06-28-2018 History

The Paw Paw River Journal

Eating from boxes and cans It was dinner time, and I was the designated cook. So I got a Marie Callender frozen dinner and put it in the microwave. It was sweet and sour chicken… one of our favorites. As I waited for it to thaw, I was thinking back to a time when I was also eating from boxes and cans. Back then I was not living in our big old house with my favorite Chief Accountant. I was living in a tent on the great plain of Burma… Air Force and World War II. We had a screened-in mess hall with cooks who worked wonders with what they had. Our food came in boxes and cans. My favorite any time of day was pancakes. They made wonderful pancakes, served with powdered eggs, scrambled, or canned sausages. We also had food we could take with us. Ten in One rations consisted of a square cardboard box with 10 cans of food. Meat and beans, spaghetti, hamburgers and gravy, hash, etc. Sounds pretty good from this distance. But at the time we got pretty tired of the sameness. Each can came with a little opener and a spoon. The box was so designed that it would feed 10 men for one day, or one man for 10 days. I always kept a box on the floor underneath my cot just in case of emergencies. The other rations we could have anywhere any time were called K rations. These came in a little box shaped like crackerjack, only slightly larger. Sealed with a wax coating, they were designed to survive in any temperature… olive green in color. Cartons of them were always available. Whenever I made a trip across the Hump, I stuffed one or two of them in my flight jacket, just in case. Each box contained a small can of meat or scrambled eggs and also a spoon to eat it with. There was a tropical candy bar… Chocolate that would not melt whatever the temperature. I tried eating one, and I think it was made with wax or something. There was also a package of gum, crackers, and a little box with four cigarettes. These were a brand I’d never heard of. They tasted like they were made from a combination of straw and stable sweepings… very little straw. But if you’re talking about survival, K rations would help! I had just been transferred in from the Upper Assam Valley, Northeastern India. Here in Burma we had just a few C 47s which I had never flown before. Back in India we had only C 46s, which is also a twin engine transport but larger. Several of us were sitting in the operations office, when the Chief of Operations came through. His reputation was such that most of the guys would say, “Don’t trust him!” He said, “Anybody in here checked out in a C 47?” Nobody moved. “Anybody in here want to get checked out in a C 47?” Nobody moved. Finally, because there was nothing else to do, I raised my hand. So we went out to the flight line, and he showed me the C 47. “There’re the throttles, here’s how you raise and lower the landing gear. Now you’re checked out, and you’re going on a weekend trip with the Colonel. Be back here 1 p.m. for overnight, bring a class A uniform.” And time was so short I couldn’t get any lunch. I grabbed my uniform, equipment, and a can of meat and beans from under my bed. Back to the flight line on the shuttle bus, and the Colonel was just arriving. He didn’t say five words to me. We checked the airplane and took off. After reaching cruising altitude, he set the autopilot, ratcheted his seat back and went to sleep. I got out my can of meat and beans, opened it, and started to eat as I watched the instruments. Suddenly the Colonel sat up, nose twitching, and roared, “What is that awful smell?” “Just my lunch, Sir.” “If you’re going to eat that shit, go in back!” I took the offending can and set it as far away from the cockpit as I could. I guess the Colonel had been over there longer than I had… long enough to be sick of canned food. And before I got back to the United States, I came to understand a little bit more how he felt. Now fast-forward some years… we were all back home again and living our lives. One of my high school friends, Ron, married my sister. God rest their souls, we had many good times together. They had a family, two girls and a boy and lived in Grand Rapids. Right next to them was a huge open field. One summer the National Guard came through on their way to summer maneuvers at Grayling. They stopped to eat lunch and gas up their vehicles. The kids were enchanted by the whole process. They watched from their yard and after everyone was gone they asked their folks if they could go over and see where the Army guys had eaten their lunch. They brought back with them an unopened box of K rations. They asked their dad if they could see what was inside. Ron opened the box and there was the little can of food, candy, gum, crackers, and a little package of cigarettes. The kids looked at the little treasure trove in awe and wonder. Then the middle girl said, “Gol… I wish I was an army guy!” Later when Ron told me about it, we both had to laugh. What a difference in viewpoint as we were all weaving golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in that storybook town along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News The library will be closed on Wednesday, July 4. We will re-open on Thursday, July 5. Have a safe and happy holiday! Libraries Rock! The Coloma Public Library presents “Libraries Rock” during our summer library program. Sign up today! The 2018 Summer Reading Program is open to all young people. There will be programs, prize drawings, storytimes, a reading club, and more for the whole family. For more information, call the library at 468-3431 or visit www.colomapubliclibrary.net. All programs are free of charge. Story Hour Story Hour meets on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddlers and preschoolers are invited to hear a story, make a craft and sing a song with Miss Amy. There is no sign-up or fee required. It is asked that all children be supervised by an adult during Story Hour. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, June 28 at 5:30 p.m. The title being discussed is “Daring to Drive” by Manal Al-Sharif. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members. Call 468-3431 with any questions.

Watervliet District Library News Teen Table Projects: June Do-it-yourself CD mandalas; all supplies provided. Summer Reading Program The library is pleased to partner with WPS to provide free lunches for kids & teens following each Thursday program. This year’s program includes: June 28 Around the World Magic Show and July 5 Drummunity. Make-It Music Mondays 1 – 2 p.m. Musical instruments to make-n-take for K-6th graders & family: July 2nd Hare’s tae Scotland! (DIY Bag Pipes) Volunteer Nothing looks better on a resume! Best times to help out: Mondays & Thursdays, program times. Stop by to pick up a form. Library Garden Park Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library. Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesday 6:00-6:45 p.m.


100 years ago – 1918 There have been several automobile accidents in which the store fronts have suffered. Also, the public scales on Church Street opposite Hewitt’s shoe store were wrecked due to a car crash. There is talk of a strong guard rail to offer protection. The barbers, Orrin J. Long and Wm. Scott, announce a new schedule of hours. Where should you spend your Fourth of July? Right in Coloma, the “Gem of Berrien County.” Woodward