Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pop Gabuzda’s Radio and Family Bands

My parents’ generation grew up listening to the radio. This radio was the one my mother listened to along with her siblings.

My father lovingly replaced the fabric screen over the speaker for his father-in-law. I remember watching him take on this task.

My father loved Fiber McGee & Molly so much that he nick named his parents with these names. He also called himself “Mike McGee” as signed on photos and letters. My father also loved “Make Believe Ballroom” listening to his favorite bands of the time. 

He delivered papers to earn enough money to purchase his own trombone. 
He realized his dream at age 10.

He later was in the Queens Band (of Queens Village, New York) with his father. Pop played the baritone, piccolo and flute. They were honored to play in the 1939 New York World’s Fair (as pictured above).

During the War (WW2), my father would write home asking his father to send him his "horn" as he wanted to start a band where ever he was stationed with his colleagues. After the war, when my father was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy, he also participated in the school's band.

My dad’s sister remembers listening to “Inner Sanctum” with my dad. They also loved “Gang Buster” and “Green Hornet”.  But it was “Little Orphan Annie” and her Decoder Ring, with its daily secret messages, that mesmerized her attention . She would also drink her Ovaltine, the show’s sponsor. 

This reminds me of the popular scene from the movie, A Christmas Story, where Ralphie decodes his first message, “BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE.” 

The family would also go into New York City, to quietly watch as part of the audience to “Let’s Pretend” (radio show of fairy tales) as it was recorded live with actors reading their scripts with sound effects and music. 

Pop Cooper loved to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir every Sunday. He also loved the Live Marching Band radio show every Monday night at 10PM. His neighbors would get use to the loud show every week as to his poor hearing. Nana Cooper loved “Queen for a Day.” She would be in tears of joy every week. 

My mom also remembers listening to “Little Orphan Annie.” I talked to my mom’s sister and her memories of the family radio include one Sunday afternoon, dancing to music with her girlfriends Gloria, Lucille, and Rudy when the program was interrupted with an announcement from President Roosevelt of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II. 

My mom’s brothers, Edward and Stephen, were also ones talented with music. Eddie founded a local band playing the piano. They were known as “Eddie Downing and his Orchestra.” Eddie is second on the left in photo below. His brother, Stevie, played the saxophone. For some reason, Stevie is not in the photo. They played in the local park pavilion. Marion remembers Eddie all over the bench and keys playing such songs as Rhapsody in Blue, Kitten on the Keys and Dizzy Fingers. She remembers her brothers’ practice sessions every Sunday afternoon.

I found this later photo of Stevie blowing away on his horn.

What great memories for my mom and my aunts as I discussed this time period with them.

My brother is currently in possession of this family heirloom, our radio. He tells me it is a 1938 Philco.

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