the army to surround that jail and blow it up to get release for his men. They still refused. (As I type this, it is starting to remind me of the story of Moses and the Pharoah).
General Patton, led the Army's 2nd armoured division's tanks on the highway across the bridge over the Chattahoochee River into Phenix City, and lined the tanks up in front of the jail where his men were held. Again, he told the officials that they had one more chance to free his men before he attacked the jail with his tanks.
This time, they acquiesced. The soldiers were released from jail and General Patton moved his tanks back over the bridge and on to Fort Benning. The rest of the story, well that is history.
But every time I rode with Mamaw over that bridge, she would tell that story that all of the locals knew, but many people in other parts of the country did not. I think of that story every time I watch the movie "Patton".