It was an era of well roundedness.
It had to be.
A war raged while people of every cut tried desperately to find ways to lessen their life’s burdens. There were still moms, dads, grandparents, boys and girls at play, and most of all young men and women trying to hold on to momentary relationships. The seemingly simple songs and music of the complex year 1942 were, by way of the abstract in their depiction of every human emotion emanating from a nation, and the world it lived in, at war. The titles of these songs provide a historical record of what throbbed through the pulse of our country’s most famous and courageous generation. With just a few titles, we become at one with the unbelievable longing shared by an entire country.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,”
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me,”
“Good Night Sweetheart,”
“I’ll Be Seeing You,”
“Moonlight Becomes You,”
“Now is the Hour,”
“On the Sunny Side of the Street,”
& “Thanks for the Memory.”
All the song titles applied to the men and boys thrust into the surreal; kids letting their neighborhoods know they were accepted into the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard thrusting those left behind on what would be known as the Home Front – women and older men – doing the jobs no longer manned by their brethren. It was a time when each and every American knew the words of the feature songs on the most popular radio show of the day, “Your Hit Parade.”
And, as the radio disc jockeys stalwartly cranked out over and over the music of the day, often the songs became supplanted by the hotly disputed topics of the day: who was a better singer – Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra?
Truth be told they shared an equal ray of the limelight. The lyrics to the songs they warbled wrapped avid listeners in a blanket that warded off the ever-present chill of despair gripping families all over America.
But above all else, the music they listened and sang along with became the marching tunes of our country’s survival and ultimate victory. Against all odds, we again moved to higher ground and predominance as the world’s history would report: The United States of America would last and remain the most successful and vibrant republic in the history of the world (as we know it to be).
“The Old Lamplighter”
A Time Remembered
A little boy moves in unthinkably close to his family’s radio, perhaps in an attempt to bring the characters he hears to life. He visualizes in living color as he creeps closer. After an indistinguishable period of time, it becomes a new scenario to be shared with his Dad. Middle class personified them – a world war may have been raging but on these nights, a man and his son were above it all.
“A cloud of dust and a hearty High Ho Silver!”
They smile together as the little boy and his Dad join forces, pulling for the masked man and his trusted sidekick to win out against the bad guys. Neither of them knew what the name “Kemosahbee” meant, except for the fact it definitely had to be something good.
A quick half hour evaporated and it’s time to change stations. There were no channels. Television would remain in the future, at least until the war came to an end.
It’s a hard thing for the kids of today to comprehend – a world without television. Families were forced to do things together. Things like reading books and then having discussions about what the words really meant. Going to a baseball or football game was a dream come to life. The ballparks carried an unbelievable aura from corner to corner. Just being there at the park was an event. And, while on the way to the park, by train, bus, or car, they talked and listened to one another. They talked about baseball and about maybe being able to get a hot dog at the game.
Then, came one of the most special times in the little boys life – his first night game.
It was magic.
The park was aglow like he had never seen it before. The infield clay appeared as a carpet put there just for the special athletes to play on. And was more than special for an event that would change our country forever.
Miraculously, the war came to its end. Younger and healthier men again occupied the towns and cities and those who returned home were never to be called boys again. Believe it or not, there were no complaints or… if there were…none were ever heard.
Those troops coming home never referred to themselves as heroes. And although the uniforms of the country’s service were discarded, those who served would carry the vacancy of time stolen from their youth forever. They returned to their old surroundings and lives to find differences unable to be explained. They married, had children, and rebuilt as best they could.
It was a world going through change.
The Time Frame
The great world war had been over for two years…
1947: Jackie Robinson is brought to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes the first African American on a Major League Baseball team. That same year, he is named ‘Rookie of the Year’ and featured on the cover of Time magazine.
It was sixty-five years ago, from the city of Pasadena in a place called California, when the baseball world grudgingly gave in to God. Under a more pressured environment than any human being should ever have to compete within, strode an athlete and man equal to any hero our little boy would ever see reprised in his lifetime. No person had ever entered and performed while experiencing the piercing slings and arrows heaped on the broad shoulders of Jackie Robinson.
Our little boy was overcome by the magnitude of Jackie Robinson. That night his skin color – magnified by the white flannel of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ home uniform – was a surreal emphasis on fortitude never since equaled. Jackie’s presence as he warmed up, seemingly in perfect harmony with the organ music being played by Gladys Gooding was over powering.
The normally verbally effusive little boy was stilled and overcome with emotion.
A Piece of Brooklyn Dodger History
May 8, 1942 – At Ebbets Field, with more than 24‚000 fans on hand‚ nearly $60‚000 is raised for the Navy Relief Fund‚ as all the proceeds are donated. Everyone‚ including the ball players and umps‚ pays their way into the park. The Dodgers also debut a celebrated rookie: Gladys Gooding who plays the “Victory Calliope,” the second organ played in MLB stadiums. Gooding will continue playing for the Dodgers until 1958, when the team moves west.
And, of course there is one more thing…
To many, recapturing the thoughts of a little ten-year-old boy is too far out there to serve a realistic purpose. But perhaps, if the same little boy was to function as a bookmark of an important time gone by, his recollections of the people of an era (demanding such unbelievable courage) could serve as a usable vitality for what is desperately needed today…
If only there was a way to bring back the old lamplighter…
Or at least have Frank to sing it to us all.