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“O My Father” in North Africa, 1943

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 08, 2013

I often run across tantalizing reports that I’d love to flesh out into Keepa stories … but there just aren’t enough details (no names, no identified places) to allow me to do any research. Here’s one such teaser from 1943:

An interesting story comes to us from a lady convert to the Church who lives in an isolated part of New Jersey. Her non-member son is with the armed forces in North Africa and has had very little contact with the Mormon people. One evening, while in camp, he was playing his mandolin and as he sought for familiar tunes, he plucked out the strains of “O My Father,” a melody retained in his mind from hearing the song sung at cottage meetings held in his home by missionaries a year or two ago. As he played, a companion exclaimed, “That’s a Mormon song. I used to go to their meetings in Connecticut.” Neither of these boys knew the words to this beautiful hymn but their desire to learn them was strong enough to prompt the one young man to write his mother for the little book, “Songs of Zion,” and especially the words to “O My Father.”

If I only knew the names and places, I could do so much with the germ of a post like this one!



8 Comments »

  1. I’m afraid that the proverbial needle really is stuck in a huge haystack. North Africa was thick with American soldiers beginning November 1942, and stayed that way until the Germans and Italians surrendered (or fled) from Tunisia in May 1943. After that, some troops remained to prepare for the invasion of Sicily (July 9) and others went to England to begin preparing for the invasion of France a year later. And there were others who served in various rear areas or in Army Air Forces bases in North Africa until the end of the war. (Which, by the way, was 68 years ago today–at least in the European Theater.)

    So, without a name it would be completely impossible!

    I am interested in the “isolated part of New Jersey.” It’s odd that a little state like New Jersey, which sits between New York City on one side and Philadelphia on the other, and which is the most urban state in the country, can have “isolated part[s]”–but a drive through the pine barrens in central New Jersey or to Cape May at the southern tip confirms that there really are a lot of isolated parts.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  2. My wife’s father was stationed briefly as a B-25 pilot in North Africa, but not until early 1944, and moved on within a few weeks to a base in Corsica, and ultimately Italy. It would be tempting to look for a connection, but he really wasn’t there that early.

    As to New Jersey, one of my sons served there in the Morristown NJ mission as a spanish speaking elder about six years ago, and while he suspected there were “isolated parts” he never saw them. All of his time was spent in places like Newark, Union City, Jersey City, and other densely populated areas along the Hudson River. The LDS chapel in one of his areas actually had underground parking.

    Comment by kevinf — May 8, 2013 @ 11:08 am

  3. I would love to hear “O My Father” played on the mandolin!

    Comment by Alison — May 8, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  4. In the theory that you can find just about anything on Youtube, I looked for a performance of “O My Father” on the mandolin, but struck out. Sorry, Alison! : )

    Kevin, one of the Philadelphia ward buildings has underground parking. During the week the parking lot is loaned to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House next door. And once you get out of the city, New Jersey does deserve its nickname of the “Garden State.” Although I’ve never been in the Pine Barrens, there are lots of lovely, rural and farm areas in the state.

    Comment by Amy T — May 8, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

  5. Several of our ward buildings in New York City have no parking at all. Now, how much more up to date can you get?

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

  6. I was about to comment on the question of what tune it was he might have used, then I remembered that I have expostulated on that subject before. See comment 15 on The Loveliest Mission Tract..

    If it was the McGranahan tune, it is truly odd to me that it would strike a listener as uniquely Mormon, since I learned that tune in my grandparents’ midwest Methodist church as “My Redeemer”.

    Comment by Coffinberry — May 8, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  7. Great little story. And wonderful comments, all.

    Comment by David Y. — May 8, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  8. I love how that hymn is embedded it the book by Nephi Anderson, “Added Upon”. You could spend hours discussing the doctrine in that hymn.

    Comment by P J DLM — May 9, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

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