We come now to a group of songs that are closely related to the lives of members of my family, and even though they depict unhappy events, they are still memorable and have happy endings. I am referring to my three brothers, Jack, Phil and Moe and myself and to our victimization by an early form of the McCarthy Committee – the Rapp-Coudert Committee, which ran roughshod through the New York City colleges in 1940 and 1941 and when they were through, fifty of the colleges’ finest teachers were out of jobs and the colleges were much poorer for it.
During the Rapp-Coudert Committee’s onslaught against civil liberties in the city colleges, the students of Philip and Jack Foner established the Foner Defense Committee. It will be recalled that Philip and Jack were members of the college’s History Department, while Moe worked in the registrar’s office and Henry was preparing for a career teaching Stenography and Typewriting in New York City’s high schools. Philip, Jack and Moe were all fired in 1940-41, while Henry continued teaching as a substitute, after returning from four years in the Army, where he was awarded the Legion of Merit, which did him no good when the Board finally denied his license in 1948. Norman Franklin was a very close friend and colleague of the family (he and Henry later wrote the musical, “Thursdays Till Nine” which can be seen and heard on Labor Arts), and he also knew their parents very well. The result was the song, “Mrs. Foner Had Four Sons.” The reference to Local 5 is to the teachers’ union local covering the elementary and high schools, to which Henry belonged.


Mrs. Foner Had Four Sons
By Norman Franklin

Back in the 16th century (A. D.),  
There lived the greatest magic man in history.  
His name was Nostradamus,    
And by trade he was a shamus,  
But by gosh, that guy could charm us  
With his gift of prophecy.

Chorus:

Mrs. Foner had four sons –  
Mrs. Foner had four sons –  
Making a dent upon the old exchequer –  
Two single units and a double-decker.  
Mrs. Foner had four sons,  
And we’re mighty proud of them all.

II

Once, when the history staff was nil (was nil),  
They sent on Mrs. F. an urgent order bill.  
When she read what they wrote ‘er,  
She was scared not one iota –  
She just doubled that year’s quota,  
And she called them Jack and Phil.

(Repeat Chorus):

III

Then as the twins went on to grow (to grow),  
Mrs. Foner had no time to boast or crow.  
The registrar was hoarse, so  
She donated one big torso –  
Like the Foners, only more so,  
And she called the laddie “Moe”.

(Repeat Chorus):

IV

Then Mrs. Foner did connive (connive),  
She sent the last Mohican down to Local 5.  
He burst forth from his diaper,  
And as he and time grew riper,  
He became a teacher-typer,  
Henry hepped the steno jive. 

(Repeat Chorus):

V

Then Coudert struck a wicked blow (a blow),  
And Jack and Phil ain’t teaching students any mo’.*  
Reaction’s doin’ nifty,  
And it’s feelin’ kind of shifty,  
While it’s batting seven-fifty in the Foner folio.  

(Repeat Chorus):

VI

But old Nostrdamus was no quack (no quack) –  
He tells us that the Foner lads are coming back.  
If we fight hard enough, it’s  
Sure as shootin’ and by tophet –  
By the whiskers of the prophet,  
We’ll restore our Phil and Jack –  
(To say nothing of Moe!)  

* In the years that followed, Phil taught at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Jack at Colby College in Maine.