Christmas Greetings - #5
* Do You Hear What I Hear? *
Hi-di-ho, friends! Well, here we are, another year coming to a close and the bright fresh promise of a New Year. For the men and women serving in the Armed Forces during WWII, the promise of "Home for Christmas" passed with mortars and bullets, longing and prayers but sometimes ... there was a way to send a very special Christmas greeting back home to family to allow their loved ones the feeling that they were there. A piece of them would fill the house with comfort and joy: The sound of their voice.
Before there was e-mail or Skype or DVDs or even cassette tapes, there was the “Letter on a Record” sponsored by Gem Blades or Pepsi Cola to name a couple. During World War II, servicemen could enter a booth at USO clubs operated by the National Catholic Community Service and American Red Cross and make an audio recording - their very own wax coated cardboard 78 rpm record! Some varied in size, but mostly they were two-sided, 6 1/2 inches in diameter. Can you imagine the impact this record made when it arrived home? The hope it instilled? The peace that came just with hearing your loved one's voice? I first became aware of Letter on a Record when writing A Moment Forever. Our hero and heroine, separated by war, did not know that their correspondence to each other had been taken. Over months they despaired. Our flyboy hero was sure she'd receive this unusual record. Here is a small excerpt from Chapter Thirty-Twon:
The last letter in the stack was called by the sergeant, and the recipient wasn’t “Martel.” The disappointment was immense and he wanted to hang his head and cry, but shook it off when McCarthy slapped his back in his familiar fashion.
“C’mon. Let’s go make a record.”
“A record? What'ya talking about?”
“Yeah, there’s this dishy British bird over at the Red Cross Club at Rattlesden and she suggested we stop by to record one of those Letter on a Records. You can send one to Pistol and by the tone of your sappy voice, she’ll be writing you in no time.”
“We have a practice mission at 16:00 hours.”
McCarthy winked. “Stick with me, Skipper. I’ll have us back in no time.”
An hour later at the nearby RAF airfield, Will approached the “dishy” blonde whose pleasant smile did nothing to quell the pain in his heart.
The woman stood beside the entrance to a small booth. “Go ahead, Lieutenant. It’s simple, really. When I close the door you should begin speaking into that microphone so that your voice will be cut into the record.”
He looked at her dubiously. “Into a 78? Me?”
“Yes, Sir. Your girl back home will love you for it. It’ll be like you’re there with her, and don’t you worry about a thing. I won’t be listening.”
He ran his finger under his collar, afraid that he might say the wrong thing. If Lizzy was mad at him for unknown reasons, he didn’t want her to snap her cap at something he said in a wrong way but, by G-d, he was resolute to say what he should have said in October. The woman closed the door and motioned to him through the glass to begin speaking. He was tentative at first, holding back, then finally, removed his service cap and placed it on the small counter before him. He leaned toward the silver microphone.
“Um … Hi Lizzy. It’s me Will. I bet it’s a shock to the ticker to hear me on this 78 but the Red Cross volunteer said that it would sound like I was home. It’s probably as scratchy as that old Ink Spots record we listened to at Rosebriar.”
Well, kittens, this is going to be a fabulous year. I'm sending you all my warmest wishes for peace, love, and good books! HAPPY NEW YEAR and KEEP 'EM FLYING!