A Wartime Jingle Immortalised through Queensland Craftsmanship

An unusual item has recently been donated to the State Library of Queensland collection.

This hand-crocheted doily, bearing the words "The Aussies and the Yanks are Here", was crafted by Emma Eliza Hedwig Sokoll during World War Two and represents a fascinatingly layered outlook into Australian wartime culture.

33178 Doily featuring the inscription 'The Aussies and the Yanks are here'.

The first arrival of American troops in Brisbane came on 22 December 1941, attracting immense crowds and celebration, and their presence captured the public imagination. With the Americans came new interest in American music, clothing, food, films, and even American-inspired arts and crafts projects.

Women with visiting American sailors, Brisbane, Queensland, 1941. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 104176

Scene in Queen Street after the U.S. naval march, Brisbane 1941. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 104983

The phrase "The Aussies and the Yanks are Here", embedded on the crocheted silhouette of Australia (sans Tasmania) is a reference to a popular song of the same name. "The Aussies and the Yanks are Here" was written by Private Johnny B. Nauer in 1942 while aboard a U.S. troop ship bound for Australian shores. Originally performed aboard the troop ship as part of the crew's entertainment, the song gained popularity in Australia. The music and lyrics were quickly copyrighted, sheet music printed, and a full recording made by Bert Howell and his Show Band. Johnny Nauer wrote several other patriotic songs during the course of the war with particular reference to Australia and the Pacific campaign, including the songs "I Found a Princess in Queensland" and "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels." After the conclusion of World War Two, Nauer returned to his home town of Saginaw, Michigan, where he pursued a career in journalism.

The Aussies and the Yanks Are Here by Johnny Nauer, 1942

Emma Eliza Hedwig Sokoll (nee Kruger) was a grandmother at the commencement of World War Two. Born to Hermann Kruger and Ernstine Giede around 1878 in Pommern, Germany. She immigrated to Australia around the age of ten, first arriving at Peel Island before moving to Boonah. She married Otto Carl Sokoll on 25 November 1895 with whom she had thirteen children in total. Emma was known amongst her grandchildren for her long iron-grey hair and her impressive crocheting abilities, which she honed throughout her life.

Image of Emma Sokoll. Reproduced with permission from Dawn Fitzgerald.

Image of Emma Sokoll with four of her grandchildren; Dawn, Pam, Brian, and Beverley. Brian is dressed in a full US Servicemen's Uniform costume, likely gifted to him by the soldiers. Reproduced with permission from Dawn Fitzgerald.

Ethel June Watts, one of Emma's daughters, worked with the American servicemen on base. Dawn recalls that her aunt was struck by the lack of activities for married men to engage in while stationed in Brisbane. After consultation with her mother, Ethel put together weekend 'guest lists' for Sunday dinner each week at her grandmother's family home.

Image of Ethel with her husband and child post-war

The US troops could sign up to attend dinner at their house via these lists, and as a result there was a constant stream of soldiers moving through the lives of Emma and her grandchildren. Emma and Ethel hosted these Sunday dinners in Emma's New Farm home, offering roasts and playing bingo with the soldiers into the evenings at the long kitchen table. Many of the soldiers, who were missing their own families and children, would dote upon Emma's grandchildren, and Dawn recalls one soldier bringing her a stuffed koala toy when she was unwell in hospital.

He wasn't able to say goodbye to me in person because I was in the infectious diseases ward

Dawn Fitzgerald

Both the arrival and the departure of American troops from Australian soil provided many opportunities for the creation, exchange, and sale of souvenirs. The pattern for this crochet doily, now preserved in State Library's collections, likely came from a newspaper or magazine at the time, when handicrafts were a popular pastime for those on the home front.
 

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