November 26, 2014 18:30 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

  • Audio Group Claims Gender Equality Will End Hunger, Poverty

    A Christian aid group calls for governments and employees to end discrimination against women and girls. Bread for the World says increasing educational levels, giving women more economic power and helping with child care will help them earn more. This will, in turn, help men and their families. More

  • People hide from gunfire near church during firefight between African peacekeepers, fighters from the Christian "anti-balaka" militia, Bangui, Feb. 18, 2014.

    Audio Central African Republic Losing the Next Generation

    Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the Central African Republic, and many have been forced from their homes. Among the victims are children whose parents died or have gone missing. For these boys and girls, joining an armed group is one of the only ways to find protection. More

  • A protester stands with his hands on his head as a cloud of tear gas approaches after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 24, 2014.

    Audio New Violence Hits Ferguson, Missouri

    An American grand jury ruling has resulted in new violence in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. The jurors decided not to charge a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African American teenager last August. The decision was announced Monday -- more than three months after the shooting. More

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (R) applaud Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel's resignaton at the White House in Washington, Nov. 24, 2014.

    Audio US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigns

    Also, Iranian and Western diplomats shave extended talks about Iran's nuclear program; Russia's finance minister says the country is losing billions of dollars a year from sanctions and falling oil prices; and a Swiss museum says it will accept a priceless collection of long-hidden artwork. More

  • In this picture taken July 18, 2012, Zali Idy, 12, poses in her bedroom in the remote village of Hawkantaki, Niger. Zali was married in 2011.

    Audio African Union Promises to End Child Marriage

    Strong social and cultural traditions support the practice in much of Africa, although it is illegal. Early marriage compromises the right of girls to an education. It can also have a shocking effect on their health. The African Union believes it can end the practice within a generation. More

Featured Stories

  • Alzheimer brain

    Audio East Meets West to Treat Alzheimer's Patients

    But researchers in California say a new way of treating Alzheimer’s disease is showing promise for reversing some of that memory loss. The new treatment combines western medicine with eastern philosophy – ideas rooted in Asian religions. More

  • Mr. Van Rijsselberghe worked on the project with scientists from the Free University of Amsterdam.

    Video Dutch Experiment Grows Vegetables in Sea Water

    Due to rising sea level, farmers are increasingly unable to use fields close to the sea. A farmer in the Netherlands is growing small, but healthy and tasty crops in a mixture of fresh and salt water. Farmers in Pakistan may soon be growing Dutch potatoes in areas affected by rising sea waters. More

  • 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

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs