23 November 2009

Yankee Sailor

The following is something I wrote on the OKP (Online Kitchen Party on http://www.greatbigsea.ca/) last night, but felt it would be appropriate to cross-post here.

The new song that Alan Doyle played in Olympia on Wednesday night really touched my heart.
"Yankee Sailor" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecnsiUEpOXo

This reminds me of the stories my dad would tell. Nearly had me in tears. Listening to it again since in the safety of home, it had the tears streaming down. Alan kept the intro pretty polite.

He talks about American servicemen that were stationed in Newfoundland while the local boys were stationed elsewhere during WWII. Local men would then return to find their lady loves off with someone new.

My dad lied about his age to join the Canadian Army during WWII (he was only 14), and got in for a minute 'til they figured out that he'd cheated his vision test, too (he was blind in one eye). So Dad was one of the guys that stayed behind in Canada. There were jobs, as the majority of able-bodied young men were off at war, but times were still tough, just coming out of the Depression. Local guys could [maybe] afford to take a girl out for coffee and pie, but the Yankee soldiers could afford a full dinner and movie, etc. The American servicemen in Canada were showing up the local guys at every turn. Americans were paid more than military personnel in the other Allied countries, too.

I say that Alan kept the intro polite as far as describing the situation because he only talks about the women marrying the Americans and leaving together. He doesn't talk about the girls who fell in love with the "Yankee Sailor" but then were left behind (sometimes pregnant), after having alienated their local boyfriend.

This happened all over. Newfoundland and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries, I'm sure. When my dad was living in Australia in the early 1950s, someone in a bar couldn't tell the difference in the accent between American and Canadian, and so someone called him a "Yank". Dad told the guy he'd give him to the count of 10 to take that back. "Oh yeah? Why is that, Yank?" When they found out that Dad was a Canadian, they bought him drinks the whole rest of the night, apologising for the mistake.

The history behind this song was felt strongly by so many people all over the world.