November 24, 2014 17:43 UTC

Entertainment

Women Kept Guitars Strumming During WWII

American women went to work at Gibson Guitar when American men went to war.

This banner appeared on Gibson guitars during World War II.
This banner appeared on Gibson guitars during World War II.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
 
I’m June Simms.
 
Today we hear from country singer Gary Allan and play music from his latest album.
 
And, we answer a question about the number thirteen.
 
But, first we learn about women who went to work during World War Two at a famous guitar manufacturer.

The Women of Gibson Guitars' Past

During World War Two, as American men went off to war, women filled the jobs they left behind. Women worked in factories, stores and shipyards. One group of women made musical instruments, building Gibson guitars. Christopher Cruise has more on their story.
 
John Thomas is a writer and a lover of guitars. He was surprised when he saw a wartime photograph of the Gibson guitar factory in Michigan. Nearly all of the 75 people in the picture were women. Irene Stearns, now age 90, spent several of the war years working at the factory.
 
“I got out of high school and everybody is looking for a job, and there weren’t any jobs. Then one day, they called and I started at Gibson. I suppose it was because of the war.”
 
Irene Stearns is one of the former Gibson factory workers who John Thomas found in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area. She made guitar strings for some of the thousands of instruments the factory produced in the 1940s.
 
“All the celebrities and people who were buying the guitars would come and they would be on the other side of the wall where I sat making strings. So, it was really nice in that part. I could hear them playing all these beautiful guitars.”
 
John Thomas calls the women who worked at the Gibson factory, the “Kalamazoo Gals.” That is also the name of his new book about the female guitar makers. He believes the company kept their work secret because it did not think guitar buyers of the day would use instruments built by women.
 
Mr. Thomas collected three of the World War II Gibson guitars and borrowed several others to help tell the story. Then a friend told him about Lauren Sheehan, a professional musician who agreed to help.
 
“When the author said, 'I'm thinking about making this record,' and wouldn't it be cool if a woman played the guitar since it's a whole women's story, I thought, God this gets better and better, that would be a great project. And then he invited me to do it. Certainly I'm a champion for a story about women excelling at work that is traditionally a man's domain.”
 
For the new CD that comes with John Thomas’ book, Lauren Sheehan plays songs that were popular during World War II. Each tune was played on a different Gibson guitar.
 
“Okay, so here’s one.”
 
After she finished recording the songs, Lauren Sheehan bought a restored Gibson guitar for herself. She says she wanted to own a piece of America’s musical heritage.

Unlucky Number 13

Now we answer a question from Bangladesh. Out listener wants to know about the history of the number thirteen and why Americans consider this number to be bad luck.
 
It is not only Americans who consider this number to be unlucky. People around the world have what are called superstitions about the number thirteen. Superstitions are popular beliefs that are not based on reason or science. A person believes something brings good or bad luck. The fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia.
 
This fear is so strong around the world that many tall buildings do not have a thirteenth level. And, many airports do not have a gate numbered thirteen.
Some experts say fears about this number come from ancient religious stories. One Norse myth is about twelve gods who were having a party in their heaven, Valhalla. Loki, the god of evil and disorder, arrived at the dinner party uninvited. He became the thirteenth person at the table.  Loki then helped cause the death of Balder, the god of joy.
                                 
In the Christian book, the Bible, Judas is the thirteenth guest at the dinner called the Last Supper. Judas is the man who betrays Jesus, leading to his death. 
                                                             
Many people around the world also consider Fridays that fall on the thirteenth day of a month to be especially bad luck.
      
But don’t worry. We have time to prepare. The next Friday the 13th is not until September.

Gary Allan 'Set You Free'
 
Gary AllanGary Allan
x
Gary Allan
Gary Allan
Country singer Gary Allan has been making records since the middle 1990’s. But his latest album, “Set You Free,” is his first to hit number one on Billboard’s top two hundred albums chart.  Faith Lapidus has more on the album and the musician.
That is “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain).” It is the lead single from Gary Allan’s new album, “Set You Free.” The song has sold one million copies and is number one on Billboard’s country music chart. It has risen faster than any other single in the California native’s career.
                                                             
Gary Allan says “Every Storm” is about hope, the common idea throughout the new album.
 
“You can expect a lot of honesty and a lot of songs about life. It’s going to roll you through a breakup and it’s going to roll you through the anger and the healing and win you up as good as new. So what I think you can expect is something a little bit different musically out of this.”
 
Gary Allan says his favorite song on “Set You Free” is “One More Time.” He says he wrote it after his father died.
 
The country singer is supporting the album with performances around the United States for most of the rest of the year. He says the shows are energetic.
 
“We play hard. We have an absolute blast and I think it’s transparent. I think that’s why people love to come and see us. It’s authentic. We’re giving it everything that we have every night.”
 
We leave you with Gary Allan performing his new single “Pieces” from his album, “Set You Free.”
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • fiberglass boat

    Video Filipino Fishermen Turn to Fiberglass for New Boats

    After a typhoon seriously damaged forests, the fishermen needed to find other materials to rebuild their boats. Is fiberglass the answer? They use a sledgehammer to answer that question. The fisherman used it to hit the sides of the fiberglass boats to see if the new boats were as strong. More

  • Brazil Religion in Latin America

    Audio Latin America Catholics Converting to Protestants

    Almost 40 percent of the world’s Catholic population, or about 425 million people, lives in Latin America. But a recent study from the Pew Research Center says people in Latin America have increasingly lost faith in the Catholic Church. Membership has decreased as much as 20 percent. More

  • This undated handout image provided by Science and the University of Tokyo shows infectious particles of the avian H7N9 virus emerging from a cell.

    Audio What's the Matter?

    From the very big to the very small, everything in our universe is made up of matter. Matter is one of those very hardworking words that you need to master ... no matter what. We will get you to the hear of the matter with this Words and Their Stories. More

  • Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) stretches to shake hands with China's President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee/POOL

    Audio Cambodian Opposition Criticize Dependence on Chinese Aid

    China’s government recently promised more than $500 million in aid to Cambodia. Cambodian officials say they need about $1 billion in foreign aid each year to operate the government. Opposition members are worried about the country becoming too dependent on aid money from China. More

  • Obama Immigration

    Video Republicans Promise to Fight Obama on Immigration

    Republican Party lawmakers are promising to fight President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. The order protects millions of people who have been living in the United States illegally. The president’s announcement immediately angered Republicans in the U.S. Congress. More

Featured Stories

  • Jonathan Evans Performs with Bonerama

    Video With Bonerama, Three Trombones Lead the Big Parade

    The New Orleans-based group brings together funk, rock, blues and jazz, creating a gumbo for the ears. Bonerama has horns like many bands. But, unlike most groups, the trombone players lead this band. Reporter Jonathan Evans performed with the band and wrote about it for American Mosaic. More

  • A line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is displayed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

    Audio Lincoln's Words at Gettysburg Still Have Meaning

    On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said no one would remember his speech at a battlefield cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address remains one of the most important speeches in U.S. history. More

  • PLASTIC DREAMS

    Audio Surgery Safaris: Looking for the Perfect Body

    Many people these days are going as far as South Africa to get their version of perfection. People from across Africa and the world come for so-called “surgery safaris.” There are no animals to see on these safaris. The visitors instead look for smaller stomachs, firmer bottoms or perhaps new eye. More

  • Video South Korea Attempting to Reuse More E-Waste

    South Korea is dealing with increasing amounts of waste from electronic devices. These useless or unwanted parts are often called “e-waste.” . The city of Seoul throws out about 10 tons of e-waste each year. Some local governments in South Korea are creating special "e-waste" recycling programs. More

  • FILE - Brittany Maynard, shown with her Great Dane puppy, Charlie, took a lethal dose of medication prescribed by a doctor in Oregon on Saturday. Maynard was battling brain cancer.

    Video Should You Have the Right to Die?

    The recent case of a 29 year old woman with brain cancer has again raised questions about the right to die. Americans are divided on whether doctors should be able to give deathly sick patients drugs to end their lives. Only four U.S states permit doctor, or physician, assisted suicide. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs