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Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
Art and Entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s
The Motor Car Mamma

California resident George Graham wrote the song excerpted below in 1931. This song is contained in California Gold: Folk Music from the Thirties. The humorous song reflects experiences and biases of the time. What group of drivers is the songwriter satirizing? Can you think of more recent songs about driving? How are they similar to or different from this song? What function might humorous songs serve during hard economic times?

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When a motor car mamma the road rules abuse
And how they influence the language we use!
Get a grip on yourself motor mamma is there
You may try for a smile your reward is a stare. . . .
Here a street full of traffic has shut off the gas
For a freak on a corner has sounded a blast.
No! no gentle policeman, 'twas a fierce traffic cop.
No, 'twas not engine trouble that caused them to stop.
A mamma, Ah! mamma, a beautiful car
It moved on so quiet it carried no jar.
The wheels were of wire, the tires balloon
It had only been purchased that same afternoon.
With a wheel [lose?] near ninety, the body light green
Such a wealth of gold tresses, so calm and serene
It was raining like tomcats and the street all [aslop?],
For she just passed a corner and came to a stop.
She had heard the shrill warning and slipped out the clutch,
Reversed the gear quickly, a little, not much.
And the heart of that copper was made of a rock,
Tho the smile of the mamma shown around for a block. . . .
For she tried, oh, so gentle that cop to film flam,
With the [semaphores?] blinking [md] a heck of a jam. . . .
Now he gave her a ticket, sign here is the space,
But she reached out and pushed him, he fell on his face
I'll arrest you, you hussy; was the last words he said.
For she stepped on the gasso and now he is dead.
And he lay where he fell, so he fell where he lay.
The traffic department, of course, stopped his pay
And it isn't no riddle, if motors run slow,
Don't argue with mamma, but watch her gas toe.
So traffic policemen take warning in time
Or you'll soon be out yonder where blossoms entwine.
Be nifty, go fifty; don't be a babboon, or your check
Will be cashed by some other draggoon.
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