Musical Memories At Mardi Gras Time

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New Orleans isn’t the only place where revelers go wild in the streets at this annual colorful season. The Caribbean island of Trinidad also celebrates its own colorful carnival in mid-February.

When I hear the words Trinidad and carnival, it takes me back 70 years to a song popular during World War II. Rum And Coca Cola, recorded by the Andrews Sisters, topped all the music charts for much of 1945. It became a kind of welcome home anthem for me and ten million others returning from World War 2.

Actually, for that time, the lyrics about Trinidad, especially hinting about U.S. troops stationed there, were quite racy. Here’s an excerpt:

Drinkin’ rum and Coca-Cola.
Go down Point Koomahnah.
Both mothah and dawtah
Workin’ for the Yankee dollah.

Out on Manzanilla Beach,
G.I. romance with native peach.
All night long make tropic love;
Next day sit in hot sun to cool off!

Four years earlier, as a 15-year-old reporter, I interviewed the Andrews Sisters for my high school newspaper. It was a very hot June 1941 day at Philly’s downtown Earle Theater. There was no air conditioning backstage during our meeting. I was goggle-eyed as the three older women (way, way up in their late 20s) talked and walked calmly around the hot dressing room in skimpy underwear.

They were very cooperative in answering my questions, and gave me a front-row seat to their next performance. For that, they were formally dressed in evening gowns. Also, the sisters sang a popular melody, “I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time”. Four years later, it became another anthem for returning WW2 veterans.

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