True Happiness is a Chocolate Bar
Posted: 18 December 2008 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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True Happiness is a Chocolate Bar

(Jefe started the ‘True Happiness’ topic in the science section, but I thought this story would fit better in ‘Other Reading’).

From time to time during the Battle of Britain, a letter would get through the Rudeltaktik, the German Wolf Pack, the U-boats that prowled the Atlantic threatening to starve us into surrender.  (privately, this was Churchill’s greatest fear).  The letter from America would be from relatives inquiring about our health, and telling us that a Care package was on the way.

The packages would never come.  I suppose, even as you read this, a glass jar that was meant for me is lying intact on the floor of the Atlantic.  To begin with it might have had a hand-lettered note taped to it, ‘AUNT ELSIE’S STRAWBERRY JAM FOR UNSMOKED.’  Think of all the brave seamen who died trying to deliver my jar of jam and keep Britain afloat -  Roosevelt’s Lend Lease in the face of public opposition.

However, by the spring of 1943 the Enigma Code had been cracked.  The mighty Bismark had been sent to the bottom.  American hunter-killer groups consisting of escort carriers and destroyers were systematically locating and destroying the U-tankers, severely limiting the range of the Wolf Packs.  U-boat commanders couldn’t figure out how the RAF knew where they were.  They continued to use the Enigma.  30,000 German U-boat sailors lost their lives out of a total of 39,000 - the highest casualty rate of any armed service in modern war.

Maybe it was around the early spring of ‘43 that a huge convoy of supply ships sailed out of Halifax bound for Southampton, and other ports.  Almost all of them made it through.  At last the postman brought a Care package to our door.

I’m not sure, but I think the box may have been assembled by an institution rather than our relatives.  There were bars of lye soap that could take your skin off!  Served the powdered eggs, my sister and I opted for death by starvation.  (I heard once that the RCMP, in response to a report that some Eskimos were starving on an ice flow, flew over them and dropped sacks of dry beans!  There were no survivors).  I’m sure Care Inc. meant well.  The tins of corned beef were a godsend.  There was also a cardboard box with a picture of a Camel on it, and a large tin of coffee.
My parents were tea drinkers, and for reasons I still don’t understand, could not smoke Virginia tobacco, at least, could not smoke the Camels.

I was told to suit up for the rain and my mother gave me a cloth shopping bag containing the carton of Camels and the tin of coffee.  “Take these to the Yanks doon at Happy Charley’s.

Happy Charley’s was an abandoned brick cabin that was down past the turnip fields, across the Cart river from the shipyards.  I don’t know what the Americans were doing there.  Maybe they were setting up more anti-aircraft batteries, or stringing rolls of barbed wire around the fields and laying land mines.  Maybe they were there to guard against saboteurs at the shipyards.  Probably they had a field tent, but had moved into Happy Charley’s hut because it was more comfortable.

I squeezed between the concrete tank barriers and went up the path to the hut.  I could hear loud radio music.  It was pouring.  Barrage balloons floated over the shipyards.  Through the fog and rain I could see the flare of welder’s torches.  The noise of riveters all but drowned out the cries of gulls.  A destroyer was taking shape.  Yanks!  God help me!  I thumped on the plank door.

(to be continued)

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 18 December 2008 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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True Happiness is a Chocolate Bar (continued)

I thumped on the plank door.  No answer.  I could hear everything inside.  “Boyle!  Get your friggin socks off my bed!”  “That’s a bed?”  “Hey, somebody’s at the friggin door!”

The door opened a crack.  A strong smell of wet clothes and frying meat.  “What!?”

“I’ve brote yu some kohfee an’ cigs.”

A voice from inside.  “Who is it?  If it’s a dame, let her in.”  “Some kid.  Beat it!  We don’t have any gum!  Christ!”  He squinted up.  “Shit!  It’s still pouring!”

I held up the bag.  “av brote yu some kohfee an’ smokes.”

Boyle took the bag suspiciously and peered into it.  “Jesus H. Christ!”  “What is it?  Somebody selling turnips?  Fug!”
“Jesus H.H. Christ, pardon my French!”  Boyle said.  “Shut the friggin door Boyle!” someone yelled.

Boyle took hold of my coat collar and pulled me in, slamming the door.  “You krauts are not going to believe this!”

They had a railroad lantern sitting on a stack of ammo boxes.  There were wet ponchos and wet trousers hanging everywhere.  Carbines and a tommy gun were leaning against a wall.  They had repaired Happy Charley’s stove and there was a stack of broken boards beside it.  They had pulled down the ceiling for firewood.  A large frying pan of mince (ground beef) was sizzling on the stove.  There were five of them.  They were all wearing brown combies (long underwear).  The Andrews Sisters were singing at the top of the radio’s volume - ‘the little man was very sad, ‘cause one meat ball was all he had.  One meat ball, da da da da da.  One meat ball!’

Boyle steered me toward the lantern, reached into my bag and placed the tin of coffee and the carton of Camels on the ammo boxes.  “Look what little McTavish brought us.”  They crowded around, knocking over a carefully stacked pyramid of grenades.  One of them rolled under the stove.

“Lancer!  Get that thing out from under the stove for Christ’s sake!”

Lancer ignored the order and picked up the can of coffee.  “Hills Brothers!”  He crossed himself.

A huge red-faced man was opening a pack of Camels with shaking fingers.  “I’m never going to hate these people again!”  They were all lighting up and the air rapidly filled with smoke.  Maybe their supplies hadn’t shown up that week.

“Hecker!  YOU get that friggin grenade!”  Boyle shouted with a cigaret between his teeth.  He picked me up and swung me around.

Four of them formed couples and started dancing and singing with the radio.  “Drinkin’ rum and Kohkah Kohla!  Workin foh the Yankeeeee Dohlahhhhhhh!”

Hecker thrust his dance partner aside and stood with eyes closed, face tilted heavenward, drawing deeply on his Camel.  He spoke like a fire-breathing dragon.  “Maybe McTavish has some older sisters!”

Disaster struck.  The wiggling hips of one of the dancers bumped the handle of the frying pan and it clattered to the floor scattering the mince.  “Doctor Weiss!  You clumsy asshole!  Get a spoon and put it all back in the pan!”

Boyle was rummaging in a sack.  He ushered me and my empty bag to the door, thrust a Hershey bar into my hand, and propelled me into the rain.  McTavish!  God bless!  Tell your folks we love them!”

I breathed the fresh, moist air.  The ground was thawing.  I wondered what ‘foaks’ meant.  Happy Charley’s striped cat, Rommel, somehow still alive, dashed from under a jeep and into the cabin.  The door slammed.  The chocolate bar was real.  I could feel it.  They were singing the chorus, “Drinkin rum and Kohkah Kohlaaaaaa!”

Footnote:  Where was Happy Charley?  Some older playmates said he was a spy; that he left his blackout curtains open during an air raid, and was taken away.  My father scoffed at this.  He said Happy Charley was a gypsy and hated the Germans.  He said that on the night in question Charlie just had one too many and fell asleep with the curtains open.  Further, Charlie got caught shoplifting at Woolworth’s.  He had put an alarm clock under his coat and as he stood paying for some toilet paper the alarm went off.

In better days I remember Happy Charley working for farmer Kyle in the turnip fields.  Sitting on his doorstep he used to smile and wave to us.  He let us pet Rommel.  He was always whittling.  He knew how to make whistles from green willow twigs.  He never came back.

[ Edited: 15 March 2010 01:00 PM by unsmoked]
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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 23 December 2008 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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unsmoked - 18 December 2008 10:44 PM

True Happiness is a Chocolate Bar (continued)

I thumped on the plank door.  No answer.  I could hear everything inside.  “Boyle!  Get your friggin socks off my bed!”  “That’s a bed?”  “Hey, somebody’s at the friggin door!”

The door opened a crack.  A strong smell of wet clothes and frying meat.  “What!?”

“I’ve brote yu some kohfee an’ cigs.”

A voice from inside.  “Who is it?  If it’s a dame, let her in.”  “Some kid.  Beat it!  We don’t have any gum!  Christ!”  He squinted up.  Shit!  It’s still pouring!”

I held up the bag.  “av brote yu some kohfee an’ smokes.”

Boyle took the bag suspiciously and peered into it.  “Jesus H. Christ!”  “What is it?  Somebody selling turnips?  Fug!”
“Jesus H.H. Christ, pardon my French!”  Boyle said.  “Shut the friggin door Boyle!” someone yelled.

Boyle took hold of my coat collar and pulled me in, slamming the door.  “You krauts are not going to believe this!”

The had a railroad lantern sitting on a stack of ammo boxes.  There were wet ponchos and wet trousers hanging everywhere.  Carbines and a tommy gun were leaning against a wall.  They had repaired Happy Charley’s stove and there was a stack of broken boards beside it.  They had pulled down the ceiling for firewood.  A large frying pan of mince (ground beef) was sizzling on the stove.  There were five of them.  They were all wearing brown combies (long underwear).  The Andrews Sisters were singing at the top of the radio’s volume - ‘the little man was very sad, ‘cause one meat ball was all he had.  One meat ball, da da da da da.  One meat ball!’

Boyle steered me toward the lantern, reached into my bag and placed the tin of coffee and the carton of Camels on the ammo boxes.  “Look what little McTavish brought us.”  They crowded around, knocking over a carefully stacked pyramid of grenades.  One of them rolled under the stove.

“Lancer!  Get that thing out from under the stove for Christ’s sake!”

Lancer ignored the order and picked up the can of coffee.  “Hills Brothers!”  He crossed himself.

A huge red-faced man was opening a pack of Camels with shaking fingers.  “I’m never going to hate these people again!”  They were all lighting up and the air rapidly filled with smoke.  Maybe their supplies hadn’t shown up that week.

“Hecker!  YOU get that friggin grenade!”  Boyle shouted with a cigaret between his teeth.  He picked me up and swung me around.

Four of them formed couples and started dancing and singing with the radio.  “Drinkin’ rum and Kohkah Kohla!  Workin foh the Yankeeeee Dohlahhhhhhh!”

Hecker thrust his dance partner aside and stood with eyes closed, face tilted heavenward, drawing deeply on his Camel.  He spoke like a fire-breathing dragon.  “Maybe McTavish has some older sisters!”

Disaster struck.  The wiggling hips of one of the dancers bumped the handle of the frying pan and it clattered to the floor scattering the mince.  “Doctor Weiss!  You clumsy asshole!  Get a spoon and put it all back in the pan!”

Boyle was rummaging in a sack.  He ushered me and my empty bag to the door, thrust a Hershey bar into my hand, and propelled me into the rain.  McTavish!  God bless!  Tell your folks we love them!”

I breathed the fresh, moist air.  The ground was thawing.  I wondered what ‘foaks’ meant.  Happy Charley’s striped cat, Rommel, somehow still alive, dashed from under a jeep and into the cabin.  The door slammed.  The chocolate bar was real.  I could feel it.  They were singing the chorus, “Drinkin rum and Kohkah Kohlaaaaaa!”

Footnote:  Where was Happy Charley?  Some older playmates said he was a spy; that he left his blackout curtains open during an air raid, and was taken away.  My father scoffed at this.  He said Happy Charley was a gypsy and hated the Germans.  He said that on the night in question Charlie just had one too many and fell asleep with the curtains open.  Further, Charlie got caught shoplifting at Woolworth’s.  He had put an alarm clock under his coat and as he stood paying for some toilet paper the alarm went off.

In better days I remember Happy Charley working for farmer Kyle in the turnip fields.  Sitting on his doorstep he used to smile and wave to us.  He let us pet Rommel.  He was always whittling.  He knew how to make whistles from green willow twigs.  He never came back.

Very entertaining !  The chocolate bar idea sounds perfect for me btw . It’s a wonder they don’t call me “Bittersweet” . Are’nt you going to continue on a little more ?  Sounds like the stuff my uncle used to tell us.

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Posted: 24 December 2008 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Dee - 24 December 2008 02:31 AM

Very entertaining !  The chocolate bar idea sounds perfect for me btw . It’s a wonder they don’t call me “Bittersweet” . Are’nt you going to continue on a little more ?  Sounds like the stuff my uncle used to tell us.

I guess it’s still possible to hear the Andrews Sisters sing ‘Rum and Coca-Cola’ -

http://www.amazon.com/Andrews-Sisters-Their-All-Time-Greatest/dp/B000002OTY

On Halloween we were expected to perform in order to get a treat.  My sister and her friend dressed as cowgirls and sang, ‘I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle’.  They had bells on their ankles.  Farmer Kyle, (mentioned in the story), put pennies on his stove.  After our performances we got a penny that was too hot to handle.  Think of the PTA outrage if some curmudgeon did that today.  Reminds me of Salt Creek and Sander.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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