Page 31

rier Command off into the wind. Might as well smile nicely, while the body was going through its healing phase.

One last flush

On to Sicily, right after Thanksgiving. Wet, cold, sunny Sicily where life for the GIs was again the four-man tent in an olive grove. Our planes were parked at Borizzo, an unused RAF field, close to the western coast of the island. (Borizzo as a named location no longer exists.) At one point in our life in Sicily, a new replacement RO joined us. Unfortunately, he arrived late at night, was given quarters but not directions to the nearest latrine. He suffered the same malady that this RO had in Tunis. The next morning, after a windy, rainy night, we woke up to find used toilet paper decorating many of the olive trees in the tent area. But his was not the worst toilet tale. The squadron officers were billeted in a Count’s castle. He, an ardent Fascist, his wife and daughter lived in the basement area while the officers laid claim to the rest of the castle. The aforementioned RO’s pilot, Lt. Julian “Bud” Rice, also a new replacement, tells his story: “I settled my gear neatly in place, then went into the small adjoining bathroom to relieve an overloaded condition. Finished and feeling ready to tackle the war, I pulled up my pants and I tried the toilet handle. The toilet would not flush. I looked around and saw the ‘Jerry’ cans (a five gallon can so called because it was a German invention, which the Allies smartly copied. It was used variously for water, wine, or petrol--its original use). I heard voices and footsteps on the stairs. Hurriedly, I grabbed the lid off the can and dumped a big slug into the toilet. It flushed all right, but too late, I smelled the strong odor of 100-octane airplane fuel. Quickly I departed the scene. I headed down the stairs and passed a Capt. [Elias Guterman] with a walrus mustache and a cigarette butt hanging from his lips. I paused at the foot Capt. Elias Guterman of the stairs and wondered if I should say something. But at that moment of indecision, there was sort of a muffled, windy-type (whooshy) explosion coming from the bathroom area. The good Capt. had flipped his cigarette butt into the wrong place at the wrong time, and we lost a very good toilet. Realizing that discretion was the better part of valor, I high-tailed it out to the airfield and hung around there for a couple of hours. Then I went back to the Villa to give myself up. It didn’t turn out tooo bad. The Capt. gave me 10,000 words (unprintable), but his big mustache survived OK, so he didn’t throw me into the slammer. But, we did lose a good toilet! Incidentally, on my behalf, I must say in no way did this retard the state of the War.”

‘The Villa’ Sicily difficulties, I stood up and motioned to my zippered fly. “Oh,” he said, “u cabinetto.” This was “foreign” to me. You see Pop came to the U.S. in 1896, and Mom in 1907. At any rate, when my Pop was working as a bricklayer, he learned quite quickly that the cabinetto on the job was the “back house.” Italianized, this became u baccasa, even where there was indoor plumbing. I never remember hearing the “proper” Italian word. Some 50 years later I learned how wide spread the Brooklynese version was. I was on a tour of Sicily, revisiting the ruins of Agrigento which I first saw in early 1944. At one point, fellow travelers from Brooklyn nudged each other and pointed to the neighboring backyards: “u baccasa!”

Now hear this

Life in our home away from home, the C-47 was a tad different. The toilet “can” was in the rear of the plane. My crew chief had a very hardnosed attitude about its use. “You use it; you clean it.” And I even heard him tell that to a very reserved British general who had the fortitude to fly on our aircraft. Up in the cockpit area, the “relief” tube was located under the pilot’s position. But that meant that any other crew member would have to disturb the skipper to use the tube. So, rather cleverly, our crew chief (as did all the others) bored a hole in the bulkhead immediately behind the pilot’s position, ran the rubber tubing through the hole to a normal standing height, attached a cone-shaped rubber funnel to the tube, and set this into a clamp which held the device in place. A very ingenious solution. But ours had one interesting side effect. On a flight from Sicily to Naples, we were carrying some nurses to a change of station. One nurse was particularly very curious (actually nosey) about our plane and the crew’s quarters. She asked all sorts of questions: what about this, what about that? Then she happened on the relief tube. She tapped the skipper on the shoulder and asked what this unit was used for. “Tex” (Warren D.) Rayburn, a tall good looking, former staff sergeant pilot, quick with the humor and wit, told her that this was part of our intercommunications system. All she had to do was pick it up, speak into it and she could be heard from and talk to every member of the crew. So dutifully she followed the instructions. But when she got the nozzle close to her mouth and nose, she detected a strong odor. Realizing that she had been tricked, in a none too lady-like fashion, she told “Tex” where to go, and stomped out of the Translating from Brooklynese Born in Brooklyn of Italian immigrants, I grew up quite bilingual. compartment and pouted for the rest of the flight. Alas! So the twice-told toilet tales end. We moved from Sicily to English was primary for me, as it was for my businessman Pop, but Mom and my grandparents relied almost entirely on their native Italian. In Sic- England in February 1944, to prepare for the invasion of Northern Euily and Italy during WWII, my attempts to communicate in Italian were rope. We had the good fortune of being stationed at Cottesmore RAF base roughly 50 miles north of London mostly successful, giving me a good bit of until our departure for the Zone joy and some advantage. Interestingly, the of the Interior (HOME!) in May natives were able to detect that my dialect 1945. Life at Cottesmore, the was Napolitano. equivalent of our Randolph Field, Because of my limited linguistic eduTexas, was the height of civilizacation, however, there were times when I tion: no tents, no outdoor living, had difficulties. On one flight to Italy, we and no outdoor privies (except in over nighted in Bari. There I was able to some of the British pubs, but that have a long “talk” in English/Italian with never bothered us)! We knew we the hotel concierge, who had relatives in were lucky guys, and life was oh “Pittsaberga.” After a few glasses of wine, so much easier than that of the I needed to use the bathroom. So I asked brave boys in the Infantry. Pietro where the baccasa was. He looked at That was part of life in the me a bit oddly: “qui che u baccasa?” what On the can Troop Carrier Command. Quite is the baccasa? Realizing the linguistic an education for a Brooklyn boy! Winter 08/09 / AMICI 29

Mario Batali  

17th Edition

Mario Batali  

17th Edition

Advertisement