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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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Ping Pong for the boys at camp

It seems everyone had been behaving badly so we were restricted to the company area for the weekend. That meant nothing to do. There was a Day Room for the enjoyment of the men but all it contained was several folding chairs and a large table. Determined to beat this restriction, Fleming and I decided the table would be perfect for Ping Pong. We made the rounds asking for money to buy equipment. As it was near the end of the month, cash was scarce so some contributed a dime, some a quarter and one or two fifty cents.
With close to three dollars in hand, Fleming and I went to the orderly room and explained the situation to the first sergeant and company commander. A great idea, they agreed. So impressed were they by our thoughtfulness that each contributed a dime of their own money. The first soldier wrote out passes so we could go into town and buy the equipment.
The bus ride cost a dime apiece and we both kept an additional dime for the return trip. In Leesville we found three grades of Ping Pong sets, $2:50, $2:00 and $1:50. Low prices, but this was 1952.
“Nothing but the best for the boys,” I said.
“Absolutely.” Then, after a thoughtful pause: “You know, though, they’re a pretty rough bunch.”
“A good point. Maybe the two-dollar set would be best.”
“I agree. That way we could have a couple of beers at the bar next door.”
So we did. After further consideration we decided the one-fifty set would do fine for a bunch of beetle crushers, hard-nosed gravel agitators. That would allow for a couple of more rounds. Eventually it was agreed that Ping Pong was a wimpy game unsuited for infantrymen. That bunch of roughnecks back at Camp Polk would be hitting people with the paddles, stuff like that. So we stayed in the comfortable bar until the realization dawned that we were broke, had missed lunch and were hungry. By then it was after 5 p.m.
"Saturday is the night for USO dances,” said Fleming. “They have food, too.”
The USO had not opened when we arrived, but the door was unlocked. The large room was empty. We saw food already out on a table by the far wall. Dainty little sandwiches, things like that, so Fleming stuffed three or four in his mouth and I took a couple myself. Then several women came charging out of the kitchen and told us they were not open. One shoved Fleming and he staggered back against the table, tipping it over.
He has just regained his feet when the front door opened and two MPs entered. Fleming and I ran through the kitchen and out the back door. The MPs and several shouting women were close behind. We discovered that the backyards in that part of town were separated by wooden fences six feet high. We scaled the first and went on, aware that two dogfaces could climb fences and run across yards faster than MPs. Then Fleming started laughing. It was contagious. At least two dogs set up a howl.
Once free of our pursuers, we followed a circuitous route along residential streets until we could see the bus station. As expected, it was crawling with MPs. We continued on, eventually crossing several farm fields and then going out on the highway, We flagged a bus headed for camp, bypassed the orderly room and went on to the barracks. Men were furious, outraged, until they heard the story of the chase, then they were laughing in approval. We were admired, viewed as heroes.
In the morning an olive drab sedan containing an officer and two MPs stopped near the orderly room. The captain told them the company was restricted so none of his men were in town the previous evening.


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