In later days of World War I, a small, but determined, group of American pilots were commissioned in the Royal Air Force and were based on small farm at the base of the mountains somewhere in France. Financial support for these brave, young men was somewhat limited, and they frequently would fly long missions, sometimes 4 to 5 hours, without food nor drink.
One morning an elderly lady appeared just as the fliers were preparing for their daily missions. She introduced herself as “Madge”, and said she lived on a small orchard in the mountains. She had brought fruit grown on her own trees as well as containers of an especially brewed tea for the pilots to sustain themselves on their flights.
The pilots were particularly thankful for the wonderful tea, a very full-bodied and flavorful drink, and referred to it as “Mountain Tea”—named for it’s origins. Marge appeared daily with baskets of fruit and containers of tea, while wearing the same purple dress each time. The pilots christened her “Purple Madge” in an endearing way and she appreciated the love the pilots returned to her.
The tea, the fruit…all made the War a little more bearable for the American pilots, and when they returned to the United States after the war, they told of this heroic lady’s offerings. The nation took her into its collective arms and sang songs of praise to her for caring so much for strangers from another land who helped to liberate her own people.
Still, today, in the United States we sing the praises of the admirable lady. You all know the song about…
“Purple Madge’s Mountain Tea on board their fruited planes”.