Monday, April 22, 2013

People who often "made" scenes

This week over at Madeleine Kane’s Limerick-Off, the fun starts with the line “A woman who often made scenes” or “A fellow who often made scenes" or even "An artist was working on scenes."

The last one brought to mind the scenery my father painted when he was a member of the Canadian Army Show overseas in World War II (official name Canadian Auxiliary Services Entertainment Unit).

He was a musician in a Canadian Army uniform, and, because musicians didn't appear busy all the time, they were co-opted as scenery painters. Dad had a lot of artistic as well as musical talent, and he was happy doing either job.

March 7, 1946
He wasn’t an extraordinary soldier. He was a private, promoted to lance corporal without much chance of further advancement.
But he hadn't been issued a gun, nor had his friends. Then one day a clerical error in England saw the musicians and artists, actors and singers, comedians and dancers, given weapons and put on the boat train, their destination: the French front. An uproar ensued, during which someone somewhere figured out these entertainers really didn’t know one end of a machine gun from the other, and took them off the train.

Their role in WW II was far from insignificant, however, as they kept up the morale of the troops with whom they were stationed: Canadian, British, American, and other allied countries.

So, for Madeleine's limerick-off, and also for Day 22 of the April poem-a-day challenge at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, I give you the following, in memory of Gordon Davies, 1924-2009. A bit of a renaissance man, my dad.

September, 2001

My father was painting some scenes
using yellows and blues and greens
while over his head
bombs exploded red:
which he said he just hadn’t seen.

 Kay Davies, April 22, 2013

A fascinating article about behind the scenes action in the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force entertainment units during the Second World War. With many photographs of participants and entertainment venues. From the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies.
Note: a very large file, but some of you might find it very interesting, even heartwarming.

Here's a sample from the file:

You’ll get used to it, you’ll get used to it
Molto Vino, Quanta Costa, you’ll get used to it
You get a panoramic view, lots of mutton in your stew
Mepacrine and margarine, dysentery to make you lean
It’s wonderful, it’s marvelous, dehydrated spuds and carrots you’ll adore
You gotta get used to it, and when you’re used to it
You will find that you are lining up for more
You’ll be so whacky, you’ll be glad when we have won this ruddy war.

To keep stage material fresh and relevant, old stand-bys were modified to better suit the circumstances of any particular audience. Pte. Weinzweig wrote these new verses of a famous WW II song for troops stationed in Italy. The original, copyrighted in Canada in 1942, featured words by Victor Gordon and music by Freddy Grant.
 Source: June 28, 1944. No. 1 Detachment Canadian Army


Jo said...

Your dad simply improved with age. What a wonderful job they had keeping up the morale of the troops. I'm glad they didn't get to the French Front.

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Great story! Delightful limerick! Thanks for participating in this week's Limerick-Off.

By the way, your link to me has an error, so let me post it here: Limerick Scenes

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Superb Kay. I think your father would have been a fun person to be around. Do watch out for my Thursday post this week - I think it may have resonance for you.

And give Lindy a big hug for me in memory of Sam.

YAM xx

Jinksy said...

That's a post and a half to some posts, Kay. Thank you!

Daryl said...

what a wonderful story/memory ... the entertainers surely did as much, if not more, for the cause keeping the troops morale up

Fireblossom said...

What, no Lindy pictures? What am I going to tell Bosco???

Mama Zen said...

Marvelous limerick!

jabblog said...

The entertainers did a grand job and many went on after the war to continue or pursue professional careers. In UK they were known as ENSA - Entertainments National Service Association.

Love your limerick:-)

Leslie said...

What a lovely, funny, remembrance of your dad. (He was a handsome fellow, too!)

Helen said...

Love, love the back story! Your father was a fascinating,
multi-talented man .... love the poem too.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Your father looks like a warm-hearted, jovial person.

Marian said...

great post, Kay. keep this kind of thing coming, your readers demand it!
love the ruddy rhyme, but it's hard for me not to get knotty and resistant to the line "get used to it." i guess one must in such circumstances, though idealistically i would wish no one would.

Jim said...

It's a wonderful poem about your dad. More more still wonderful is the tribute you paid him in this blog post. Thank you, Kay.

Susie Clevenger said...

I so appreciated the story of your father and the contribution art made to the war. A very important one I must say! Love the limerick. I also love your title!!

Ellecee said...

What a fun limerick and a beautiful story about your Father.

Margaret said...

Musicians with guns.... oh I loved the back story! Thank you, truly. In both photos his eyes shine so brightly and his mouth looks like it was always ready to smile ... I love him already.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I loved hearing about this. That is about the only way, other than peacekeeping, I could imagine going to war. Your dad sounds amazing. said...

Love the limerick and the shared memories of your dad. My former dad-in-law, Leonard, was also an entertainer, and they did work hard, even were strafed a couple of times. Burt Lancaster (a fellow Jew) was in that unit as an acrobat; he wanted to be an actor, so Len said he used to practice his "takes" and "double-takes" in between acts.

That was the war that was. Very personal connections established, no mechanized drones, but oh, so many lost. Many died with smiles on their faces thanks to units like your dad's. He's a hero to me! Amy

Powell River Books said...

Nice post about your father. Today was my dad's birthday. He was a talented man as well, making furniture and jewelry. He wasn't musical, but quite mathematical. - Margy

Adura Ojo said...

Boosting morale is so important during a war. I think it's difficult at times to appreciate how important that is because the current generation have always had freedom.

kaykuala said...

The unsung heroes who were there when they needed them. Thanks for sharing Kay!