The folks prided themselves on knowing what good music was; they each had strong musical ability. My dad had sung in a barbershop quartet, competed, and won a chance to sing professionally. He’d have traveled the country via the Orpheum Circuit – had one of their guys not turned chicken, gone into hiding, then appear only after the contract opportunity had expired. Mom used to say that the guys had a beautiful blend; and how sad it was that no recordings existed of their performances.
Consequently, music in our home was defined as the good kind, which meant that every Saturday we watched Lawrence Welk and every year without fail, we tuned in to the one and only Mr. New Year himself, Guy Lombardo, televising live from New York, with His Royal Canadians, leading the crowd in celebration on New Year’s Eve.
Before Dick Clark, Guy Lombardo was the musical host that America liked to watch. His manner was friendly, tempered and refined; old tapes from his earlier celebrations exist on the net. I watched and remembered just how warm and welcome he made you feel…almost as though he was actually inviting us to sing along with him! He did invite the viewers at home repeatedly, to sing and enjoy the popular band tunes. Some of the ones that I remember were Red Sails in the Sunset, Always, Sioux City Sue, and Harbor Lights, one of Mom’s very favorites. Mom’s voice was soft but her memory was like a trap. The words flowed along with the memories. Brat and I sang along, since we knew most of the songs, having been brought up on the top ten tunes from 1900 on!!! Obviously, I Want to Hold Your Hand was not among the approved collection.
Brat and I would watch the couples, dressed in their finest party attire, ballroom dancing at the Waldorf-Astoria, singing along to the music and wearing funny hats. My entire concept of New York was of this celebratory spirit that permeated our West Coast home each year on this Eve. I really loved my window into the East Coast’s elite; the gaiety of what I thought was exclusively from high society proved not to be totally accurate. A good many attendees were middle class, just living and loving and welcoming another year of only the best that American Life promised!
Of course, Daddy was already asleep, so we girls stayed up with Mom every year to welcome in the New Year. We struggled to stay awake because we knew that Mom would bring out the fancy little aperitif glasses and let us have a taste of sherry once midnight arrived. Always, about five minutes before, she’d awaken Daddy so he could join us in the living room, click our little aperitifs, and wish each other a Happy New Year with a kiss on the cheek. Of course, Mom had to tell Daddy just how beautiful the music had been that evening, relating all the tunes we’d heard. Daddy managed to stay up long enough to appease Mom, then walk off promptly back to bed.
It took us longer to sip our little bit of sherry; we were not really into the taste of liquor at so young an age; it was just part of the family ritual. Staying up was harder than we wanted to admit, and ultimately, we’d fold up a few minutes right after Daddy.
But not before we’d heard the last refrain of Auld Lang Syne and Guy’s thanking us for joining him once again to welcome in another year…
It was our pleasure.