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I've been editing a WW2 memoir for a friend who is

by Ziks511 / January 9, 2007 9:09 PM PST

co-authoring with the wonderful old gentleman, soon to be 87. He joined up in 1941, and went through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which trained 170,000 airmen, nearly half of whom were American. Turns out that Americans were given special dispensation to serve with the RCAF without losing their citizenship, which would have been the case in any other nation's service.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. He describes his childhood and youth in Copper Cliff, Ontario, about 5 miles or so from Sudbury, and talks about the pranks that he and his friends pulled in the streetcars (trolleys) on the way to school. One of their tricks was to jump up and down all together at the same time and make the front wheels jump the tracks, or to press the emergency alarm very gently to bleed off the air pressure, and so leave the trolley without any brakes. This caused the trolley to go shooting through an intersection at the bottom of a hill against the lights. What were mere pranks in the 1930's would be juvenile delinquency today. When did we lose our senses of humor and our sense of proportion over the actions of kids?

When Robbie was in primary school a friend, one of two schoolteachers in their family, had a very useful sentence he used to use on his kids, and which we quickly adopted. It went: "Stop acting like a 5 year old" (or whatever the actual age of the child was). It was useful on two levels, it gave the kids a gentle warning that they were getting close to the limits of tolerance, but it also reminded the parent who said it that the child was indeed only 5 (or whatever) and was behaving perfectly normally, and perhaps he, the parent, should lighten up.

It's useful even now. If I say to myself, "Stop acting like a 60 year old" it reminds me that curmudgeonhood is right around the corner if I don't guard against it, and retain my sense of humor.

Rob

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re:trolleys
by WOODS-HICK / January 9, 2007 9:41 PM PST

growing up in chicago we had trolleys on clark st and I remember when they were replaced by smelly diesel power.

our related prank: on lawrence ave the buses were OH electric powered but did not run on tracks. one of us would stand at the bus stop. when the driver pulled over and stopped the accomplices would pull the connecting wires off the OH wires, they were held to the cables by spring tension. we would run like the devil and meet at the snack shop and relive our adventure. the bus driver would have to put the connectors back in place. of course he was angry but we rationalized our misdeed by thinking he might have done something similar when he was a boy.

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The difference between now and then
by Diana Forum moderator / January 9, 2007 11:21 PM PST

Can you imagine a trolley or bus shooting through an intersection now? Back then there were fewer cars to hit. Now it would eventually be lethal. That's why it would be more than a prank now.

Diana

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O boy!
by gearup / January 10, 2007 1:33 AM PST

When we got to High school and took chemistry we learned that if you mixed sulfer powder and a potassium salt (not named completely here for obvious reasons)and some powdered charcoal and packed it in a piece of newspaper and laid that on the trolly track when a car rolled over it ...BAM...and if you used enough sulfer a cloud of yellow smoke. We thought that was FUNNY cause if the trolley stopped anyone on it would jump off.
Lucky we didnt go to jail or worse cause ww2 had just started and these trolley tracks ran next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard! And the first time that the Shore Patrol came looking was the last time we tried that! lololol

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(NT) Now it came back!
by gearup / January 12, 2007 1:46 AM PST
In reply to: O boy!
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What happened to the rest of my post?
by gearup / January 10, 2007 3:04 AM PST

O well. It went like this. In hi-school chemistry one of the guys figured out how to make an explosive mixture using sulfer and some other ingredients, We would put it on the trolley tracks and bust up laughing
when it went "BAM" and a cloud of yellow smoke smelling like rotten eggs enveloped the car.
Since the tracks went by the B'klyn Navy Yard and ww2 was under way we were lucky to not end up in federal prison.If the Shore Patrol had ever caught us I am not sure what would have happened!

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Call it a prank, but the widow of the hapless
by drpruner / January 11, 2007 1:40 AM PST

pedestrian might have had another word. Sad

In my small town the kids spray-paint the stop signs all black. Since there are few street lights, a driver new to the area can drive through in ignorance.

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good point, sometimes they steal them
by WOODS-HICK / January 11, 2007 2:05 AM PST

and other warning signs for a bedroom or clubhouse with dire consequences.

a reverse situation that bothers me: one of the villages, I go to often, installed new stop signs on what had been an unrestricted street. it was necessary because the long stretch encouraged speeding in a residential area. in broad daylight I almost center punched another car because for the past 18 yrs I would not have had to stop. I have experienced this before and have seen similar behavior in others.

the new stop sign was partially hidden from view by a truck. it would be an advantage to all that a warning sign, in reflective neon colors, simply stating : new stop sign ahead, proceed with caution. the warning could be removed after an adequate period of time. that will never happen.

it is a reminder that driving requires 100% attention. I thought of the adage that most accidents occur close to home. where routine lulls awareness.

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Here they use speed bumps.
by drpruner / January 11, 2007 3:10 AM PST

BIG speed bumps. Sometimes two or three per block. I'd like to see the Mayor drive the posted limit on one of those streets.

There is a sign that means "Stop sign ahead". They use it here in hilly neighborhoods, although there are other streets that could use them but don't have them. Also, there is a standard oversized stop sign, recommended for new installations, like coverting a two-way stop street into a four-way.

"it is a reminder that driving requires 100% attention" Nice that you 'owned up' - most people just blame the Mayor!

Another local trick: Stealing the signs from streets that have one's family name. It further complicates driving in small towns that have haphazard street layouts.

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(NT) here we use slow pedestrians, easier on suspension
by WOODS-HICK / January 11, 2007 5:09 AM PST
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These stories make good stories, but they make for bad real
by Ziks511 / January 12, 2007 12:12 AM PST

life. I agree completely, since that was essentially my point. Population pressure creates a whole new level of tolerable behaviour, and a whole new set of prohibitions for everybody's good.

On a lighter note, I was talking to a delightful woman who was a Women's Royal Canadian Air Force lieutenant in Britain during the war. In her youth, in Toronto, she and her female school mates used to sit on the curved wooden rear seat of the trolley going down Mount Pleasant Avenue, because it built up a fair turn of speed down the hill and then had to make a sharp curve in the road at the bottom. They would carefully arrange their skirts so that they were sitting only on their cotton panties and when the trolley made the curve they would be slingshotted all the way around the curved back seat to gales of laughter. Decorum was preserved and delight was served all in one tiny alternative use of the Toronto Street Railway, as it was then known.

I love talking to old folks because they have such great stories. I once met a guy from Saskatchewan who, with his friends as a Halloween prank, disassembled a horse drawn farmers wagon and hoisted it up into the rafters of the barn then reassembled it perfectly. Yes, it cost the farmer a day's work to get it down, and was damned unfair to the farmer, but what a great story.

Rob

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My Dad had a black-sheep uncle
by drpruner / January 12, 2007 12:22 AM PST

who once won a street race in his Essex by taking a shortcut across the local golf course. Think very skinny tires ...

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A Ford Essex, I haven't thought about that car in years
by Ziks511 / January 12, 2007 7:33 AM PST

thanks Doug.

I guess it was named after the new Ford factory established before the War in Dagenham (pr. DAGGenum) which is now part of Greater London, though still in the County of Essex. Ford UK is still seriously going concern, and I rather miss my Ford Mondeo, which is a far better name than the Mercury Contour which is what they were called here. They made the Contour by taking all the nice bits off the Mondeo, and throwing them away, the Contour isn't ugly, it's just nothing in particular and as such, has had mediocre sales in the US and Canada. This enables Ford's US head office to say "See, those continental (sic) cars just don't sell in America, so lets continue with our regular models." The same seems to be true with GM which could use some good news these days. A lot of the German designed and engineered Opel and Vauxhall (in Britain) are really nice cars, and they really seem to get nice acceleration out of a four cylinder engine.

At least that's my experience. I'd just like to have a newer posher model of my old Mondeo to tootle around in (Left Hand drive, please) so people would go "My, what a nice car you have, I haven't seen this before." It'd be fun.

I was once passed by a gorgeous old car down in Michigan, open top, long hood, wire wheels, the works. I pulled along side at the risk of life and limb and asked what it was, "Its a Fraser Nash, came the reply, which didn't do much good as I'd never heard of Fraser-Nash, but the Right Hand steering wheel suggested why. When I asked further questions, he said "Its a Replica", and drove on his merry way.

Rob

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I didn't know about the [English] Ford
by drpruner / January 16, 2007 7:00 AM PST

model. I meant the US Essex marque.

Fraser-Nash a popular make for a while.

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Ooops, conflated two things, sorry. Elderly over-
by Ziks511 / January 16, 2007 9:20 AM PST

crowded brain syndrome.

Actually I've been doing that occasionally since senior year in High School when I conflated two Greek Myths and really ticked off the Latin teacher who didn't like the little know-it-all in her class. She ripped me a new one in front of the class and then said "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing", to which I said "Yes, Alexander Pope, An Essay on Learning: A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep or touch not the Pierian spring/For shallow drafts intoxicate the brain/But drinking deep largely sobers us againg. 1717 or something close to that." She didn't much like that response either.

She prevented me from getting the Latin prize by giving me a zero term mark until I took my tests to the Principal, but somebody else's name is still on the Prize list for that year, even though I got my nicely bound copy of Robert Graves The Greek Myths, which still grace my shelves.

However Doug, you're not in that class of people, and I'm completely in the wrong on this. Thanks for correcting me in your gentle way.

BTW: Fraser Nash made the powered turrets for British bombers during WW2 including the Wellington (fore and aft), the Halifax (aft only), and the Lancaster (fore and aft).

Rob

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Not to worry. According to
by drpruner / January 17, 2007 4:15 AM PST

Ford Prefect you're "mostly harmless."

Ford Fairlane said you're &(*$+_#%!

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This guy flew a Vickers Armstong Wellington,a fabric covered
by Ziks511 / January 12, 2007 2:37 PM PST

bomber with the reputation of bringing its crew home, because of its open work geodetic framing which allowed stresses to be shared by multiple frame members even when some were shot away. It was universally known as the Wimpy, from J. Wellington Wimpy, the hamburger eating character, in the Popeye cartoons.

Syd's escape involved a bevy of French schoolgirls who were used to move airmen about France because they didn't attract attention, and of course could supply the French. His primary rescuer turned out to be quite upper class, as in aristocracy, and they kept well clear of the Communist resistance because the Communists were fighting as hard against other Resistance groups, and betraying them to the Gestapo, as they were fighting against the Germans. They were inclined to perpetrate mass slaughters of Germans in territories sympathetic to other resistance groups, some of which were pretty right wing, but at least were anti-fascist. This of course brought retribution down on the farmers and villagers of the neighbourhood who had had nothing at all to do with the killing of Germans. Nice people the Communists, they also sabotaged France's efforts, minimal though they were, before the fall of France and then attempted to take over the Prefecture in Paris after the German's fled and before De Gaulle and the Americans entered.

Rob

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