"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Here's my song re. Armistice Day blizzard, 1940

Historic storm indeed
My late father always told his story about the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. Betty Waage of Morris had her story preserved in the well-known book by William H. Hull. Hull's book came out in the 1980s. He reported having collected many more stories than could be accommodated in his book. Today with online, all stories could be out there, of course.
I am pleased to have written a song about this incredible Minnesota event. It's called "The Blizzard of '40." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Franklin (Frank) Michels. Frank epitomizes the very polished Nashville musical community.
Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck MN for getting the song online. If you have media transfer needs or anything of that kind, contact the Gulsvigs. I invite you to listen to my song about the big Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. Here is the link from YouTube:
My father was two years out of college. He was ten years from getting married. I wonder if he had a wild side. He was a bandleader during college. He got to meet Glenn Miller.
In 1940 we were not yet drawn into World War II. We heard regular news reports about all the distress in Europe and the rise of Adolf Hitler. But would it end up affecting us? There was strong resistance to getting drawn into foreign entanglements. We might forget, today, just how strong that resistance was. Who could blame us? We had been through the hell of World War I.
Armistice Day was the time for remembering the sacrifices made in "the big war," a term which at that time denoted World War I. I refer to Charles Lindbergh in my song. Lindbergh was a leading voice for the America First movement. He became controversial because he seemed a little deferential to what was happening in Germany. He lost some of his hero luster. But in the lead-up to WWII, his staunch opposition to American involvement won great sympathy around the U.S.
America First died overnight as a result of the attack by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor. We went from being isolationist, mostly, to being all-in with the world conflagration. Was our involvement really inevitable? Should our Pacific fleet have been concentrated in one place? Did FDR act like he had a chip on shoulder, daring the Japanese to do something drastic?
WWII changed the course of countless people's lives. Many young men gave their lives. Those who survived had the transformative effect of taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. The great post-WWII American middle class was born. In recent years it seems to have become endangered. We may be sliding back to a time where there's a marked division between "haves"and "have nots." We keep electing Republicans. We are bringing this on ourselves.
My father was a hunter. How fortunate he was not out in a duck blind on the day of the famous blizzard. The perils encountered by those poor hunters became one of the most well-known chapters of the storm. Some did not survive. Hunting was a bigger part of our culture then.
Our transportation system was not as well-suited as today, for dealing with such a storm, obviously. Cars were not as resilient. Some people used alcohol instead of antifreeze. Winter outerwear was not as effective. "We could have used more goose down filler," as I state in my lyrics.
The blizzard struck on Monday, November 11. It was Armistice Day but there was a feeling of routineness. But then, to recite the title of Hull's book, "all hell broke loose." The situation deteriorated rapidly. Cars became stalled to block roads. Visibility for drivers became nil. People all over just started holing up to get through it all. Hull wrote "it was as if all nature were on a rampage, unleashing its raw power on the universe."
My song reflects the considerable research I have done on the storm. I hope the song adds in some small way to preserving the sense of magnitude we have about the historic event. Betty Waage was living in Morris at the time. She can tell you about it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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