Review of Reviews

Review of Reviews

London Firemen; Juke-Box Music

January 15 1941
Review of Reviews

Review of Reviews

London Firemen; Juke-Box Music

January 15 1941

London Firemen

Their Incredible Feats in Bombed City Have Won Unstinted Admiration

ONCE regarded as a joke, the Auxiliary Fire Services of London has come through with flying colors, states the London magazine, Illustrated.

Many grumbled at the Auxiliary Fire Services as an expensive luxury.

“Look at them,” these people used to say, “three pounds a week for riding round in taxis and polishing brass. Three pounds a week for doing nothing.”

Since German day bombers first set a part of London’s Dockland and the East End on fire to serve as a beacon for night bombers, and London’s A.F.S. moved in with their regular comrades to extinguish that gigantic beacon amid salvoes of bombs—all of us look upon them as the front-line heroes.

The A.F.S. outnumbers the regular fire brigade personnel by about ten to one. And in the beginning there were grave doubts as to whether the A.F.S., with its ranks drawn from men who had spent all their lives in civilian jobs, could master the highly skilled job of fire-fighting.

But never has a hybrid organization emerged so triumphantly. For that we have to thank the amazingly good initial planning by the chiefs of the brigade and the Home Office experts.

Heart of London’s fire-fighting system is the great central control room.

Hidden away far out of the reach of bomb or fire, protected against gas and stocked to outlast a siege, it is comparable in its interior organization with operations rooms at R.A.F. commands.

From this room Major Frank Jackson, D.S.O., the chief of London’s Fire Service, handles the combined A.F.S. and regular staffs of about 33,000 firemen.

Telephonists and clerks of the Women’s Auxiliary Fire Services control a signals network which uses almost every known mode of communication—telephone, radio and the rest. Whatever may break down through bomb or fire, the network will still function and information and orders will go in and out.

At the other end of these lines are Major Jackson’s chain of about 380 main and substations. A further girdle of stations beyond the London area can be called on to help.

On the walls of the room are visual signals which show at a glance the exact “state” in men and appliances at all the stations at any given time. On another wall is an “action chart,” which shows fires reported and fires being dealt with, and the number of appliances in action.

If the control room is the brains of the system, the chain of main and sub-stations form the fighting front. Here a staff of two hundred live—eat, sleep and work together—men of the A.F.S. and the “regulars.” They serve the same spells of duty, forty-eight hours on, twenty-four hours off. That, at least, is the official schedule of duty. But during intensive air attacks on London many stations were continuously on duty without assigned “rests.”

And even when appliances were back again and cleaned down, the continual air-raid warnings, during which it is compulsory for the whole station to be dressed and standing, robbed most of them of sleep. But A.F.S. and regulars “take it together”—the rough with the smooth.

The navy-instilled “spit and polish” tradition of the fire brigade (most of the regulars are recruited among ex-navy men) persists in time of war.

Brasswork is polished even during a raid.

When appliances come in, no matter how long they have been out or how tired the men, the first thing they must do is to clean down, examine hose for glass cuts and replace with dry hose so that the appliances are ready again for instant action.

There are lots of navy touches, too, about the fire brigade in action. An appliance and its crew never goes into a fire. It “moves up to it,” just as a ship “moves up” to its station or to action.

The brigade, too, likes flag signals. At a big fire you can see lots of signals flying from appliances. A white flag indicates a need for water.

A green flag means that petrol is needed for the motors.

And the “navy touch” is shown by a little story, not generally known, of how one unit of the brigade faced the hazards of heavy bombing while putting out that first great fire in the East End.

When bombs began to fall among the firemen, they came as a surprise. The roar of the flames drowned the sound of aircraft engines or whistling bombs. The glare of flames made searchlights invisible. But the work had to go on.

Then one of the section leaders posted a man well away from the sound of the pumps but within sight. All this man had to do was to listen for the whistle of falling bombs. When he heard that he waved his arms in semaphore fashion and the men round the pumps flung themselves to the giound.

The plan worked. Soon the idea spread all round the units in action, and no doubt many men were saved from death or injury.

In this story there is implicit all that tradition of courage and resource which our fire brigades have always displayed and which are needed even more today.

Juke-Box Music

Five-cent Record Machines Have Created New Multi-Million Dollar Industry

IN CANADA, ornate music boxes which play a phonograph record for a nickel are as popular as in the United States, therefore it is interesting to learn that these boxes, known as Jukes, are rapidly attaining the status of Big Business. In The American Mercury, Barry Ulanov tells us about them as follows:

You may not know offhand what a Juke is, but you’ve listened or danced to one hundreds of times. In roadside lunchrooms, city bars, dance dives, everywhere. You may never have heard the gaudy slot-coin phonograph machine, grinding out canned cacophony at a nickel per record, called by name. But in the last two years the Jukes have spun their way clamorously into a multimillion-dollar industry. Already about 350,000 Juke boxes are scattered through the U.S.

The big bands that have come up in the world in the last twenty months owe their triumph primarily to these nickel-oiled behemoths squatting in candy stores and lodge rooms, in humble diners and swank playrooms from Augusta to Albuquerque, from Seattle to Saskatchewan. Manufactured by seven leading firms, the huge and garish purveyors of variegated rhythm dominate the popular music scene. The combined grosses of the industry from manufacturer to wholesaler to small-time renter are expected to go above $150,000,000 this year.

The Jukes not only account for nearly half the direct sales of phonograph records, but act as a powerful impetus toward the sale of at least another 25 per cent.

Owners and renters of the Juke boxes look forward expectantly each week to the pulp pages of The Billboard and other trade gazettes to see what’s what in their business, to note what new records are “going strong,” “coming up” or are “possibilities.” Between pages devoted to pin-ball and slot machines and the doings of pitchmen and carnivals nestles the buying guide that contributes most significantly to the popular musical taste of America. Billboard prognostications can hardly help being right, because the Juke owners buy what it recommends. And when records are dinned into the ears of young and old as consistently as the Jukes perform that function, it is impossible to forget the tunes or lose the simple melodies. Recall that vicious circle, the next time you find yourself going batty with love or hate of a popular song such as “The Three Little Fishies” or “Boo Hoo.”

New powerful factors are entering the field of the Jukes. There is Phonovision or Talkovision—a slick combination of the standard Juke box and miniature movies. In preparation for the onslaught the Phonovision Corporation of America has hired a large staff, appointed a former producer of movie shorts to supervise its three-minute productions, and begun the manufacture of Jukes that can be seen as well as heard. There are also the beginnings of a system of Juke machines wired to a central studio and supplying a nickel’s worth of Hot or Sweet or things between by telephone control; this system will give the writhing customers a choice from thousands of recordings instead of a measly dozen or two.

The changes are all in the direction of making the Juke more potent in fixing the popular music tastes of America and stimulating its appetite for recordings. Certain it is that greater mechanization is in store for our music: gears and sprockets will displace musicians and originality will make way for the standardized output necessary to feed the market created by the proliferating Jukes. For good or ill, the Jukes have taken over Swing and will twist it to their own profit.