The Capers are Awed

by David Polansky

When the Capers met in March, the calendar and the weather were in total disagreement. The mountainous piles of snow were reminders of the White Cliffs of Dover and early plantings could not be honored. But now, on April 13, although still too cool, the Juncos are no longer seen on our bird feeders  and the finches have turned from olive-colored to gold. We spread our arms wide to the gloriously bright sunshiny day.

Indoors at the Mashpee Senior Center, the joy continued with the presentation of the multi-talented David Polansky. We asked for and got “Music Through the Ages” because we knew it would be much appreciated and we were not mistaken.

After Mr. Polansky did a bit of warming up with his trumpet as we followed with our voices, we delved into musical history.

One hundred fifty years ago, most popular songs were waltzes stretching from the Strauss’s to World War II. “Casey Would Waltz with a Strawberry Blond”, “The Sidewalks of New York” and “In the Good Old Summer Time”, as examples.

With the popularization of cars, we got, in 1905, “The Curved Dash Oldsmobile”, and in 1906, “In my Merry Oldsmobile”, which was quite racy for the time. (“You can go as far as you like, Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile”) Wow!

A most popular, “You Made Me Love You” was recorded three times. In 1913 by Al Jolson, 1939 by Judy Garland, and in 1939 by Harry James. And it was a hit each time.

With the onset of World War I, of course patriotic songs hit the top of the charts. The most popular was George M. Cohan’s “Over There”. Then there was “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” and others we oldsters still enjoy hearing even though these were before our time. The soldiers’ parents’ concerns were of their sons’ returning to rural life after experiencing the excitement of the big cities of Europe: “How You Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?” Also a concern were the differences in European cultural habits: men hugging and cheek-kissing where it was and is commonplace in Europe but not here.

Dixieland Jazz was an unfamiliar sound outside of the New Orleans area and on the Mississippi River Boats but the popularity of radios carried it beyond those borders. “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Honeysuckle Rose” along with Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehaving” became perennial favorites.

With the Stock Market Crash and Depression of l929 came the dismal, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” On a happier note, another money song was “Pennies from Heaven”, still heard on old Bing Crosby records.

The Big Band Era of the 40’s had us jazzing to “Jersey Bounce” and by the time the 50’s came in, TV had us enjoying over and over again, at least annually, “The Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland’s sensational “Over the Rainbow”.

After World War II, pop culture became the major influence in music. In this, the Wild West sound was it. Each movie cowboy had his own theme song and TV series; Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger and on. (I still have a photograph of him and Tonto plus the map to help us find the Lone Ranger when he “disappeared”. Did we buy any other sliced bread but Silvercup, the advertising sponsor?)

On a personal note, Mr. Polansky related the story of his eighty-ish year old aunt (Tantelina) who protected herself in Wild West Oklahoma at this time by having a revolver in her bed for protection. No bullets but the revolver was enough.

With the working forces having gone to war in the 1940’s, (“They’re Either Too Young or Too Old”) women now had to fill the emptiness and do what was previously considered “a man’s work” and there came “Rosie, the {Trrrrr} Riveter” which also became one of the most famous posters of the time. On entering the war, of course patriotic music came to the fore. World War I songs were revived and others for the new war, such as, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” by the Andrew Sisters showed the desperate longing for families to be reunited. Even as a pre-teen, my yearning to have the war over with was monumental.

Do you get the picture of how and why this program by Mr. Polansky received rave reviews from the Capers? Not only did he sing and demonstrate great skill with his keyboard and trumpet, but was a joy to have us experience his personal stories and charisma. Check out his website to see his programs with children ( where it is written, “Loved by everyone from preschoolers to grandparents.”

After accepting requests from the audience, he gave us his signature impersonation of Louis Armstrong, complete with white handkerchief, as he mimicked, “It’s a Wonderful World”.

It certainly was a wonderful afternoon.


Story by:  Grace Polizzotti

Photos by:   Mario Polizzotti