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Local man sings memories of the early 1900's

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

AGAWAM Sitting in the house long owned by the Davises, Darcy Davis, Jr. sings songs of the World War I and World War II eras as he displays his collection of sheet musicthat was left to him by his mother, Alice Davis.

"They don't write songs about war anymore," he said. "It's too grim and grimey not that it was glamorous but you did not feel that pain."

Davis is actively involved in the Memory Lane Chorus that meets on Tuesdays at the Senior Center. He had good news today. After the last article that was written by Reminder Publications about his chorus five new members have become involved in the group and there is a fourth grade class that has also taken an interest.

At our last interview Davis said that since schools have been saddled with the pressure of testing he, a retired band teacher, has not been able to visit the schools and give talks about historical material that he has in his possession as he has done in years past.

Pictures of sheet music cover his table with titles that included, "I Didn't Raise my Boy to be a Soldier", "They Were All Out of Step but Jim", "Oh I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" and 'Somewhere in France is Daddy".

"Everything had a song," Davis said.

Davis talked about the symbolism of stars during the World War I era. A house with a red star in the front window meant the family had a family member who was serving in the war and a house that had a gold star meant a family member had been killed in the war.

Davis does not currently have all of his original sheet music collection in his custody as he has donated over 300 pieces of sheet covers to Williams College.

"It is a little history lesson," he said.

Many of the musical pieces are written by men with the names Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan.

Davis sings the words, "Over There" and one learns why it was such a catchy tune for its era.

"Cohan was given the Congressional Medal of Honor. 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' was such a spirit builder," Davis said.

Davis' mother, Alice Davis was the original accumulator of much of the 1900's memorabilia.

Davis said that his mother played the piano when she was a teenager and that is how she came to hold much of the sheet music that is now in her son's possession.

Davis', mother was 105 years old before she passed.

"They sang these [songs] around the piano," Davis said. "There was no radio or TV then but a lot of home singing."

Davis talked about the forms of music that emerged in the World War I era.

"All aspects of what people were thinking troubles and tribulations and the patriotic fever that gripped the country, not like today," he said.

The World War II songs that include titles such as "Any Bonds Today", Davis talks about seeing images of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck who would come on during a movie at the theater and asking about buying "your bonds".

He sang lines from, "Winged Victory", "This is the Army" and "She Loves Her Sailor and He Loves Her , too".

Many of the earlier sheet music covers possess human art work that took time and detail but as the years progress and the invention of the TV occurs in the 40's the hand drawn covers are replaced with pictures from movies that were made based on the music.

Davis grew up in North Adams where he said there stood three movie theaters on the main street and families all held ration books.

He now keeps his personal music collection on a computer program that can find any one of his 900 songs that he wishes to hear by entering the correct number code into the software.

His collection also contains "Life" magazines from 1942 that cost $.10 at that time and "Saturday Evening Post" magazines

The Memory Lane Chorus performed songs from the World War II in 1997 and World War I in their 2000 productions.

More information about the Memory Lane Chorus can be found by visiting the Agawam Senior Center on Tuesday afternoons around 2:30 p.m. and asking for Davis.