Proud be the patriotism of the World War II Generation.
So Sad The Song
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My father was of the World War II Generation. My dad served in the Seventh Army Air Corps, during World War II. Dad was stationed right by Pearl Harbor at Hickam Air Field. Dad went Home to be with the Lord nearly 10 years ago.
With the passing of my beloved Dad and so very many of the World War II Generation, we are rapidly losing an entire dictionary of word definitions and phrases.
My dad, my uncles and their friends their ages, used to refer to Country Music as Cowboy Music. You just don’t hear that phrase that much, any more.
In the little Mayberry that I grew up in, there was a corner bar about a half-mile from my old homestead. It was smoke-filled and had swinging doors, a jukebox and some bar stools. It was the very kind of place that Merle Haggard sang about in his song “Swinging Doors.” I never stepped foot in the place, but from time to time, looked into the swinging doors, on my way home from school when I was a kid. The swinging doors were the very same kind of doors that Miss Kitty had on the Long Branch Saloon. Well, my dad always referred to that bar as a “run down joint.” Once again, a phrase that you just don’t hear any more.
When my dad was a child, there was no electrical refrigerator in his home. His Grandpa owned and operated a full-blown icehouse that stood along the old Morris Canal. Great Grandpa Mabey used to sell blocks of ice to the canal boat captains as they awaited their turn to ride up the steep hill of Incline Plane Ten East. One of Dad’s chores, each day, was to walk the half-mile path from his home at the end of Mabey Lane to his Grandpa’s icehouse and bring home a block of ice for the kitchen icebox. Hence, I always remember my dear father refer to the refrigerator as the “ice box.” A term that you hardly ever hear in today’s modern world.
My father was a deeply religious man. Simply put, he hated alcoholic beverages. I have known a lot of religious leaders; pastors, ministers and priests who justify drinking alcoholic beverages because of the Biblical reference that Jesus turned water into wine. Basically, the hard core truth of the matter is that I have known a lot of closet alcoholics, who just happened to be ministers and priests. My dad didn’t buy any of it. Dad had no use for alcoholic beverages. Dad used to refer to alcoholic drinks as “the hard stuff” or “gin mill poison” or “killer moonshine.” Once again, you’ll hardly ever hear any of those phrases any more.
Another term that I remember my dad, my uncles and their friends use from time to time was the phrase, “Rube Goldberg contraption.” Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and an inventor who lived from 1883 to 1970. Rube’s inventions, that he would dream up, would be complicated, extravagant and have a great sense of creativity. Dad would often use this term when he was working on a plumbing project in the old Mabey Homestead. One of my uncles would be helping Dad. The three of us would be down the cellar working on the plumbing. Dad would say something like, “this here two by four’s in the way, Edward. We’re going to have to Rube Goldberg it here to swing around all these beams here.” And Uncle Ed would know exactly what my dad was talking about! Once again, a phrase hardly heard any more.
This is one of my favorites. You hardly ever hear this one in our modern society. Ready for this one? The phrase is “butter and egg man.” Here’s the gist of it. I grew up in a very small town in northern New Jersey. There was an American Legion Hall right down the street from my house. Every year there would be the big statewide American Legion State Meeting. The officers for that year would go off to Trenton, Atlantic City, Princeton, Cape May or wherever the big statewide meeting was being held that year.
Well, you would have a local storeowner, or the fellow who worked in the canning factory in Paterson, or the local farmer going off to the big city WITHOUT his wife. They would then come home with stories of the wild times they had. Please note that I personally think that most of these “wild times” were pure fiction. But the fellow who came from the little Mayberry, from a rather humble background, and then put on airs in the big city was referred to as the “butter and egg man.”
Please do note that I have nothing but respect for the veterans and veterans’ fraternal societies. I’m just reflecting upon a cultural phenomenal that I remember from my childhood and youth, growing up in a little Mayberry in New Jersey. Barney Fife would often be guilty of being a “butter and egg man,” whenever he and Andy would attend the Annual Statewide Sheriff’s Meeting in Raleigh. Once again, you hardly hear of the phrase “butter and egg man” in our modern society.
These are only a few of the very cool phrases that were pretty much the trademark lingo of the beloved World War II Generation. With a bit of a tear in my eye, I admit that as corny as they were, I dearly miss hearing these phrases.