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Opinion >  Column

The Slice: Reading, writing and regionalism

Let’s talk about things Slice readers who grew up in other states had to memorize as school kids.

“I was born and raised in South Carolina,” wrote Beth Bornhoft. “In third grade in the mid-’50s we learned SC history. Part of that was to memorize the 46 county names along with the county seats. I’m not sure how many I could rattle off now, though.”

This reminded Glen Kauffman of growing up in California. “Today’s question took me right back to the fourth grade, having to memorize the names and locations of the 21 missions on El Camino Real.”

Cindi John remembered that when her dad was stationed in Vietnam in 1967, her family returned to her hometown in Texas. “We lived in Dallas and at the junior high I attended we were studying Texas history. Specifically we were learning about the Alamo. One of our assignments was to research and memorize the ‘six flags over Texas.’ To this day, I can remember Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, the Confederate States, and last, the United States.”

And finally, an answer from Pam Sauve.

“Forty-some years ago, when I was in fourth grade in Michigan, we learned the song ‘Roll On Columbia.’ I especially liked the line ‘Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,’ but it was somewhat abstract to me. (There aren’t many mighty rivers in Michigan.) After we had moved here a few years later, my family took a day trip to Grand Coulee Dam and I was struck with the realization that this is what the song was all about and was pretty amazed that I had learned the song not in Washington, but in Michigan.”

She wondered if Washington school children learn that song.

Having matriculated as a grade schooler in Ohio, I can’t say from first-hand knowledge. We learned Randy Newman’s “Burn On, Big River.” Kidding.

But I suspect if Washington kids ever learned “Roll On Columbia,” they might not now. Dams are more controversial than they used to be.

Well, I suppose they have always been controversial, but the opponents didn’t have the loudest voices.

On second thought, isn’t “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On” this state’s official folk song? So perhaps some teachers can enlighten me.

Slice answer: Heidi Penfield acquired a taste for fish and chips while living in London in 1957-60. “The food is distinctly British and just doesn’t taste the same in America.”

Today’s Slice question: When do you say “We’ve all been there”?

Write The Slice at P. O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email The fact that your dad had a Ford Country Squire station wagon doesn’t mean you were among the landed gentry.

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