Writers’ Page – October 2014

What Happened to the Music, Where Did it Go?

Ellie Clark

Watching a promo for the Video Music Awards was an interesting, if unentertaining, experience. There they were in their brief outfits (some bordering on nudity) gyrating about the stage making sounds into a microphone that sounded like pure unadulterated noise to my ears. This was the proposed winner?

I sat wondering what had happened to the music, where had it gone. It occurred to me how sad it will be for future generations when their only memories of music are what passes for it now.

They will not have heard Eddie Cantor singing Ma He’s Making Eyes at me, or Al Jolson, singing Mammy, or how about Paul Robson singing Old Man River in Show Boat, Hoagy Carmichael singing Old Buttermilk Sky.

Then we had Johnnie Mercer and the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe, sung by Judy Garland, some years later we heard her singing Over the Rainbow. And then there was Doris Day who really made magic as she sang, “you sigh, the song begins, you speak and I hear violins. It’s magic.”

They won’t recall the crooners, Crosby, Sinatra, Martin, Haymes, or later on Humperdinck. And, never would they have heard Tom Jones belting out a tune or performing what was considered to be risqué dancing on camera.

Then along came Elvis with his beautiful costumes and songs, including gospel music and his gyrations, also considered risqué by some.

How pastel they appear in this big picture when compared to the costumes of Beyoncé and her back up people prancing about the huge stage, mouthing words no one can understand as the music drowns them out. Perhaps a blessing.

I can’t help but recall Kate Smith, standing in her basic black dress singing her heart out for all of us during WWII. Her version of God Bless America has never been equaled. Well, maybe by Ray Charles years later.

I could go on and on as it isn’t difficult to recall the names of the wonderful entertainers, composers and their great songs – songs we could all sing and still remember. Who will even remember Beyoncé, let alone the lyrics to any of her songs.

I know where the music went, it went with us as we left this world and can now be heard as we go about the next life. Hopefully.


Barbara Schwartz

There are many things I can think of during the last (almost) 70 years of my life.

I am grateful for the love and understanding that my parents had while raising me to be the woman that I hope they wanted to see.

I am grateful for the love of my husband of almost 50 years: He has put up with a lot of stuff – including the good, the bad and the ugly.

I am grateful for my two incredible children whom I raised to be the almost perfect adults they are today. They each married and have stayed married for almost 19 years for one child and almost 15 for the other.

I am grateful for the “fabulous four” as we call our grandchildren. Their parents are doing a fantastic job of raising them to be what we used to call “good kids” in our days many years ago.

I am grateful for my reasonable good health. Sure I have some medical problems, none of which are fatal or terminal, but I think that goes with age and mentality.

I am grateful to have the freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and to decide if I no longer want to do it.

I am grateful to live in a somewhat free country where, while we may not agree with the government’s decisions, we are truly not penalized for feeling so. We do not really have to worry about being threatened or killed for our thoughts as do many other people in other countries around the world.

I guess what I am trying to say is that life as we see it is good and I certainly hope that I am around to share those thoughts for a very long time into the future.

I am grateful that I am not ready to leave yet!

Blue Jeans

Bernice Kantrowitz

Levi Strauss was a 20-year old Jewish immigrant in 1850 when he traveled from New York to San Francisco to seek his fortune. He wanted to sell gold miners canvas toppings for their wagons and tents. There was a shortage of dry goods and when a prospector said, “You should have brought pants,” he made canvas pants and they sold out immediately. But the prospectors complained the canvas chafed so he substituted twill cotton cloth bought from France. It was called “Serge de Nemis” which soon became known as “denim.” The pants sold for $.22 and were called “those pants of Levi’s.” Later they became known as Levis overalls. Over the years they have evolved from work clothes to state of the art fashionable and have become increasingly popular. They have changed from generation to generation and are now an American phenomenon that signifies equality and democratic values.

In the 1930’s my father sold Levi Strauss’s denim overalls in his general store in the small town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. They sold for $2. Most of his customers were farmers, miners or construction workers and they preferred Levi’s with bibs. At that time women didn’t even think to wear overalls but men liked them to work in because they were sturdy, cheap and low maintenance.

I never imagined young girls would want to wear denim overalls until my oldest daughter, Sally, who was in the eighth grade, announced she wanted a pair of Levi’s blue jeans. Sally finally got me to consent by wearing me down and saying, “Everyone is wearing them and I look weird wearing dress up clothes when all the kids in my class are wearing blue jeans.” I wasn’t aware at that time, that blue jeans were a symbol of defiance and rebellion against the adult world. On her 15th birthday Sally bought a special pair of Levi blue jeans. They were special because she decorated them with patches and even sewed colorful material on the belle bottoms. They were Sally’s favorite jeans and Polly, her younger sister, wanted a pair like them.

One morning just before leaving for school, Polly noticed Sally left her jeans drying on the wooden dryer in the basement. Since Sally was at school Polly saw an opportunity to wear them. Polly knew it was wrong to wear her sister’s jeans without asking her permission but she planned to get home early and put them back before Sally came home from school. That day Polly felt special at school in her sister’s “cool” jeans when suddenly she heard her name announced on the loud speaker. “Will Polly Kantrowitz please come to the principal’s office immediately.” Polly had no idea why she was being called to the office until when she arrived and she saw her older sister, Sally, with fire in her eyes. Polly knew she was in trouble – Sally was holding a pair of Polly’s old jeans. She thrust them at Polly and demanded her to change. Polly was humiliated and Sally got her “cool” jeans back. It turned out that Sally only pretended to go to school that day. She waited until everyone else was out of the house and then went home to change into her fancy jeans. When she discovered they weren’t there she knew that her sister had worn them. Polly was shocked because Sally never seemed to notice when her sisters wore her other possessions but after that episode Polly learned never to mess with her sister’s jeans. After I retired I bought my first pair of blue jeans and I was hooked.

Blue jeans are valued possessions. One of the amazing things about them is that they don’t go out of style. They just keep getting more popular and are worn almost everywhere by people of all shapes and ages. And no one should throw away blue jeans. In Japan and many European countries they sell our imported worn out blue jeans for hundreds of dollars. Then there are designer jeans that are decorated with sequins, sparkles or fancy embroidery. Anyone who can afford to pay $500 for a pair of special jeans can get them with the knees cut out in just the right places to make them look both worn and fashionable.

Levi Strauss died in 1905 and if he were alive today he would be shocked to learn how popular his overalls for working men has become. His legend lives on and Levi’s are now as American as apple pie. There is even a pair of Levi’s jeans in the American History Collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. It just proves what a wonderful place America is. A person can achieve a fortune and everlasting fame by merely designing a pair of work pants.