Episode 1 of 6
Episode 1 (of 6) features the song “We’re in the Money” performed by Michele Lee of Apocalypse Five and Dime and the introduction of Daisy and union organizer Clarina Michelson. The song “Chain Store Daisy,” is also included. More episodes below.
On May 1, 2011 Apocalypse Five & Dime presented the original musical We Shall Not Be Moved at Union Pool in Brooklyn. The musical tells the true story of the 1937 sit down strikes at Woolworth’s Five & Dime stores from the perspective of the workers. Our banjo player Phil wrote the script and arranged the music, the band played all the songs and we assembled a talented cast to act and sing the story. It should also be noted that Phil is a union organizer for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which the local union portrayed in the musical would eventually join. It was presented at Staggerback Brass Band’s annual May Day show, which celebrates the songs of labor and workers for International Workers’ Day. While the characters of the musical are fictional, the events portrayed are based on historical events. Some of the dialogue is based on quotes from the strikers found in the press from the period. The radio broadcasts are a mix of direct quotes from the media and other events that occurred simultaneous to the strike.
In 1937, on the heels of a wave of effective sit down strikes by the United Auto Workers, retail workers, mostly women, began sit down strikes in Woolworth’s and several other retail stores in Detroit and New York City. The strike was initially met with derision and amusement by the press, but the strikers were able to win the support of the press and public by diverting attention to the heiress to the Woolworth’s fortune Barbara Hutton. As the strike dragged on, the store mobilized the NYPD to harass and arrest the strikers and their supporters. As for the rest, you’ll have to watch the musical.
Written, Directed and Arranged by Phil Andrews
Cinematography and editing by Iain Stasukevich
Daisy – Kate Smith Mr. Longjonsen – Josh Lerner
Officer O’Sullivan – Sully Ross Clarina Michelson – Jessie Reilly
Bayard Rustin – Xavier Maria – Ava Farkas
Woman #1 – Naomi Podber Customer – Cassandra Burrows
Woman #2 Judy Shatsky
Apocalypse Five and Dime
Joe Keady – tuba Phil Andrews – banjo
Rebecca Heinegg – percussion Quince Marcum – percussion
Cassandra Burrows – saxophone Heather Cole – violin
Adam Katzman – guitar
For more information about the origins of the songs and the characters, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Episode 2 of 6
Episode 1 features Daisy and the union organizer Clarisa Michelson talking about starting a union at Woolworth’s, as well as the introduction of the store manager Mr. Longgessen. Lerner and Smith also sing “Woolworth’s Don’t Allow,” an adaption of the turn of the century folk song “Momma Don’t Allow,” which also introduces Officer O’Sullivan.
Episode 3 of 6
Episode 3 features store manager Mr. Longgessen confronting Daisy about the union and an adaption of the song “Union Maid” by Woody Guthrie.
Episode 4 of 6
Episode 4 features Daisy and the other workers beginning their strike and confronting the store manager. It also includes clips from the 1937 New York Times coverage of the event, as well as a song, “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” that the workers used to satirize the owner of Woolworth’s during the strike.
Episode 5 of 6
Episode 5 features the Daisy leading the workers and meeting Bayard Rustin. He performs an acapella verse of the gospel song “I Shall Not Be Moved,” which the labor and civil rights movements adapted into “We Shall Not Be Moved.” The sit down strikers of 1937 adopted this song as their anthem.
Episode 6 of 6
The Songs of We Shall Not Be Moved
“We’re in the Money” L: Al Dubin, M: Harry Warren
This song appeared in the famous opening sequence of the 1933 film Gold Diggers of 1933, sung by Ginger Rogers. This now iconic song features lyrics tinged with optimism in the face of the Great Depression, yet also reveal the common anxietes of the time with lines like, “Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong,” and “We never see a headline about breadlines today / And when we see the landlord we can look that man right in the eye.” In the film, the upbeat song and lavish dance number is inperrupted at the end by the theather’s owner, who shuts down the show’s rehersals due to unpaid debts.
“Chain Store Daisy” L: Harold Rome, M: Rose Marie Jun
This tune appeared in Pins and Needles, a popular musical revue that ran for over 1,000 performances on Broadway from 1937-1941. She show was originally created for the entertainment of the striking workers of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and starred striking seamstresses, cutters and sewing machine operators and was performed at the union’s headquarters. The songs addressed current issues of the day of importance to workers from a pro-labor standpoint. Enthusiastic early reviews led to a professional production, but retained the original cast. It remains the only Broadway hit produced by a labor union, and the only successful run began by unknown non-professionals.
“Mama Don’t Allow It” (Woolworth’s Don’t Allow) M: trad. L originally adapted by Si Kahn, this version by Phil Andrews
A well known standard in folk and bluegrass, the song was recorded in the mid-1920’s and is attributed to Charles “Cow Cow” Davenport, although it’s more likely a traditional Appalachian tune. It was rewritten by Si Kahn in the 1970’s as “Stevens Don’t Allow,” for workers at seven J.P. Stevens & Co. plants in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. who were fighting for a union. It has been used since as a protest song with many variations on the line “Stevens don’t allow no union round here.” It’s unknown whether the Woolworth’s strikers sang any version of this song.
“Union Maid” M: Trad. L: Woody Guthrie
The lyrics to this union standard were written by Woodie Guthrie, set to a European tune that Robert Schumann arranged for piano (‘The Merry Farmer’) back in the early 1800s. The melody was popularized in the early 1900’s as a song called “Red Wing.” As Guthrie’s version was written in 1940, the Woolworth’s strikers would not have known of it.
“Mademoiselle from Armentieres” (“Barbara Hutton’s Got the Dough”) M: trad. L: Adapted by Woolworth’s workers
This song was popular amongst British regiments in WWI, based on a tune that was sung as early as 1830 in the French Army. The striking Woolworth’s workers rewrote the lyrics to focus attention on Barbara Hutton, the young heiress to the Woolworth’s fortune. Originally, the media had condescendingly focused on the women’s makeup habits and appearance, referred to them as “girls,” and implied that they were “hysterical” or “playing strike.” However, once their version was reprinted in newspapers and played on the radio, the media effectively refocused its attention on the sharp contrast between Hutton’s idle wealth and the workers’ low pay.
“We Shall Not Be Moved” M: Trad. W: Unknown
Originally, “I Shall Not Be Moved,” an African-American spiritual, it was adapted by the labor activists in the 1930’s and later, by the the civil rights movement. We do know that it was a favorite of sit down strikers of the 1930’s and that Local 1250 sang the song at union meetings. The Woolworth’s workers used the song as their anthem and we know that sang a verse that began “Clarina is our leader.”
The Characters of We Shall Not Be Moved:
Daisy (Kate Smith), Maria (Ava Farkas) and Woman #1 (Naomi Podber) are fictional. If they were typical Woolworth’s workers, they would have probably been between 19-25 year old and either immigrants or the children of immigrants from Italy, Ireland or of Jewish descent from Eastern Europe or Russia.
Mr. Longjonson (Josh Lerner) is fictional, although many store owners and managers were either Dutch or English in origin and had been in the U.S. for generations.
Clarina Michelson (Jessie Reilly): Michelson was one of very few female union organizers in New York (or anywhere) at the time. She was the only employee of Local 1250 and was thus consistently overwhelmed, often handling several campaigns at once. She was a committed member of the Communist Party and often clashed with the more conservative male leadership in the national structure of the union. By 1937, she had been involved in number of retail strikes, all of which ended in disaster.
Officer O’Sullivan (Sully Ross) is fictional, but likely Irish or Italian.
Bayard Rustin (Xavier): Rustin’s parents were active in the NAACP and W.E. DuBois was a frequent houseguest during his childhood. After completing an activist training program as a teenager conducted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Rustin moved to Harlem in 1937 and began studying at City College of New York. We’re pretty sure he wasn’t working at Woolworth’s, but he could have worked in a retail store at the time, as many college students did and still do. Of course, as a black man, the only job available to him at a retail store would have been in the ‘back of the house,’ as maintenance, stock, or as an elevator operator. He most certainly would have heard about the strike. Rustin had a fine voice and sung in local folk clubs with Josh White. In September, 1939, Rustin was recruited by Leonard De Paur to appear with Paul Robeson in the Broadway musical, John Henry. He would later work as an organizer and strategist with the SCLC and become Martin Luther King‘s right hand man. He is credited with helping to plan the march on Washington in 1963. Strom Thurman once threatened to release a photo of Rustin and a shirtless MLK, implying the two were lovers. He was often marginalized within the movement due to fears that the media and the right would attack him for being openly gay, which he was.
Radio Announcer (Phil Andrews and Sully Ross): While the names of the radio personalities and the shows are all fictional, the events they reference all happened in March and April of 1937. The quotes from the New York Times are taken from actual stories about the strike.