Sat, Feb 09 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena
Events that we have experienced and stored away sometimes have occasion to pop up once more. I would suspect that it happens to most of us, particularly those of us who have been around the block a few times.
The more we experience the more stuff is stored up there in the recesses of our mind, ready to be extricated for the tasks at hand, or merely to play tricks on us. And when those thoughts descend upon us they are going to be as real as this morning’s oatmeal even though whatever thought that is occurring happened eons ago.
Something like this happened to me the other day. I was dutifully reading the morning paper when I came across the obit for Patty Andrews who had died the previous day. And here came that mind boggling experience. And the only way I can explain it is by relating it as it came back to me.
It was a day in 1938, a kind of dreary day that we sometimes have in San Diego, probably in one of the fall months. I was a young, punk sailor at that time ashore on liberty from my ship.
Another sailor and I were walking up a street and, it seemed to be in a residential part of town, but not exclusively so; the neighborhood was part residential and part commercial, small mom and pop establishments interspersed among bungalow-type dwellings, probably houses that are still there.
I suspect that just about then we felt a chill and decided to warm up a bit at one of the shops. We picked a doughnut outlet that featured a fine array of baked sweets that were anchored by one of those huge coffee urns that most such establishments had.
The ambience was pleasant; the aroma surrounding us was breath-taking making it an ideal haven to spend part of the afternoon. Although the place had all those positive features and was comfortable and attractive, and most inviting, this was not the factor that dominated this remembrance event it was the music.
Like many such establishments of the day the dominant feature in the small serving area was a large jukebox. Since most of them of that time were Wurlitzers we assume this to be the instrument. At that particular moment a trio of women was singing a song whose lyrics we did not understand. On close examination we learned that the singing group was the Andrews Sisters and the song was “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen.” We did not know it at the time but this was our introduction to a group that was to play a prominent part in the lives of many people, particularly GI’s in the oncoming WW II.
According to the literature this was the first recording, of a successful nature, sung by the trio. But it certainly was not the last.
When the Andrews Sisters are mentioned most people, particularly those of us in WW II think of the USO. For the uninitiated this was a government sponsored endeavor where entertainers in many venues were sent overseas to entertain the troops. The Andrews Sisters were in many of those jaunts. Sad to say I never saw them even though I attended a few USO entertainments. But I, like many others, followed their career through movies and recordings and have a few of them along with some added CD’s. They came around in the heyday of recordings when one of the big labels was Decca. The Andrews Sisters, therefore, recorded with the best, most notably Bing Crosby. Many of those are sheer classics that deserve to be heard over and over.
I saw the half time festivities at the Super Bowl last Sunday particularly the part devoted to the singer, Beyonce. There is no denying that Beyonce has a strong voice. But to get her point across she needed the aid of countless backups, a massive stage and enough electric power to tax the resources of the Crescent City. Laudable indeed for a belter but could she sing a ballad?
I wonder what Beyonce would have done if they had paired her up with a Crosby successor and handed her the score to “Don’t Fence me In” and told her not to worry. She would have a guy on guitar to accompany. I know one thing is certain. It would not resurrect any hidden memories in my recesses.
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