Recently, while working on some material at the Coburg Historical Society museum, I came across the sheet music for a popular song of the era, ‘Are you from Dixie? (Cause I’m from Dixie, too!)’. Words by Jack Yellen and music by George L. Cobb. Copyright 1914.
The song would have been sung at local fundraisers for the war effort and the sense of nostalgia for Coburg (and Brunswick) seen in the words of the song must have been shared by the many men who enlisted from the area.
A sticker has been added to the front: ‘This music is one of the original songs sung by the West Coburg Minstrel Troupe. (Note the change of words to suit Coburg and Brunswick!’)
Minstrel troupes originated in the United States. They were very popular forms of entertainment in their time and made their way to Australia where little thought was given to the issues of race that lay behind the blacking of faces and the mimicking of the stereotype of American blacks as lazy, stupid, superstitious and so on.
West Coburg Minstrel Troupe in November 1935.
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.
These are the words of ‘Are You from Dixie’ with local alterations:
Hello, there, stranger, how do you do?
There’s something I’d like to say to you
Don’t be surprised
I’m no detective but I’ve surmised
You’re from the place where I long to be,
Your smiling face seems to say to me,
You’re from my own land
My sunny homeland
Tell me can it be?
Are you from Dixie? (Coburg?)
I said from Dixie (Coburg)
Where the fields of cotton beckon to me (Where the walls of Pentridge beckon to me)
I’m glad to see you
Tell me how be you
And the friends I’m longing to see
If you’re from A-la-ba-ma, (Murr-um-bee-na)
Tennessee (Camberwell) or Caroline (Old Brunswick)
Any place below the Mason Dixie Line (This side the Yarra that’s the trick)
Then you’re from Dixie (Coburg)
Hurray for Dixie (Coburg)
‘Cause I’m from Dixie (Coburg), too!
It was away back in eighty nine,
I crossed the old Mason Dixon line (Coburg Brunswick line)
Gee! But I’ve yearned.
Longed to return to
All the good old pals I left behind
My home is way down in Alabam’ (near Brunswick)
On a plantation near Birmingham (On a poultry farm near Merri Creek)
And one thing’s certain,
I’m surely flirtin’
With those south-bound trains.
The inside front cover of the sheet music for ‘Are you from Dixie?’ features part of ‘He died at the Dardanelles’. Inside the back cover is the title page of ‘We’re proud of you, Australia (or The Battle of the Dardanelles)’, written and composed by Jack A. Little.
Once I started to search on the internet, I realised just how many patriotic songs were released during the war years. Here are just a sample.