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Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack: A Boyhood Year During World War II    by Charles Osgood order for
Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack
by Charles Osgood
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Charles Osgood (Wood III) indulges readers with the nostalgia of America in the 1940's. It is the time of World War II, Victory Gardens, home-delivered milk, doctor house-calls, wind-up Victrola phonographs, and listening to radio programs.

Osgood strikes a note for readers who lived through that era, as well as for those who have listened to tales from parents or grandparents. Remembrances of melodies of that period include Chattanooga Choo-Choo, The Hut-Sut Song, The Victory Polka, White Cliffs of Dover, I'll Be Seeing You, Yankee Doodle Dandy - music written to elevate the spirits during a difficult time in history. Radioactivity allowed minds to fantasize, imaginations to soar with weekly serials of Captain Midnight, Dick Tracy, Burns and Allen, Superman, Spiderman, The Lone Ranger (to Osgood's delight, even Grandma Wilson in New York enjoyed the latter's adventures). The continuing stories of Inner Sanctum, and The Shadow ('Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man ... the Shadow knows ... Ha Ha' followed by the sinister laugh of an invisible hero) were favorites. Horror stories sounded so real that radio broadcasts delivered the intended chills. Charles Osgood's heroes delivered newscasts - among them were Edward R. Murrow, Lowell Thomas, and Gabriel Heater.

Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack is a book that's small in size but large in its sentimental journey of the heart into fond remembrances of days gone by. We share, with lighthearted wit and humor, a lyrical account of 9-year old Charles Osgood's love of baseball - the Baltimore Orioles, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and batting averages. Osgood shares the truth about baseball's faked studio broadcasts. A Western Union ticker brought the events of the real game to the radio announcer, who passed progress on to listeners. The re-created sound of a bat hitting the ball, the cheers of the crowd, cries of 'get your peanuts ... ice cream... beer here' were delivered with aplomb. Charles Osgood's memoir reads like a stand-up monologue of reminiscences, a warm-textured slice-of-life, with delightful adventure and dialogue exchanges with his friends, family and teachers. An appealing exchange occurs between Mother and Charles in regard to homework: 'You've been listening to the radio instead of studying ... all that junk ... Mom, the radio isn't junk. The Quiz Kids teach me things! And you think they go to be quiz kids by listening to The Quiz Kids?' Osgood says, 'She asked me the question 61 years ago and I'm still trying to think of the answer!'

Reading Charles Osgood's writing stoked my memories of three brothers in WW II. I remember milk in glass bottles, sterilized for reuse by Seward's Dairy, Rutland, VT. The bottle top portions were molded into the shape of a baby's face. The days of Operator-assisted telephone calls - lifting the receiver the caller heard 'Number please', responded 'Number 74 please Operator', and the connection was made. Thank you, Mr. Osgood for memories of the Palmer method of cursive writing and 'Moonlight In Vermont'. Did you ever find out how the Japanese grew those rocks for their rock gardens? And, Mr. Osgood, you put a 'hum' in my heart -- 'I'll see you on the radio!'

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