The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 9, 2013

“Salute to the USO Show” brings back WWII memories


TARBORO — A “Salute to the USO Show” in Tarboro Saturday evening brought back recollections of the World War II era.

“It’s a great opportunity to honor our veterans and our troops and also our USO (United Services Organization). They have a proud history and they began around this time,” said Rhonda Mayer, vice-president of the Hobgood Revitalization Committee.

The Hobgood Players played the part of the USO, putting on the show for the audience, in the role of battle-weary American troops in the Philippines. Sandbags piled up at the foot of the stage of the McIntyre Auditorium added to the realism of the wartime scene.

The show started out with an upbeat rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by singer Jo Ann Josey. “Top Hat” dancers from Goldsboro swept across the stage as Josey sang.

“If you’re a dancer, you can’t beat the big band era,” said Joy Williams, who danced with her partner Bubba Williams. “They (‘40’s songs) always have a good beat.”

The show was a mix of lighthearted tunes, among them “Consider Your Options” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” and nostalgic love songs, such as “Unforgettable” and “Georgia On My Mind.”

While 1940’s music evokes “nostalgia” in older people, for younger people it is a “totally unique style that they’ve never heard before,” said Mayer.

“This was our first time singing that old style. It was a challenge, but it was fun,” said 19-year-old Jessica King, member of Eyes of Emiline, along with her two sisters – Emily King, 14, and Amanda King, 17. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was the sisters’ favorite song in Saturday evening’s show, because of the song’s encouraging message.

“There’s no need to worry, because home is just over the rainbow,” Amanda told the “troops” at the Salute to the USO.

Sharon Hackney lent her powerful vocals to the classic 1940’s love song “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The song is one of Hackney’s favorites, and by the cheers and loud applause from the audience, it was one of their favorites, too.

“I just like the lyrics. They’re simple, but yet they hold a lot of meaning,” Hackney said. “Those type songs, they’ll never die.”

After Hackney’s performance, the sound of an alarm rang out, and the emcee playing the role of comedian Bob Hope, yelled,

“Y’all better get down! Cover your head! I think we’re under attack!”

After a moment passed, he said, “False alarm,” and announced an intermission.

While the sound of the alarm was just a part of the show, the memories of war are very real to the veterans who sat in the audience. One of those veterans was 82-year-old Bud King of Hobgood. King served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

“I feel for anybody that has to go through it. If you’re put out there dodging bullets, it’s tough,” King said. He said Eddie Fisher came to Korea during his time of service, but his captain wouldn’t let anybody go to the show, so Saturday night was his first USO show, of sorts.

“I enjoyed it. It brought back a lot of memories,” he said.

Carol Banks cried as Josey sang Vera Lynn’s “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover.” A native of England, Banks has visited The White Cliffs of Dover.

“During the war, that was a lookout to see if any Germans were coming over,” Banks said.

Saturday’s show was a fundraiser for the Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum, and Banks, museum curator, said she was “satisfied” with the turnout– about 250 people.