DEAR JERRY: I am a picker who is drawn to unusual items, the weirder the better.
That's why, even with no way to play it, I couldn't resist picking up a 78 rpm when I noticed it was by Katherine Hepburn. I found it at a junk store across the river in Cincinnati, and it was only a buck.
The number is X-103, the company name is Alcoa, and the label gives a Los Angeles address.
Affixed under her name is a piece of paper with “NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY - NOT TO BE RESOLD” typewritten with an ancient black and red ribbon.
I suspect the song title is underneath, but the warning notice is secured with cellophane tape and any attempt to remove it would tear the label right off.
I never heard Hepburn sang, so there must be a story behind this record. Who better than you to fill in the blanks?
Jody Watkins, Covington, Ky.
DEAR JODY: Before we get to the blanks, proofreaders out there should know you spelled Katharine's name exactly as it is shown on the label. The mistake is the manufacturer's, not yours.
Your one flub, however, is confusing the aluminum products outfit (Alcoa) with Alco Recording Co.
Hepburn did sing occasionally, mostly in brief film scenes, yet she does not sing on the Alco recording. Rather, it is a speech she delivered in 1947.
The disc you found in Cincy is only half of the original set, in which the spoken words are divided into four parts, using two 78s.
You're right about leaving the labels just as they are, especially since I am about to tell you exactly what is printed under the typed notice:
“Katherine Hepburn Speaking for Freedom at the Henry Wallace Meeting of 30,000 People at Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif., May 19, 1947. Presented by Progressive Citizens of America.”
The Progressive Citizens of America backed the Progressive Party, whose 1948 presidential nominee was Henry A. Wallace, formerly the 33rd vice-president (1941-1945), under Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Wallace was the intended keynote speaker, but Kate stole the show and therefore attracted nearly all of the media attention. Newspapers and magazines showed no interest in printing Wallace's message.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Citizens of America claimed to have printed and distributed over three million copies of Katharine Hepburn's speech. They also blitzed radio stations with rebroadcasts of her discourse, the same message as on the 78 album, “Katherine Hepburn Speaking for Freedom.”
Among those denounced, at the meeting and on the recording, by Hepburn and Wallace are: President Truman and his Democratic supporters; the Republican Party en masse; Attorney General Tom Clark (D) (later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court); the House Committee on Un-American Activities; Chairman J. Parnell Thomas (R); the California Legislature's Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities; California Senator Jack B. Tenney (R) (writer of the hit song, “Mexicali Rose”); the Hollywood Motion Picture Alliance; and others responsible for a “plot to foist thought control on the liberal and progressive people of America.”
The Progressive Party, as well as the Gilmore event, was openly supported by the American Communist Party, a fact successfully used against them in the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats.
Pulling off history's greatest presidential election upset, incumbent Harry S Truman (D) defeated heavily favored N.Y. Governor Thomas E. Dewey (R).
Progressive's Henry Wallace received only 2.4 percent of the popular vote and failed to carry even one state.
One dollar for the one record is picker pleaser, though the complete Alco package can sell for about $100.
IZ ZAT SO? There is an unexpected connection between the Progressive Party supporters in 1949 of Boston mayoralty candidate, Walter A. O'Brien, and the Kingston Trio's 1959 hit, “M.T.A.”
O'Brien could not afford media ads, so he recruited a folk group to write and sing songs, among them a “Vote for Walter O'Brien” rendition of “M.T.A.”
The Kingston Trio changed the candidate's first name to suggest a “Vote for George O'Brien” will get poor Charlie off the M.T.A.