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6Feb/100

I Vote For The Mayor of the Town

I make it a policy not to discuss politics on this blog, but I did want to reccomend one politician worth voting for-the Mayor of the Town.

Mayor of the Town was a radio series that ran for 7 years and I first encountered it last weekend while researching the career of Bob Bailey who made a guest appearance in the 1942-43 season.

The Mayor was portrayed by Lionel Barrymore, and those who only knew Barrymore from It's a Wonderful Life as Mr. Potter  should give this series a listen. Barrymore's Mayor is a fascinating character. He's less the modern understanding of a mayor, and more the picture of the town elder from centuries past, who is to every person in town a father and friend who offers wise counsel and encouragement. In the ten episodes I've heard, no plot centers around the Mayor expending taxpayer funds, making a law, or applying any government force.

The Mayor is kind, wise, and patriotic. He's the type of person people could look at and say, "I'd like my son to grow up and be like that."  Indeed, the Mayor, a childless widower helped to raise many children in the community.

However, this is during World War II, and the Mayor's love of the people of his town can often be heartbreaking. A lifelong friend blames the Mayor when his son dies at war.  The Mayor faces a difficult decision as to whether to tell a young nurse to join the Nurse's corps or to get married and stay home. He prays, "God, bring them all home safe" while knowing that prayer can't be answered.

The Mayor encounters the victims of a war: A British war orphan who cringes in terror when a plane passes overheard, a polish musician who is slowly losing the ability to hear even the beautiful music he plays thanks to being near a bomb blast near Warsaw.

The Mayor  is the master of the great speech, exhorting people to courage and patriotism in the face of adversity. To the modern ear, the Mayor may sound too preachy in his patriotism, particularly to people facing difficult life decisions.

But in the 1940s, the words of the Mayor were something different. Real people were facing these real life and death problems. They were Blue Star widows and war orphans, and people who had to make the decision to leave all their hopes and dreams behind, not knowing if they would return. And maybe the Mayor's words could give them the courage to do it.

The show is a piece of Americana, even the commercials for Rinso reminding people that there would be no washers made for the duration of the war spoke to the austerity and shared sacrifice of the time. The Mayor of the Town is a wonderful trip back to give you a window into what made the Greatest Generation so great.

Of course, the whole series was not "all about war," there was the somewhat odd "Papa Bear" episode, as well as typical drama-comedy fare, but Lionel Barrymore as the Mayor the scripts take on a life of their own.

Unfortunately, the episodes are not in the greatest condition. Mostly not so great .mp3s. However, the show is so good, as is Mr. Barrymore and his co-star Agnes Moorhead that I'd reccomend people take a listen to The Mayor of the Town and recapture the spirit of '42.

Click here to listen to the first ten episodes that are available on Archive.org.

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