Stories About Some of Our Favorite Christmas Songs

When should Christmas music be started to played for the Holidays? One thought is after Halloween, another is as soon as the weather starts turning colder (living in Maryland this would be around Mid-October) but for most that time starts just after Thanksgiving.

We all know and love the following songs, but did you know that they also have interesting stories. Here are brief stories about six of our Christmas favorites. Oh, and for me I start playing them anytime after the first of October, sometimes even earlier.

White Christmas
Everyone knows that the song was introduced in the movie Holiday Inn, but many don’t know that it was a song about being stuck in sunny and warm LA and dreaming of a White Christmas. The original first verse is:
The sun is shining
The grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway.
I’ve never seen such a day
In Beverly Hills LA.

But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up North…

This part is rarely performed with the song (The Carpenters version does) and was never recorded by Bing Crosby.

Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas
This Judy Garland song was written for and first introduced in the movie Meet me In St. Louis. The original intent for the song was to say that by next year things would be brighter. The original lines were;
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
May your heart be light
In a year our troubles will be out of sight

From now on
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
In a year our troubles will be miles away

At the request of Judy Garland it was changed to:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Let your heart be light,
From now on our troubles
Will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on our troubles
Will be miles away.

Then in 1957 when Frank Sinatra was recording his Christmas Album A Jolly Christmas he requested another change to the lyrics. Later in the song there was the line;
If the Fates allow
Until then, we’ll just have to muddle through somehow
And have ourselves a merry little Christmas now.

Sinatra wanted a more jolly song and asked for this to be changed. It was to:
If the Fates allow,
Hang a shining star
On the highest bough,
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now.

This sure makes for it to be a merrier, Merry Christmas song.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
he song was written in 1943 and recorded in that same year by Bing Crosby. Placing it in that time period it’s obvious that the song was about a soldier at war and his Christmas wish. If it wasn’t for White Christmas this would probably be considered Bing’s Christmas song. (Although his version of Silent Night sold more copies) The song remained on the charts for 7 weeks and well pass Christmas.

Silver Bells
The song was written by the prolific movie composers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the movie The Lemon Drop Kid, staring Bob Hope. It was originally going to be Tinkle Bells, until Livingston’s wife told him that to millions of american women the word tinkle meant something else and not something that would generally go over good in a Christmas song. The word tinkle was replaced with silver. Now the next time you hear the song replace the word ‘silver’ with ‘tinkle’ and see if it doesn’t seem like a slightly different song.

Frosty the Snowman
Frosty the Snowman was written with one thought in mind. Just before it was written Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer had be a huge commercial hit and the team of Jack Nelson and Steve Rollins wanted to write the next ‘Christmas Classic’. By the end of the winter they had put together two holiday songs to pitch to Gene Autry. Autry was sold and recorded Frosty for the next Christmas season.

And, the other Holiday song they pitched. It wasn’t a Christmas song, but the Easter song Here Comes Peter Cotton-tail.

A Christmas Song
In the hot heat in the summer of 1945, Mel Torme visited his friend Bob Wells. Earlier in the day Wells had written phases in a notebook in an effort to stay warm. A couple of these were; “Chestnuts roasting … Jack Frost nipping … Yuletide carols … Folks dressed up like Eskimos.”\

Torme also in an effort to try to cool off, thought that maybe writing a winter song would help. They took these phrases and in 40 minutes much of the music and some of the lyrics of one of the most recorded Christmas song was completed.

JFK Assassination, A Conspiracy?

As the Presidential motorcade of John F. Kennedy passed the Texas School Book Depository Building on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm CTS, three shots came from the sixth floor, fatally wounding the President. Kennedy was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.

Fifty-five years later there are still those who feel that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was not the crime of a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, but was a conspiracy. A conspiracy with Oswald as only one of the participants, even as one of several gunmen.

When I first started looking in the assassination nearly 40 years ago, I had many questions. The stories were out there. And there were doubts in my mind. Enough doubts that when Gerald Ford ran for President in 1976, who was a member of the Warren Commission, was a factor on my decision on who would get my vote. I felt then and still feel now that the report was incomplete.

Was there people who wanted him dead? Sure there was. He was working to bring an end to organized crime, wanted the removal of Fidel Castro from being the leader in Cuba, and he had just a year before stood his ground against the communist Soviet Union.

There’s even the thought that Oswald would have had to be lucky to fire three accurate shots from a bolt action rifle in approximately 8 seconds and there had to be a second gunman. And why two days later, on November 24th, did Jack Ruby murdered Oswald as he was being transferred from City Jail to County Jail. Why would Ruby do that? Luck and chance happens all of the time. Ruby may have just snapped that morning, perhaps due to an expression on Oswald”s face.

Now more than 40 years after I first started researching and reading about the assassination, the theories of conspiracy, my views have changed. At first I was pretty certain that there was a conspiracy and that even if Oswald had acted alone, others were involved. Today I believe that Oswald did act alone and he was the lone gunman and that several strange and unusual factors came together to make the impossible possible.

The Plymouth Pilgrims

"The Landing of the Pilgrims" (1877) by Henry A. Bacon
“The Landing of the Pilgrims” (1877) by Henry A. Bacon
During the first part of the 17th Century a group called the Separatists felt a need for a complete separation from the Church of England. They wanted to worship in a very simple manner without all of the ritual and symbols which were used in the Anglican Church. This group first went to Amsterdam and then in 1609 to Leiden, Holland. By the end of 1619 the Leiden Separatists asked King James for a Royal Charter, which would allow them to establish a colony in the New World. Although James refused to give them a Charter, he promised that he would not try to stop them from settling abroad.

It was originally intended for the entire Leiden congregation to move to America, but they decided to send only sixty or seventy of their most able members to establish the community with the others to follow at a later date.

Before leaving England, the Separatist leaders went to talk with Captain John Smith, who had been to the New World and had made some extensive surveys of the New England area. Captain Smith would have been willing to sail with them on the Mayflower as an adviser. However, the Pilgrim Fathers did not have the money to pay for his service. Instead, they purchased his book, which included a detailed map of the New England region.

The Mayflower made her final departure from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620, with 102 passengers aboard and a crew of about 30. Of this number only 41 were members of the Leiden church. The remainder of the passengers were hired men, paid servants, or “strangers” who wanted to make a new life in America.

The sea voyage lasted about two months before the Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod. For the next few weeks they explored the area as well as creating the Mayflower Compact. The Compact was an agreement signed by all the men on board agreeing to abide by laws that would be drawn up and agreed upon by all male members of the community.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on December 31, 1620. Of those who left England only 53 people were alive to celebrate the first “Thanksgiving”. Even though none of the women would die during the voyage to the New World only 4 of the 18 women survived into the first summer.

Leaving Daylight Saving Time

For those who don’t know the rhyme we spring ahead an hour in the spring and fall backward one hour, in the fall. Some people mistakenly call it Daylight Savings Time, but it is Daylight Saving Time. In 2007 with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that President George Bush signed into law in 2005, the new dates for Daylight Saving Time will begin on the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday of November.

Daylight Saving Time is not a modern idea. Benjamin Franklin first mentioned it in a letter to the Journal of Paris in 1784. He didn’t really say that the clocks should be changed, but that to take advantage of the extra daylight, one should arise from bed earlier.

It wasn’t put into practice until the German government put it in place in 1916 between April 30 and October 1. In the same year the United Kingdom adopted it from May 21 to October 1.

The U.S. Congress established it at the same time they formally adopted the Rail Road Time Zones in 1918, observing it for seven months in 1918 & 1919 It became so unpopular that the law for DST was repealed in 1919.

In 1942, during World War II, DST was reinstated in the U.S. although from the end of the war in 1945 until 1966, there wasn’t a Federal Law that addressed DST.

In 1966 DST was established and has been in place since, although the law gave states the capability to exempt themselves and a few, such as Arizona and Hawaii have. Many countries follow some sort of DST plan.

A Little About Halloween

Halloween has many different names such as: All Hallows Eve, Samhain, All Hallowtide, The Feast of the Dead, Haloween and All Saints Eve.

All Hallows Eve has its origins as a pagan celebration that dates back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and on the night of October 31 the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The tradition of wearing masks deals with hiding from the dead.

Orange and Black are used as Halloween colors. Orange represents the fall harvest while black is for the coming dark winter.

When the Irish immigrants came to America in the 1800s They brought with them the traditions of Halloween and the use of Jack-O-Lanterns. The lantern, carved from a turnip, potato, or beet and lit with a burning lump of coal or a candle, represented the souls of the departed loved ones and were placed in windows or set on porches to welcome the deceased. They also served as protection against malevolent spirits or goblins freed from the dead. Since turnips and gourds were not as readily available in the Americas the pumpkin was used as a replacement.

One possible origin of Trick-or-Treat may come from the Druids who believed that the dead would play tricks on mankind and cause panic and destruction. They had to be appeased, so country folk would give the Druids food as they visited their homes. Another is an old Irish practice of going door to door to items in preparation for the festival of St. Columb Kill.

Candy doesn’t have to be the only treats given out to those young ghouls and goblins that come knocking on the door. A couple of welcomed but not ordinary treats are packages of Hot Chocolate (great for those cool night) and small bags of microwave popcorn.

Vaudeville Becomes Less Vulgar

Photo: A promotional poster for the Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles (1894), showing dancers, clowns, trapeze artists, costumed dog, singers and costumed actors
A promotional poster for the Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles (1894), showing dancers, clowns, trapeze artists, costumed dog, singers and costumed actors.
Vaudeville was a style of entertainment, popular in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, that took the form of a series of separate, unrelated acts. The performance could include all or some of the following; musicians, dancers, comedians, animal acts, magicians, impersonators, acrobats, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, or later short films.

Prior to 1880 Vaudeville was thought to be vulgar. Tony Pastor cleaned it of its obscenity to make it more wholesome to the general public. On October 24, 1881 he staged the self-proclaimed “clean” vaudeville in New York City. It was an effort to lure more women into the male dominated saloon and variety halls.

Vaudeville’s popularity increased when B.F. Keith built a chain of Vaudeville stages in various east coast cities. This was the beginning of the Vaudeville Circuit, a single booking system contracting acts for regional and national engagement that could be from a few weeks to two years.

It was common for the performers to term a theatre by how much they were paid to perform at them. The three most common were the “small time”, the “medium time,” and the “Big Time”. When a performer reached the “Big Time” they were considered the best and most famous. The Big Time found its home in 1913 at New York City’s Palace. The Palace featured the best and brightest on its bill and many would consider playing there to be the apotheosis of their careers.

While Vaudeville never really died it just seemed to fade away as cinemas and radio gain popularity. Many of the early radio and cinemas stars, such as Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen and Abbott and Costello began on the Vaudeville circuits

Even though vaudeville as entertainment is dead, it lives on in popular culture and entertainment. Many of the ‘entertainment slang’ came from vaudeville, such as “a flop” (an act that does badly) and “the limelight” (from the lime-green color of phosphorus lights). It’s not unusual to see common techniques and gags of vaudeville on television and in films today.

The Louisiana Purchase

Department of the Interior. General Land Office. Surveying Division 1903 Map of the Louisiana Purchase. - National Archives
Department of the Interior. General Land Office. Surveying Division 1903 Map of the Louisiana Purchase. – National Archives
President Thomas Jefferson was unsure whether the United States Constitution gave him the right to negotiate with a foreign government for the purchase of territorial rights in the area west of the 1803 United States. In fact he was under the impression that it didn’t, but he did understand the value of the Port of New Orleans and wish for it to be part of the United States.

The American negotiators, Robert Livingston and James Monroe were allowed to offer as much as $ 10 million dollars for New Orleans. France under the rule of Napoleon had at one time a plan to build a new French Empire in America, but with a defeat of his armies in present day Haiti and a possibility of war against Great Britain were in need for monetary resources. Livingston and Monroe were offered the entire region for $ 15 Million.

A treaty was signed on April 30, 1803 and the process began for what has become known as the Louisiana Purchase. The territory would double the size of the United States for a cost of less than 3 cents per acre. The total area was 529,911,680 acres with 523,446,400 acres of land and the rest water.

The ratification of the Louisiana Purchase treaty was by the Senate vote of 24 to 7 on October 20, 1803. On December 20, 1803 France formally turned New Orleans over to the United States at Cabildo, the seat of the colonial government in New Orleans. A ceremony at St Louis transferred the entire territory over to the United States.

Most of the territory was populated by Native Americans and in reality all that was accomplished with the treaty was the transfer of European territorial rights from France to the Unite States.

In the end the total paid to the French was $ 23,213,568. This figure included interest. The original cost was $ 11,2500,000 plus the cancellation of debts worth $ 3,750,000.

An American Playwright – Eugene O’Neill

Alice Boughton -  from the United States Library of Congress
Alice Boughton – from the United States Library of Congress
Recently I was talking with an old college friend discussing Historical Figures. We had taken a number of theater classes, both of us are still doing theater work and while in that conversation we discussed who we may want to do a history theater performance. He would want to be Abraham Lincoln. I mentioned that I had always thought about working on a play with the Playwright Eugene O’Neill narrating the story of his life. He was an American Playwright, who many felt was the Shakespeare of the American Theater of the first part of the 20th Century. In the ’70’s Jason Robards Jr was in a few revivals of his plays.

O’Neill was born into show business. His father James O’Neill was considered a matinee idol as a stage actor in the later half of the 19th Century, his most famous role was that of The Count of Monte Cristo. Eugene O’Neill was born in a hotel room on October 16, 1888, the third of three children of James O’Neil and his wife, Mary Ellen Quinlan O’Neill.

It wasn’t until after he spent much of 1912 and 1913 in sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis that he decided to write plays. Prior to this he had spent time at sea. Quite a few of his early plays cold be classified as Sea Plays.

His career as a playwright can be seen as divided in 2 parts. The first from 1914-1936. His plays were a standard on Broadway during this period winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1920, 1922, 1928,) and in 1936 the Nobel Prize for Literature, the second American to win. The second part begin in 1946 after a 10 year period where no new plays of his were produced. Then Ice Man Cometh an autobiographical play was produced. It was the first of a number of autobiographical plays he wrote during this second phase of his career. Long Day”s Journey into Night is thought by many to be his best.

He was married 3 times; Kathleen Jenkins (1909–12), Agnes Boulton (1918–29) and Carlotta Monterey (1929–53). He had three children, Eugene Jr with Jenkins and with Boulton Shane and Oona. Oona married Charlie Chaplain at the age of 18. Chaplain was 54. O’Neill disapproved of the marriage and he never saw her again.

After a long illness, which for many years made it difficult to write, O’Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953. It is said that while he was dying he whispered “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.”

Lillian Gish

When Lillian Gish died on February 27, 1993, at the age of 99, the world lost a great actress. She was born in Springfield, Ohio on October 14, 1893 with the birth name of Lillian Diana de Guiche.

Miss Gish’s career started on the stage when she was just six years old. She had a very successful stage career before she found herself making films. She would have a second stage career beginning in the late 1920’s where she was well received by critics and the public.

In 1912 she met D.W. Griffith. Her first film was the Griffith directed The Unseen Enemy. She played the older of two orphaned sisters. The younger sister was played by her real life sister, Dorothy Gish. In 1912 alone she would appear in 12 films for Griffith. By 1915 she had become one of the top stars in the industry and was the star for two of Griffith’s most ambitious projects, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance.

Miss Gish, from the beginning of ‘sound’ movies until her last film appearance in The Whales of August released in 1987, would appear in many films. Her appearances were always of quality but would be irregular, with long gaps between appearances.

She would receive only one Academy Awards nomination. Her major work was prior to their first ceremony. That nomination came in 1946 for Actress in a Supporting Role in Duel in the Sun. She lost to Anne Baxter in The Razor’s Edge. She would receive a Honorary Award in 1970.

On June 11, 1976, Bowling Green University dedicated The Gish Film Theater and Gallery. Lillian Gish accepted the honor in person for herself and her sister. Bowling Green University is in Ohio near where the two sisters were born. Lillian Gish received on the next day the honorary degree of Doctor of Performing Arts. Upon her death items from her estate were set to the University, where they are on display.

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Author’s Note:
When it comes to doing things one enjoys, it’s often said that ‘Life gets in the way’. I would say that is exactly what has happened with View From the Shore and 6 Things to Consider. I have been very busy these past couple of months and often doing only the things that I have blocked off time to do on my calendar.

I have now blocked off time for this blog and hope you enjoy. I know that 6 Things to Consider will continue. And I am also looking to post a Photo of the Week of my View from the Shore on Thursday.

Steve Atkinson

A Fellowship Published

The classic book by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings was first published as three volumes; The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King on July 21, 1954, on November 11, 1954 and on October 20, 1955 respectively in the United Kingdom.

The book was created as a single volume and was broken up into sections by the publisher.

When The Fellowship of the Ring was published, an index was promised. However that complete Index and Appendices were not complete until the 1966 revised edition was printed. These Appendices gave a view of the World of Middle-Earth and it’s three Ages that Tolkien began in 1917.

While recovering from “Trench” fever in 1917 Tolkien began work on a tale he called The Fall of Gondolin part of a larger project he would name The Book of Lost Tales. The Lord of the Rings would become part of this world.

While his children were young he began telling them a fairy tale of a Hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins who lived in a hole in the ground. With the encouragement of his friend C.S. Lewis, (Lewis would later create his own children tales The Chronicles of Narnia), Tolkien finished The Hobbit tale in 1933. In 1936 the manuscript was shown by a family friend to publisher Stanley Unwin. The Hobbit was published in 1937.

The Lord of the Rings was begun as its sequel in 1937 and took until 1953 to complete. Tolkien was exacting in the writing of his tales and would work his Middle-Earth mythology his entire life, with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit being the only major works of this mythology published during his life.