by Bob Sanders
I was listening to my favorite radio program, “Seems Like Old Times,” the other day. Craig usually picks out a year in history and tells about the news of that time: prices, major events, etc., of that time. This time he picked 1940. You know from previous talks that 1940 is maybe my favorite year of all time … Except.
What’s so great about 1940? Nearly everything. Note “nearly.”
What’s not to like?
Look, the Great Depression was just about over, although to be perfectly honest, out in the Mt. Pisgah community, we didn’t notice all that much change: we had always been poor.
But it was about over. And we had electricity. Yes, a Silvertone radio, a Kelvinator Frigidaire, a 60 watt light bulb hanging down from the ceiling in each room, an electric churn … we were electrified! Fords now had hydraulic brakes and a shift lever on the steering column. And the Lamar Theater opened that year! And there were just about 132 million people in the whole country, just about right.
And the music. Listen. I’m talking about your popular songs. The ones you listened to on your Silvertone radio. The top ten songs of summer, 1940, were by Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Kaye Kyser, folks like that.
The Kyser tune was “Playmates,” a cute little novelty that vividly brings up a memory. That was the summer that our hired hand had to leave, and me and cousin Charlie finished up the crop.
There’s a line in the song that says, roughly, “Come out and play with me, and bring your dollies three … and slid down my rain barrel ….”
We were singing that song as we worked in the field right across the road from Aunt Lessie’s. Charlie would soon join the navy and be mostly on the destroyer “Russell” all through the coming war.
Joe Louis fought about once a month and we’d all gather ‘round to listen on our new radio. This month, it was Arturo Gudoy from Argentina. He fought from a crouch. As I recall, he went 15 rounds but lost.
A wonderful year, except for about 15 percent of our people, people of color.
Jim Crow was still riding high. I remember very, very well. “Boy,” til about the age of 60, then “Uncle.” Back of the bus, in the balcony at the picture show, food out the back window from restaurants — if service at all. Separate water fountains and bathrooms at the courthouse, etc., etc., etc.
There are two or three generations, now, who don’t even remember, and to my credit, I thought it was silly and shameful even then. Don’t ever forget.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.