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Bob Harrison Pt.4 180-01L
AUGUST 2000
THE WAR YEARS

I am a sentimentalist, a hopeless romantic, 75 years of age, mindful of my mortality, and hopeful of leaving something memorable when I shuffle off this mortal coil. But this little essay probably wonít be it!

My sentimentality extends back to my childhood but it is centered around the war years which, for me, covered the period from 1939 through 1945.

I remember Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini ranting hysterically much earlier but the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the subsequent horrors of the war made them the fatal years.

To me, Charles Dickens described those years best when he wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness......it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...."

The sentimentalism and romanticism were heightened by the music of that period, songs that were sung over and over, love songs, patriotic songs, war songs, religious songs, even commercial songs, all written and recorded to bolster public morale. And there is no doubt they did just that.

Commercial songs, you say? Remember this one? "Any bonds today, bonds of freedom, thatís what Iím selliní, any bonds today? Scrape up the most you can, here comes the Freedom Man, asking you to buy a share of freedom today."

I have forgotten many of those wartime tunes but every now and then something will jog my memory and the words will come flooding back.

Anyone out there a sentimentalist like me? Remember "Thereíll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover"? One of the best tunes, "Lillie Marlene", came out of Germany, I think.

Some of my favorites were "Sentimental Journey", "Youíll Never Know", "Donít Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me", "When The Lights Go On Again All Over The World", "Weíll Meet Again", "As Time Goes By", and the list goes on and on.

And the novelty songs like "Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet", "Right in the Fuhrerís Face", "Mairzy Doats", and I think there was one named "Rosie the Riveter." "Beer Barrel Polka" was popular for years and in my Navy days the Navy wrote its own verses to the same tune. I wonder if they still sing "Here Comes the Navy".

There were many war songs but I remember only a few: "Cominí in on a Wing and a Prayer" was a big hit, as was "He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings", both Army Air force tributes. I canít recall any Navy songs off-hand but there must have been one or two. Was there a song about the Sullivan brothers? I may try to write one about the Harrison cuzzins.

"Johnny Doughboy Found a Rose In Ireland" was a big one written with GIís in mind. And "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" just came to mind. And donít forget "Stagedoor Canteen." There was a country song titled "Philippino Baby" made popular by Cowboy Copas. Shucks, I could have written that one!!! ("Sheís my Phillipino baby, sheís my treasure and my pet; With her eyes as bright as diamonds and her hair as black as jet").

Another country hit was "Thereís a Star-Bangled Banner Waving Somewhere." Was that sung by Tex Ritter? I donít think so. Iím not sure.

"White Christmas" always caused me to get teary-eyed and it did the same to some other guys I knew, especially if we had nothing to do except think of Christmases past and drink beer. How many have I forgotten? Many, Iím sure.

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.

Bob Harrison - August 13, 2000 

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