Tuesday, May 24, 2005

We're Strong for Toledo

In the previous post I mentioned that I would always be strong for Toledo. For those of you not in the know, here is the history of the song, according to toledosattic.org. Because it is such a great summary, I am re-publishing it verbatim:

The first song describing Toledo, "We’re Strong for Toledo", was written by Joe Murphy in 1906. Murphy was the founder of the Citizen’s Ice Company and wrote the song for his barbershop singers, the Ice House Quartette. Murphy penned the original stanzas in a few evenings in the only key he knew. "We’re Strong for Toledo" reflected the vague optimistic spirit of Murphy’s age:

We’re strong for Toledo

We’re strong for Toledo
The girls are the fairest
The boys are the squarest
Of any old town that I know.

We’re strong for Toledo
In any old weather
We’ll all stick together
In T-O-L-E-D-O

Murphy’s lyrics made few claims for the city he was born and raised in besides fair girls and square boys. This is its real strength. Unlike most of the succeeding tunes about Toledo that praise specific features, business opportunities, or institutions of the city, the generality of "We’re Strong" allowed it to suit the changing circumstances of the city.

Still, at the song’s core is a quaint view of the city as a harmonious unified whole. 1906, the year Murphy wrote his song, was perhaps the last that the idea of Toledo’s people all sharing the same interests could have been so boldly proclaimed. Toledo’s civic leaders had long praised its unusual climate of labor peace. Toledo, unlike similar mid-sized manufacturing and transportation centers, had largely escaped the l arge scale strikes and violence of the great railroad strikes of 1877, the eight-hour day strike wave of 1886, and the Pullman Strike of 1894. Relative to other Ohio cities it lost few workdays to strikes in the first six years of the Twentieth century. But less than a year after Murphy finished "We’re Strong for Toledo", one of the city’s largest manufacturing concerns, the Pope Automobile Company, was shuttered by a massive strike. By 1909 the construction trade unions and an employers association were at each other’s throats and a bomb was discovered on the site of a downtown building project. By World War One, Toledo would be an organizing center for the militant I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) union in Ohio.

Murphy’s ice quartette grew from four to forty over the next twenty years. Invited to perform at the 1927 Rotary International World Convention in Belgium, "We’re Strong for Toledo" was sung across Europe and to millions of WRKO radio listeners upon the groups return to New York.

Interestingly, the article points out a song called "Our Toledo" was selected by the Toledo city council as the city's official song in 1909. I've never heard it - but "We're Strong for Toledo" continues to resonate with me. You can read the lyrics to "Our Toledo" at the link, but I find them maudlin and generic. I much prefer the fair girls and square boys and Murphy's wistful melody. Listen to it here.


Judy said...

Loved the audio clip - sounds like a fraternity song! HAHA

My older son stopped reading to listen to it - he wanted to know why there were no drums in it. My, my, my...I have my work cut out for me on the culture front!

juplife said...

Have you noticed that the song has recently made a resurgence in Toledo? This music video of the song is pretty cool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8djpIyTOGK8