I’m only a few weeks into blogging Babe’s letters and it’s been interesting to see the little nuggets that have popped up along the way. Perhaps the most intriguing so far was the mention outside his last envelope about listening to Jack Benny. He tells his parents, “If you didn’t hear it, ask someone who did why I mentioned it.”
That, of course, sent me looking for what might have been significant about the last Jack Benny program on NBC radio. And even that was an assumption on my part. Was he talking about listening to the Jack Benny show? If so, which show was he hearing? He dated the letter “approximately” May 5, 1943. Jack Benny’s most recent Sunday night show would have been on May 2.
I was able to find a number of episodes online, including the May 2, 1943, show here and the April 18, 1943, show here. I found a site where I could download the Easter Sunday, April 25, 1943, show as well. I didn’t know if Babe was referencing the Jack Benny show. And if he was, I didn’t know when he might have heard the show from Camp Wheeler in Georgia. Would he have heard it the same time everyone else heard it? Was it broadcast nationwide at the same time every week?
Anyway, because I didn’t know, I listened to all three and couldn’t figure out what might have warranted a mention by Babe to his parents. Maybe it was an inside joke. The sponsor was Grape Nuts. Benny was freshly back on April 11, 1943, from a bout with pneumonia, while George Burns and Gracie Allen and Orson Wells substituted for him. In the April 18 episode, actress Loretta Young made an overwrought appeal for listeners to buy war bonds.
Sometime in May, at a war bond rally at Gimbels’ basement in New York City, the president of Garcia Grande cigars, Julius Klorfein, bought Jack Benny’s $75 violin for $1 million. Was that news on the radio somewhere? There was an item about it in the May 23, 1943, St. Petersburg Times.
Who knows? It’s maddening. There’s something there…and I may never know what it’s about.