Posted by: Jim E | March 30, 2014

Spring…WWII…Beneath the Southern Cross…Bougainvillea And The USS Cinnamon…

It’s about noon, a couple of days ago…I am in a very normal spot for me…sitting in our GMC Yukon, in a parking lot, in Little Rock, Arkansas…now it could be any parking Yukon 2007lot…normally I am waiting for Judie while she is shopping and since I am not a great companion when shopping…you know…for me shopping is a bit different…I know what I want before I go in, I go in…I get the item or items and walk out…but shopping to Judie is a bit different…she may not need anything so she is just looking…and without going into detail…you get the point…

So I sit…and wait…I believe, this being our 7th year in Little Rock, I am no doubt well known on the various parking lot cameras throughout West Little Rock, where we live…don’t get me wrong, I prefer it this way…no amount of encouragement or threat can get me in most stores on most days…without needing something, that is…so I sit and enjoy the weather, read, think, plan…and of course make my lists…another story, but a “rich” one I assure you…

Now where was I…Oh yes, it was about noon…this time I was waiting for Judie while she was in the dentists chair…I need room, air, freedom, so, far out in the large parking lot, away from all cars…I was reading, thinking and of course going over my lists…it is late Dennis the Menace and JoeyMarch and it should be in the 70’s and more by this time…but this year, we are a bit behind, like most of the country…but the flowers, bushes and trees are blooming…no wind, the sun was shining and it was beautiful…I had my arm out the window of the Yukon…the sun shining down…just a Bluebird day (as my Mother used to call them)…just perfect…the sun’s angle is high enough to make you warm all over…just a wonderful day…so in this setting, my mind wandered…just thinking…like Dennis the Menace said to his friend Joey, as Dennis was on his back looking up at the sky…Joey had evidently asked him what he was doing…Dennis replied, “Just watching the world go by, Joey…just watching the world go by.”

Not only was it warm but the air had a wonderful smell…it smelled of Spring…the grass, the trees budding, the flowers…heavens it was a grand day…perfect blue sky…and wait, all Bougainvilleathis reminded me of something…Oh, ya…I remembered…I was immediately in Tucson, Arizona…at Judie’s Mom and Dad’s…back in the 80’s maybe…we used to go and visit from time to time…the sun was hot but not too hot…like today, I said…yup, like today…sky blue, light wind…sitting on their deck smelling the blooming orange tree and grapefruit tree…and warm, it was warm…the aroma was wonderful…and next to the deck was Bougainvillea…flowering as it climbed up the arbor…beautiful pink blossoms…and that triggered a thought or two…

Bougainville…WWII…my Dad…Milne Bay, Manus Island and the Admiralty Islands…New Guinea…the Southern Cross…all of that from a parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas…Bougainvillea gets it name from a French explorer Louis Antonie de Bougainville…heavens he has nothing to do with the Bougainvillea except for the plant and flower to be named for him…and the island too…he was the first French explorer to circumnavigate the earth…and they named the flower for him as they were in South America, because that it where the plant was found…and the island, because they were there…Bougainvillea doesn’t even grow there…so much for my mind working…but it Milne Bay, Papua New Guineadoesn’t end there…

My Dad went into the Navy on October 28, 1943, leaving Mom at home with two little boys…my brother Jack, about 5 and me, about 2…after basic training, he shipped out on the USS Cinnamon, a net tender, and left for the South Pacific…via Hawaii and then on to Milne Bay, New Guinea, and Manus in the Admiralty Islands which were near the Solomon Islands, of which Bougainville is one…it was the site of a major battle for the Marines in 1943…he served near New Guinea until the end of the war in 1945…the net tender protected the harbors from submarines and other attacks by surface ships…all that from the parking lot in Little Rock…

The Southern CrossAnd the Southern Cross, not something we in the Northern Hemisphere know much about…but in the Southern Hemisphere, right there in the night sky is the Southern Cross…it is also on the flag of Australia and New Zealand…it’s much like Orion here in the Northern sky at night…not large but easily seen…I used to scan the skies at night as a kid looking for the Big Dipper and how the Little Dipper “pours” into the Big Dipper…and the North Star is part of the Big Dipper…and that cluster of stars so close together…Oh, you bet, that is Orion…so it is with the Southern Cross…it stands out in the night sky…and you can navigate by it…my Dad saw it, he was there, near Australia…so many years ago…

Not quite all…if you ever saw “South Pacific” or heard the music…by Rogers and Hammerstein…the movie and play were set on a South Pacific island…in the movie Mitzi Gaynor played Nellie Forbush…she was from Little Rock, Arkansas, and had fallen in love with a Victory At Searich French plantation owner…and Richard Rogers wrote the music but he was also famous for other music…for example the “Victory At Sea” series from the 50’s… …it was on TV at the time and I have it on DVD now…I also have the music on CD…I will add it here…it was great music to go along with the naval history of WWII…one of his songs in that series is for the episode called “Beneath the Southern Cross”…it depicts the battleships in convoy and the loneliness of the sailors in the South Pacific during WWII…this tango melody is also used in “No Other Love Have I” from the musical “Me and Juliet”…and was itself a popular song in the 1950’s…

So how was the trip…I had a great time…a March day, 2014…in Little Rock, Arkansas…join me sometime…just grab a piece of parking lot on a wonderful sunny day in your area…just you and your own history…with your interests…all the rest is free…have a great Spring…

 

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Responses

  1. Great stuff Jim! So nice to see the news from Small Rock (as Nellie Forbush’s lover used to call it) and you! I too have the Victory at Sea suite somewhere, and enjoyed that series…

    Best,

    —pete

    • Pete…Yup, and I don’t even think Nellie is remembered in any special way here in Arkansas…maybe she is but I haven’t heard of it…heavens, they made a national park out of Little Rock Central High School, because of the “Little Rock Nine”…those students who integrated the school in 1957 or so…you may remember…President Eisenhower intervened, what with the 101st airborne, Federal Marshals, jeering crowds etc…Governor Orval Faubus finally shut down the schools for a year, what a guy…some down here still think he was a hero, they don’t think he was right, but he stood up to Washington, and that’s enough for them…but not a word about Nellie Forbush…what’s the deal…I still remember going to see “South Pacific” downtown Minneapolis at a theater on 7th street I believe…it was more of a “high end” theater, i.e. you wouldn’t see a John Wayne movie there, if you know what I mean…maybe with Denny and Janet Miller, don’t remember for sure…I didn’t “date” much in those days, he would have been my only “wheels” so to speak…hey, I didn’t “date” even in the many, many days that followed, but Judie tracked me down (I think that’s the way it was)…and now, I can only afford Mac and Don’s but it is a great substitute, maybe even coffee and a breakfast sandwich this morning…anyway, enjoy your spring…thanks for your comment…Jim E


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