Tuesday, December 5, 2023

New Year's Eve, 1942 Style


Planning your New Year's Eve celebration yet? How about an evening of dinner and dancing—plus an ice show—at The Boulevard for six dollars? And that's for the prime seats in the house.

That would be the going price for an evening out on December 31, 1942, when my dad's orchestra was the featured music for that evening out on the dance floor. The price, incidentally, included a steak dinner. According to an article only a day before in The New York Sun, reviewing all the celebration events "in the suburbs" of New York City, The Boulevard was only one of many options listed. 

We learn more, according to another such insert in the New York Post for the same December day. The Boulevard was located in Elmhurst, hardly what would be considered a "suburb" today. Part of the New York City borough of Queens, it is definitely within city limits.

An evening at The Boulevard ringing in the New Year promised to include a ten course steak dinner, noise  makers, souvenirs, plus a revue, "New Varieties on Ice." Oh, and Val McCann and his orchestra

Being 1942, the country was by then in the midst of war. New Year's Eve on December 31, 1942, was barely one year in from the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous December 7, 1941. Not only might the local entertainment venues be wondering how business would fare that holiday season, but the entertainment staff was feeling the effect just as much. 

Noted one entertainment columnist for the Post earlier in November of that war-torn year:

The case of Val McCann, in his fourth month at the Boulevard in Elmhurst, Long Island, is pretty unique these days; he's about the only band leader we know of who thus far hasn't been affected by the draftall of his boys are either in 3A or 4F, and the crew has remained intact ever since the war started, quite in contrast to some one like Tommy Dorsey, who has lost seventeen men to Uncle Sam in recent months.

Continuing that commentary after the new year of 1943 was duly rung in, a blip in the Long Island Star-Journal's "Night Spot Notes" on Saturday, January 9, noted that "Val McCann and his orchestra are fast approaching the long-time record of Art Mooney, now in the armed forces."

The writer went on to mention that "Val is entering his fifth month at the Boulevard."

I'd like to think my dad's band enjoyed such a long run because of their great music, but taking social history into consideration can sometimes alter the impact of a family story.

I can remember from childhood wondering why my friends always had stories of their dads in World War II for their school displays and writing assignments while my dad had none to share. I figured he was too young for the First World War, and assumed he was too old for the second one. Still, his draft registration card, completed in 1940, indicated that he could have been called up for service. Somehow, that never happened.

Perhaps it was the musical ability after all which sustained his contract at The Boulevard. After all, noted the Star-Journal, he was "one of the fastest-rising band leaders in the East."

Above: Ad insertion for The Boulevard in Elmhurst, New York, in the August 29, 1942, Long Island Star-Journal. 

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