STALE BREAD AND HILL BILLY MUSIC

By Ward Davies, Jr.

Stale Bread

Now it can be told, what the Chief Belly Robber didn't want us to know.

As a young officer on Taney in 1942 while I was OOD underway on the 0400-0800 watch there would come to the bridge the most delicious fragrance of fresh bread baking. Yet the bread at breakfast and all other meals was two days old. When I finally decided to investigate (among my colateral duties I was Commissary Officer.) I asked the Chief Commissaryman about why the bread always was old when it was served in wardroom and general mess alike. He answered that it was due to regulations. It seemed like he was pulling my leg. I asked him what regulation. He evaded a direct answer. Then I said I would like him to show it to me. He couldn't of course but stuck to his guns. I said there must be a reason for such a regulation. Then he gave me the reason, saying that it was because of the poison gas--that the bread had to have two days after baking for the poison gas to escape. At that, I had him. I said that the gas was the very same that is found in beer and that it was entirely harmless. Finally he broke down and confessed the real reason was that the men ate too much when it was fresh and he was trying to save on the labor of baking a lot.

  

Hill Billy Music

 Now, on Taney, another item. For a while Wednesday afternoons were made a rest and recreation time. A ship's band was formed. About six men with horns sat on the quarterdeck working on "There'll "Always Be An England". Oompa, oompa, over and over again. Hundreds of times and never getting it right. There was no escaping it. We had aboard a trio of hillbillies--real ones, I think. Somehow I discovered that they met secretly down in the ice machinery room, with the hatch closed so the sound was not heard anywhere and they played excellent hillbilly music. One had a fiddle and one a guitar. I forget what the other had, maybe a harmonica. When I went into that compartment I sat and listened. The music was ringing beautifully and reverberating in the uninsulated space. The men chose odd and random times to play I asked them to call me when they next met. They said they would but they never did call me They were shy and didn't need to have an audience to enjoy their play.

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