WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN DECEMBER 1948
 
 
 
 

On A Slow Boat To China by Kay Kyser with vocals by Harry Babbitt and Gloria Wood is the second most popular record in the country, eventually topping Your Hit Parade in January.

The song was written by Frank Loesser who took the mocking term about wanting to get a losing poker player “on a slow boat to China” to fleece him at the tables, and made it a romantic standard.

Like most pop songs of the day it was immediately covered by dozens of big name acts, many of whom also scored hits with it at the same time, among them Freddy Martin, who took his version to #5, Benny Goodman who also scored a Top Ten hit with it, while Art Lund just missed, his take on it stalling at #13. But Kay Kyser, the bandleader we met back in July with an even bigger hit with the unlikely novelty Woody Woodpecker, had the biggest seller with it.

 
 
 
 
 

Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts premieres on television after being among the most popular radio shows since its inception in July 1946.

Godfrey had been in radio since 1934 where his natural speaking style contrasted greatly with the mannered professionalism of most announcers. He was prone to singing on the air on a whim, joking his way through commercial spots and forging a much greater connection to the audience as a result.

When working at CBS radio’s outlet in Washington D.C. in 1945 he received his break when the national network picked up his live coverage of President Roosevelt’s funeral procession and the country was touched by the honest emotions he revealed.

Godfrey was then given his own national morning show which was exceedingly popular, remaining on the air until 1972.

But it was with the additional prime time program, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts where he made his biggest name. The radio show had already launched the careers of Sonny Til & The Orioles, who despite losing the competition to pianist George Shearing, were called back by Godfrey later that week to appear on his morning program.

Now with television becoming ever more popular CBS added a TV version as well which over the next decade introduced America to such performers as singers Vic Damone, The Chordettes, Al Martino, Pat Boone, The McGuire Sisters, The Diamonds, Connie Francis, Barbara McNair and Patsy Cline, and comedians Wally Cox and Lenny Bruce.

The television show was in the Top Ten from 1950 through 1954 and hit its ratings peak in the 1951-52 season when it was the #1 rated program on the air. Though it remained in the Top Twenty until 1957 the following year’s influx of highly rated westerns dropped it from the Top Thirty and its last episode was January 1, 1958. But long after “The Ol’ Redhead” departed the airwaves Godfrey’s basic format remains in use today with every televised talent competition.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Levi Jackson is named as captain of the 1949 Yale football team. Jackson, the first Negro to play football at Yale (and one of just three out of 8,500 total students on campus), won the vote of his teammates unanimously.

Jackson had previously served in the United States Army where his football skills on the Army camp team from Virginia had drawn the notice of the NFL’s New York Giants, whom Jackson had beat with his 80 yard touchdown run in their 7-0 victory. He turned down the Giants offer of a pro career (where he would’ve become the first African-American to play in the NFL) to remain an amateur and attend college on The G.I. Bill.

In his final game against Yale’s traditional rival Harvard, Jackson scored two touchdowns in the 29-6 victory.

After graduating Jackson worked for Ford Motor Company and in 1962 became the first black executive they had, eventually rising to a Vice Presidency position. In 1987 he won the prestigious Walter Camp Man Of The Year Award, recognizing notable former college football players for success, leadership, public service and integrity, one of the few who’ve won it without being associated with football in any capacity after their collegiate career was over.

 
 
 
 
 
 
I, The Jury, marking the debut of violent private eye Mike Hammer, was released in paperback the week after Christmas, 1948.

Author Mickey Spillane had written the book in just 9 days and saw it released to widespread indifference in the summer of 1947. But a year and a half later Signet re-issued it as a paperback and it sold millions, finding an eager audience in an increasingly morally ambiguous post-war society.

Perhaps the definitive hard-boiled story ever written it largely dispenses with the clue-driven plots that had been the standard in the genre for twenty years and focuses instead on Hammer’s quest for personal vengeance when an old Army buddy was sadistically killed.

Critics panned it mercilessly for its mix of violent action and suggestive sex which were shocking at the time, calling it “nauseating” and condemning it for the book’s “vicious … glorification of force, cruelty, and extra-legal methods,” but Spillane scoffed at the critics saying that they couldn’t stand the idea that “there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar“.

He had the last laugh however as it sold over four million copies while the book’s influence was just as immense, tearing down the standards of decency in publishing long believed to be inflexible.
 

“Two shots blasted from the corner of the room. The slugs smashed into the window sill behind me and threw splinters in my face. For a brief moment the room was lit up with the weird red glow of gunfire.

My hand darted under my coat and came out with my rod. Our shots came almost together. I squeezed three out as fast as my finger could pull the trigger…”
 

The runaway success of I, The Jury transformed the American literary world, making the paperback market an even more lucrative competitor to the hardcover trade. The inexpensive books (25 cents at the time) that were smaller in size and more disposable by nature made readers out of many who wouldn’t have thought to buy a hardback novel and soon an entire mass market paperback industry sprung up to tap into the same audience that Spillane’s work had reached.

His ensuing Hammer novels over the next few years were just as popular and at one point Spillane owned six of the ten best selling books of all time and when a critic remarked to him that such a feat was a disgrace for that type of work Spillane responded, “You’re lucky I’ve only written six books!”.

Hammer’s run as the top fictional character ended in 1952, amidst a national mood of anti-Communism and tough unyielding reactions to perceived threats and disloyalty that he himself had helped to popularize, when Spillane became a Jehovah’s Witness and temporarily gave up writing.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The baby blues struck a Trenton, New Jersey woman along with the bullet she fired into her own shoulder with a 12 gauge shotgun after enduring thirty-three excruciating hours of labor en route to delivering a baby boy.

The gunshot wound required emergency treatment but did not startle her procrastinating offspring into making a hasty appearance, as it took another few hours for the 8 pound 13 ounce baby to be delivered.

This was her fourth child and presumably after this ordeal, her last.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cry, The Beloved Country is published. One of the most acclaimed books of the twentieth century, it was the first novel written by Alan Paton, a South African opposed to the segregated social structures of his country.

The fictional work told the story of Zulu minister searching for his son who then becomes implicated in a murder of a white reformer whose policies of racial justice are a beacon of hope for the tribes of the country.

Paton wrote the book with the desire that it would influence his own fellow white countrymen as well as white Americans to stand up to and oppose the morally bankrupt principles of racial superiority, yet in spite of the novel’s tremendous success, selling 15 million copies, the National Party won a decisive election soon after its publication which implemented the policies of Apartheid, putting into place the state-sponsored racism that would define the country for the next four decades.

Paton died in 1988, three years before Apartheid was finally repealed.
 

 
 
 
 

LIFE magazine offers a look into modern Teen Age Fun in its December 20th issue.

The term teenager only passed into common usage over the past decade but it didn’t take nearly that long for those between twelve and twenty to figure out how to behave in ways that confounded adults.

Among the unusual activities and trends the magazine uncovers in their shocking probe into this clandestine subculture is the practice of ritualized handshakes involving multiple odd maneuvers, the propensity of all-girl sleepovers and the pre-arranged arrival at these parties of hordes of interested boys who gather outside and talk with the girls as they’re passed food through the open windows, and the first notable appearances of things more associated with the 1950’s such as ducktail haircuts (called “boogie haircuts” in Detroit) and sock-hops.

The issue also contains a piece on the recent book by Edith Heal called Teen-Age Manual which judgmentally critiques teenage behavior declaring off-limits such activities as drinking, smoking, wild dancing, loudly munching popcorn (???), slouching and necking. However the good news is they state that you can hold hands and kiss goodnight (notice they didn’t specify WHERE… take advantage of that vagueness, kids!).

With such outdated moralistic advice it’s no wonder teenagers are coming up with new slang for jerks and squares with each locale favoring different terms, among them are Geeks (Detroit), Moles (Philly), Snook (Des Moines) and T.W.O. (Teensy Weensy Operator), which is the put-down of choice in the nation’s capital of Washington D.C.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


For adults, or teenagers who don’t meekly follow the standards of decency laid out in manuals, Four Roses Whiskey reminds you that once again it’s Time To Make A Bowl Of Merry Christmas!

It’d take another decade for Dr. Suess to tell us that Christmas can indeed come without packages, boxes or bags, but in 1948 the merriest of Christmases usually came floating in a bowl full of booze!

Sure to be a big hit at your holiday party, the key to a swinging bash is having plenty of Four Roses to make delicious eggnog. The ingredients are simple – six eggs, enough sugar to induce a diabetic coma, cream, milk, nutmeg, just an ounce of rum but a whole pint of their famous whiskey!

It’s the gift that keeps on giving… hangovers, salmonella poisoning and drunk driving sentences.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RECORDS REVIEWED FOR DECEMBER 1948:
 
 
JIMMY LIGGINS: Homecoming Blues
JIMMY LIGGINS: Careful Love
PAUL WILLIAMS: Walkin’ Around
THE FOUR TUNES: I’m Gonna Ride Tillie Tonight
ANDREW TIBBS: In A Traveling Mood
TINA DIXON: Walk That Walk, Daddy-O
TINA DIXON: Parrot Bar Boogie
COUSIN JOE: Boxcar Shorty’s Confession
COUSIN JOE: Beggin’ Woman
BIG JIM WYNN: Cold Blooded Boogie
EARL BOSTIC: Disc Jockey’s Nightmare
THE X-RAYS: I’ll Always Be In Love With You
THE X-RAYS: Teddy’s Dream
THE RAY-O-VACS: I’ll Always Be In Love With You
THE RAY-O-VACS: Groovin’ Low
BIG JOE TURNER: I Don’t Dig It
MANHATTAN PAUL (BASCOMB): Hard Ridin’ Mama
EDDIE GORMAN: Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’
BIG JAY McNEELY: Wild Wig
AMOS MILBURN: Bewildered
AMOS MILBURN: A&M Blues
BIG JOE TURNER: Wine-O-Baby Boogie
JOHNNY OTIS: Barrelhouse Stomp
JOHNNY OTIS: Happy New Year Baby
 
 
 
 
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NEXT: JANUARY 1949