Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Casablanca - The Ultimate Movie

We watched Casablanca again last night. I have no idea how many times I've seen it but it could be counted in the dozens. In so many ways it was the ultimate movie, the classic of classics. It had everything: one of the greatest love stories ever told, acting such as you seldom are privileged to see, suspense, intrigue, corruption, action and a climax that never has and never will be surpassed.
The first time I saw it soon after it was released made me more anxious than ever for the day when I would turn 18 and could enter the Army and fight Germans. That moment came during a nightclub scene when a group of German officers began singing one of their countless marching songs. They quickly were drowned out by French men and women singing le Marseillaise, the most stirring of all anthems.
Little did I realize what a hell it would turn out to be, that job of fighting Germans face to face on the ground. Nor did I ever imagine the dark, overcast afternoon when I stood in the crowded square of a small French town while men and women with tears streaming down their faces sang their national anthem for the first time in more than four years. And while watching Rick (Humphrey Bogart) leave Paris on the grim day in 1940 when the Germans marched into the city I would never have believed that I would be among the first American and French troops who reached the center of Paris the day the Germans were driven out. Yet there I was on the banks of the Seine with the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Place de la Concorde on the far side of the river and the Eiffel Tower rising off in the distance. Amazing, truly amazing.
Still, to me that day in Paris wasn't as moving as that afternoon a few weeks earlier when the men, women and children of Hambye sang le Marseillaise. It was so unexpected because we had moved into the little town expecting Germans to be there. Even as we saw crowds gathering in the street ahead, squad leader Jimmie Hewston and platoon sergeant Bob Everidge began the familiar chant, "Watch the windows, watch the windows, observe to the left and the right, watch the windows." Moments later we couldn't do that, not with little boys and girls dressed in their Sunday best tugging at us to bend down so they could place flowers in the camouflage netting on our helmets.
On days when all is quiet and my mind drifts back in time, I sometimes hear those words from Hewston and Everidge again, the reminder to do what we knew we should do. Jimmie and Bob both died in the coming days so neither made it to Paris. We were all so young, so weary of the seemingly endless days and nights of fighting, yet we kept plodding along as best we could.
What does all that have to do with Casablanca? I'm not sure, but there is a connection somehow. Bright moments during grim and horrible days, something like that. Something like Rick watching the plane that was carrying his one great love fly off forever. Somehow it's all tied together.


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