|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
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
"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