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Henry L. Lefevre

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Missouri Church Socials
By Henry L. Lefevre
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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When a Fort Wood recruit's mind turns to home cooking and beautiful farm girls, there's always the option of Missouri Church Socials.


The biggest difference between WW II and the fight against terror is that we didn't have a volunteer army during the big one. However, my Combat Engineering Training Battalion had the most modern equipment available as of July 1941. Our Enfield rifles left over from World War I served as reasonable alternatives to weapons of war. At least they were better than the broomsticks used by some Quartermaster training detachments that weren't expected to ever see action.

Most of us pre-war army recruits were brought kicking and screaming into the service. The only thing that made Fort Leonard Wood's basic training bearable was our weekly trips into the Missouri hinterlands where we were guests of honor at weekly Sunday Church Socials.

These glorious events got me out of the barracks, they helped me survive on my $18 per month salary, and saved me from not having SOS pumped out of my stomach on at least one day per week.

Yep. I loved those church socials. Their home baked pies ranked especially high on my menu. They were fabulous alternatives to those overcooked pastries supplied by our grumpy old army cooks. As a consequence, I always hit the desert side of the church-social table before spoiling my appetite on their fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

I seldom strayed from that one table. A large slice of peach pie a la mode, plus a larger slice of mince pie with raisin sauce, toped off with an oversized strawberry sundae would often suffice. However, should I be especially hungry, seconds all around plus two slices of German thirteen-layer cake usually filled the bill. Of course, I didn't have any ordinary appetite. I had to store up enough gourmet food to last me until the next Sunday social, and that was a good six days away.

Church socials were great. They didn't involve pushups, there were no sergeants around, and they gave us a chance to flirt with a bevy of "innocent" girls fresh from their farms. It was nice to mingle with unmarried women who had never had hot flashes. These church extravaganzas were especially beneficial to those of us who could stay awake through two-hour sermons.

There were no churches within many miles of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Therefore, we were limited to two choices. We could go to the stuffy church chapel or we could pile into an army 4x4 and endure the bumpy ride into a far-a-way farm town church. Many rural boys had already been drafted. That's why many rural communities welcomed GI trainees like they would their own sons.

I favored the bumpy ride in the 4x4 truck. The distant destination provided a distinct change in environment. Then, after the service, we would invariably become guests at a Church Social with food that was far superior to plain army chow.

Before the trips, we received extensive suggestions from chaplains on how to stay pure. We also had briefings on the outstanding accuracy of the average Missouri farmer wielding a shotgun.

Catching diseases that started with V and ended with D was frowned upon by the highest military authorities. That was especially true while in basic training. Sustained illness meant dropping back at least one training cycle and possibly more. The brass wanted to reserve our limited supply of bunk pace for the vigorous, vigilant, and healthy.

We recruits were all eager to savor the heralded Missouri cooking. Average home cooking was definitely better than the products of our own private mess sergeant. For us recruits, the only serious drawback to church socials was having a military chaplain around to monitor our moves.

The biggest disadvantage that the recruits faced was that they had no reliable information about the local girls. This, however, was quickly resolved. The pre-teen kids in the parish were always helpful with relatively accurate information. Tidbits supplied by those who had already staked out the territory also helped.

One good thing about the chaplains was that they did let us mingle. Their one steadfast rule was that we had to catch the bus when it was scheduled to depart. Even chaplains forbade going AWOL. After all, they were officers and gentlemen. They were not allowed to ignore regulations.

Oh yes, there was one additional rule they imposed on us recruits. They did not allow any of us to proposition the locals on Sunday. Those able to hitchhike to those farm towns on Saturday, however, didn't have that limitation

On our ride back to camp, we had one major problem. The truck drivers refused to slow down over bumps even though they knew our stomachs didn't want to be jostled. C'est la vie. Life's never perfect.

The End
 

       Web Site: Goose Droppings

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Reviewed by Michael Guy 10/17/2007
Well, on this one, I'd say that if you had to endure a two-hour sermon on Sunday from a preacher (perhaps, Methodist?) then you most likely deserved all those Sunday supper treats! I supposed the idea was, they were thinking you'd end up in combat soon anyway, so give 'em the best while they were still alive, no?


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