Kate Smith and Real Breaking News
By HARRY M . COVERT
At the ripe old youthful age of 10, I hurriedly walked eight blocks from Walter Reed Elementary School to my home on 33rd Street in Newport News, Virginia. My fourth grade classmates were so sweet and polite our beautiful teacher Mrs. Burton was always smiling in excusing us moments before the bell rang. We always walked rain, snow, in sunshine.
I was in a hurry to get home. My mother had bought a 14-inch Westinghouse television set, black and white, first in our neighborhood. At 4 o’clock, I was determined to be ready for that wonderful theme song, “When the moon comes over the mountain,” blared on the snowy screen. It was the Kate Smith Hour.
My mother was at work, and I could watch and ignore piano practice. I’d do a scale or two so I could say I did my duty.
On this particular day, November 1, 1950, it would be historic although I didn’t know it then.
Kate Smith’s theme filled the living room starting about 4 o’clock. I don’t t recall the talk at the moment, but I do note her producer and lifelong Manager Ted Collins started talking about his New York Yanks football team of the then National Football League team. That was the real name of that short-lived team.
Remember, network television was in it’s infancy in those years. Radio was premier and morning and afternoon newspapers reigned supreme. I was way too young to deliver papers.
So, glued to the little screen off the piano bench, the afternoon Times-Herald had not arrived. Suddenly, NBC news broke in, “Bulletin.” How exciting. Then, a live report from the Blair House, Washington, D. C., interrupting Kate Smith’s easy chat.
Some Puerto Rican nationalists had attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman. Big news. It came on the set a couple of hours after it took place at 2:20 P.M. I was hooked on the news. Eight years later I became a cub sports writer on my hometown Newport News Times-Herald. I remember that thrill to this moment. The city was, still is, the shipbuilding capital of the nation and the world. My high school ring bears the slogan “harbor of a thousand ships.”
Before getting carried away, Kate Smith, the wonderful Virginia-born singer, is in the news now.
She maintained an apartment in Arlington, Virginia, while she sang her way entertaining millions in the World War II era. She was so great Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America.” He gave rights and monies to a foundation created at the time for Kate Smith and Joe DiMaggio. Recipients of the funds were the Boys and Girls of New York City. Still to this day. Millions of dollars I might add.
Neither the writer, the singer nor baseball great cashed in. Kate sang the song and Joltin’ Joe thrilled Americans the world over. “God Bless America ranks up there with the National Anthem; and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” is a blockbuster, too.
For years, the Berlin song recorded by Kate Smith was heard regularly at Philadelphia Flyers’ hockey games and at seventh inning stretches of New York Yankees baseball home games. Of late, political correctness has invaded sports venues. A knucklehead declares offensiveness from a 1933 Kate Smith recording that caused the Flyers and Yankees to stop playing “God Bless America.”
What a shame, a cowardly act. The New York Post headlined the baseball Yankees action as the lowest of political correction.
I’m not responsible for any social ills from the 1930s. Whatever language used in songs, poems or essays or what-have-you in times past may or may not be stylish today. “God Bless America” is timeless and appropriate for today.
Kate Smith’s “White Cliffs of Dover” verses are still moving today. Just sing them:
“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.”
Dame Vera Lynn of England is 102 and made “the white cliffs” symbolic of the greatest generation.
Kate Smith stands tall and must not be besmirched.
Remember, President Truman was not harmed on that Blair House attempt. We can’t hold Puerto Rican’s responsible today for the actions 69 years ago.
Let’s pray God keeps blessing the USA in these turbulent times.
This column has appeared in The Tentacle. h