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Chapple Writes a Song

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A newspaper editor in Ashland, Wisconsin, was one of only two American citizens of the 1950s known to honor Korean War veterans by writing an original published song. John B. Chapple entitled his song, "Say a Prayer for the Boys in Korea." A copy of the sheet music for the song was found by the Korean War Educator in the Robert Donner Collection in the Margaret and Herman Brown Library, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas. The Donner Collection holds a copy of the sheet music, which includes not just Say a Prayer for the Boys in Korea, but also another Chapple song, There's a New Song in My Heart Today.  The sheet music cost $1.00 and could be purchased through mail order from Ashland. 

John Chapple was a musician of many years experience when he wrote the words to the song located at the right of your computer screen.  In a speech to the Salem Baptist church Men's Brotherhood Club on March 23, 1953, Chapple stated that he had been a dance band musician for some years.  A man of deep religious conviction, he further stated, "When I think of all the turmoil in the world today, the boys who are dying in Korea, the horror of the atom bomb as it has been used, and as it may be used again to maim and mutilate human beings by the hundreds of thousands, I feel very convinced that we are all living in those latter days when the forces of Evil are contending most powerfully against the power of Good."

It is uncertain why John B. Chapple wrote the song, which he copyrighted in 1953. The Korean War Educator contacted the Ashland, Wisconsin Historical Society, but the workers there were unaware that Chapple, who was a well-known figure in the history of the area, had written the music. The Korean War Educator is equally uncertain as to how a copy of the song (which sold for $1.00 in 1953, and could be purchased by mail order from Ashland) found its way to the Robert Donner Collection. The Donner Collection consists of about 4,000 volumes of books and over 3,000 pamphlets and ephemera on American history, political science, economics, Americanism, minority groups, and Communistic and Socialistic activities within America. Donner collected most of his library in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after he retired in 1957.

John B. Chapple authored several songs during the early 1950s. His other songs included, "There’s a New Song in My Heart Today," "Would Jesus Have it That Way," "Put on the Whole Armour of God", "The New Testament Will Save Us," "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This," and "We’ll Sing, Sing, Sing to Victory." The songs could each be purchased for $1,00, postpaid.

Sharon at the Ashland Historical Society provided the following information about John B. Chapple.

Born: November 20, 1899 – Ashland, WI
Died: April 16, 1989 – Ashland, WI

Ashland High School 1917 Graduate
University of Wisconsin – Madison 1 year (1917-18)
Yale University 1924 – Degree in Philosophy
Institute of Banking 1929-30
University of Wisconsin Graduate School 1935

US Army – 2nd Lieutenant WWI 1918 & 1919

Post War:
Worked various jobs as journalist:
Milwaukee Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal
Janesville Gazette

After graduating from Yale, he returned to Ashland and the Daily Press, serving as city editor and managing editor under his father, John C Chapple, where he worked until retirement.

1930’s unsuccessful candidate for:
US Senator – R
Governor – R
Congress – D

Charter member of Ashland Historical Society
Ashland School District Board of Education
Ashland City Council
Ashland County Board of Supervisors
Song Leader
Song Writer
Governors Commission on Human Rights – 1949
Commander of WWII Vets & Catholic WWI Vets
Ashland Man of the Year - 1969

Family (at time of his death):
Wife Irene
Son: John D. Chapple
Daughters: Jeanne Davies & Alice Boland (deceased)
Grandchildren: 14; Great Grandchildren: 8

John B. Chapple was a "country kid" who became class-conscious among the sons of wealth at Yale University. After college he returned to Ashland politically "left of center". He noticed that "American capitalism was pretty sick". During this time, while writing for the Daily Press, he also wrote under his byline for the Daily Worker, the organ of the American communist Party. One poem printed in this paper follows:

My people are men of the farms,
And men who work on the docks,
And men who handle the axe,
And men who are punchers of clocks.

My people are men who are slaves,
Slaves who yet fail to see
But they’re eager for someone to tell them,
And that is the job for me.

He saw his farm friends working 12-18 hours a day with not enough money to buy seed. In Chicago, he "saw the wreckage of capitalism"--meaning slums and drunks. Seeing the flaws in the American economy, he went to Moscow, Russia, in 1927. His ten days in Moscow were eye-openers. He didn’t find "heaven on earth", but found a system where the individual was sacrificed for the good of the "world revolution". The sanctity of the family was not respected. Chapple was offered the job of editing the Daily Worker, which was based in New York City. He left Moscow, but did not take the job. He returned to his job at the Ashland Daily Press and spoke no more about communism. He gradually developed his theme of the "American Way of Life". He dabbled unsuccessfully in politics and became Ashland’s unofficial historian and the city’s booster.

A religious man, Chapple was raised Presbyterian, then "had every last shred of religious faith knocked out of him" in his college years. After returning from his Moscow trip, he checked out several different churches and finally found his place with his wife in the Catholic Church.


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