Lauren Uhl, Museum Project Manager, Heinz History Center:
When we were first starting research, we realized that of course we were going to want to use period music for the exhibit. So I thought oh, it would be great if I could find somebody from Western Pennsylvania who was in big bands. I was doing some research on that and I was delighted to discover that Paula Kelly was from Grove City. Paula Kelly was the girl singer in the Modernaires, and they were the vocal group that sang with the Glenn Miller band, the biggest band during World War Two.
When I was growing up in the ’70s, it was the era of psychedelic rock, but I never liked that music and I never listened to it. I loved Big Band music. My dad was a huge fan of Harry James and the Dorsey Brothers.
And I remember saying to my Mom once in my youthful enthusiasm, “Oh, you were so lucky to grow up in the ’40s—the music was so great and the movies were great and the fashions were great.”
And she didn’t respond for a minute and she looked kind of thoughtful and then she said, “Well, you know, it wasn’t really like that. When I was growing up in the ’40s, it wasn’t about the music and it wasn’t about the movies. It was all about the war. The headlines were about the war. If you went to the movies, it was all about the war. If you listened to the radio, all the news was about the war. It was all about the war. And when I was in high school and college, there were no boys, there was nobody to go to a dance with. They were all away at war.”