Vignettes of life in
Edition of November 9, 2008
vignettes of life in Eritrea from email exhanges with 'alumni'.
An informal 'oral history' project, capturing for all time (hopefully)
'the way it was'.
Dick Lillienthal, Aug. 4. 2007
I decided I had been there too long when one day I was walking
through a herd of sheep to get to the theatre ticket office and thought
that was perfectly normal. First day in New York it
took me five minutes to get up courage to cross a street where
there was no light. Old ladies with canes were hobbling across.
By Joe Nix
This brings to my mind that early in my tour I was walking
towards downtown and donkey drawn wooden carts starting passing me
with rather 'desert' demeanor drivers on each, carts piled up with I
believe goat skins. It was shortly after daybreak so obviously their
had started in the night.
Ed Norris on the 'Massawa Walks' (my edit of his emails of August 2007)
'The Massawa walks' explanation. Probably in 1953 and overnight to
avoid the day heat. Walkers
had armed escorts and plenty of company on the way. "We had
telephone reports fron all towns along the way and they were broadcast
over WGN. The second walk had a lot more publicity than the first. And
was won by Nichola Bervinchak
from Minersville, PA. There
were prizes from: the Oasis club and probably top 3 club, plus the
PX and somehow a cash prize was gathered up. Not sure where that
came from. There was also
a third walk. They tried to make it an annual event. Several people
finished the 3rd one but not in a great time. A person can
walk 6 miles an hour at fast walk. it was 88 miles to
Massawa so seems like 16-20 hours would be a good time. I
know we discussed Bervinchek's time and agreed it was very quick and
unlikely to be broken. ".
Recap of Nov 7, '08 emails re the Gazelle photo of the driveway into
the receiver site.
> Bob Hart wrote: Fantistic picture! Heretofore the scene has
only been etched in my memory. How many remember the
to/from work over the pot holed dirt road?
> Bill Cross wrote: I sure do remember that ride.
Actually it was kind of fun, when you think back on it.
start singing a song and pretty soon everyone was singing the
ole standbys: "Around her neck she wore a yellow ribbon,
in old shanty town," and one I never knew the name of, but I knew
the words: "Her mother never told her, the things that a
girl should know, etc. etc. etc."
> Bob Hart wrote: Bill, perhaps your group in Asmara
(1950-1953) was more lively than mine (1953-1955). I don't
on the bus ride to/from work; I only remember those deep ruts and
pot holes in the dirt road that the Italian driver weaved around
trying to avoid. The ride was a constant back and
forth motion, but
when the bus hit a deep pot hole (the driver couldn't avoid them
all) 50 or so bodies simultaneously bolted out of their
think most of the time I tried to sleep on the bus, if I
least one of the years during the locust flyover season
they had to
take us to work in trucks. The bus could not gain traction
running over the crushed bodies of the grasshoppers covering the
was some experience!
For you guys that didn't get a copy of these Google
Earth photos. With the help of Ed Norris and Jerry Pry I was able
to trace out the bus
route to the best of "their" knowledge. Of the hundreds of times
that trip I couldn't remember a thing about it.
And a current view of the old Receiver site (Tract C).
From Don Papouschek
53-55 The buses were being
used when we got there. The Italian cooks were
replaced with army staff about '54 and they keep the Italians on in
Bus driver was one of them. I remember us yelling "shift
gears". They knew 1st but they were not sure about
2nd and 3rd.
>FIFTY! I remember 20 - 25, but never fifty. I 1949 it was usually a
six-by, rather than a bus, or does my memory fail me?
>Ray Crosby 49 - 52
From Dick Lilienthal
Yeah, it grew fast in your time and
even faster later on. When did they put the 2nd floor on the operations
building? That was before my time.By early 52 there were 300 on
the 8604 roster but less than half I
would say were in operations. I don't think there were more than
20 or 25 on a shift. The bus was never very full.
Perhaps a few more on
days. By late 53 there were "tents" (canvas
covered) behind all the barracks and the barracks were filling up.
From Dick Lilienthal
Wow, I had forgotten about the
cleaning" with the gasoline smell.
A number of us had East African Shillings mounted on our Ronson
lighters. I lost mine somewhere. Didn't Judd (from the Oasis)
have a laundry running on the side as well? He was a "Flat Earth"
think, or at least like to argue such.
Hi: Was in Asmara from 48 to 50..Remember Judd who worked at the Oasis
Club..He was our house boy before he went to the club. He was replaced
by Kelly who also was a good hard worker. Remember going to an
Abyssinian Coptic Christening party at Kelly's home..Also
remember the bus ride to the receiver site....Also the 3 hole latrine
with the hyenas running around the antenna field...Great
memories....Regards to all. Al Kucinski. Radio Marina 48-50.
From Walt Wolff
When I was clearing post in June '54, I saw Judd at the Oasis Club and
said my goodbyes. He told me at the time he was leaving shortly
for New Delhi to study to become a medical doctor. Also, he went to
explain that he had made his business arrangements for while he was
gone by turning the operation of the laundry/dry cleaning over to a
brother, 2 (or maybe it was 3) farms to other family members, etc. He
was the family patriarch now and was making sure all were taken care of
during his absence. If Judd made it through school he would have
returned about the time the communists took over the govenment and then
the long revolution. I wonder if he survived any or all of that.
From gerry Pry
your memory is fine. It definitly was a six by then.
I believe that that the second floor went on in 1950, but posibly 51. I
started to work as a tape puller and reader, but I did not like that
job, so I went to the listerner in the litle room to the right.
When did they build the lunch room? I remember them bringing the food
out and eating on the job
Allen Elgin, 49-51. Hi
all. Decided to add my two
cents. The bus was in operation from time to time and one of the
main drivers was an Italian by the name of Baldini. He also took
a lot of dry cleaning which
always came back clean but smelling of gasoline. He also was the
one who would take our brass belt buckles, chrome plate them and
engrave them with an
image of one of the towers, our initials and years at Kagnew. Had
mine made before the Korean war resulted in all of us being
extended for one year
beyond our enlistment. I still have it and wear it from time to
Mostly, we rode to work in a 6x and I remember going out on the mid
shift and even with those old army overcoats on, it was a chilly
ride. Was good reading all the good old remembrances.
Hi Dick and all you other guys,
Wasn't Judd the bartender at the Oasis Club? Have a picture of
him at the club. Also just remembered the name of the Italian who
more or less ran the mess hall. His name was Franco. Never
knew his last
name. Loren Northrup was the mess sergeant but didn't see him too
often at the mess hall. Maybe he was in back supervising the
was always out front at the serving line. Have a picture of him
Yes the gas smell. I had an
old shirt that was cleaned on the way out. Sure it still must
have a trace of gas smell in it.
I remember talking to one of the bus drivers and told us he used to run
liquor for the mob between NY and Philly. He got caught and was
deported and that is how he ended up in Eritrea. That could have
Have my Ronson or Zippo with the tower and Asmara on it.
Have to look it up.
Wonder if Abraham Gary Salasie (worked in the PX) is still
wearing my dark blue suit I left him? Seem to remember his wife
died of an infected
What was the name of the girl that sang with the "Boys" band that
played at the club?
From Allen Elgin
The band as I recall was Luana and The Boys and of course she was
Luana. Have pictures of that band and Luana singing. They
used to perform at the Macambo and once in a while, Ray Coyngham would
get up and sing.
His favorite was "Blue Moon". Ray was at Ft Devens during one of
my tours there and I believe he retired at Devens. Was active in
theater group. However, he passed away several years ago.
All these e-mails going back and forth sure does stir up a lot of
memories as well as
From Ed Norris
Some more memories: Riding the 6x6 down the hill going to ops (or
returning) and approaching the intersection with the main drag.
Everyone on the truck yelling "Yehudi" at the Arab hauling cart drivers
getting pelted with cactus fruit, rocks or whatever they had
handy in return. Doing that today would get us killed. Was just "crazy"
Baldini was a buddy of mine for all 3 tours in Asmara and he supplied
me with old Italian contour maps of the entire country. I found some
really great hunting spots with them. Allen, I seem to remember someone
playing trumpet at the Macombo also? How about Garmus's cartoons?
remember them? Anglietti sound asleep taking code? Or him hearing
bells? How about the horseshoe pits during day lunch break? How about
every dog on Radio
Marina appearing with a tie on the morning we were required to start
wearing them? and so many more.... We are a very unique group.
Allen, I seem to remember someone playing trumpet at the Macombo also?
Eddy Reinert? He died not long ago. Photos from Okie.
from Allen Elgin
Thanks for sending those pictures, Dick. Ed Reinert, Gene Price,
Don Jones and I rented a house on Via Casati for about six
months. Good place to have parties. Ed really played a mean
horn. I fianlly
located him just about 50 minutes from where I live here in
Florida. Attempted to contact him by phone and finally had a call
from his former
daughter-in-law advising that he was at that time in a nursing home in
Titusville, FL. Before I had an opportunity to go visit him, got
word from one of the guys; maybe it was Okie that Ed had passed away.
In any event, it was great seeing those shots.
A fews more memorys:
The smell of dung burning on the cool evenings on the way to the
receiver site in a 6 x 6 and the men doing their morning business on
the side of the hill on the way to work.
from Walt Wolff
In '49 and '50 we used 6X6's going to work. I still remember
riding in the truck during the riots in Mar '50 and, in the morning, we
could see several bodies in the streets.
Also 2nd floor of operations was not added until at least after xmas
time '50. So, 1951? Remember the 3 hole latrine behnd the Ops
Bldg? I was working w/ "Aggie" Aglieti when he was listening to
Church chimes during the Xmas Holidays when he went out to the latrine
about 0300. ?????
from Walt Wolff
Baldini, now I remember the driver's name. He had been to the
states and spoke reasonable English. I don't know his history,
several Itals who had been members of the Fascist Party and were
expelled from U.S. and were not welcome back to Italy.
The lunch room/snack bar must have been added in late '52 or '53,
I do remember it was open during the eclipse: 90% or so in Eritrea and
100% in the Sudan. That must have been in '53 because I was then
working days. Eclipse story: One of the guys, can't remember who,
went out to the snack bar where he agitated one of the workers,
who got upset and made a mistake. Whoever it was, told the
mistake maker, "You piss me off! Just for that, I'm going to turn
the sun off". He left the snack bar. Shortly after he
returned, seemingly over being angry. Suddently It started to get dark
and it was only early afternoon. The Eritreans started to get
frantic and begged him to go back and turn the sun back on.
Which he did. What did they know - Americans could do anything..
Like Jerry Pry, I didn't like Auto Morse and got transferred to Manual
Morse. My excuse, if I remember right, was that I wore glasses
and said reading the tapes was causing headaches, or giving me eye
problems, or whatever.
From Dick Lillienthal
The snack bar was in operation when Chuck and I got there in early
'52. The Eritrean in the snack bar was Toldai (John).
by Joe Nix firstname.lastname@example.org
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