Today I came across a folder sloppily titled "Barber Shop" Singing Problem. Promising.
The first document is a memo from the War Department, Civil Affairs Division, 1947:
Inclosed [sic] is a copy of a letter dated 14 May 1947, addressed to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, from the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc.
I’d be delighted enough with just that, but it gets so much better! In the aforementioned letter the SPEBSQSA Inc. (yes, their ACTUAL acronym), concerned with a bulletin banning Barber Shop Quartet singing among American and Allied personnel in Germany, states their case:
Baber Shop singing is a great morale builder, not only in musical expression, but also on a spiritual basis. The man with a “song in his heart” finds confusion and mistrust giving place to confidence and understanding.
They go on!
In our organization the executive and the common laborer stand elbow to elbow brought together by their common love of singing. If we could only get Stalin and Molotov actually singing in a quartet with Blewin and Marshall, nothing but good could result and they might even agree.
Emphasis on enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-being-nearly-adorable optimism my own. General Telford Taylor comes along to clear up the confusion and save the day with another internal memo:
1. The rule … was solely intended to operate as a check against boisterous and unruly behavior lasting too far into the night.
And we all know how that harmonizing can rile the spirits. Taylor promised to remove the phrase “barber shop” and make the purpose of the rule more clear. The SPEBSQSA Inc. replies with gratitude on their own beautiful stationary with the logo of a barber’s pole positioned in front of a lyre (oh, dear reader, how I wish I had access to a color scanner for you) and where the positions of their International Officers are listed including three different vice-presidents (not to be confused with the separate ”First Vice-President”), a Historian, and an “Immediate Past President” …Are you thinking what I’m thinking? (if you work in archives, you probably are). What sort of crazy names do the members of an organization like this have? Here are some fun examples:
- W.L. Otto
- W.D. Common
- Luman A. Bliss
- Maynard L. Graft
- O.C. Cash (the founder! and “Permanent Third Assistant Temporary Vice-Chairman” .. yeah, I know)
- Virgil E. Pilliod
- O.H. King Cole (obviously my favorite of the bunch)
THESE are the men who promised, through their motto, to go to great lengths to “KEEP AMERICA SINGING”
These documents and more coming soon to an archive near you. (or not if you don’t live near the city, but you can always count on something equally insane, so keep your eyes peeled)