April 7, 1944
Continuation of No. 15
This seems to be turning into a continued story and I do not seem to be able to get it done in one sitting. This week, you see, has been one of more activity than most of the previous ones. To continue with the “rest-camp” trip: Tho’ Taormina is rather small and there is only one main street, we managed to do quite a bit of walking, keeping going a good part of the afternoon.
There are several so-called “tea-rooms” in which there are local gals more than willing, in fact anxious, to dance with the soldiers. There also are small “shooting-galleries” where they shoot darts at targets – and the boys made the rounds of all of these. That nite, while most of the fellows went back to the small places that were “tea-rooms” in the day times and “cabarets” at night, three of the boys and myself went down to the big hotel that the Air-Corps runs. There they were having a dance at which a bunch of the local girls, with their parents, were present.
Spainhower and I arrived there first and then Arduino and Ray Johnstone came a bit later. Spainy and I were both a bit tired from lack of sleep the night before and walking almost all afternoon, that we just sat and watched everyone else dance, listened to the music and in general enjoyed ourselves without any exertion. Ray and Bill had a good time, dancing, however, and were exhausted at the end of the evening.
The next day, after a good breakfast, a bunch of us decided to climb the mountain above the town. We figured on doing that and then if we were not too tired we would again go through the Greek Amphitheater. The mountain looked pretty high and we weren’t too sure of getting up there and back in time for lunch, but the mountain and our own speed amazed even us. One of the boys who had made the climb on a previous trip told us that it took him 3 hours to get to the top. But, as we found out later, he and the group he had gone with had been led by a local guide, who, at the end of the climb had wanted $5.00 for taking them there. Well, we were our own guides, went almost straight up the mountain – there was a path – and arrived at the very tip in 20 minutes. It was a nice clear day and we had a perfect view for miles and miles around, including a view of Italy. After staying at the top for a while we scooted downhill and Spainy and I almost broke our necks a few times, for we both had our boots on and tho’ I had rubber heels (Spainy didn’t) the slippery rocks that made up the paths were almost too much for us, and we found ourselves with our feet attempting to go considerably faster than the rest of our bodies intended to do.
That afternoon we took the truck and a bunch of us went down to the beach. There we hired some rowboats and visited the so called “Blue-Grottoes,” which are caves that have a great deal of coral in them. The water in these caves is as beautiful a blue color as you could ever want to see, and as the water rises and falls in the cave, the coral on the sides of the rock becomes apparent. It makes a beautiful sight to see the coral suddenly become visible out of the water and then be covered again by the water as more rushes into the cave. I’d never before seen how coral was formed but there was certainly plenty there to be seen.
That night I went with the multitude to one of the cabarets and we sat around listening to the music, watching the dancing, etc. Some of the boys had just enough sherry brandy to make them feel hilarious — not badly so, but just funnily so, and they were really cutting capers. Tom Voicheski was one of these. He started dancing with a little kid who was about seven years old, and it was truly a comical site. This kid could really dance well. She knew all the tunes and kept singing the whole time. Tom is rather tall, and his back was almost broken by the time he got done, leaning bent over as he was, dancing with the kid. However, every so often he would straighten up and swing the kid around so that others on the floor had to beware of swinging heels. And a couple of times he put the kid on one of the tables and danced with her thusly. With her on a table she was just about the right height for him. The whole thing reminded me of Dad’s dancing with Jeanie at Tahoe, years ago.
We had had trouble with the truck on the trip up — the transfer case slipping out of high transfer into neutral. We could have gotten back here O.K. without having the truck fixed, but when it slipped out a few times on the descent of the hill going to the beach, we decided that not only should we probably get the bloomin’ thing fixed, but it was an excellent excuse for staying an extra day — four days instead of the allotted three. So, we did some phoning and found that we could get the truck fixed the next day at one of the cities that was about 35 miles away.
Anyway, the next morning, Dutch Boven and I took off with the truck and took it to the city. They told us it would take a full day to be fixed, so we phoned in here and told Bishop that we would be a day late, and that was that. Boven and I then hitch-hiked back up where the gang was, getting a ride with a small British vehicle convoy. Unfortunately for us, the British decided to eat their lunch just about two miles short of our destination — i.e. two miles short of the bottom of the hill on which was perched our little town and hotel. Boven and I commenced to walk, thinking that another vehicle would come along and give us a lift the rest of the way, but by the time we came to a trail that led straight up the mountain to the town, there was no sign of a likely vehicle, so we decided to make the precipitous climb. Just then it started to rain, so that by the time we reached the town we were not sure whether we were more drenched from the outside-in or the inside-out. It was a moot question, and we were too tired to argue it. At any rate, the rest of the boys appreciated what Boven and I had gone through just so that they could have an extra day of gaiety.
The next day, we made it back home — arriving a couple of hours after supper-time. Most of us took a prolonged hot shower and then stayed up for midnight-mess, and thence to bed. All of the boys were most profuse in their thanks to me for a good time.
Loads of love,
Watch for more of this letter
April 8, 1944