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The Sights and Sounds of the `30s

By oldwinebottle in Culture
Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: music, dirty thirties, stock market crash (all tags)

The stock market crash of 1929 brought the end of wonderful nonsense and the jazz age of the Roaring Twenties. A very different world now lay ahead in the years called "The Great Depression."

The Great Depression

Thousands of banks fell during this stock market crash as many simply ran out of money. The Federal Reserve had a tight money policy that included increasing their rates to 5% from the previous 3.5%. Raising the discount rate made it extremely difficult for banks in trouble to borrow money. This in turn affected those with vested interest in banks, such as millionaires.

The stock market crash of 1929, saw many of these millionaires becoming unemployed, selling fruit on street corners and sleeping in alleys or flop houses. Some investors also committed suicide. The Great Depression had now begun in North America.

"The Great Depression." in Canada was also blamed on the failed wheat crops, starting back in 1928. In 1933, a drought brought down more crop failures.

Volunteers and church organizations set up soup kitchens for those who could no longer afford food or shelter. Following a meal, these men, who once had a home and employment, went back to the streets and alleys looking for a place to sleep, hoping the next day would be better.

Relief camps were set up in northern Ontario and British Columbia where single, jobless men who were unable to receive unemployment insurance or social assistance, were sent. They at least had food and shelter.

Grasshopper infestation and Russian Thistle, also plagued the farmers during the `30s. The grasshoppers were so thick they blackened the skies like storm clouds. The land became so dry it was like a desert and blew to dunes 20 feet high at times. Russian thistle ran rampant.

Along with such vivid reminders of the reality of breadlines and fruit sellers on street corners, there were efforts to look on the brighter side of life. The songwriters of the day closed their eyes to the world around them and filled the air with music.

Life Goes On

Miniature golf courses appeared on vacant lots to help pass the empty hours. Radio, which cost nothing, gained more and more listeners, making stars of Amos `n' Andy, Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Movie theatres offered double features, Jean Harlow's platinum-blonde hair, rowdy comedies with Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, the lightness and grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the elusive glamour of Greta Garbo, the curly-haired cuteness of Shirley Temple, and the sophisticated with of William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Women's skirts descended halfway to the ankles from their previous kneecap height for day wear. Empress Eugenie hats perched jauntily on their heads. Adults began to dance the rhumba and the younger generation became jitterbugs, responding to the call of Benny Goodman and the swing bands.

The Statute of Westminster established complete legislative equality of the Parliament of Canada with that of the United Kingdom. The Welland Ship Canal was officially opened. And then, on top of the Depression came the rise of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, civil war in Spain, Japan's attack on China.

As labor organized in industrial unions, there came strikes in steel and motors. A protest movement of unemployed workers in Western Canada turned into a riot in the capital city of Regina, Saskatchewan.

 King Edward VIII gave up the British crown to marry "the woman I love," Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Dale Carnegie revealed How to Win Friends and Influence People and Margaret Mitchell created her gigantic novel, Gone With the Wind

The Sounds of  the Times

Jimmy McHugh, who wrote I'm in the Mood for Love, which appeared in the 1935 film, Every Night at Eight, which starred George Raft, Alice Faye, Frances Langford and Patsy Kelly. McHugh started out in the music business on a bicycle - pedaling around to theaters and to dime-store music counters to sing and play songs. From plugging various songs for publishers at $8.00 a week, he went on to become a prolific and successful composer.

I Only Have Eyes For You was sung by Dick Powell to Ruby Keeler in Dames, a 1934 movie which also starred Joan Blondell. Written by Harry Warren who was involved with films even before he became a songwriter. He worked as a property man, extra, assistant director and the piano player who supplied mood music for actors in studios. After the movies began to "talk," he moved to Hollywood where he did most of his work after 1930.

Although The  Jazz Singer was the first feature length film to use spoken dialogue in films, it was not the first movie to use sounds. Sounds were previously added by singers, choirs and other devices in the late 1800's.

Bei Mir Bist Da Schon was the most successful song ever written for a Yiddish musical on this Continent. It was composed in 1932 for I Would If I Could, presented at one of the Yiddish theatres on lower Second Avenue in New York. Following the translation of the lyrics to English, the Andrew Sisters career was launched with this song about five years later.

The full flavor of an old-time New Orleans march, South Rampart Street Parade, was created in Chicago in the late `30s while Bob Crosby's orchestra was playing at the Blackhawk Restaurant. The genuine New Orleans flavor was injected by Ray Baudue, who was Crosby's drummer, came from New Orleans. Bob Haggart, the band's bassist (a native New Yorker), gave it the big-band Dixieland concept that he had helped to create for the Crosby band. Of all the Dixieland tunes that have become lasting favorites, "South Rampart Street Parade" is the only one that was composed after 1930.

Lazy River marked a turning point in Hoagie Carmichael's career as a composer; he was turning away from his early, jazz-inspired writing. Even "Stardust," one of his earliest tunes, was originally written and played as a lively, jazzy piece. "Lazy River," too, had been played both fast and slow-it works either way. Carmichael wrote it with Sidney Arodin, a New Orleans jazz clarinetist who spent most of his career in his hometown.

Smoke Rings was the haunting signature theme of the Casa Loma Orchestra and was written by the band's banjoist and arranger, Gene Gifford. In the early 1930's, the Casa Loma band usually played hard-driving instrumental numbers that forecast the coming of the Swing Era and Benny Goodman by five years. Gifford left music and went working on advanced methods of sound reproduction.

As the `30s ended, their majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada. Only months later, on September 10, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. The first Canadian troops landed in the United Kingdom on December 17th.

A very different world lay ahead once again.


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Related Links
o The stock market crash
o "The Great Depression."
o Grasshoppe r infestation and Russian Thistle,
o Women's skirts
o The Statute of Westminster
o The Welland Ship Canal
o riot
o The  Jazz Singer
o Sounds
o Also by oldwinebottle

Display: Sort:
The Sights and Sounds of the `30s | 30 comments (22 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Where or how can we see and hear the 30s? (none / 0) (#2)
by United Fools on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 09:38:36 PM EST

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
Click on the "Saskatchewan" url and you (none / 0) (#4)
by oldwinebottle on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:25:53 PM EST

can hear a sound from the 30s.

[ Parent ]
Sorry, that url is no longer available. I will (none / 0) (#5)
by oldwinebottle on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:29:41 PM EST

try and find another.

[ Parent ]
West Virginia. n (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by livus on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 05:09:04 PM EST

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Try here (none / 0) (#26)
by ghjm on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 01:01:58 PM EST

www.pristineclassical.com Or watch The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, or any of various other movies from the 1930s. -Graham

[ Parent ]
Gah! (none / 0) (#27)
by ghjm on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 01:02:46 PM EST

How did my default get to be HTML formatted!

Sorry for the above.


[ Parent ]

+1FP (none / 1) (#11)
by tetsuwan on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 11:23:35 PM EST

Bär ner mig till sjön/Bei Mir Bist Du Schön

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

The Bear Missed the Train... (none / 1) (#19)
by ktakki on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 08:16:35 PM EST

The Bear Missed the Train,
The Bear Missed the Train,
The Bear Missed the Train,
And now he's walkin'

He's walkin' near and far,
He's walkin' far and near,
He's walkin' near and far,

The Bear Missed the Train,
The Bear Missed the Train,
The Bear Missed the Train,
And now he's walkin'

"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

And Samuel Barber wrote his Adagio for Strings (none / 1) (#12)
by onealone on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 09:53:25 AM EST

and Television broadcasting began.

Barber liked trumpets, didn't he? (none / 0) (#17)
by rpresser on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 05:27:07 PM EST

"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
The `30s? Not the '30s? (none / 0) (#18)
by yuo on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 07:19:39 PM EST

The only acceptable time that ' and ` may be substituted for one another is in bad karaoke.

I wish I had thought of pants pants pants pants pants pants pants pants.

Original (almost) Rhapsody in Blue (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by arsa on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 08:40:06 PM EST

The first recording of it, when i heard it i was pretty amazed, very different version, and more interesting imho


Sure, it's 1924, but still...

Thanks I enjoyed that. (none / 1) (#22)
by TDS on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 03:33:16 AM EST

The laughing clarient at the beginning is great. I actually think the bit that impressed me most was about 3.20 in. In modern recordings I think that bit has clearly been kind of de-jazzed, I can hear it there now. I love that honk-honk wah-wah style of playing, it has a warmth and a humour to it.

And when we die, we will die with our hands unbound. This is why we fight.
[ Parent ]
oh nice..thanks..:) (none / 0) (#23)
by dakini on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:44:10 AM EST

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
[ Parent ]
Symphonic jazz (none / 1) (#24)
by ortholattice on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 09:53:41 AM EST

People who like Rhapsody in Blue may want to try "Skyscrapers
Symphonic Jazz" conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret (see amazon.com, etc).
I had never heard many of these pieces from the late 20's to early
30's, which have been remarkably restored.  Even ones I was familiar
with were surprising, such as "Manhattan Serenade", which with its
sudden jazzy speedups and unexpected hesitations is quite different from
the steady jazz pace of the Tom and Jerry cartoon or the syrupy modern
orchestral versions.  This is one of the best CDs I've found for someone
who likes the jazzy style of that era but on a somewhat more
"sophisticated" level.

[ Parent ]
So Hitler was emo? (none / 0) (#21)
by nlscb on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 10:18:04 PM EST


Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange

you forgot a big one (none / 1) (#25)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 11:52:41 AM EST


they were still sorting out the copyright issues of disney stealing that song from the south african dudes just until feb '06, last year

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Ecellent. Yes, I did forget that one. (none / 0) (#28)
by oldwinebottle on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 02:16:51 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Stock market crash and Bank Runs (none / 0) (#29)
by fluxrad on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 11:18:07 PM EST

From your link:

As with any legend, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 carries with it several mythical misconceptions. To start with, the Crash did not lead to the Great Depression. In fact, many financial analysts and historians are still not sure to what degree the Crash even contributed.

I think the market crash was more indicative of problems already existing in the economy, though truth be told I haven't studied them all - the causes of the GD are pretty complex. One example was the run on banks. Your story makes it sound as though interest rates were what screwed the banking system.

What screwed the banking system was the lack of consumer confidence in the first place. After a couple of banks failed, consumers thought their money wasn't safe - and we all how it works from there. The fix is the FDIC. Better yet, the government now views many banks (e.g. Citibank) as "too big to fail" meaning that in the event of a run, the government will loan out as much money as needed to the failing bank. In theory - this actually obviates the need for the government to step in, since confidence in the bank is created by the government's backing of it.

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
the sounds of the 30s for me (none / 1) (#30)
by trane on Sat Mar 10, 2007 at 05:11:07 PM EST

are Louis Armstrong's big band (he did "Up the Lazy River" that was sort of a theme song for him for a while), Count Basie, Duke Ellington, etc. Also the Dorseys, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, etc. They all produced popular hits of the time.

Concept of an economic depression (none / 0) (#31)
by MrSOneal on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 01:50:15 PM EST

I've always been confused by the concept of an economic depression.  

Have recessions/depressions decreased or increased in frequency with industrialization and technological advances?

I am fond of your article very much (none / 0) (#32)
by luhua on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 11:21:17 AM EST

I am fond of your article very much

The Sights and Sounds of the `30s | 30 comments (22 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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