Sunday, September 2, 2012

The WW1 guy's little rant. Circa 1963.

It is a Sunday morning and I have my coffee going. As usual the cat is running around being a pain in the ass which is what cats are supposed to do so I suppose everything is normal.

Yesterday's post about the WW2 guy seemed to be popular. In it I mentioned the rant a WW1 guy made years ago while being transported in a school bus to the downtown section of the Memorial Day parade.

It was about  '63 and Jack Kennedy was president because it was in May of that year. There were still quite a few WW1 veterans around back then. I understand that time has won out as to be expected and now there are none.

Anyway, the parade was in sections. There was the first chunk of it that started at the GAR hall, something most New England towns had. They would march about a half mile to the cemetary and have a little service and the guys in the Legion would fire a salute and we'd march back to the GAR hall load up into the school buses and head down to the town center and march to the memorial and have a service and fire a salute there. From there we would march down the highway for a bit and the parade would break up behind the school woit a bunch of Cokes handed out to the participants.

I was a Boy Scout and the Boy Scout troops marched in the parade.

The bus that was supposed to take the scouts to the downtown section was full and the one the Legion guys were in had a few spare seats in it so my scoutmaster stuffed me into that one, most likely to get a little relief from my antics.

Most of the guys in the bus were the parents of my buddies and classmates so I figured I had best simply sit down and shut up because back in those days a recaltricent kid could get a slap on the head by someone else's dad if he had it coming. There was no use coming home and complaining about it, either or your old man would just give you another one for getting into trouble in the first place.

I got on the bus and sat down and a few secoonds later, Mr. Prish sat down next to me. Mr. Prish was a pretty neat guy. In private I could call him Bob, but in public it was 'Mr. Prish'. He treated boys like young men and was well liked by a lot of us youngsters because of that.

Mr. Prish leaned over and softly said, "Pay attention, Pic. I'll betcha Al Lewis is gonna get Thompkins worked up again this year.  Keep your mouth shut and listen. You may not understand it now but you'll appreciate it later if you ever wind up in the army."

Thompkins was an old man and a town character. Nobody over the age of maybe ten or so called him anything but Thompkins because he would get grouchy if you called him Mr. Thompkins unless you were with your parents. Thompkins was well known for his little rants about just about any subject under the sun and generally the rants were funny as hell because he was a master at convoluted reasoning.

Al Lewis was a guy who had been some sort of radio guy during WW2 and he had a knack for getting Thompkins worked up over nothing.

The bus hadn't even gotten rolling yet when AL Lewis started in on Thompkins about how it was another year and another parade and that it was an honor to be with a guy that had served with Blackjack Pershing in France and how enjoyable the parade was.

That was all that it took!

Just then another one of the men, another WW1 guy that had been a machine gunner, winked at me and put his finger to his lips as a signal to keep quiet and listen.

Thompkins started carrying on about how being in a parade was a pain in the ass because it was nothing more than another goddamn road march and back when he was in France every time he turned around someone was telling him to suit up and fall in for another march if they were not in the lines.

He went on and on about having worn out a dozen or more sets of government issue boots just traipsing over the outskirts of Paris going up and down hill after hill over nothing and how the marches didn't do one goddamned thing for winning the war and only served to make their lives miserable. He went on to give aa step by step description of a twenty-mile march describing tripping over roots and falling into creeks and other hilarious misadventures.

Nobody said a single word but by the smirks I saw on everybody else I knew that everyone on the entire bus was dying to just crack up.

I started to titter a bit and Mr. Prish put one hand on the back of my head and the other hand over my mouth hard and whispered sharply into my ear, "Quiet, Pic! He's getting to the good part!"

Then Thompkins astarted in on how having to be in a parade after all of thsoe marches in France was nothing more than a bad deal and carried on about having to march around again 45 years after he got out of the army. He said that if he knew that twice a year he would have to go on another damned road march for the rest of his life he never would have enlisted to go to France in the first place. It was then he started to simmer down a bit.

Of course, Al Lewis wasn't going to let THAT happen. Nosiree, Bob!

"What do you think they ought to do for us?" Al asked Thompkins.

"They ought to set us up in a reviewing stand," Thompkins said. "With nice tables and umbrellas to keep us nice and cool and give us beer and lemonade and things and then the entire town should march past US. Then we  could see how much THEY like having to go on a damned road march! Make it a twenty mile parade for them!"

About this time everybody did start laughing.

"You're right," said Al Lewis. "Hell, I could use a cold one right about now!"

Then Mr. Prish leaned over and whispered to me. "Remember this when you get older. It will be funnier then."

He was right. A decade later I was on a dusty road wearing my 2 USGI black Cadillacs sweating like a pig and humpint the receiver of a Browning M-2. It was then I remembered the bus trip and the Thompkins
rant and suddenly I fell over laughing uncontrollably. After a few seconds I lurched back up and kept going but I had to stop a couple of times because I kept busting up.

I got back into line and started griping.

"Ya know, when I get out of this man's army I sure the hell am NOT going to join tha American Legion because my road marching days are going to end when I get my damned DD-214 in my pocket. There's no way in hell I am going to spend Memorial and Veterans Day on yet another damned road march!

"That'll be enough of that!" said my platoon leader. The battery commander called for an instant halt and walked up to the platoon leader and me.

"Lieutenant, I am going to over ride your last order," he said, grinning,  and then he turned to me, "Pray, sergeant, please carry on!"

So I ranted and raved for a few minutes that it was okay for the army to march my ass off but when I got out there was no way in hell I was going to put my pickle suit on every Memorial and Veteerans Day and go for antother road march and how WE ought to be sitting on our asses and having everyone else march past us for a change  and that I was going to spend Veterans amd Memorial Days sitting on my ass and watching everybody else march by.

Even the officers were laughing and my lieutenant looked red in the face and turned to my platoon sergeant and said, "He's right. Everyone else should march past us twice a year!"

Thompkins has been dead for a few decades and I heard Al Lewis is gone. last year someone said Bob Prish isn't in very good shape and I suppose he's going to be gone soon if he isn't already but I suppose they will live with me for the rest of my life because they were some of the people I grew up with.


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