Caroling Recruit in Biloxi
I celebrated my first Christmas as a soldier at a new air station in Biloxi, Mississippi, two weeks after the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Some of the old aristocratic families decided to entertain us with the first USO dance in town. I was lucky enough to link up with a young lady named Charlotte Ould, the granddaughter of a real antebellum Scarlett O’Hara. She and her friends dragooned a few GIs, including yours truly, to serve in their group of Christmas carolers.
We started at one end of a block of mansions facing the Gulf of Mexico, then made our way up a driveway draped with Spanish moss to a beautiful mansion with a colonnaded front porch. We went up some steps to a platform built around the trunk of a huge oak tree on the front lawn and began our caroling, holding lighted candles as we sang.
After our concert, we trooped down the steps and up to the front door, where a formally dressed butler invited us in. Charlotte made introductions, and the men and women greeted us warmly and served punch and cookies in the hallway.
I knew I was way out of my depth in this society. As a kid from Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, I was being introduced to a gracious style of living that I’d only encountered in books and movies.
Many years later, my wife and I stopped in Biloxi. We tried unsuccessfully to find either Charlotte or her family—but, to my delight, the old platform was still there on the old oak tree.
George Procak • White Lake, New York
The Unseasoned Cook of Biak
The following excerpts are from a letter I wrote to my folks on Christmas Day 1945, when I was stationed on the island of Biak in the South Pacific:
“Well, another Christmas and I am still not home, but as they say, every dog has his day, so I guess mine is coming.
“The good news is I got another promotion—I was selected to be the head cook for the day because all of our regular cooks have gone home with enough points for their discharge. Lt. Thompson, our company commander, spotted my name on the roster and it sounded like I would make a good replacement….
“Yesterday, I went to the mess hall and there were two extra-large turkeys for us. There are only about 20 of us left now, and it was nice of them to have left the heads and legs on so I knew they were turkeys.
“Now, to prepare them, the only thing big enough in the kitchen was a great big aluminum pot…to boil the birds….Lt. Thompson wanted me to save the gizzards for him, which I did, but I did not realize there was gravel inside until he cut into the first one. Needless to say, he did not finish his Christmas dinner.
“We were going to have pumpkin pie, but nobody knew how to make a pie crust so we had pumpkin pudding. … “Shortly after Lt. Thompson cut into the gizzard, I was demoted and relieved of my cooking duties.
“I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas, and next year, Mom, I will let you prepare the dinner and I will wash the dishes.”
Robert Cook • Minot, North Dakota