Remembering the Era of World War II When Life Was Yankee Doodle Dandy

I’ve been writing my Memoir for several years, and about seven years ago, I wrote the post at the bottom of this one. This past week, with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, I have been reminded that in many ways, we are watching the end of an era pass.

Since my own mother is only a few months younger than Queen Elizabeth was, that realization is particularly salient for me.

I have often said that when we realize that we are part of the marching parade, we become aware that History itself is a continuously evolving wheel, and for a flicker of time, we ourselves can almost touch the lives that our grandparents lived, the lives that our parents lived, the life that we ourselves have lived, and the lives that our children are living. Each generation occupies a separate seat on a giant Ferris Wheel that continuously stops and lets one generation get out of their seats and allows a younger generation to begin its ride. My grandparents’ generation has completely disappeared from the Ferris Wheel now. Fortunately, I was very close to my grandparents, and I can still remember them, but when I’m gone, my memory of my grandparents goes with me. In terms of getting off the Ferris Wheel, My parent’s generation is not far behind that of my grandparents, and I hate to admit it, but my own generation is beginning to get off the Ferris Wheel, too. I talk about the continuously evolving wheel of life in the following post:

Seasons of the Year as Symbols and Themes in Literature

This past week, the Queen ended her Ferris Wheel Ride, but at the same time, many babies were born and they began a ride of their own. In that way, the Circle of Life, as a whole, never ends.

Today, I want to celebrate the era of World War II. It is the time when Queen Elizabeth was vibrant and when my own parents were singing and dancing to the music of Glen Miller. My parents met at a dance at a military base during World War II, and they married soon after that. The era of World War II was the time when Yankee Doodle Was Dandy, even though he was marching across the world in campaigns that were started by people in other lands.

The night before I wrote the following post, I had re-watched the fabulous old movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, and that movie moved me to write the following:

My Parents Were Yankee Doodle Dandy

Last night, I watched Jimmy Cagney sing and dance his way through the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy. I’ll admit that if there had been anything more interesting playing on another channel, I would have watched that, but I would have missed the joy that re-watching that movie brought me. I have seen Yankee Doodle Dandy scores of times, but I am delighted that the stars aligned just right for me to re-watch that wonderful movie last night. It made me think about my mother and my dad.

Yankee Doodle Dandy is a story that is loosely based on the life of George M. Cohan, who wrote the songs Yankee Doodle DandyOver There, and other tunes that became synonymous with World War II.

I cannot venture a guess at how many times I have heard my folks sing Over There. The following is from the last frame of the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, and by the time ithat I saw the following clip from that film, I had worked myself into a nostalgic frenzy, and the scene made me cry.
The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy is about the life of George M. Cohen, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his support of America’s troops during World War II.
Here’s the finale from that movie:

For readers who have recently joined me, allow me to review that I have the writings of my 89-year-old mom [my mom is 96 years old now]. In her writings, my mom talked about when she was one of the masses of young women who worked in American munitions factories and wrote letters to their sweethearts overseas. She was one of the girls who waited loyally for their Johnnys to Come Marching Home.


My dad served in the Army Air Corps. In the above photograph, he is on the bottom row, third from the left. I think he’s the cutest guy in the picture.



When my dad was home on leave, my mother met him at a military dance–on a local air base. While my dad was still at home on leave at that time, VJ Day happened, and the war ended. My mother and dad married soon after that.


My mother and dad remained married until my dad died. He died when he was just shy of becoming 92 years old. My mother is six years younger than my dad, and she is 89 years old now. [Again, she is 96 now.]

By and large, marriages don’t last 70 years now. It has become quite easy for married people to become unmarried, and that often becomes the case in modern America. In my opinion, our capacity for throwing marriages and family members away has become a problem of epic proportions. Unfortunately, that is just one of the manifestations of our society, which I am afraid to say, is in decay.

Several wars have occurred since World War II, and unfortunately, as our nation’s people learned not to remain loyal in marriage, they also learned how to quit caring much about our soldiers who were being deployed to fight in our nation’s wars.

Americans no longer believe that we fly a Grand Old Flag. We may give our flag a few nods on the Fourth of July, but America is no longer a patriotic country. Americans have become fat, lazy, and apathetic. We have reached the point that we don’t care about much at all, and that lack of caring has permeated into the family structure.

When I was a child, families normally lived close to each other. I lived on the block behind my grandparents, and I saw them every day. When I was a child, I had a rich family life. It was not uncommon then for several generations of a family to live under one roof. That would drive me nuts. No doubt, I am part of the problem. But I do believe that if families merely lived closer to each other, they would be tighter. In a recent article, I rebutted the axiom that Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. In my experience, absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder. It makes the heart grow cold, and it allows the mind to shut down, shut out, forget, and dismiss. The true axiom is “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” Our entire society is suffering because of that reality.

I also have my great aunt’s memoir. She was a child during the Gay Nineties. [the 1890s] Her grandparents were part of the great frontier movement from the East Coast to the southern midwest.

In reading my great aunt’s memoirs, I visualize a time when families were friends. Several children slept in the same bedroom. Families played games together. Families took care of each other. Families cared about each other. Families were Families. I hate to say that in our modern culture, that is often not the case.

In the same way that I do not believe that our nation has been improved by losing its love for our country, I do not believe that our society is improved by our peoples’ losing the ability to care about each other.

I remember when I first heard a recording of Barabara Streisand singing People. That was half a century ago, and even then, I was struck by the fact that people had already begun shifting away from each other. I could already see that people had begun losing their abilities to need each other. I could already see that most people did not need other people at all. The song People became one of my all-time favorite songs.

Bottom line: Americans today just do not care much about anything or anyone at all now–at least not about anyone other than themselves. We are not only apathetic, but we are also spoiled and we are greedy. Why are we surprised that our nation is in demise? America is a nation of broken people.


Today is the eve of the first Memoir Monday. Today, I want you to take out the journal that you bought for Memoir Mondays and begin to write. Here is your first free writing prompt:

Memoir Mondays – A Week of Free Writing Prompts

Remember that your journal is secret. If you are not patriotic, you are in the majority. Admit it. Deceit is one of the worst enemies of journaling.

I want to caution you to NOT write a bunch of rosy stuff in your journal that you wish were true about yourself. Be honest. Dig deep inside and pull out some words that are unique to you and your life. If you are Writing to Heal, you absolutely MUST be honest when you write. Self-deceit might be what is causing you to think that you need to heal. 

As for me, I’m A Yankee Doodle Sweetheart – A Photoshop Montage by Jacki Kellum

While there are many things about myself that I am not proud to admit, I feel safe in saying that I truly am patriotic. When my parents sang “Over There” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” I sang right along.  My parents taught me to be patriotic.

My debut picture book The Donkey’s Song will hit the shelves one month from today, and when Frances Gilbert asked me how I wanted to write my dedication, I had no trouble saying the following:

For my parents who taught me to see and to cherish life’s miracles and for all children who preserve the spirit of the miraculous.