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Beaufort cafe’s Pledge of Allegiance sticks to the heart

Blackstone’s Cafe owner Roger Alley, front, leads patrons of his restaurant during a recent reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Blackstone’s Cafe owner Roger Alley, front, leads patrons of his restaurant during a recent reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. ISLAND PACKET

Six mornings a week, everyone at Blackstone’s Cafe in downtown Beaufort stands and pledges allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

“At this point in our history, we need to be reminded that we live in a great country,” said cafe owner Roger Alley of Pleasant Point. “We haven’t had a lot of good news lately.”

The pledge takes place at 8 o’clock sharp every morning except Sundays.

Alley straps on a portable microphone that he bought for $35 on Amazon. He rings a ship’s bell by the cash register and invites everyone to face the flag and recite the pledge.

The words flow from the heart of Marie Lewis. She says they carry her to another era.

“After you leave elementary school, you don’t say the pledge anymore,” she said, smiling about her days at Beaufort Elementary School before the brick building became part of the university.

“I think everybody ought to do it.”

Her husband, Tom, recited the pledge as a child in a one-room schoolhouse on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina.

“It’s an affirmation of our country and what it stands for,” he said.

The people who all stood and covered their hearts are as much a part of the fabric of America as the flag.

Tom Lewis’ father was a Marine Corps sergeant major and his mother a Native American. For 32 years, Tom and Marie Lewis have owned the busy Alvin Ord’s Sandwich Shop in Port Royal.

The idea for reciting the pledge came from Alley’s neighbor, Dr. Lanny Krauss. He saw the popular tradition at Chick & Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis, Md., where midshipmen always get free delivery to the U.S. Naval Academy. Krauss also contributed the ship’s bell.

“We’re a military town,” Krauss said. “We’re proud of our military heritage. We’re proud of America.”

On a recent morning, a table of men in one corner stopped solving the world’s problems to say in unison the familiar words. There was a retired bishop, a writer of theological tomes, a UPS store owner, a recent transplant from Chicago, a retired CIA man, and a veteran who holds degrees from Yale and Harvard and volunteers a lot of time with service members and veterans.

On this day, the men had solved world hunger. “Or at least our table’s hunger,” one said.

Across the room sits a long table full of capitalists. They’re an investment club that member Neil Trask said was formed in the 1960s. They started out in the Dolphin Room in the Sea Island Hotel, and became known as the Landmark Investors when they bought the Landmark building from the federal government. It nearly broke them.

They invest in the prosperity of their nation, and by now have seen a lot of bulls and a lot of bears.

On this day, they tried to interest me in some bio-tech stock, just to show their ticker tapes aren’t stuck in the past.

And when the bell rang, they stood as one to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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