I was just about three years old lying down, probably dozing or daydreaming, in the backseat (no such thing as seatbelts!) of my parents 1940 Mercury.
It was a Sunday morning in early December, and we were on the way to visit and have lunch with my grandparents in a nearby town. We were listening to the car radio (AM of course), probably my father’s favorite swing music station, when the music stopped and words began.
Loudly. In a few seconds, my father braked the car and quickly turned around in the first driveway we came to and we raced back home. I was vaguely aware of a change and a bit disappointed—no chicken and noodles with Grannie and Grampa that day. Back to my nap.
I was too young to fully understand the whats and whys of that day. My mother simply told me that we had to turn around and that my father, who was teaching in the Army ROTC program at the University of Illinois, had to go back to the school for “something special.”
He, like all active service members on that day, had been ordered to “report to his unit”—immediately and in uniform.
This is my pieced together, toddler’s memory of 7 December 1941—Pearl Harbor Day.
With that fuzzy but forever memory in my mind as we head toward the anniversary of that day next Monday, some of the songs of those early days of World War II began to earworm their way into my thoughts.
As a child, I understood nothing of war. But whatever war is was everywhere in my world at the time. Nearly every man that I and my family knew was in uniform or in some way, shape, or form and—with the women—”doing their bit.”
And we children played soldier with every stick becoming a “gun,” every blanket a “pup tent,” and every sandbox a “foxhole.”
We kids knew all the popular “war songs” from the radio and, needless to say, many were written and recorded in those big-band days. Here are some of the “earworms” I still hear today.
This is the first real “rouser” of a song written in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. This simple, 1942 version was recorded by the popular country and western singer Carson Robison. Click or tap on the next image or link to listen to this early recording of “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
This song was recorded by many, but Robison’s is of special interest to we ukulele buffs. Here’s a pic of his signature model in my collection. But I digress.
A second song that every one of us kids knew was “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” a song inspired by a US Navy “fighting chaplain.” Click or tap on the next image or link to give a listen.
We kids also thrilled at the thought of airplanes and “fighting aces.” Here’s a song we all knew and sang as we buzzed each other with our arms stretched out like wings–just like “Johnny Zero.”
Click or tap on the next image or link to listen a lively version of this one.
And, with the season fast upon us, another song from those early World War II days is “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”
Even as children we understood that this melancholy song told the story of a soldier overseas, like many of our friends and family, who longed to be home at Christmas time—if only in his dreams. Click or tap on the next image for the 1943 Bing Crosby version of this one with some good photos.
On that note, gentle (and nearly all younger than me) readers, I hope to have transferred a few of my childhood earworms to your ears as we head into the 2020 version of a “bleak midwinter” still in sequestration. So, stay warm, stay safe, stay masked,
and STAY TUNED!
Oh yes, my favorite ukulele in my collection from those days!
And here’s one I would love to own—If I could find one! Made from an army mess kit, no less.