brownbetty: (Default)
[personal profile] brownbetty posting in [community profile] cap_chronism
Over Here, Over There is written by Maxene Andrews and, I presume, ghost-written by Bill Gilbert. The book is fairly chatty, and attempts to give both an idea of what civilian life was like in America during the war, and the part played by the USO performers. It pads out Maxene's history with materials from other USO performers, newspapers snippets, letters, and other materials. Unfortunately, hardly anything is cited in such a way that you could chase it down without effort.

I am actually enough of a newb at this historical period that it's possible everything I learned from this book is on the order of SPOILER: Liberace was gay! I think it gives a decent overview of America during the war years, if one keeps in mind that the Andrews sisters were actually comparatively wealthy by the end of the war years, simply from record sales. (Maxene doesn't touch on their financial situation, and frames everything in terms of their popularity, but at one point she mentions she "owned a kennel on the ranch, and had seventy-five dogs—boxers, Dobermans, and cocker spaniels." (78) This suggests a level of affluence. (Also, OMG, I want to live there! Maxene is a dog lover after my own heart, and apparently took a dog with her all the time while on tour.))

She attempts to deal with the racial inequality of the era, but mainly talks about the segregation of the troupes and USO entertainers. (Two paragraphs are dedicated to race riots, in 1943.) She mentions one entertainer, Kathryn Grayson, who insisted on performing for Black troupes as well as white. When Grayson was told her (black) maid was going to be staying at a separate hotel, she told the organizers she would stay at that hotel as well, but her inclusion in the book suggests she was the exception. (63) The book also includes a photo of a performance of "Hellzapoppin" with what looks like an all-white cast. (Compare with this youtube scene, from the film Hellzapoppin which claims to be 'the best swing dance ever captured on screen.' (Seriously, watch it. It's amazing.))

(I was also rather non-plussed to see reference to Al Jolson. Was he performing blackface, for the white troupes? They couldn't see a black performer, but a white/Jewish man in blackface, that's fine?)

As far is the book is concerned, gay is something invented in the 1960s.

The parts I found particularly fascinating were the bits about rationing, and war bonds.

Most people had an "A" gasoline sticker that allowed them three gallons [~11L] of gasoline a week. There was a national "victory speed" limit of thirty-five miles [~55 km] an hour.... If you were lucky enough to get enough gas for your car, you still needed tires, and they were even harder to find than gas. The government initiated the Idle Tire Purchase Plan. Every car owner who had more than five tires was required to sell anything over that amoung to the government at prices that varied according to the tread on the tire, and its overall condition. A brand-new tire would bring you the top prize: $19.63. If you had a recap that you paid $6.50 for, the government would pay you ten dollars.(48-9)

Coffee became one of the most sought-after items on the home front [...] Americans drank an average of twenty pounds of coffee a year [...] but we would have to satisfy ourselves with half that amount. Coffee was rationed on November 29, 1942, because German submarines [..] were sinking freighters bound for the U.S. with their loads of coffee from Brazil.

Newspapers and magazines responded to the crises by publishing tips on the differences in amounts required for each of the three brewing methods—boiled, percolated, and drip—and how to preserve your precious supply by brewing 'stretched coffee.' We were told to use level tablespoons instead of heaping ones, scour the pot thoroughly after each use, and store coffee in a cool place. You could stretching your supply by "double dripping," give you thirty percent more coffee, or adding chicory, a French technique that would give you one third more.
(50)

I'm not sure which I find more horrifying; the idea of "double drip" or the half-strength coffee. Or possibly the "boil" method of making it.

The "black market" was a problem, with some people obtaining scarce items through underhanded means and private sources, then selling them illegally and at inflated prices to people who were suckers enough to pay the outrageous prices.

... One incident happened near Dover, Delaware, the state capital, where Army officials seized a whole truckload of black market chickens on Route 13. Government inspectors turned the chickens over to the Army, and another black marketeer was foiled in his attempt to make a profit at the expense of the American public while we were at war. By that time, in the summer of 1943, the government estimated the black market controlled ninety percent of the poultry industry on the East Coast.
(143)

Black market chickens. You know things are bad when.


War bonds were one of the most sacred causes of the war. People promoted them every way they could, the general public as well as the entertainers. STudents at the College of Notre Dame in Maryland ironed blouses, polished shoes, nd typed term papers in exchane fot the stamps that they pasted into their book. When the stamps totalleed $18.75, you redeemed the book for a war bond worth twenty-five dollars. Uncle Sam used your $18.75 toward paying for the war.(137)

Everyone was selling war bonds, including Bugs Bunny. (youtube, warning for blackface at 1:00)

I actually bailed out of the book when the war ended, so I have no idea what happens in the bits about the reconstruction.
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

cap_chronism: Cap, in battle, swinging shield (Default)
History Geekery for Steve Rogers

February 2015

S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
2223242526 2728

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 24th, 2017 05:23 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios