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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

WWI songs vs. WWII songs, the Man on the Street Interviews

In 1944 the Pantagraph was interested in the public's opinion on various aspects of life on the home front. On July 5, 1944 they asked -- how do the songs of this war compare to those of the other world war?

Mrs. Leslie Stone of 2011 E. Jackson Street answered: "Apparently we don't have the same composers that we had 25 years ago. There isn't even a song that begins to approach "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" "Over There" or "Yankee Doodle." The song Yankee Doodle of course dates back as far as the Revolutionary War, not WWI. Apparently she hadn't heard the "Boogey Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."

Mrs. Joe F. Jacobs (Gertrude) of 48 White Place observed: "Perhaps the community sings of the first war helped to make songs popular. I've heard a number of songs that are good but they fail for one reason or another to become popular. We are not a singing nation -- we listen to music but we don't sing anymore." How true, traveling in Ireland, the tradition of singing in public still continues, but the only casual singing in public in America today is karaoke. Mrs. Jacobs' companion was Mrs. Glenn Sherwood, who was interviewed about her opinion on summer clothing in 1944.

Dorothy Bowers (left), 503 East Douglas, "The songs now are just as good as they were 25 years ago, but there are so many of them and they are made popular by the radio and juke box so quickly that they don't hold us as long. Most of them are dance tunes not marching songs and we don't bother to learn the words." Dorothy Jean Bowers was a student at ISNU and was interviewed with her roommate, Patricia Dill (right): "'The White Cliffs of Dover' and 'Victory Polka' are just as good songs as 'Over there' or 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' but they will not remain as popular because we like new things nowadays. Songs are not as sentimental as they were then. They are better for dancing."

Miss Eileen Wullenwaber of 109 E. Division Street regretted the loss of public singing as well: "There are no songs comparable in popularity, but the difference lies not so much in the songs but in us. People used to enjoy singing but they don't so much anymore. At one time there were more than 200 in the Philharmonic chorus -- now it is a tough job to find enough singers to keep it going. Radio has robbed us of the fun of singing." Eileen was a recent Minier High School and Brown Business College graduate working as secretary to the chief draftsman at Williams Eureka, which was of course a company doing important defense work in Bloomington. The only mention of Eileen involved in music was her ability to play the saxophone, but it sounds as if she was intimately acquainted with the workings of the local chorus.

J. Earl McFarland (right) was the only man whose opinion on this subject was printed: "Even the men in the army don't sing the way they did in the first war. It may be because the army doesn't march as much as it rides. It takes singing to make a song popular and it takes leisure to make singing people. We don't have leisure anymore." Earl's gravestone doesn't reflect any military service, but he was a farmer during the first war, and during the second he was an insurance underwriter. The men did ride in trucks a good deal during the second war, which was a good thing. On the subject of shoes and feet, my recent reading of a history of WWII indicates that trench foot was a terrible problem during that war because no effort was made to supply the men with waterproof boots. Fighting from wet trenches in the bitter winters of that war was brutal. Many men lost their feet or were taken out of the war because of trench foot.

I don't know who Earl's companion was -- do you??

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