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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Watch Your Step! (Vatsh yur step) a 1922 Yiddish theater hit from the Thomashefsky show Berele Tremp

"Vatsh yur step" is from the 1922 "comedy drama" Berele Tremp, produced at Kessler's Second Avenue Theater in New York. The words are by Sam Lowenworth, the music is by Joseph Rumshinsky. The song was sung by Bessie Thomashefsky in the show Berele Tremp.

You can read the complicated plot of the show at the Milken Archives - I'll just say Act I takes place in Odessa in the teahouse of Khayke Zets and her husband Leybe. Our hero young Berele (played in the show by Bessie Thomashefsky) loves their daughter Sonya. But because Berele's father abandoned his wife and son to go to America, Berele and his mother are now street peddlers and Leybe doesn't approve the match. The father's business partner from America arrives with $3,000, says the father wants a divorce, Berele travels to New York to look into this situation. All the Odessa people show up in America and stage a disapproving play about a husband abandoning his wife, the dad gets sick, and there's a happy ending.

Here is the Julius Nathanson recording of Vatsh yur step from 1922 with my transliteration and translation in the subtitles:


Transliteration and translation after the jump.



Watch Your Step

Amerike iz a land nor fun hurry up!
Eyner loyft in business, eyner loyft in shop.
Eyner hot a date, gekumen iz tsu shpet.
Eyner loyft tsu pinochle, tsolt double bĂȘte.
Eyner loyft tsu a poker game.
Eyner loyft farzetsn zayn watch un chain.
Eyner loyft tsu a play, eyner loyft in cabaret.
Eyner loyft in drugstore, vayl der boykh tut im vey.

Watch your step! Shrayt men oys gants plain.
Watch your step! Iberal kent ir dos zen.
In der subvey, in der kar, aroyf un arop di trep,
Shrayt eyner hoykh mit gantsn koyekh: Watch your step!

A meydl fun der arbet shrayt: "Mamen mayn!
Oy, git mir mayn bos a zeyer a gut time!
Ikh for vi a kvin, in zayn mashin,
Vos er git zayn vayb, krig ikh oykh fun im."
Er koyft mir ringlekh, silk stokings, oykh a het,
Er zogt mir, fun zayn vaybl krigt er bald a get.
S'iz mir voyl, s'iz mir git,
Mit yedn man makh ikh a hit!"
Zogt di mame: "Tokhter mayn farges dos nit:"

"Watch your step, vu du best nor geyn.
Watch your step, vayl du bist yung un sheyn.
Vayl du bist ful mit fayer, ful mit lebn ful mit pep,
Bist a tshiken, loz dikh nit flikn - watch your step!"

America is a land of nothing but hurry up! One runs to his business, another runs to his shop. One has a date, arriving too late. One runs to pinochle and pays double bete (if the bidder does not fulfill his bid, he has been "double bete"). One runs to a poker game, one runs to pawn his watch and chain, one runs to a play, one runs to the cabaret. One runs to the drugstore because his belly hurts.

"Watch your step!" they shout right out. "Watch your step!" you see this everywhere. In the subway, in the trolley, up and down the stairs, one shouts will all his might: "Watch your step!"

A girl from the sweatshop shouts: "Mama! Oy, the boss is giving me a great time! I travel like a queen in his car. Whatever he gives his wife he gives me too. He buys me rings, silk stockings and a hat. He tells me he'll soon divorce his wife. Things are going great, I'm a hit with every man!" The mama says: "Daughter mine, don't forget this:"

"Watch your step wherever you go. Watch your step, because you're young and pretty. Because you're full of fire, full of life and pep - you're a spring chicken, don't let get plucked - watch your step!

For sheet music and/or performances contact me: jane@mappamundi.com

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