The Peanut-Butter Caper
Punishment or the Peanut Butter Caper !
It was late in the summer of 1941; World War II was raging across Europe in full force. Most of the schools were closed. Life according to Dad 'sucked'. People in the big cities were panicking.The stores were empty and food was scarce. Everybody seemed to be hungry all the time.
There was very little work for adults let alone teenage boys. All who had work were getting paid daily as no-one knew what would happen by the next day. Would the workplace still be standing or have been reduced to rubble over night?
Shortly before the war started Granddad (Dad's Dad)had been promoted to Post-master and he had moved the whole family to live permanently to their summer home; Orchard Cottage.The name of their home explains it all. It was an old brick house set on a twenty-six acre lot and had been in the family forever; and had been Grandma's inheritance.
Except for the tasty stone hard 'gut ache creating' green apples, the fruit in the orchard was not yet ripe enough to eat. There was the kitchen garden full of summer squash, spinach, and beans etc. All the good for you vegetables a thirteen year old boy didn't particularly wanted to eat (but did because eitheryou ate it or you went hungry).
Dad was absolutely infatuated with airplanes, and as the school was closed, spent most of his time at the airport with, Jancsi and Ferko, his two best mates. (Instead of weeding the veggie garden). The American air force had commandeered this small private countryside airport.The way Dad told his tale it really wasn't much of an airport, just a bumpy overgrown runway with an old Barn converted into a hangar that in normal days had housed half a dozen small airplanes. It had an office and most importantly the top of the line short wave radio set up. All of this belonging to some cousin or other from Grandma's side of the family, as most of the small town did.
The Americans really liked the location of the town as it was only a hundred or so kilometers northwest of Budapest. There was no major industry nor any noticeable landmarks near-by; which made it easier to camouflage most of the area around the airstrip.
Supposedly it had been only a small battalion of soldiers that were staying nearby the airport. Their duties were to receive air-shipments and then to move all the necessary equipment and food stuffs by road to the other battalions scattered throughout the area. The soldiers by now knew Dad and his two side-kicks by now and good-natured put up with the three teenagers being underfoot on a daily bases. The boys wanted nothing more than to see and learn all there was to know about airplanes etc. and to help unloading, schlepping and stacking stuff. (which also gave them a few pennies worth of earnings). At the end of the cargo stacking party the soldiers not only gave the boys some trading valuables for their effort but they also fed them a good meal.
As the story be told, the larger than usual cargo plane lands; the back-end doors get opened, the giant-sized quarter-master named Stan motioned the three boys to get started with the unloading as it had to be done as fast as possible. He himself has to help pull the camouflage screening over the nose-bit that's hanging out of the hangar .
The boys and the unloading soldier crew are sweating as they hurry to pull off all the equipment. Less than 1½ an hour later the last of the crates is piled precariously over to the side.
Stan and the rest of the crew hurriedly readied the plane for take-off. During this time the top-most crate crashed to the ground spilling its five gallon-sized cans of peanut-butter. One blew open spilling some of its great smelling content.
The boys looked around a little worried but their growling stomachs won the battle . Peanuts butter was not something they were familiar with as it was not a staple in Hungary and they had never tasted it before but it sure smelled good enough to eat.
Each of them tried a small little glob on their finger first...hmmm tastes good. They decided that it was worth a bigger scoop next...Oh-oh there was Stan starring at them angrily...and there just was no way of even pretending that they hadn't swiped some...they couldn't swallow the mess in their mouths fast enough and their sorries just sounded like garbelled grunts...
Stan called for one of the soldiers who was in charge of the kitchen. By now the boys were really, really worried. They looked at each other thinking that this might be the last time they saw each other...
The cook lifted the blown can off the ground and motioned for the boys to follow him. He led them to the small camouflage-netted mess tent just by the hangar doors. He motioned for the boys to sit down at cleanly scrubbed table.
Stan had followed them into the mess tent and stood in front of the boys with the most menassing glare. Dad recalls Stan to have been a huge-humongous-armoired-sized man. The rest of the crew that has assembled all around looked as grimy and wrinkled as the boys themselves were. Whereas Stan even after having taken more than his fair share of the unloading still looked all 'militarish' his uniform still looked clean and tidyand crisp. Stan was quite scary actually as he growled at the boys in a deep cutting voice. ".....stealing from the US air force is unacceptable and punishable by a jail term of no less than five years......Do you boys understand the severity of your situation? I'm not quite sure how to handle this". I (Stan)being a fair man who understands that you boys are owed for the heavy work you have done unloading the plane today. Here is what we're going to do. He (Stan) would go finish his job which would take a little more than an hour and if by that time the evidence of the open peanut butter can had disappeared without a trace, he (Stan) would have to accept that there was a mistake made in the counting of the inventory before it was shipped... but only as a favor for work well done today and in the past......" Dad, Jancsi and Ferko were quite taken-a-back by this what seemed to be their lucky break. Even at that, Dad was wondering why Stan had this wicked grin on his face as he left the Mess Tent. Behind them on the table was THE giant can. The cook handed each a big wooden spoon and then left to fetch a big pitcher of water with three mugs also wearing a grin from ear to ear... "You better hurry boys" he said "Stan is not someone you want to mess with especially when you were caught stealing form the US army". It took the boys only ten minutes to figure out the reason for the wicked grins. The first tastes of the Peanut-butter were quite good but a little goes a long way. Thirty minutes into their time they were only half way down the can and they were gagging and already so full they felt they would explode... the cook came by with fresh water to refill their cups. "Hurry now boys you're more than half way passed your time and still half left in the can". The others from the unloading crew had assembled and were trying to cheer the boys on, while shaking their heads saying in their broken Hungarian that they sure should be going to jail, after all stealing food... Stan is gone soft in the head for even suggesting such...
As the story unfolds Dad, Jancsi and Ferko didn't go to jail. They polished off the five gallon vat of peanut butter. All three didn't go back to the airstrip for a while as they were sicker than dogs... They had not told their parents about almost becoming jail-birds. It wasn't for years that Grandma spilled the beans about Stan visiting each of the parents and explaining why and what he had done to scare the be-jeepers out of the teenagers... Naturally each set of parents applauded Stan's tactics.
Even years later Dad, confessed that he would never want to eat anything to do with peanuts ever again.
The war ended. Dad grew up, he met and married Mom they had cutey little me. The revolution drove us out of Hungary. For twelve years in Belgium, there was no such thing available as peanut-butter, as it wasn't a well known substance there either. (Then) We came to Canada August of 1969, the first trip to the grocery store in Midland, what do you see a four foot section of shelves from floor to ceiling full of all the different peanut-butter name brands. Kraft, Jiff.... crunchy, extra crunchy, smooth with chocolate swirls
mixed and whipped with honey...What do you think Dad does? He buys three
different types and forever renames peanut butter as *Punishment * . Dad was so excited about his jars of peanut butter he didn't even help lug-in the many paper sacs of groceries. He headed straight for the kitchen his jars in one arm and a loaf of fresh bread in the other....HMMM...good...
I guess when it's peanut butter one can be a sucker for punishment.............