Sunday, April 08, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 5)

Silverwood with fishing buddy, author Harold MacGrath, 1914
[Continued from Part 4]

In 1913, California was threatened with yet another state song: "My California," by George Edgar Shinn of Petaluma. Attempts to make it official tanked in the legislature, like its predecessors.

But the popularity of Silverwood’s “I Love You, California” was still growing. In 1915 it served as the official song of both the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego -- events that had far-reaching effects on California. Still, Senator William Scott's 1915 bill to make it the official state song narrowly failed, his fellow legislators deeming the song too "ephemeral" to be dignified with legal recognition. He was just a little ahead of his time.

The song also briefly became a battle cry for reformers seeking improved and better maintained safety signals at railroad crossings. In May 1916, three young girls were blithely singing “I Love You, California,” in the back of their father’s car, headed down Highway 101 through Irvine on their way to see the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Warning signals failed to operate and the back of the car was hit by a speeding train, killing the children. Horrified members of the public told their state legislators that the “greatest state of all” should provide greater safety measures at rail crossings.
Although "I Love You, California" was again voted down as our state song by the legislature in 1917, it was becoming part of the warp and woof of California. So popular was the tune that it became a template for parodies and satire. In 1920, one Santa Ana resident with the initials H.G.H., modified the lyrics to compliment his letter to the Santa Ana Register's editor, detailing how inflation and the high cost of living had made it too expensive even to buy a sack of lowly potatoes.


How I love you, you potato!
You're the grandest of them all:
I love you in the winter, summer,
Springtime and the fall;
I love you raised in valley.
And from the mountains I adore;
But H-C [high cost] of living--
I can't buy you any more.

Where the snow-crowned Sierras
Keep their watch o'er your bloom,
I'd plant you there
In our land fair,
In every bit of room;
And if Nature would give her rarest
It would be Jake to me;
So when I come to die,
I will breathe with a sigh
For you, Sunny California's Spud!

I have loved the sweet potato,
And I love the Irish, too;
I love them fried in butter,
And baked, and in the stew;
I have loved them in the garden.
I have loved them on the vine.
But the Japs have got our nanny now--
The Mrs.'s Goat and mine.

How I love you, you potato!
You are very dear to me,
I love to see you growing
From Stockton to the sea;
I have seen you sacked and rotting,
I have seen you all mildew,
But we have upon the table, now,
A photograph of you.

How I love the dear old Burbanks,
In patches stretching far;
How I loved the Early Roses--
Until they sold at par;
I love you, yes, forever.
But yet it makes me blue;
Your fine when in cold storage,
But you're finer in the stew.

Okay, so the chorus is a clinker. But the author had an intuitive grasp of Yankovic's Third Law: If you take a popular song and change the words to be about food, you've got yourself a hit parody!

[Ed -- I promise, no more wince-inducing lyrics in this series from here on -- Unless you count a short poem, quoted in Part 9, which really isn't half bad.]

Next time: The Newsboy’s Friend

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