Archive for July, 2008

The following is excerpted from a book “Darkness Visible: Memoir of a World War II Combat Photographer” by Charles Eugene Sumners, Ann Sumners – 2002:

The book The Dirty Dozen was written by E.M. Nathanson. This was a very well-written book that was later made into a movie starring Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and several other well-known actors. This was an excellent movie and can still be seen on reruns on television.

The original idea for the story came from Russ Meyer while he and Nathanson were sitting in a bar in Los Angeles one night. Russ told Nathanson about the time that Russ and I had gone to a stockade in England and spent a couple of days photographing there. The story in the book was either Meyer’s or Nathanson’s version of the affair but Meyer received ten thousand dollars for telling Nathanson the story of this stockade that led Nathanson to write his book.

There were many prisoners at this stockade at the time. Some were locked up in cells while others were on the grounds tossing a softball or just sitting around smoking and talking. It was a stockade with barbed wire across the top of the fence, and guards carried live ammunition.

We ate in the same mess hall with the prisoners, but well away from them at a table with the noncoms and the guards over in a corner. The thing that I remember most was that the prisoners were not allowed to talk in the mess hall, except to ask for salt to be passed if needed. So you see, it was almost total silence in the mess hall.

My memory was that there were some mean-looking men in that stockade, and I did not want to get too close to any of them. Those locked in isolation cells were only let out to exercise or eat chow. They ate at a separate table, and wore leg shackles at all times to prevent escape. I think the basis for the “selected dozen” came from Meyer’s description of these shackled men.

We slept in a hut that was located just outside the stockade where a corporal, a sergeant and some privates stayed. There was also a shack type of building where the commanding officer and the officers stayed. A colonel, a captain and a couple of lieutenants stayed there.

The prison was located in a rather remote area, so not a lot was going on around there. When Meyer finished filming, we were told that the colonel wanted the film. They not only took the film that was exposed, but also took the unexposed film that was in my musette bag as well. So, there was no record of this visit.

Nathanson wanted to tell the story and to shoot the movie as factual, but the army denied any knowledge of the stockade. They said it never happened and that there was no such place.

He called me from California on two or three occasions in 1962 asking me for details of this visit. While I was out in California visiting Meyer a few years ago, we had dinner with Nathanson, and he was still asking us questions about this subject. This event happened in 1944, so my memory was not too detailed, but I do know that we spent one night and two days at this stockade that the army denies existed, and we had shot film that was confiscated before we left.


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George Steck Coffin Case Upright

George Steck Piano - Freddy (insert) - Don't call him Fozzy!!

Most folks think that bears aren’t musical, but that’s not true. In fact, there’s a little bear who’s been sitting on my piano for many years. I call him Freddy the Piano Bear, but that’s not his given name I’m sure.

I remember when Freddy first came to my house. It was just before Christmas and my little niece brought him over when her dad was throwing out a lot of her old toys. Though he wasn’t worn or torn or soiled much, somehow he had gotten ear-marked for banishment to wherever old toys are banished. In short, he wasn’t a bad bear; he was a little dusty is all.

I had a dog at the time, a large honey-golden retriever with monstrous paws that my nephew had named Rambo. Rambo tried right away to get at Freddy, to shake the stuffing out of him like he had done to countless other stuffed toys that somehow flew into the backyard, or shred him like he was wont to do to every ballcap that I dared to don or doff in his presence. That’s when I first put Freddy up on the old piano, for his own safety. I tucked him neatly inside my new Mickey Mouse ballcap that I purchased at the gift-shop inside the Disneyland Hotel, when I was driving my taxicab one day and needed a break. I had bought the hat to wear while I drove around Anaheim, but somehow it just seemed too nice for everyday wear, with the cute cartoon of Mickey on the front and his signature stitched into the back with orange thread.

Freddy doesn’t know this, but I only payed $300 for that piano. I was working with my brother-in-law, Harry at the time; Harry was a piano-tuner by trade, and he had rented a small space in an industrial complex in Huntington Beach, where he rebuilt and repaired old pianos. Anytime I needed work, Harry was always happy to put me to work replacing the bridal straps in some dusty old piano action, or grinding a set of plastic key covers. Harry was more than a brother-in-law to me; he was also a true and dear friend. He died a while back, and to write about him is still very hard.

Rebuilding a piano was quite a thrilling experience, and it usually took several months. Harry did all of the technical work himself, weighing the keys and adjusting the hammers and levelling the action. My sister Karin would order all the new parts. I would usually start by removing and polishing all the brass fixtures and screws from the old piano, and set them aside in a box. Then together we would lift out the heavy cast iron plate, and take out the keyboard assembly along with the action and set them up on a rack. Often when we would rebuild a piano, we would have to strip away the old finish with paint and varnish remover – it was a messy job, and the chemicals burned the skin and sometimes it would be hard to catch a breath afterwards, but the transformation was remarkable. Many times after the old paint and finish would give way, a lovely wood grain would be revealed beneath.

After seeing how it was all done, I asked my sister one day if she would help me find a cheap piano to rebuild for myself. I had always wanted to play the piano, and my mom played the accordion and I knew she would love to have one too. Karin searched the papers, and sure enough an old woman across town was selling a “Wurlitzer” piano for $300. I drove over to check it out, and it didn’t look like a typical Wurlitzer, the kind you saw being given away on tv gameshows practically every night. I didn’t even recognize what type of piano it was. It was too big to be a spinet, and it was too small for an upright. Nor was it much to look at. The white paint was dirty and greasy looking, and the keys were broken. It would need a lot of work, but that’s exactly what I wanted. When we got the piano back to the store, Harry took a look at it, and told me how much it would all cost to rebuild. Of course it would need new keys, and new strings, and a lot of work. He called it a coffin-case upright.

I began working on the old piano in my spare time, and the first thing I learned was it wasn’t a Wurlitzer, but a George Steck piano. According to their current website, “George Steck & Co. was established in 1857 by George Steck at 650 E. 132nd St., New York. In 1904 they became known as Aeolian Weber and Pianola Co., affiliated with Aeolian American. Later George Steck became part of the Mason & Hamlin Companies.”

I did most of the rebuild work myself, even some of the tasks that I hadn’t done before, and Harry and I restrung it one day together, and then Harry “chip tuned” it, which means he brought all of the strings roughly up to pitch. He promised to tune it for me, but somehow he never did, and for all these years I’ve still never had the piano actually tuned. I removed all of the old paint from the case with stripper, and washed the wood and rubbed it with steel wool, but I couldn’t affort to pay the extra money to have it refinished. Even to this day, if you look closely enough you can still see little streaks of the old white paint in the natural wood finish, that had lain hidden for so long.

And that’s where Freddy has stayed all these years, with his big, broad grin and a green scarf worn rakishly about his neck. He loves that old piano as much as I do, and he and I both think it’s perfectly tuned.

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This is so true…

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Did Americans Really Land on the Moon?
By Molniya

away with your moth eaten and half baked conspiracy theories.

the greatest “proof” that we went to the moon
is that the Soviets let us proclaim that we did.

if it had been a fake..the Red Threat would have torn
our claim into kibble…exposed us they would have.
but they cannot refute the truth.

we were there.
we know it
they know it.

….heckofa race..and the Russians were ahead of us most of the time.

we simply outspent them..and had a few less bits of bad luck.

sure..we lost Grissom, White and Chaffee in a ground test fire of
the Apollo CM..

but they lost their moonship..sooo close to launch date.

were those crazy raskals really going to fly a ONE man lunar lander?

talk about being alone..oy..

[Editor’s Note:] Molniya frequently contributes his great wisdom and insight to threads in the Battleground Europe Off-Topic Forum.

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