NEW YORK: If I Was a Violinist . . .

Gimbels' Bargain Basement looked festive. The counters were gone, the merchandise out of sight. Between the mirrored pillars long tables were set for midnight supper: hot dogs, doughnuts, popcorn, coffee. Some 750 New Yorkers were there to bid, with war bond pledges, on such precious items as Thomas Jefferson's Bible, a letter written by George Washington.

Glib, wild-haired Musicomedian Danny Kaye, working like a turkey gobbler, held up the auction's prize piece. It was not precious. It was a curio: Comic Jack Benny's violin, "Old Love In Bloom"—a $75 imitation Amati. Everyone present knew that only a war could have persuaded...

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