Friday, August 3, 2012

Uncle Stanley at a Family Barbeque

In Memory of Stanley Rosenberg

So, Kaila, did I ever tell you
About the time I almost met
Ingrid Bergman?
Yes, Stan, but you can tell it again.
We were stationed in ______ during the war.
There was a USO show starring Jack Benny and
Ingrid Bergman.
(She wasn’t a big star yet, so most of the boys really just went to see
Jack Benny.)
Who else was performing in that show?
Martha Tilton and Larry Adler.
Right, right, but no one really went to see a big band singer and a harmonica player.
Anyway, after the show we went to get the stars’ autographs.
(Each of them autographed the corner of a German mark for me, and years later I sent the mark to Ingrid Bergman.  She never responded.  I wonder if she ever got it?)
I went with my friend, Sergeant Liff, who spoke some Swedish.
“Excuse me, Ms. Bergman, do you speak Swedish?”
That was his opening line.  He knew she spoke Swedish.
“Well, of course, Sergeant, I was born there.”
And they started speaking Swedish.
It sounded like this:
Ishki biddi hede, burda bede…
They spoke for a while.  Then Sergeant Liff turned to me, and said,
“Ms. Bergman, this is my friend…”
And do you know what happened?  Jack Benny prevented me from being introduced.
He came out of nowhere.
“Come, Ingrid, we have another show to do!”
And I never got to speak to Ingrid Bergman.
I was mad at Jack Benny for weeks.


Kaila, did I ever tell you about why I don’t like
Well, we were stationed in _______,
On this man’s farm.  It was pretty cold over there, and we used up the farmer’s supply
Of firewood.  We got into trouble for that one.
We had to chop him a whole winter’s supply of firewood after that.
The farmer had a large flock of geese, which were pretty tame.
The gander, on the other hand, was a monster.
He was huge, overprotective, and he hissed.
We were generally armed with rifles, and
My first instinct was to shoot the gander. 
He was really scary.
But then I thought of the firewood,
And I had no way of getting the farmer a replacement gander.
Any time I passed by the flock of geese,
The gander was there to chase me away.
He was a mean old gander.
Well, he used to chase me pretty far.
A few times he chased me up a hill.
Until one day an army buddy of mine said,
“Rosie, why are you running away from the stupid gander?”
“Well, I can’t shoot him.  So I run.”
My buddy burst out laughing.
“Why don’t you just swing the rifle butt at it?  That’s what everyone else does.”
Somehow that had never occurred to me.
And that’s why I don’t like geese.


Kaila, you know about “shoot ‘im, Rosie,” right?
Well, we were transporting a Nazi prisoner for questioning.
 It was just the two of us in the truck with him.
He was unarmed and frightened.
We were driving along, when suddenly, my friend hit the brakes.
He leaned over to me, and said,
“Shoot ‘im, Rosie.”
“Whaddaya mean, shoot him? And stop talking like that.
You’ll frighten the prisoner to death!”
“Aw, he doesn’t speak English.  Go ahead, shoot ‘im!”
“You’re crazy.
We’ll be court-martialed.”
“Don’t worry.  We’ll say he escaped and we had to shoot him down.”
“I can’t shoot him.”
“Come on, Rosie, you’re Jewish, aren’t you?”
“After what his people did to your people, you have to shoot him.”
“I can’t shoot him, Joe. I’ll feel like a Nazi then.”

Well, we delivered the Nazi prisoner alive.
I couldn’t figure Joe out until later. 
It turns out that Joe had gone to liberate one of the camps the day before. 
I never saw the horror of the camps.

             --Kaila Iserovich


  1. I enjoyed this. Powerful.

  2. I wish I had something more eloquent to say, but, wow, I really liked this. It made me think of my Zaidy, who was a Navy baker in the Pacific. He didn't talk much, and I wish I'd gotten a chance to hear and record his stories for posterity.