The need for a long-range penetration unit in Burma impelled the activation of the Mars Task Force at Camp Gruber in December of 1943. On the same day, December 17th, President Roosevelt announced that the airplane the Wright Brothers had first flown forty years earlier would be brought back to the United States. It had been in storage in England, but Roosevelt wanted to donate it to the Smithsonian Institution in honor of the anniversary of this aerial innovation.
Meanwhile, wars in Europe and the Pacific were in full swing, and I am certain the absence of an entire population of young men was felt by everyone, but stateside life carried on. Folks at home were forced to make daily sacrifices with the rationing of gasoline, butter, and other commodities, so they turned to much-needed distractions from entertainment.
Americans were listening to their radios, and “Paper Doll” by the Mills Brothers, which was #1 on the Hit Parade as of December 13th of that year was soon replaced by the Andrews Sisters’ “Shoo Shoo Baby”. The other top songs Americans loved were: “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters; “People Will Say We’re In Love” by Bing Crosby and Trudy Erwin; and “My Heart Tells Me” by Frank Sinatra.
Americans were avid readers, buying best sellers such as: The Apostle by Sholem Asch, So Little Time by John Marquand, and The Robe by Lloyd Douglas. (1)
The average cost of a movie was 29 cents (2), and people bought tickets to see Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon in Madame Curie, (3) or lined up for The Song of Bernadette with Jennifer Jones and Charles Bickford. (4)
Time Magazine honored Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall for its Man of the Year cover, and people were still singing Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, which debuted a year earlier. (5)
In San Francisco, Jack Holloway’s folks might have gone to dinner at the prestigious Cliff House and bought a salmon steak for 65 cents a plate, or had a tenderloin steak for $1.40. (6) After dinner, they might have strolled down the street to the provocative Playland-at-the-Beach where they could enjoy the Bob Sled Dipper, Shoot-the-Chutes, or The Whip. They might have bought tickets to go inside the popular Funhouse to enjoy more rides and attractions. (7) These interests occupied their minds, temporarily relieving them from worry about loved ones overseas.
During the war, entertainment was also important for the morale of the soldiers who saw the shows put on by the United Service Organization (USO); they also saw Hollywood movies at theatres in their camps. In some cases, the movie screen was made out of parachutes.
In my research of this era, I’ve come to realize that entertainment has always been important to us. The human mind is always alive, creating. We find new ways to express our complex emotions and entertain ourselves in the process. We design, we choreograph, and we orchestrate our visions, redefining the human experience with fresh new language, in hopes that our work will serve mankind. The cultural heritage coming out of World War II suggests this is so.
(1) Time Passages, 1943 Commemorative Yearbook, Robert Burtt & Bill Main, 1999, Hourglass Publishing Company, Inc., Section: “December 1943”
(2) “What Did It Cost? A Look Back”, Dave Manual.com, Printed 8-27-19. https://www.davemanuel.com/whatitcost.php
(3) Time Passages, Ibid.
(4) “The Numbers, Where Data and the Movies Meet”, Annual Movie Chart – 1943 Market Charts.
Printed 8-27-19. https://www.the-numbers.com/market/1943/top-grossing-movies
(5) Time Passages, Ibid.
(6) ebay, Shop by Category. Collectibles > Paper > Menus
Printed 8-27-19. https://www.ebay.com/itm/362581740716
(7) Wikipedia.org, Playland (San Francisco), Printed 8-27-19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playland_(San_Francisco)
© 2019 Jeanne M. Halloran, all rights reserved
No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or use of any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the author.