Sunday, July 8, 2012

Berowne's 125

(Also for Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Z" is for "Zesty")
The scene above reminded me of how tough farm work can be.
Fortunately things came to a halt from time to time when the farm hands could get a little R&R, rest and relaxation, before heading back to their chores.
Suddenly I remembered some tough work I was involved in a few seasons ago, a little job known as World War II.
That’s when I got to know about the marvelous system known in the military as R&R.
Though I had spent most of my three and a half years’ service in the South Pacific, I found myself in Italy as the European war wound down to an end.
In Rome I was given three days of R&R.
Why do I use the word “marvelous” to describe such a thing? Well, look at it this way.

If you visit Rome today, imagine a stay in the Hotel Excelsior, one of the great hotels of the world. I have to warn you it’s expensive; the price per room runs from “small fortune” to “forget about it.”
But what can one expect?
Since 1906 princes and maharajahs, presidents, dictators and celebrities have enjoyed this world-famous seven-layer-cake of a hotel, with its oriental rugs and crystal chandeliers and whatall, located right smack on the prestigious Via Veneto. You can easily walk to the Spanish Steps and the Villa Borghese gardens.
In other words, Motel Six it ain’t. :-)
So I got three days of R&R at the Excelsior Hotel. I knew it must be an important hangout because I was told Goering had stayed there a year or two before. I have always lived with a basic principle: if it was good enough for Goering it should be good enough for me.
As for the price, get this. They charged me one dollar for my room – and that included three zesty Italian meals a day. Zesty meals in a zesty city. You wonder why I have such fond memories of the deal known as R&R?

Of course, in 1945 the place wasn’t as dazzling as it is today. I wanted to take a bath – it had been a long time since I had had a real bath – but there was no soap in the room. I phoned the switchboard operator.
“Signora,” I said, bravely trying out my rudimentary Italian, “niente sapone qui.” I hoped this meant there wasn’t any soap here in the room.
She did not differ. “No,” she replied wearily. “Niente sapone.”
I seemed to detect a tone of voice implying, there’s been a war for six years, you dope; naturally there’s no soap. Bring your own soap.
Anyway, that evening I went for a stroll on the Via Veneto. I don’t smoke but I was entitled to cigarettes from the ship’s stores and I had been told they would come in handy, so I brought a carton of Lucky Strikes with me.
(I was later told, tongue in cheek, that you could then have been elected mayor of a sizable Italian village for a carton of American cigarettes.)
Suddenly out of nowhere a pretty girl was at my side, strolling along with me. She had either been drawn by my rugged masculine good looks – or by the carton of cigs. (Probably the latter.)
With her poor English and my poorer Italian, we had an enjoyable conversation. She even broke out into song, delivering a charming version of an American hit song of that era.
She sang: “You’ll nevair know joos’ a how mooch I mees you. You’ll nevair know joos’ a how mooch I care.”
She told me her name, Santa Montefiori. I thought it was beautiful; it seemed to mean “Holy Mountain of Flowers.”
I realized I was falling in love with Rome.
If you’d like to know about my subsequent adventures with Miss Mountain of Flowers, I’ll try to cover that in a future post.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

37 comments:

Tess Kincaid said...

It was your rugged masculine looks...

Berowne said...

Of course :-), but the smokes helped.

Jenny Woolf said...

Lovely reminiscence. And isn't it true that if you have to "do without" and bear a burden, then suddenly having some R & R is doubly delightful?

Roger Owen Green said...

Definitely your rugged good Luckies. But you had your charms, too, I'm sure.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Oh yes, please do tell! For myself, I can't imagine ever not having a good time in Rome!

Leslie
abcw team

Lyn said...

A dollar a day, but you had to fight a war to get that...Only you could make this desirable. More, more!!

Brian Miller said...

it is def nice to get those breaks...esp with work as that....ha...i am sure you had a bit of charm as well that helped...

JANU said...

Cool...we would like to know more about your adventure with Ms. Mountain.

kaykuala said...

War-time exploits with a lovely chick thrown in. That can take a few postings. We're listening, Berowne!

Hank

Berowne said...

Roger O G: "Definitely your rugged good Luckies."
Good one, Rog. :-)

Berowne said...

Lyn: "More, more!!"
Thanks for the encouragement, Lyn.

Helen said...

I'm leaning toward your rugged he-man looks too! Seriously, thank you for the compliment ~ I write what is in my heart, it erupts quickly .. I press enter too quickly and that is it. I broke into song yesterday when a patch of blue appeared in our gray skies .. 'blue skies smiling at me, nothin' but blue skies do I see' ... nowhere near your Italian beauty's performance.

Berowne said...

Helen: "'Blue skies smiling at me, nothin' but blue skies do I see'... nowhere near your Italian beauty's performance."
Ah, but you have a much better accent. :-)

Sue said...

My husband and I plan to visit Italy soon. Too bad for our budge that a carton of cigarettes won't be worth what it once was...

;)

Ginny Brannan said...

First, I want to thank you for your service. My dad (Army Air Corp) was stationed in Burma. A brave thing all of you servicemen did, facing uncertain enemy on foreign soil. For what it's worth, you have my eternal gratitude!

My dad came back to marry an Italian girl, no-not directly from Italy but from his own hometown! I remember Lucky Strikes, his cigarette of choice: LSMFT (Lucky Strikes mean fine Tobacco!)
I will look forward to seeing the continuation of your story about the "signora!"

(BTW, thank you for your comment, had to check where in New England you hail from. I have been a New Englander but for 5 years spent on L.I. when first married. I was born in VT, now live in MA outside of Springfield)

oldegg said...

I take it was a good time for non smokers which are such valuable goods to trade. But hang on who didn't smoke in those days?

Mama Zen said...

I definitely want to hear more!

Little Nell said...

I can ony agree; we’re all hooked. Let’s hear more. Santa Montefiore is the name of a very successful English author (born in 1970 -Argenetine mother). I’ve a couple of hers on my ‘to read’ pile.

zanzinece said...

That was a fun one. Especially enjoyed your descriptions of the room prices—“small fortune” to “forget about it”—and the no soap realization. Now about Miss MOF: well yeah, “enquiring minds want to know”!

Kutamun said...

Hey Berowne, i love hearing these war stories, reality is always so mush stranger than fiction ! . Cheers

ninotaziz said...

Seven tiered cake of a hotel without soap - what a classic WWII anecdote. Love this, Berowne.

Carver said...

Zesty is a great Z word and this was an enjoyable narrative and pictures. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

Berowne said...

Little Nell: "Santa Montefiore is the name of a very successful English author."
Yes, interesting that it's the same name...

Rinkly Rimes said...

As usual, captivating! Young people think we had dull young lives! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tumblewords: said...

Surely it wasn't the Lucky Strikes that drew her.

Linda said...

My father-in-law served in Italy at the end of the war and his wife knew Goering! I love this fascinating tale. It could be the beginning of a great screenplay, Berowne. =D

Berowne said...

Tumblewords: "Surely it wasn't the Lucky Strikes that drew her."
The power of American cigarettes in wartime Europe was almost unbelievable.

Berowne said...

Linda: "I love this fascinating tale."
And I love these fascinating comments - thanks so much.

Laurie Kolp said...

I guess for a dollar you shouldn't expect soap.

Sheilagh Lee said...

I kept wondering of you ever got your soap LOL

Black Jack's Carol said...

What a great story! I could hear that girl's voice and imagine many of the details of the narrative. Can't wait for the next instalment.

Your mention of Goering was interesting, as there was a program on knowledge network last evening about the children and grandchildren of Nazi war criminals. You can actually watch it on line at this link. it gave a very poignant feel for what it must be like to inherit such a terrible family name/history.

Lmkazmierczak said...

Nice slice of life story. Hoping to hear more♫♪

Mary Ann Blinkhorn said...

Enjoyed reading!

Mary-Ann said...

Of course we want to hear more. Your stories are entertaining and sometimes even educational...well nearly always educational.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, what a fascinating life. Thanks for taking us along on your R&R in Italy. And the cigs had nothing to do with it!! Nice to see you at ABC... Peace, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/07/11/ground-zero-fukushima/

Berowne said...

S L Pencil: Always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks, Amy.

Mary said...

Berowne, what a touching and wonderful story. I am glad you have the memory....and the photograph. Don't you wonder where she is now? I wonder if you have ever thought about trying to locate her.

 
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