January 31, 1946: Peacetime

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(Pictured: R&B pioneer Louis Jordan, in the center with the saxophone, 1944.)

January 31, 1946, was a Thursday. Steelworkers continue their nationwide strike, which began on January 19. About 750,000 men are off the job, idling 1200 steel plants in 30 states. It’s estimated that a million workers are currently striking various industries across the country, including electrical workers and meat packers who went on strike this month, and members of the United Auto Workers, who have been out since last November. Critics say the job actions are slowing the nation’s reconversion from wartime to peacetime production. Today, an open letter from United States Steel president Benjamin F. Fairless to Harry Truman appears in newspapers across the country, shooting down Truman’s proposal that the company grant a raise of 18-and-a-half cents per hour. Also in the papers today are obituaries and retrospectives discussing the career of Harry Hopkins, one of the architects of the New Deal, a former Secretary of Commerce, and a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Second World War. Hopkins, who had battled stomach cancer and other health problems for several years, died on Tuesday at the age of 55. Local newspapers are crowded with stories about the comings and goings of local soldiers and sailors. In one Illinois town, a young woman proposes to her beau tonight; they will be married tomorrow, one day before he ships out for six more months in the Navy.

After FDR died last April, a bill was introduced in Congress to honor him on a coin. Today, the first Roosevelt dimes go into circulation, on what would have been his 64th birthday. They replace the Mercury dime, which had been minted since 1916. Also today, the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia is officially established; it is under the control of a Communist party headed by Marshal Josip Broz Tito. Tito led the Yugoslavian resistance against the Axis Powers during the war. Today is the last day of the Victory Clothing Collection for Overseas Relief, which has already distributed clothes, shoes, and bedding to 25 million people in war-torn areas of Europe and Asia. Future musician Terry Kath is born.

In Murray, Kentucky, patrons of the Varsity Theater can see Marjorie Reynolds, Fred Brady, and Jinx Falkenburg in Meet Me on Broadway tonight and tomorrow; Boris Karloff in Isle of the Dead on Saturday; Fallen Angel with Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, and Linda Darnell on Sunday and Monday; The Dolly Sisters with Betty Grable and June Haver Tuesday and Wednesday; and A Close Call for Boston Blackie next Thursday.

The current edition of The Billboard contains television reviews discussing recent evenings of programming on W6XAO in Hollywood and WBKB in Chicago. The Billboard also contains reviews of nightclub, Broadway, and vaudeville shows, and an extensive section of stories and display ads devoted to the traveling show and arcade trades. There’s also a Veterans Re-Employment Service, with free listings for honorably discharged musicians seeking work.

The Billboard‘s Honor Roll of Hits lists the 15 most popular songs of the week by title only. The top song is “Symphony,” currently heard in popular versions by Freddy Martin, Benny Goodman, Jo Stafford, and Bing Crosby. Songs With Greatest Radio Audiences is based on logs from network stations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. “Aren’t You Glad You’re You,” from the currently popular movie The Bells of St. Mary’s, tops that list; popular recordings of the song are available by Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, the Pied Pipers, and Les Brown. Records Most-Played on the Air are those most heard on record shows, as reported by local disc jockeys around the country. The chart is led by Vaughn Monroe’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” The top jukebox record is “I Can’t Begin to Tell You,” also by Crosby, featured in the movie The Dolly Sisters. On the chart of Most-Played Juke Box Race Records, Louis Jordan appears twice, with the #1 song, “Buzz Me,” and “Don’t Worry ‘Bout That Mule.”

Perspective From the Present: The wave of strikes began shortly after VJ Day and would reach a peak by the summer of 1946. Also at a peak: Bing Crosby, whose domination of the record charts and the movie box office (and the radio ratings, as star of Kraft Music Hall) was unmatched by anyone, then or since.

This post is by reader request. If there’s a date you’d like to get the ODIYL treatment, get in touch. Also: a new Sidepiece went out this morning. Check your spam filter. Also also: I’ll have a few words about Howard Hesseman tomorrow or Wednesday. 

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