“Katy” a Song from 1918 Sparks the Imagination!

When I do research for a book, I look at the era. Fashion, Homes and Furnishing, Politics, Fads and Music just to name a few things that make a story feel more authentic. I happened to run across this song and I laugh every time I hear it!

It may be appropriate for some of my Little Isabel stories,(which are set from 1914-1920), but I see Isabel and her sisters, “Maggie” and Sylvia as teens, listening to this “old song” on the victrola when there is a knock on the door. Isabel opens the door and there stands a young man with gorgeous grey eyes and a strand of black hair falling over his forehead under a woolen cap. He is holding flowers in one hand, a box of candy behind his back and wearing a great big smile when Isabel opens the door. He decides that from that moment on, he would nickname her after this song. “Katy Belle”

So, what is the song? Yes, We Have No Bananas? , School Days?, Yankee Doodle Dandy? All good songs but this one happens to be called, Katy by Mr. Bill Murray.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAAkrI-aaOE&t=98s
https://youtu.be/aaZvmGTHkOs (This edition is actually a song performance recorded on a Thomas Edison’s Blue Amberol Cylinder and is called the “Stammering Song.” I don’t think he was making fun of people who studder. He was perhaps nervous about talking to his girl!)

Then I remembered my husband’s grandfather was a “Doughboy” who fought in World War I aka known as “The war to end wars.” So he would have marched home in the local parade in 1918 when they returned home. That is, if he was able. He had been hit with mustard gas; the Germans horrendous weapon. He did survive and met a pretty girl named Margie. They were married and had two beautiful children. One boy and one cute little girl! In the 1920’s, there was a Revival in Roanoke, Virginia where this family lived. Evangelist Billy Sunday had a crusade and Ezekiel “Zeke” Purdy received Christ as his savior. Thankfully, the Lord prevented him from dying in the war!

There were many young men marching home with homes and dreams of a bright future. Just like the young man singing to his girl, Katy!

There was an old saying that men used to say to young ladies who were pretty but too young for him. This saying was most like to get an eye roll or a disapproving remark from the young lady. The phrase was, “If I were twenty years younger, I would be outside your Mama’s kitchen door every time you emptied the dish water!” (A definitely “Yuck!” for me!) For younger readers, I will explain.

When plumbing was first installed inside the house, it was usually a water pump. Dishes were washed in a dishpan. Water heated on the stove was poured into the dishpan with soap flakes or shaved soap. After the dishes were washed, dried and put away, the water was carried to the back door and emptied on the rose bushes usually planted by the kitchen door. (The soap kept bugs off the rose bushes.)

This is likely what Bill Murray was referring to when he sang, “when the moon shines over the cowshed, I’ll be waiting by the k-k-k-k-kitchen door!”

A Tip for Writers

I don’t know about you, whether I am researching history for a story or working on geneaology, the time period is important to me. It would seem strange to imagine a young man and a young lady from a hundred years ago to look, dress, and use expressions that we use today. For example, this young man would never have invited the lovely young lady, Katy to “go out for a coffee”! She may have invited him into her home to meet her parents and to offer him a cup of coffee and a pice of pie. He may have invited her to go to the Ice Cream Parlor for an ice cream sundae.

This is what screenwriters are doing today. Personally, I feel it is unnecessary to “update” (literally take them out of the time period and ruin their speech by having them use todays slang and wear todays hairstyles.) It is a disservice to the audiance and to the memory of our loved ones in history. As you can hear in the different renditions I posted of the Katy song, people had their own “sound” and even then, parents disapproved of the young people’s use of slang as it was in 1918 and may have even considered this song as inappropriate. (Many of the ragtime music was spurned by parents.) If we put the characters in the correct era with the appropriate vocabulary, music and fashion, it means so much more. After all, the story is about them and not about us. Let’s not rewrite history but honor those who lived it.

By the way, remember that this song inspired a scene for my book? The young man who was “calling on” Isabel looked something like this ten years later.

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Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31

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