Living through the Big One, Looney Tunes Style

I set my historical romance characters in the midst of some trying times: revolution, colonial conquest, insurrection, epidemic, and more. As author extraordinaire Beverly Jenkins said at #RT17: “Even in the toughest times, people still love, still have birthday parties, still have picnics.”

For example, even in the middle of World War II, they still had cartoons. And they were not escapist entertainment, either. They dealt with world events head-on. I recently saw two of these cartoons at random while watching the Looney Toon Network, as one does.

“Tortoise wins by a hare” (1943):

You can guess the premise:

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

This front page of the Chicago Sunday Tribunk is a spoof of the actual Tribune from November 1, 1942 (see below), with all the same stories except the headline . . . and one other. Can you guess which one that Looney Tunes added? Look closely. Do you see “Adolph Hitler Commits Suicide?” in the bottom right? This is one and a half years before Hitler and Eva Braun really killed themselves (and their dog), with cyanide pills in a bunker below Berlin.

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Yes, the Allies wanted Hitler dead one way or another, as did some of his own generals, but I do not think suicide was what they expected. When the Tribune really did report this news for real, they had to source it to the Soviets because they did not believe it. But Looney Tunes hit it on the nose.

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Okay, on to the funny bits. Bugs Bunny really wanted to beat the tortoise in the cartoon, and he claimed to have a secret weapon. What is it? Take a look.

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.This is the whole joke: a frame showing Bugs with mileage ration cards, A and C. The C card is the score, but everyone would have known that at the time. Would you like me to explain it? Okay, remember that in the 1940s all essential goods were rationed. Check out this list from the Ames (IA) Historical Society:

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The general public was issued a ration sticker marked “A,” and this limited the amount of gasoline you could buy. But, if like Bugs, you got a C emblem, or supplemental mileage ration, you could get more gas. The C designation was reserved for specific professionals: Red Cross officials, school officials, mail and newspaper deliverers, journalists, surgeons, nurses, veterinarians, embalmers (!), ministers and rabbis, farm workers, industrial workers, soldiers, scrap collectors and more. Check out the illustrations below from the Ames Historical Society or Cartype, and go to their sites to see all the stickers available. To get a C supplemental ration was a big deal, and everyone who saw this cartoon knew it. The joke was quick, funny, and entirely of the moment.

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.


“The Blue Danube” from “A Corny Concerto” (1943):

This cartoon was a parody of Disney’s “Ugly Duckling: A Silly Symphony.” What looks like a baby Daffy Duck tries to swim with a swan family, but the mother keeps rejecting him. And Mama Swan is not the only one. A hungry vulture tries to snatch up all the swanlings, and he grabs baby Daffy by mistake. But then he promptly puts Daffy back, with a plunger marked “Rejected 4F.”

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

What the heck is 4F, you ask? Some of you will know, especially children of the 1960s, that it is a draft classification. I-A meant “Available for unrestricted military service,” or, in other words, don’t make plans. You’re going to be drafted. Look down the list—far, far, down down the list for IV-F.

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

IV-F is: “Registrant not acceptable for military service due to physical, mental, or moral defect.” Being labeled 4F was a stigma for most men at the time—well, for everyone except Frank Sinatra, the “most hated man in World War II,” who got to croon to wives and girlfriends Stateside while other men were off at war. From the New York Times:

Sinatra repeatedly said on draft forms that he had ”no physical or mental defects or diseases,” as he wrote on one. But when he arrived at the Jersey City induction office in December 1943, he gave Army doctors plenty of reasons to reject him. He told them that an ear injury at birth and subsequent operations were still causing ”running ear” and ”head noises.” Furthermore, he claimed to be ”neurotic, afraid to be in crowds, afraid to go in elevator, [wants] to run when surrounded by people” and had ”been very nervous for four or five years.” He also complained that he ”wakens tired in the a.m., is run down and undernourished.”

Sinatra afraid of crowds? Hmm…

Looney Tunes World War 2 cartoon viewed by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Frank Sinatra signing draft board papers in New York in 1943, and his final 4F decision reached in 1945.

Sinatra seems a lot happier about the IV-F than Daffy did.


These two cartoons are not the only wartime Looney Tunes, just the least overly racist ones. (Though the 4F joke was pretty ableist.) What I like about them is how they illustrate both the concerns of the time and that people were still able to find the funny. If you can find the funny, you can find the love, too.

Where Econ Geeks Go on Tour

Yes, there are economics geeks. Mr. Hallock and I are two of them. As international affairs majors, we were required to study two years of economics: macro, micro, international trade, and international finance. And each of us took a few additional electives. So when we decided to go up Mount Washington on the cog railway this week, it seemed silly not to go to the Omni Mount Washington Resort for a tour. Why? You might know the Omni better as Bretton Woods.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Still nothing? Maybe you know it for its skiing, which I have heard is incredible. But to me Bretton Woods will always mean the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference of 1944, which set up the Bretton Woods System and created the International Monetary Fund and part of the World Bank at the end of World War II.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Forty-four Allied nations came to northern New Hampshire to discuss how to stabilize postwar monetary systems. (It seems a little cocky to plan for your victory a year early, but the D-Day landings had just been a surprising success.) From the hotel tour guide, we learned that the international delegates and their subordinates were instructed not to bring their families. The hotel had just been bought by the US government after being thoroughly run down and maltreated by the founder’s heir. The government had “fixed” everything by painting it all white, even the Tiffany stained glass, but they were not ready to put up thousands of guests.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Yes, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was there, represented by Colonel Andres Soriano, a Spanish-Filipino industrialist who expanded San Miguel beer, founded Philippine Airlines, and served on General MacArthur’s staff during World War II. An interesting bit of trivia: he had been a Spanish citizen until the 1930s, when he officially became Filipino. After the war, he was also granted American citizenship.

Guess what? The delegates brought their families, of course. Of course! So the hotel employees had to sleep in tents and other temporary quarters to make room. There were originally only 230+ rooms in the Mount Washington Hotel because they had all been designed as huge suites, since the wealthy families of the Gilded Age stayed here for the whole season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (These were the people who did not have their own “cottages” in Newport, of course.) Between 44 countries’ top delegates, their aides, and all their loved ones, the place was packed to the rafters.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Jen sitting at the table—and in one of the original chairs—of the Gold Room, where the Bretton Woods Agreement was signed.

But back to economics: the delegates agreed to peg the world’s currencies to the dollar, the only currency they considered a strong enough shore of value to hold true in the upcoming tough times. The US agreed to make the dollar convertible to gold at a standard rate of $35 an ounce. If you are looking for the moment when the United States became a global economic superpower, this would be it.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Check out this five dollar bill from 1950. Notice the promise to “pay to the bearer on demand”? Pull a five dollar bill out your pocket, if you have one. It doesn’t say that anymore. Also, the text in the top left corner promises that this bill is “redeemable in lawful money” at the Treasury or Federal Reserve. Um, yeah, not anymore.

Now, accounting for inflation, that peg price to gold is only about $485 an ounce in 2016 dollars, which is a third of today’s (8/25/17) spot price of $1300 an ounce. The US could not keep the dollar strong enough to hold its own against rising gold prices, especially during the economic crises of the late 60s and early 70s. In 1971 President Nixon announced that the US dollar would no longer be convertible to gold.

Republican William McKinley (left, from his own campaign poster) and Democrat William Jennings Bryan (right, in a critical Judge magazine cover). Both images found at Wikimedia Commons: McKinley’s poster and Judge‘s cover on “Cross of Gold.”.

This spelled the end of Bretton Woods and the gold standard. Whether or not you think this is a good thing, it is an interesting conclusion to the gold-bug-versus-silverite debate that dominated the election of 1896. If you were to travel back in time to the Gilded Age and announce this was where we would end up, they would laugh in your face and call you insane. US “greenbacks” are now fiat currency, backed only by the world’s faith in their value, nothing more. (And, well, petroleum, since members of the OPEC cartel agreed that oil would be bought and sold in dollars, starting in 1971. Convenient, eh?)

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The monetary conference was not the only interesting part of the Bretton Woods tour. The Cave Grill in the basement used to be a speakeasy! They paid fourteen-year-old boys to keep a look out for cops. Supposedly, if the authorities arrived, you were supposed to throw your whiskey in the barrel, and it would be hidden in the floor. That never happened, apparently, because the cops never came.

Bretton Woods Mount Washington with Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Above all, Bretton Woods is a lovely place to lunch, which is exactly what Mr. Hallock and I did on this porch. What a view!

Sugar Sun series location #9: Intramuros

In the opening chapter of Hotel Oriente, heroine Della Berget describes Manila’s Intramuros as “an old Spanish walled enclave in the style of Gibraltar, plunked down in the middle of the tropics.”

sugar-series-map-manila-with-port

And, in fact, that is exactly what the city’s name means: inside the walls that the Spanish built (and rebuilt and rebuilt) to protect them from those who lived outside, the Filipinos and the Chinese. Capping off the walled city was the armed citadel of Fort Santiago:

Fort Santiago Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The Spanish did leave their walls on occasion. They had to if they wanted to do anything commercial. They shopped extramuros in Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown, which was within a cannon’s shot of Fort Santiago in Intramuros. The range was very intentional, by the way. The Spanish had a love-hate relationship with their Chinese immigrant neighbors, who, in many cases, had been in Manila longer than they had. Sometimes the “hate” end of things meant firing volleys. The love-hate relationship also played out in shopping, especially on a street called the Escolta. The Spanish claimed the Escolta exclusively for European merchants, but some of those merchants were supplied by Chinese in the neighboring streets. After a full day of shopping in Escolta and a lovely evening on the Luneta, the Spanish would retreat within their walls to sleep.

Manila Cathedral Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

What was inside the walls? Della calls it a “Catholic wonderland”: “If she glanced up, the city was all domes, crosses, and oyster shell windows.” And no wonder: there were seven churches in Intramuros before World War II. Seven churches—grand ones, too—in a space of a mere 1/4 square mile (166 acres). It should be no surprise to you, then, if I point out that it was really the Catholic Church, via the regular orders of friars, who controlled the Philippines. This was a Crown colony in name only. The real administrators? The Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Recollects, the Augustinians, the Vincentians, the Jesuits, and more. And Intramuros was the seat of their power, where the Manila Cathedral towered over the secular offices of the governor and loomed over the general’s desk in Fort Santiago.

Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The Ayuntamiento (City Hall, or “Palace” as the Americans misleadingly called it) was the headquarters of the civil government of the American Philippines.

When the Americans came, they used the necessary parts of Intramuros, especially Fort Santiago and the city hall (which they confusingly mislabeled the Palace, even though the governor’s—and now president’s—residence is not inside the walls).

Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The Puerta de Santa Lucia Gate into Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, 1899. You can see the clogged moat was a health hazard. Photo republished by John Tewell.

Actually, the Americans preferred a fresh sea breeze to the cloistered staleness of Intramuros, and they began to build up the areas south of the Luneta, including Malate and Ermita (where the US embassy compound still sits). And, in their port expansion, they would create a whole “New Luneta” in what had previously been the Bay, and this is where they would build new social establishments, including the Manila Hotel and the Army and Navy Club. After this, many Americans had few reasons to enter Intramuros at all. Too bad.

Nor did the Americans like the medieval air (really, stench) of the moat surrounding Intramuros. In classic American form, they turned it into a golf course.

golf club Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Intramuros Golf Club photo used under Creative Commons license by Marc Gerard Del Rosario. You can see that water still exists, but as manicured ponds to trap your golf balls.

Yes, this hardly sounds very populist, but the colonial administration was not inclusive—and, to be fair, the short but challenging par-66, 18-hole course is now owned by the government and can be played by anyone for around $20 (residents) or $30 (tourists).

Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
This original US Army Signal Corps photograph is in the personal collection of John Tewell. Notice San Agustin Church on the top right hand corner, the only of Intramuros’s seven churches to survive somewhat intact due to the red cross on the roof. This and the Manila Cathedral are the only two (of the original seven) to remain operating Catholic churches to the present day.

Intramuros suffered most at the end of World War II, when it was the site of the last stand between the occupying Japanese and liberating American forces. The Japanese unleashed a reign of terror on the occupants of Intramuros and Manila at large, known as the Rape of Manila. The Americans, seeking to force a surrender, bombed the city into oblivion, destroying 6 of the 7 churches in Intramuros. In fact, Intramuros was such a disaster that it was ignored during the post-war rebuilding phase and has only recently started to see a renaissance of cultural, social, and commercial activities. If you are in Manila, take a tour with performance artist Carlos Celdran, and he will make you see Intramuros in a whole new light.

Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The Transitio commemoration with Carlos Celdran: burning prayers on the walls of Intramuros (left) and the arts festival on the grounds (right).