Today I know more about “Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen,” than I ever have before. I read the Wiki page, of course, but that isn’t very meaty. A page on a site devoted to aviator Walter Lees is better, including bits of primary source material, or at least reprinting some.
Yesterday I wrote a short item about a trio of volunteers who helped build bicycle-powered pedal planes for an aviation museum. Non-flying planes, that is, the kind that kids tool around in for amusement and edification. I needed a headline. That request went to my synaptic warehouse, that sprawling place with an idiosyncratic and often infuriating filing system, overflowing with jumbles of memories, images, and logical reconstructions — or is it big ideas, images, and distorted facts? — and out popped “Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen.”
Perfect. I’m rarely so good at headline writing. But where did that come from? I wasn’t in the Junior Birdmen demographic, considering it was aimed at boys of the 1930s.
Later it occurred to me. I might have heard about it earlier, but I definitely remember Tom Lehrer mentioning it as a gag on one of his records, before he sang “It Makes a Fellow Proud to be a Soldier.” The early 1960s audience clearly understood the reference, because it got a laugh.
“Some of you may recall the publicity a few years ago about the Army’s search for an official Army song to be the counterpart of the Navy’s ‘Anchors Away’ and the Air Force’s ‘Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen’ songs. I was in basic training at the time…”
So today I did a small amount of checking on line about the Junior Birdmen phenomenon. Added a bit of information to the otherwise incredibly minor Junior Birdmen file somewhere in my synaptic warehouse. And no visit to the Internet for useless information is complete without a stop at YouTube, in this case to hear the song itself – which I don’t think I’d ever heard before.
Well, I can’t say completely useless information. I got a headline for a paid piece of writing out of it – one that the editors kept.