Able Chapter News

Author: Eugene Kawakami, A Company
Title: Able Chapter News
Publisher: Puka Puka Parades
Source: Puka Puka Parades, May-June 1982, vol. 36 no. 3

JUST REMINISCING: In our January-February 1982 issue, it was said that “no news is good news”, but on the other hand no news makes life dull, causes boredom and we become listless. Maybe we are all saving our news for the 40th Anniversary Celebration and “shooting the breeze” with our old-time buddies. Well, to give you a bit of something to “shoot” about, let’s reminisce a little and go back to our training days at the Old and New Camp McCoy.

The “Old Camp McCoy” reminded us of “Boom Town”, Schofield Barracks, almost to a “T” except the weather. The temperature was going up and up, pretty soon it was 100° in the shade – wow! Was it hot! The nights were getting longer -it was still daylight at 9:30 PM. We had lots of time to play ball or just loll around or go out on pass to Sparta, the nearest town.

Remember the people of Sparta, they were beautiful in more ways than one. They were so friendly, helpful, and made us feel at home. And the young lady at the Sparta U.S.O., I believe her name was Miss Alice Kenny. She was so helpful and patient with us “budda heads”, Many of you wrote home and told your folks about the people, especially Miss Kenny, Miss Kenny was so surprised when she received some Hawaiian souvenirs from Hawaii.

On weekends, from both the Old and New Camp McCoy, we went on excursions to Wisconsin Dells and other parts near the camps through the courtesy of the Army and the U.S.O. We really saw Wisconsin, and best of all, we were treated royally by everyone. Some of the people thought we were from Manila or even China, but when they learned that we were Americans of Japanese ancestry from Hawaii, they were more curious and asked questions about Pearl Harbor. Guess we impressed the people of Wisconsin, for we were invited to their homes for Sunday dinners, or went bowling with us, and even took some of us around to see the countryside. Then when autumn rolled around we saw the beautiful leaves changing colors. The people in Wisconsin call it Indian Summer. Beautiful hillside, all full of red, yellow, some green. Can’t forget those colors. There are two Able Company members still in Wisconsin, married of course, and have families of their own. They are WALLACE HISAMOTO and TOM FUKUDA. There may be more. We do hope that these guys got the message of our 40th Anniversary Celebration in time so that they can join us.

On Sundays, we would visit La Crosse and sit on the lawn near the riverside, of course with those beautiful Wisconsin girls, and “shoot the breeze”. Many tall tales were told, too, one would say that his family owned a “panini farm” and another would say that he was a “guava fruit farmer”. You see, the word “farm” got into the stories because most of the Wisconsin people were farmers. What stories!

Then some of us would visit Winona. Now there’s a town. Hey guys, no no. I won’t tell. Better to keep the mouth zippered, or else. Sorry I mentioned it.

Chicago was another town – a town? A big, big city fits its description. Do you remember Atlantic Hotel? That’s the first hotel you saw after leaving the Central Station. What a joint. But to sleep for only a short time on pass was okay. Others stayed at the Palmer House, a nice, big hotel in the Loop, or some other fancy hotels. And who can forget Soldier’s Field? So huge, imagine 110,000 fans, and beautiful, too. The football players looked like ants on the playing field. What about the ball parks of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs. We rode the elevated trains to get to the parks. All surface street cars were FREE to all servicemen in uniform. What a deal!

Remember that huge Grant’s Park along Lake Michigan and the museum near Soldier’s Field? Beautiful flowers in bloom luring summer around the park area. Why can’t Hawaii have blooming flowers in the parks, all year ’round, too? It can be done.

Many of us went to New York, too, and even to Washington, D.C. and to Bowling Green, Springfield (Illinois), Milwaukee, and the breweries. Which reminds us that day when the “Old Man”, Col. Farrant Turner told us – “Hey, you can’t drink Wisconsin dry – they make all the beer in Wisconsin!”

One day someone yelled, “Hey, snowflakes”. Soon everyone was chasing the snowflakes, those beautiful little flakes, each one a different pattern, shape, and so beautiful. Too bad they melted away so soon. Then the weather changed. Cold, very cold indeed. Soon after the snowflakes came down we moved from the Old Camp McCoy to the New Camp McCoy. Yes, we moved out from the “tent city” to new (brand new) barracks. No more sitting on the floor at the P.X. to drink beer. We had tables, but sometimes not enough tables. But we had a jolly time. “Don’t you people have beer in Hawaii?” the P.X. waitresses would ask. “Oh yeah, we have ’em, but not served by beautiful girls like you here in Wisconsin” What a line!

Remember the trout fishing in the stream near the New Camp McCoy area? Boy, did we “whack ’em up”. Ono-ono kine fish – first time for a lot of us. Thanks to MASA TOMASA and his crew (I believe the mess sergeant was out on pass) for cooking the delicious fish.

Sleeping in our new bunks was great, but remember one day we were told to pack, full pack, I mean, and we marched into the woods in the snow. Cold, you bet it was cold. And us guys had to sleep on the cold ground that night. Just training, we were told. During the night, no fire– just go sleep. I was sorry for the guards, walking the beat. In the dark and quiet of the night, we could hear the whistle of the Milwaukee Road train going by, or maybe it was the “Hiawatha” train, in the distance.

Remember the snowman we made outside our barracks? For us guys who saw snow for the first time, we did well in making the snowman. How about the ice skating rink, too? Some of you went out to buy skis yet! Yeah, skates too: We try anything at least once. “Gotta try once you know, or no can write home about our experience”.

Some of our Able Company guys were transferred to Camp Savage to the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MIS) at Camp Savage, Minneapolis. Many of us went to Camp Savage on pass to visit them over the weekend. We had a firsthand view of what Camp Savage was like. It appeared that the barracks were placed in an old open coal mine. We could hear the boys reading out loud in Japanese. The volunteers from the 100th Infantry did very well. When we got there and greeted them, we were told that we must speak in Japanese, everybody conversed in Japanese at Camp Savage. By golly, we remember that in Camp McCoy, we were told NOT to speak Japanese, but at Camp Savage, to speak ONLY Japanese. What a contrast: We know the reason why now.

In Minneapolis, remember the restaurant called “Wagon Wheels”, where you could see what you wanted to order by going up to the glassed-in reefer and picking out the steak you wanted? “K.C. steaks”, they called them. What chow -imagine sitting at the table for about two hours trying to chow down the big steak. And again, remember St. Paul Hotel on Sundays where we had smorgasbord for brunch? Eat all you can eat for only a buck-eighty? How could they make money for that price? No liquor was served to wash the meal down – “Blue Sunday” you know. Yes, those days we sure “chow up”.

Remember, too, the Madison trip to watch the Wisconsin versus Notre Dame football game? Yes, on the house. Our sleeping quarters were in private homes. And picking apples right off the trees? And the girls sitting by us singing “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me”? Tears really do come down now as we remember those days.

Then Christmas came. Some of us went out on pass to “who knows where”. Those who remained at the barracks for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, had a ball. We sent the sergeant down to Sparta to buy “pu-pus”, plenty of them. Whiskey, etc., too. How did they get past the MPs at the gate? That’s a military secret: We also had a couple of kegs of Wisconsin beer, draft beer, too. It brings to mind what happened to all the whiskey and other bottles that were thrown out of the window into the snow (about two feet deep). Bet the ground keepers wished the bottles were filled when the snow melted at spring time.

Soon after New Year’s Day, we were transferred to Camp Shelby, so we don’t know what happened to the whiskey bottles, etc. Plenty of snow yet.