FUNNY IN TIMES OF CRISIS

I’ve been doing what I like to do best-researching. I saw a story online about the 1918 Spanish Flu and it dawned on me that my father was alive back then. As a matter of fact, he was married to his first wife, had his first daughter, had signed up for WWI, had written a song and was on the road traveling down south with his “Deluxe Players”. The 1918 pandemic lasted from, I think, August of 1918 through December of 1920. Eddie began his first on stage vaudeville work in 1920. He was a comedian. The 1918 flu was targeting young adults. About half of the deaths were in the 20-40 range. Eddie was about 29. He had already experienced diseases and poverty being born in 1891 in Baltimore during a time of no indoor plumbing and rampant Leukemia in the East Baltimore slums. It’s one of the reasons he left home at nine years old and worked as a boy magician until someone suggested that he was so funny he really didn’t need a lot of props to entertain people. It seems that Eddie never got sick. Vaudeville and Burlesque were pulling people in. Eddie was performing in Tampa, Fla., in 1919 with his Deluxe Players when he applied for and got a job as a comedian in New York in 1920. The flu had hit Haskell County, Kansas In January 1918.

Thinking about it now, I never really thought about the chaos that was going on in the world during those years.

How did people continue to think up gags and write songs that weren’t sad and forlorn. Eddie wrote “A Good Man is Hard to Find” in 1917. In my book I wrote that maybe he was actually talking about the fact that the armed services were drafting men to fight in WWI.  In 1920 he wrote “Don’t Let No One Man Worry Your Mind”, but this was probably for lovers. Anyhow, the flu was still raging and Eddie still had to entertain if he was going to earn money.

I read that in order to maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, which may have contributed to the spread. However, papers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, and may have given rise to the name “Spanish” Flu.

Military pathologists eventually reported the onset of a new disease with high mortality that they later recognized as the flu. Their overcrowded camps and hospitals were an ideal site for the spreading of a respiratory virus. When soldiers were sent home there was a second wave of flu victims in 1918.

It was discovered that what we now call social distancing was paramount in surviving that flu. The French colony of New Caledonia  succeeded in preventing even a single death from influenza through effective quarantines. And the world went on. And got better.

The “Roaring Twenties”. Booze and parties. Eddie was appearing onstage in “All In Fun”, dancing and singing now along with his comedy. I read he and his partner were encored many times. So everyone must have been having a good time. Duke Ellington was coming along. Eddie opened a publishing business, a movie studio and wrote “King Tut’s Blues” because of the discovery of the tomb in 1923. And better things were yet to come. Even so, there was also the fact that in those early 1900 years racism was also a death sentence for Blacks. And Eddie was touring the country with Burlesque shows. In Blackface. And he was a hit everywhere he went. Fascinating when you think about it.

I believe I inherited my father’s ability to see the better side of life-to be able to focus on positivity and to help others to experience joy. Yes, tragedy and despair and horror exist, I know-but I refuse to let it take me all the way down. As Miss Celie said: “This life be over soon” anyhow. And as my brother, Lance, used to say “You only go around once, so you might as well do it with Gusto”. (Yes, he stole it from a beer commercial-LOL).

Brian, Lance, Brad

Hey, Love you all, please, keep coming back.

 

 

 

 

In REMEMBRANCE

jubileeotr
Old Time Radio Program 1939-1945

During WWII the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) decided to create a program specifically geared toward Black soldiers. Today it is said that some of the best jazz shows came out of this program with greats such as Fletcher Henderson, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Jubilee was conceived and programmed to present African-American artists and their music to the Armed Forces personnel of the United States and allied nations around the world.
During the history of the program, eventually other artists were invited to participate, but Jubilee is remembered as a showcase for African-American talent. In addition to big bands, small jazz groups and singers, many talented dramatic and comedic performers appeared on Jubilee. Aimed as a morale-building service for black troops and aired for military personnel, The show was hosted first by Dooley Wilson, the piano player in the movie Casablanca, then by Ernie “Bubbles” Whitman, a well-known comedian. Most of the shows were recorded before live audiences in Los Angeles.
By 1942 Eddie, my father, was fifty-one years old, too old to be drafted (although the government chose to sign up  “men of a certain age” just in case), however, he was asked to perform his comedy routines along with Lena Horne in 1942,  Ernie Whitman in 1944, and Hattie McDaniel in 1945, on the Jubilee radio program.

Here is one routine Eddie and Ernie did on a Jubilee program for the troops in October, 1944. Ernie introduces Eddie Green from Duffy’s Tavern. Eddie says he is bored and is looking for something exciting to do in his life. Ernie suggests Eddie become a volunteer fireman:

ERNIE: It’s Saturday morning at the station house and the alarm goes off. I can see you now, sound asleep up there in the firehouse.

EDDIE: So far, I like it.

ERNIE: Four in the morning the fire alarm rings, what do you do?

EDDIE: I get up. Then I take a sleeping pill and go right back to bed.

ERNIE: No, you don’t. You grab your fire hat, run to the pole and slide down.

EDDIE: OOOO!!

ERNIE: What’s the matter?

EDDIE: The pole is cold, I forgot my pants!!

Lucky me, someone sent me a CD with this Jubilee program on it, so I get to hear these shows.

In 1942 Memorial Day had become the popular title for a day to acknowledge all of our military personnel who died while in service.

This post is just a glimpse into how other citizens, along with our government, were helping to keep up the morale of our soldiers.

In Remembrance