Today would have been my Father’s 104th Birthday. Last year I played a tune by Judy Garland he used to whistle, Alice Blue Gown. He loved the sweet, nostalgic vocal music of the period from 1890-1910. He loved men’s glee club music, and he liked to sing along with it. At least, that’s what he loved during my childhood. So, here’s another one by Judy Garland, this time a duet adding my father’s favorite singer, Bing Crosby. They sing a jazzed up duet version of If You Wore A Tulip, probably a little too jazzed up for my Father’s taste but very well done.
My Father had a brief but meteoric Army career during World War II. He went from draftee, to Artillery Sergeant, to Transportation Officer in a very short time and was retained after the war as a limited duty partially disabled officer until 1948. I wrote the novel, The Catrobat, drawing themes from his Army career. Once discharged, he was entitled to his pre-war job back under the Selective Service Act of 1940, so he and my mother returned to the rural train depot in Northern Minnesota in August. I was born later that fall.
I mentioned in a prior post that he had been severely injured in France, but all kinds of other things began to go wrong with him. One thing was his hearing, not only from combat but from artillery practice. I guess they didn’t use ear protection in those days. He lost his high frequency hearing such that he would not have heard half of Diane Keaton’s version of Seems like Old Times. (When I installed a smoke alarm for him in the 1980’s, he couldn’t hear the ear piercing shrieks and howls of that horrible device.) I noticed as he got older he didn’t respond to music anymore. He couldn’t hear women with high pitched voices talking on television.
Our postwar life at the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway Depot was out of the 19th Century as well. We didn’t have running water never mind television. We had a well, a pump and 8 galvanized 2 gallon pails for storing water inside the depot in the winter. I remember specifically that I saw my first television set in August 1954, visiting one of my mother’s friends, one week before we left for California. That was when television began broadcasting in Northern Minnesota. Meanwhile, my mother’s youngest brother had been in Beverly Hills six years earlier installing television sets under contract with Paramount Studios. He installed home televisions for their stars (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ingrid Bergman, and Benny Goodman), At the depot, we listened, mostly at night, to AM Radio. One of our favorite programs was the Jack Benny Show. One of the featured regulars on that show was The Sportsman’s Quartet, who sang When You Wore a Tulip. (I couldn’t find that version by itself on You Tube.)
Looking back on my early days , the late 1940’s was a period of nostalgia for earlier and more innocent days. We were living nostalgia in that day and my mother grew less nostalgic every day we were there. It was obvious to everyone but my Dad that the railroad passenger business was dying in the early 1950’s. Even we were mostly traveling by car. It was time to move on and my mother returned to teaching in Southern California where they were hard up for teachers. My mother’s birthday comes up March. I’ll write more about The Catrobat then.
Thanks to IminBetween for the You Tube.