The Yanks: God Bless ’em


The Yanks: God Bless ’em.
Unfortunately, the Americans don’t always get a good press, but speaking as a proud Brit I believe we owe them plenty and on more than one front. This is only my opinion of course others may have differing views and I run the chance of losing a few friends here but please indulge me on this one. I thank the USA for pulling our chestnuts out of the fire in two world wars and in the process shedding their own blood all over our continent when they could well have sat back safe in their own self contained homeland. We wouldn’t have won the First World War without the Yanks or the second. I suppose there might not have been a second world war if we hadn’t won the first but that’s in the by and by then there was the ‘Marshall plan’ when America helped war torn Europe to recover.

In view of their support for us when the Americans wanted us with them in Iraq I for one never contemplated the rights or wrongs of that war my thoughts were always, ‘it’s payback time’ We have to support America whatever, and regardless of the dodgy outcome of that war I haven’t changed my mind.

But this is not a soap box for geo politics this is a site about memories and in my memories I recognise we owe a debt of gratitude to American culture too for providing us with an escape route out of our stuffy, class ridden society, which still persisted after the war. I was born in the late 1930s when we were always told to respect our betters ‘what betters?’ We stood in silent reverence almost tugging our forelocks when a doctor entered the street, we ran away from policemen and never answered back at school. These were good traits you may say and in view of that which happens today for sure they were, but in some ways I feel our ambitions were stunted by fear of authority and class.

Luckily, while we didn’t have TV yet in the 1940s we had the golden age of the cinema. Almost everyone went to the cinema (the pictures) at least twice a week. There were pages and pages advertising that which the local cinemas were showing in the evening papers. Usually, if you lived in a city there would likely be several cinemas within walking distance so you could make your choice of which film to watch. We in East Leeds had: The Picture House, Easy Road, The Princess, The Star, The Shaftsbury, The Regent, The Hillcrest, The Strand, The Regal and the Premier. The cinemas showed one film Mon, Tue, and Wed and another film Thurs, Fri, and Sat. Cinemas didn’t open yet on Sundays in the early forties. It was here in ‘the dream palaces’ that we started to outgrow our stiff upper lip, stuffy, British period dramas set in dreary black and white: films like: The Winslow Boy, Hatter’s Castle, Four Feathers and David Copperfield. We were eager to embrace the world of the brilliantly irreverent American movies: The Dead End Kids, The East End Kids. The Bowery Boys Abbott and Costello, Bing Crosby Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamoure with their ‘Road’ films wise-cracking their way across the globe. The gangster films with: Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, and Humphrey Bogart, not to mention the ‘cowboy’ films that filled out the programme. You knew you were in for a better time if you saw the New York skyline in the credits rather than a London Bus going round Piccadilly Circus. We also became familiar with the American films portraying their paper lads delivering rolled up newspapers by flinging them into customer’s yards without even getting off their bikes! Would we have ever got away with that! And their college kids driving fancy cars and enjoying freewheeling life styles; they were light years ahead of us. In general they cocked a snoot at authority, it was something to which we might too aspire and it lifted our eyes to a more confident and exciting future. This was the start of the youth culture we had never had a ‘youth culture’ before this.

Then we came under the influence of American music. We had been used to the classical music on our gramophone records; Joan Bennett and Joseph Locke, Glass Mountain etc Perhaps a few comedy songs by George Formby and Gracie Fields. Then one day a relation turned up at our house with a 78 rpm record by Glen Miller, it Had Moonlight Serenade on one side and American Patrol on the other, I nearly wore that old record out playing it over and over again. My teenage years were punctuated by those great American singers: Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Kay Star, Connie Francis, and The Big Bopper, later of course to be topped by Elvis. We be-bopped and jived post-war and rocked and rolled in the aisles when the Bill Hayley came ‘rocking and rolling over the ocean waves’. And all the time there in the background those wonderful fifties ballads – they sooth me still.
I know we have now caught up with America with film, TV. and our own music, we always did have the literature but for my generation we benefitted by being exposed to American popular culture when we needed it most to brighten up our lives and make our early years fun. Thank you America.

And still, today America faces the thankless task of trying to make the world a safer place for us all. Where would we be without them?
So let’s hear it for the yanks!

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7 Responses to “The Yanks: God Bless ’em”

  1. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    A good story Pete, I too was born in the 30′ era, and subjected to the same American cultural influences, The Princess Cinema was only a couple of hundred yards from where I lived, and I spent a lot of time there being entertained by The Three Stooges the Marx Brothers, Cowboys and Indians, and the images as portrayed by the American film Industry. A salute for the Stars and Stripes and the Red White and Blue…

  2. Eric Says:

    You’re so right Pete, America did have an impact in many ways on our young lives. They still do of course & I have good reason for that to be so. My daughter in law is from the deep south & whenever we go there, her family & even their friends welcome us into their circle & homes & I often feel humble that we seem to have lost that community kindness & spirit which they so freely go to extraordinary lengths with.
    On a slightly different note & v.a.v. my recent yarn about fish & chip shops, a recent survey concluded the best one to be in Cheltenham, followed by Plymouth & Nottingham.
    The best Yorkshire one was in Selby & then Trenchers in Whitby @ No 9. None of our favourite Leeds venues rated a mention – what cheek !!
    So much for my claim that Yorkshire F&C are probably the best from anywhere !.

  3. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for your comments Eddie and Eric. Eddie I had forgotten about the three Stooges, I should have mentioned them: Curley, Larry and Moe. and then when I believe it was Larry died it became Curley, Moe and Shemp. always a great laugh. I think I could join them myself now the way I attempt too d jobs around the house.

    Eric: I don’t know about the best fish shop but I know the worst It’s in Tenby where I went on holiday last year. I entered this fish and chip shop with my son-in-law and it was chaos there was only about half a dozen folk In there and there were more behind the counter serving but they had too many choices on the menu and some were getting half served and having to wait for an item and stuff was getting cold. To make it worse the owner thought he was the bees knees boasting about how good his service was and it was rubbish. I though of how they used to shift them on in fish shops on a Friday dinner in East Leeds. When we had finally got served,,after an age, I said to the guy, ‘ Do you know before I retired I was a work study engineer and we used to give a 100 for standard, performance, I’d have given you nil for that performance. My son- in-law was aghast at me and the guy said, ‘You’re bared I won’t ever serve you again!’

  4. aussiepom Says:

    So many things America introduced us to, glamorous movies, flash cars, hamburgers, rock’n’roll, the twist. None better than them for razz-a-matazz and glitter but no one can beat the pom’s for pageantry, correct protocol, history that goes back for ever. I agree the general public is not as friendly as it once was in Britain but our lives are not the same as they once were. Better keep your fingers crossed the next president they elect knows a bit more of life beyond the U.S. A. Their tourists don’t know much about life outside of the U.S.A. As we climbed the tower do Pisa an american couple asked me why they didn’t install an elevator. Not wishing to get into an argument I told them they’d better take it up with the Italian Government. Their next question was ” Why do the english drive on the wrong side of the road?” I replied ” Because we won the war ”
    They looked surprised…they thought they had.

  5. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thanks Peter,
    The USA certainly had a big influence on our lives in those days. Nowadays, here in Oz we rely very much on the “States” for our defence and security. We learned in WW2 that the old country was no longer able to protect us and that we had to ally with the Americans. And I think there has been a flip-flop since the 1940’s in the source of the best films and TV productions. As you say, Hollywood was the source of the most lively entertainment. Nowadays, many of us in Australia look for the quality drama and documentaries from the BBC.

  6. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thank you aussiepom, I think you put some perspective on things, we have a lot to be grateful for from the U.S.A. but they can be a bit overpowering at times, if you’ve got something big they have something bigger, and in most cases that’s usually true, but it dosen’t mean it is necessarly better, lets hope they choose well when they vote in the next President…

  7. peterwwood Says:

    You are quite right, Eddie But I must say I have enjoyed President Obama, he is a world leader with a sense of humour.

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