1942 Fifty Years Ago

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Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas” made its unlikely first appearance in August, when the Mark Sandrich film Holiday Inn was released. The movie featured Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby vying for the same woman amid tap dancing and Berlin’s music. “White Christmas” took over the airwaves from another great ballad of separation and lament, “White Cliffs of Dover,” and went on to become the biggest seller of any record to date. Among the less eternal tunes going around that militant summer were “You’re a Sap, Mister Jap” and “We’re Gonna Find a Feller Who Is Yeller and Beat Him Red, White and Blue.”

As wartime restrictions kicked in, silk stockings were among the first items to become scarce: the material was needed for parachutes. Nylon hose, made from petroleum, grew expensive, and “bottled-stocking” kits appeared on drugstore shelves that summer; Legfizz and Legstick were just two of the brands of paint-on stockings. Sales of slacks ran five times what they had been in 1941, due both to shortages and to the greater number of women going to work in factories.