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Sunday, October 25, 2015


Maureen O'Hara passed away yesterday at the age of 95.  Instantly my thoughts went to my maternal grandfather, Elmer Jacob Poorman.  Elmer, in later life known as Jack, was a huge fan of and more than a little in love with Maureen O'Hara.

I've been thinking about my grandfather a lot lately because I was contacted by a professor in England, a musicologist who is working on creating a database and website about the World War I items held at the University of Illinois and the Newberry libraries.  According to this gentleman, William Brooks, my grandfather’s song has one of the most complicated and interesting histories and I've been trying to help him fill in some of the details.  To my delight, Professor Brooks has been an invaluable resource for me in discovering more information about my grandfather.

Elmer is the fifth from the right in the top row
Elmer was born on May 18, 1890 in Fayette, New York, a small farming town in Upstate New York.  One of fifteen children (although we always believed it was eighteen), Grandpa left home in his late teens or early twenties for the big city.  After arriving in New York, he worked as a machinist while marrying and starting a family in Newark, New Jersey.  He invented a number of items and had them patented but he spent most of his spare time pursuing his true dream of writing songs.

During World War I, Elmer, a pacifist, penned the lyrics to a song entitled, "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER WILL THERE BE ANY HOME SWEET HOME", music by Joseph Woodruff.  The sheet music I have was published by the Joe Morris Music Company in New York City in 1917.  While I had numerous copies of other songs Grandpa had written, I had never seen a copy of "After the War..." until I discovered it on eBay, along with a player piano roll version.  Family lore has it that the sheet music of this song sold a quarter of a million copies before the government banned it for being unpatriotic.

Elmer tried toning the song down, retitling it to both "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER" and "AFTER THE WAR IS OVER THERE WILL BE A HOME SWEET HOME", collaborating with gentlemen named Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Andrieu,  but these versions never had the same level of success.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a young girl in the 1950s.  On his days off from work, Grandpa would sit in a tiny room at the back of their fourth floor walk-up apartment at 619 Hunterdon Street in Newark, NJ.  There he had a tiny tabletop electric organ and a beige tweed suitcase shaped record player.  These items were totally off limits to his grandchildren.

I remember hanging my arms around Elmer's neck and peeking over his shoulder at his opened record player.  Inside the lid he had affixed his prized possessions; three large black and white autographed studio photographs of Maureen O'Hara that he apparently had requested from her movie studio.  I even have sheet music copies of a song he wrote for her, "MAUREEN", and the first line begins with "Maureen, my sweet Maureen...".  My red-haired Irish grandmother, Margaret Mary Kenney, was totally jealous of his affinity for Ms. O'Hara, but Grandpa followed her career until his death in April of 1973.

If Grandpa were still alive I'm sure he would be drinking a boilermaker (a shot and beer) in Ms. O'Hara's honor today.