Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Inkspots performing I’ll Get By.
Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:
She, Francine Lorraine Leclerc, Franny she to everybody in Old Saco, that is up in Maine, thank you, ever since she could remember, was in no hurry, a conscious no hurry, to get down to the War Ration Office to get her monthly sugar, flour, butter (really oleomargarine), and this and that before it closed on this first day of June, year two of our war, 1943. And the reason that Miss Leclerc was in no hurry was that hurry, or no hurry, she would have to wait in that seemingly endless line for half the afternoon for her goods, such as they were.
So moseying down the street around closing time was just as good as that eternal, infernal waiting, listening to Mrs. La Croix talking about how her Jimmy was saving the world single-handedly from the Japs, or, ditto, Mrs. Lévesque on her Jimmy on the European front. Secretly she wished that either, or both Jimmies, could do that herculean task but she knew, knew from her own Jimmy, Jimmy LeBlanc, in his every other day letters that there was no end to the war in sight. Even with everything rationed, or supposed to be.
But let us back up just a bit because there is more to Franny’s peevishness than meets the eye. See Franny was lonesome as hell, and she used that word without blushing to describe her condition to her shocked Jimmy’s Mrs. LeBlanc. Ya, she had the Jimmy (LeBlanc, reason for the last name usage to follow) blues bad for the almost year and a half that he had been gone. Naturally, no saving of the world Jimmy like a ton of LeBlancs and others with French surnames in town had enlisted about two days after Pearl Harbor just to do his “bit” as he said.
Here was Franny’s dilemma though. How was a pretty girl, very pretty if you asked half the breathing boys, hell, grown married men (and maybe some that didn’t breathe so good until a fresh breeze nineteen year old woman looking like Betty Grable and smelling, well, smelling of promises and gardens, edenic or not, came sashaying came pass on Main Street or on the boardwalk over at Old Orchard Beach) to stay true blue when she didn’t know if her boy was coming back, or if he would be wanting her to be waiting when he got back. She had heard stories from Papa Leclerc (her grandfather) about the last war and what it did to guys, guys who asked their girls to wait and then just took off when they hit New York and were never heard from after that. She knew her Jimmy though and when such thoughts passed her day she just keep thinking of their song, If I Didn’t Care.
Funny, she really hated the song, hated it from the very beginning before Jimmy left for boot camp and they decided they just needed a “their song” to keep up morale. Her morale. Truth is she didn’t want him to go, he had a good job down at MacAdams Textile Mill and if he had wanted to he could have been deferred as a war industry guy. But not Jimmy, Jimmy LeBlanc, and his need to do his “bit.” And truth too that is what she found, well, attractive about him although she still hated the song, hated it from the first. But she had promised Jimmy that when she got lonely, or tired, that she would play it. She did, hating it every time. And there were times she had to play it more than a properly waiting for her Jimmy girl should have had to.
And that is where the other Jimmies, LaCroix and Lévesque, came in. Saving the Pacific Rim or European civilization may have been their forte but neither boy (hell, they were only twenty) had enlisted right after Pearl but waited until they were drafted. And while they were patiently waiting they tried to steal, each in turn and separately, Miss Frances Leclerc’s affections away from Jimmy LaCroix. And both lads, given the times and the possibilities, used the same route to carry out their dastardly work. The Friday night dance night at the Surfside Club in Old Orchard Beach.
See Franny and Jimmy (Leblanc, just in case you drifted off) had agreed, or Jimmy had surrendered on the point, that bound to be lonely Franny, after a hard week’s work down at the Portsmouth Naval Yard (doing her own “bit” for the war effort) was entitled to let some steam off dancing the night away. Dancing to the be-bop music of the cover band, Jimmy Jacques and His Band, who played the Dorseys (Tommy and Jimmy), Artie Shaw, Glen Miller, and the rest of the big band gangs. Of course dancing in those days was cheek to cheek or close to it so naturally guys were lining up (and mainly getting turned down) to have a spin with Miss Leclerc (and that maddening sway perfume).
One late fall Friday night up stepped one James LaCroix, all handsome, a little drunk, and a little fresh but just enough fresh to spark the interest of a lonely pining away girl. Franny let him get to first base, but no further. That night she spent about half the left-over of the night playing If I Didn’t Care up in her room. And then one Friday night a couple of months later another handsome, eager, if somewhat shy Jimmy Lévesque got under her skin and took her for a whirl in his car (father’s car, complete with rationed gas) down to the lovers’ lane at Olde Saco Beach (down by the jetty all quiet and isolated except for an early lobster boat making ready for the day’s run) and got to second base with her, no further. She stopped counting the number of times she played “their song” that night and the next day.
So you can see why one Francine Lorraine Leclerc was in no rush, no rush at all, to get to that War Ration Office much before closing.
Labels: growing up absurd in the 1940's