Radio Station VU2ZP

Ex-CBI Roundup
July 1952 Issue

by Mr. Gene Sayet

Permit me, if I may, to straighten out the story, at least as far as "Humidity House" was concerned: First of all, who could have been at VU2ZV and not write a whole book about Mack Fuller? One incident that everyone will recall. Mack was a lost soul until he had his coffee in the morning. And, since he opened the station at 6 a.m., we got him a bearer, Nuru, to be there and prepare the Java. Well, one day Nuru doesn't show.

Mack gets up, and starts the morning program. After about ten minutes, his voice sounding like spiked shoes trodding heavily on a gravel pit, he says over the air: "Look, men, I'm just no good in the morning without my coffee!" And with that he closes down and trots off to the mess hall. About 45 minutes later, voice strong and clear, Mack opens the microphone and chirps: "Hmm! I didn't realize that it was such a long walk to the mess hall!" And there was the time poor old Mack got hit in the head by our antenna pole. This was a 35-foot steel pole which, with its mate, held our receiving antenna high above the roof of our broadcasting basha. Well, the monsoons had rotted the guy ropes that held the poles, and one day as Mack headed for the "Little house by the side of the road," Sears-Roebuck catalogue in hand, the last of the guys snapped, and the pole came down. It hit Mack right smack in the middle of the head. He was rushed to the infirmary where they treated him, and for months afterward he went around with a big gauze pad perched over the sore spot. While still recovering from this blow, he got bit on the upper lip by a spider. The lip puffed up, making him look like George Arliss. Poor suffering Mack! And what was his comment as we all sat there looking at him, puffed lip and battered skull? Said Fuller: "You know, I got two strikes on me. I better get the hell out of here!"

And how can anyone overlook the rest of the wild gang we had there? Pfc James Edward Aloysius McCaffery, Jr., the world's worst announcer. Also fondly known as "78 McCaffery," because he invariably signed off the station by playing the National Anthem at 78 RPM instead of the correct 33 and 1/3.

And how about "Woody" Hinderer, Ferg Stephens, Alan Maxwell...the boys who eventually replaced the original crew? And no story of VU2ZV is complete without mentioning the unofficial members of our "family." The bunch who used to hang around and make life merry with their antics. First there was "Big Nick" Zelos...whose hobby was cooking, one who chose us as his victims. Such delicacies Nick used to bring us...powdered eggs and ketchup, "C" Ration dumplings, Spam with Vienna Sausage sauce! One nice thing about Nick's food though-it gave you heartburn immediately after you ate it, instead of 3 o'clock in the morning.

There was "Lucky" Kohler of the Motor Pool. He was the one who started the fad of white wall tires on the Jeeps. And Vinnie Holtz, who did his "Jimmy Savo" act in the shows that we used to put on for the outfits in the area. Vinnie's primary purpose at VU2ZV was to keep his eye on Willfred J. Purcell ... the famous Will Purcell of the 51st Air Service Group. This is the guy who used to steal the free doughnuts from the Red Cross. He was the only guy in Assam who didn't know that the doughnuts at the Stormy Weather Red Cross Club were on the house, and he gladly "fixed the boys up" with "free" doughnuts whenever we dropped in. King-sized laughs watching him put on the innocent act, after copping a half-dozen doughnuts for his friends.

And I must mention Burt Astor of Special Services. He's the guy who was host at the most fabulous party ever had in the Assam Valley. It lasted about one month...until the boys were finally reduced to drinking water. Then it ended. (This was the evening that Mack Fuller reached for a glass of water to use as a chaser, and picked up a glass full of straight alcohol instead. He took a gulp, spewed it out, and was shot down over Mohanbari 12 minutes later!).

There were so many other guys, and incidents that a book could be written about it. And the ending would be that it still is a wonder to me how most of these fabulous characters kept their sense of humor through the monsoons, the insects, and the lousy jokes.

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