Freedom Isn’t Free

Freedom Isn’t Free

Or

How to Build a Prize-Winning Float

When You Didn’t Even Know There Was a Contest

By

Bill Orkoskey

Let me take you back to the Summer of 1967.  LBJ was President but would soon announce he would not run for a second term; race riots were starting to break out (even in Cincinnati, OH); hippies and flower children were beginning to make the scene; “The Graduate” was one of the top movies playing in the theaters; and the Viet Nam war was starting to heat up.

In the middle of all of this, I was in my second year of playing guitar and helping to run a singing group called Sing Out Wheeling which was part of the world-wide Up With People show.  There were three National casts and about 200 local casts from coast-to-coast.  We were self contained and on our own, but the music and choreography that we used was the same as the National casts.  I was probably the oldest member at 22 with most of the cast being in High School or College.  We did have a lot of parental support, however.

The main song that was in our show was our theme song “Up With People”, but our second song we performed was always “Freedom Isn’t Free”, especially with the war in the news every day.  This was before most of the country turned against this war and started protesting it.

We found out sometime in June that the City of Weirton was going to have as the theme for their 4th of July parade Freedom Is Not Free.  This sounded like too big of a coincidence for us not to take advantage of with our song.  We were basically dedicated to go anywhere that would have us so we could perform and relay our message to the masses.  The Weirton city leaders welcomed us with open arms, but said nothing about a prize for the best float.

Now, our expertise in building floats was at zero.  We did have two fathers who had the experience and the necessary licenses to drive a tractor-trailer.  Since we had about 25 members in our group at this time, we needed a good flat-bed trailer.  Weir-Cove Trucking was receptive to our needs for a flat-bed tractor trailer and they even gave us a place in their yard on Freedom Way in Weirton to assemble whatever we had to add onto the trailer to make it resemble some kind of float.  Sam Steele, the drummer’s dad, took care of all the driving we needed until the parade was done.

My mother, Margaret, came up with the design for the sides of the trailer.  We constructed a wooden frame and fastened chicken wire to it.  We took colored paper and spelled out FREEDOM ISN’T FREE on both sides of the trailer.   We added some bunting and a big badge that we used when we put on shows.  We worked late into Monday night to finish up our project, using temporary lighting powered by a gasoline generator that we had borrowed to use as power for our guitar amps and our sound system when we rode on the float.

On Tuesday, July 4th, there was a little bit of a rain storm in the morning.  The parade started 35 minutes late and 40 of the 70 units that had signed up for the parade had to cancel.  Our float was still intact because we were still under cover at Weir-Cove’s lot.

Eventually Sam drove the float over to Main St. where we could take our place in line.  We hurried and hooked up the sound system and our amps to the generator and did some fast sound checks and guitar tuning.  Everything was working like it should and we sounded and looked very professional.  We had 22 total performers on the float.  It was cozy, but not too cramped. 

Sam Steele knew how to handle the clutch and we never felt any jerking while we were standing on the float.  As soon as we got started, we started singing “Freedom isn’t free! Freedom isn’t free! You got to pay a price, you got to sacrifice, for your li—ber—ty.” ©

We had to go South on Main Street for about 4 blocks after we started to get to the reviewing stand at Main St. & Ferguson Ave.  The spectators were very supportive all along the parade route.  We slowed down a little bit when we reached the reviewing stand so the 5 judges could get a good look at us and hear our message loud and clear.  Of course we thought we were just singing to the 11,000 estimated patriots in attendance.  The Grand Marshals for the parade were three Viet War Veterans, so we fit right in with the whole character of the parade.

We went past the reviewing stand and got ready to make the right turn onto Lee Avenue when our generator gave out.  In using it the previous night to finish building the float, nobody thought of the need to fill up the gasoline tank.  Our voices were young and very robust, so the singers could still be heard.  I grabbed an acoustic guitar and hardly missed a beat or a chord.

We then had to get ready to make another right turn to go North on Orchard Street which would take us to the disbanding area.  WE NEVER MADE IT!!!  The heavens opened up and down came the biggest and wettest cloud-burst you could imagine.    We were soaked in seconds.

We grabbed the microphones and took the sound system apart in record time.  We unloaded everything right there and found what cover we could find in near-by buildings.  Sam took what was left of the float back to the Weir-Cove lot and the rest of us found our cars so we could go home and jump in the showers and into clean and dry clothes.  Nobody told us that the award ceremony was going to take place right after the parade at the reviewing stand.

We didn’t have anything going on that night and most of us were going to see the Wheeling 4th of July fireworks down at the Wharf Garage.  After I was ready to go out, I turned on the news on Channel 9.  I figured they would probably have more information on Weirton’s parade since they were right across the river in Steubenville.  They sure did.  They even mentioned that the best float in the parade was FREEDOM ISN’T FREE and that the singing group Sing Out Wheeling won the $500.00 grand prize.  Actually it was the only cash prize given out that year.   We burned up the phone lines that night before we went out.  We had to call everybody before we went out because we didn’t have the luxury of a phone in every pocket like we have today.

The next day, we made arrangements with the parade organizers to come up and receive our prize.  Then, on the following Sunday, we performed our whole show at the Weir High Stadium to an enthusiastic audience.

 © 1965 by Moral Re-Armament, Inc. New York     Words by Paul Colwell ASCAP     Music by Paul & Ralph Colwell ASCAP

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52 HOLES & NOBODY GOT HIT

52 Holes & Nobody Got Hit

A World War II Story

By

Frank Zelenitz

As told to

Bill Orkoskey

 

I was a Staff Sargeant flying with a crew of 8.  The lead plane had a crew of 9 which included a Bombadier.  At this stage of the war, all the other planes had to watch the lead plane drop his load of bombs and then we followed suit over the same coordinates that the lead plane had used.

We just got one of our men back into our crew that we went through training with.  His twin brother was killed in a training accident and he was able to go home for the funeral.  We were worried that we would have to go with a new member of our crew on our flights.  It was better to know your other crew-mates intimately because  you counted on each other for survival.  If you trained with them in the States, there was more of a closeness.

This particular mission had us flying on another bombing run over some munitions plant in Germany. When we got close to our target, the flack was so heavy that we couldn’t complete the mission.  We were flying at 31,000 feet and the AA batteries on the ground looked like they had us zeroed in.  We were getting pounded and getting hit from all sides.

Suddenly we found us in a very steep dive with one engine hit and on fire. As a waist gunner, we had no seat belts to keep us in one place and were just standing there with our guns. I found myself hugging the roof of the plane as we dove. At 10,000 feet we were able to level out and regain control somewhat. We headed for home and some safe place to drop our bombs.

Somewhere over France, we dropped our un-fused bombs where nobody would get hurt.  We couldn’t land since France was still occupied. If we couldn’t make it back  to England, we undoubtedly would end up as POWs and would sit out the rest of the War which didn’t seem like a very appetizing option. We discussed bailing out, but our good old B24 was built to take some massive abuse.We finally reached the English Channel and spotted the White Cliffs of Dover. We knew there was an air base on top of the cliffs. We were too shot up and were down to just two engines by now so we had to go straight in without allowing for landing against the wind currents. We barely cleared the cliffs.
 

 

Our landing went as smooth as it could under the circumstances.  Imagine my surprise when the first person I saw was Ken Forsythe from my old neighborhood who would one day be related by marriage to my brother. He was a mechanic at the base where we landed.

Ken told me later, “Boy, talk about luck. I counted 52 holes in your plane and nobody got hit. I can’t believe that! There was a basketball size hole right where you normally stand.  Lucky that you were hugging the ceiling when that hit.”

Since the 2 engines were shot and we had so much damage to the plane, that B24 never flew again. We flew back to our base on a transport plane and found our barracks almost cleaned out because the Brass didn’t think we made it back. We were one of only four of nine planes to make it back.

They found another plane for us to fly another mission the very next day. In all, I flew 36 missions but only got credit for 16 since a mission was only counted if you dropped your bombs on your assigned target. I was one of the lucky ones who survived. 

 

 

 

Typical waist gunners on a B24 Liberator.

 

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=80

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The B-24 Liberator was produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft during World War 2.
By Staff Writer