This song is the closing number of the musical, “Thursdays Till Nine,” written by Norman Franklin and myself in 1947 for the Department Store Employees Union. Those of our listeners whose memory goes back that far will recall that there was a time when department stores were open late only one day a week – Thursdays (today they rarely close), and it would be quite common to be walking along Broadway and see the sign lit up, “R. H. Macy’s – Thursdays Till Nine.” Well, the store in the show is called “R. H. Maybe” with its slogan, “Don’t Say ‘No,’ Say ‘Maybe’” Briefly, the store president decides to run a contest among the employees to see who can write the best number typifying the store, with the prize being a completely furnished house. Our hero – a returning World War II veteran who, like Charlie Chaplin in one of his pictures, lives in the store after it closes, writes a number that depicts the store as a heaven for its employees, one big, happy family who can’t wait for Monday morning to return to work. Our hero wins the contest, but in the course of the show, he learns some of the facts of store life, and when the time arrives for the presentation of the prize, he sings the following somewhat amended anthem.
Herein assembled is one big family,
Met in the happy shade of Maybe’s family tree.
I’m the minstrel chosen to sing the family song –
Forgive me if I make some changes as I go along.
I had he music all twisted upside down,
And where it said, “Stand like a man,”
I crawled upon the ground.
The lesson was a hard one – I learned it kind of late –
But family hear me sing it now –
At last, I think I’ve got it straight.
If you add up all the fifty thousand things on every floor,
You’ve got fifty thousand items, but you haven’t got a store.
Take away the people, the whole thing falls apart.
For without the touch of the worker’s hand,
The store is without a heart.
It takes the cleaners and stenographers,
And the folks on the stockroom crew.
And the thousand-and-one who make the big store run
In whatever the job they do.
If you add a thousand workers, but they’re each one for himself,
You’ve got just a thousand items like the items on a shelf.
Take away the union – the whole thing falls apart.
For without the help of the union/s hand,
You’re finished before you start.
It takes the people in a single plan
To fight for the common good.
And if there’s gonna be a happy family,
It’s in union brotherhood.
So get your orders ready, ‘cause I’m selling union now.
Just one to ev’ry customer is all we can allow.
There’s no other future – no other way will do.
Stand united by your dreams,
In union they’ll come true.