MY GRANDFATHER AND THE MUSIC MAN. Mary Jane watched The Music Man movie again recently, and I watched parts of it with her.
Kids, I thought of my father’s father when I watched it. The movie is about a traveling salesman in Iowa in the early part of the 20th century. The first song, ROCK ISLAND, is sung by salesmen on a train (lyrics here). The song is set to the rhythm of a train and touches on the difficulties of the small stores who are their customers (“Why it’s the Model T Ford made the trouble, made the people wanna go, wanna get, wanna get up and go seven, eight, nine, ten, twelve,fourteen, twent-two, twenty-three miles to the county seat.”) A recurring theme in the song is “Ya gotta know the territory.”
My grandfather was a traveling salesman for Marshall Field’s wholesale. His territory was Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (which explains why my father grew up in Green Bay.) My father told us that his father would go to a town and lay out his merchandise in his hotel room, and the retail stores who were his customers would come to the hotel room, look at the samples, and place their orders.
When I was young, Marshall Fields was the leading retail department store in Chicago. My grandfather had started working in the Marshall Fields warehouse when he was 12 after his father left the family.