Tag Archives: Martial B. Casteix

Cherry Bounce Has Arrived!

After months of experimentation, I arrived at a recipe for Cherry Bounce I am most happy with. The last experiment finally reached three months maturity—well—one week short of three months; close enough for gubmint work, yes? So I acquired some cheesecloth, strained it, and bottled it. Oh, and I also tasted it.

YUM! It is fantastic!

I emptied the last dregs of a tequila bottle I had and put the strained final product in there. That required a quickie label. This is probably not the final version, but it will do for now.

As you can see from the image, I got about 350ml out of that last test batch. Not to worry, however, a “production” batch is currently maturing in the darkened confines of my kitchen pantry. That one used a whole 750ml bottle of Sazerac Rye, so I expect it to yield as much or a bit more, depending on how much juice the cherries throw off. It is, however, only a month into the maturing process. It should be good and ready for Thanksgiving. I would make more for Christmas gifts, but cherries are evidently out of season.

The label says it is “MB’s Cherry Bounce” made from a secret family recipe handed down from generation to generation—all lies—well, mostly lies. MB did inspire this, but since I could not find his original recipe, I had to experiment. And the recipe isn’t really secret. It is attached below for anyone who wants to make a batch of their own.

MB’s Cherry Bounce Recipe

2 lbs ripe sweet Bing cherries

1 cup Turbinado sugar

juice of one lemon

1 750ml bottle Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Remove the pits from the cherries. In a saucepan, add cherries, sugar, and lemon juice and set aside to allow the cherries to throw off some juice (at least 30 minutes or so). Simmer and stir over low heat for 20-30 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the cherries are just about to begin breaking up. I like to keep them whole for later use. You should have then substantially more juice that cherries, whereas before there was very little juice with the whole cherries. Let cool and add rye whiskey. Mix well and store in a clean covered canning jar in a cool dark place for three months. Check often to be sure there is no fermentation that would build up pressure in the jars. (There shouldn’t be with the rye whiskey in it.) Once “mature” strain through cheesecloth and bottle. Save strained cherries and refrigerate for other uses like over ice cream or as an ingredient in cocktails, or maybe make some jam with them. I don’t know how long these will keep refrigerated. You may want to freeze some in small batches to be thawed and used as needed.

The finished Cherry Bounce can be sipped straight or as an ingredient in a cocktail. See my recipe for MB’s Cherry Bounce Old Fashioned Cocktail here.

Cheers!

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More About Waveland

I have written about Waveland, Mississippi on more than one occasion. (A few such tales here, here, and here.) That is because the place holds so many memories from my childhood. During the summers, we generally went over to our little cottage in Waveland every other weekend. As soon as MB closed the office Friday night, we hit the road and did not return until Sunday night, usually quite late. MB would close the office in the summer for a two-week vacation, and guess where we went? Yeah, you guessed it.

I was poking around Google Maps, looking to see what the old hood looked like these days. It has changed a lot! Most of the houses there now were not there then and the area was more wooded. But it still brought back memories. The screen grab above shows the neighborhood. The big red square was twenty acres and originally belonged to my aunt and uncle (Margie and Son “Boo” Manard). The smaller yellow square was our property. The blue roof is the original house built by MB and his friend, Pete. Back then the yard was full of pine trees. Hurricane Camille eliminated most of those. None of the other houses inside the red square were there, and only two of those across the street existed then.

In Waveland, we fished, swam, crabbed, floundered at night, ate hamburgers, soft-serve ice cream after swims, and cold watermelons, and once watched Boo chase Jim, the horse, around his twenty acres. The kids drank pop rouge and Nehis, and the adults consumed adult beverages, mostly cold Falstaff or Jax beer (even Regal before they closed the brewery) all while exchanging gossip or playing cards. On “party nights” (when we had guests with us) they brought out the “big guns,” which was usually Seagrams 7 and 7Up or Coke. And that could lead to trouble, like the night Maxine D. fell in the bathtub and couldn’t get out. I guess she was drunk enough she didn’t hurt anything. It took three men to get her out. The fact that all four were snockered and giggling like it was the funniest thing they had ever experienced tended to hamper the operation.

When not engaged in the listed activities above, we boys were roaming the woods with our BB guns and sometimes getting into our own form of trouble but having a wonderful time. We hung out at a place near the back of the property we called “Fairyland.” (Yellow circle in the image above.) It was actually used as a dump by some of the locals, including us before we got environmentally conscious and started hauling it to the town dump. No garbage collection back then. There were a bunch of small ponds back there and lots of crawfish chimneys. It looked like a fairyland to us. I’m not sure I ever went to Waveland that I didn’t visit Fairyland.

Back behind Fairyland was a small creek that drained toward the Gulf and went under the railroad tracks. The culvert under the tracks was big enough we could stand up inside with only the need to stoop over a little. That culvert was the scene of the famous “you’ll shoot your eye out” gunfight Buck and I had—and I nearly shot his eye out. (The smaller red circle in the image above.)

No AC. in the “old days.” I slept under a huge window fan that sucked the air out of the house and across me in my bunk bed. The vacuum created in the house was filled by the cool night air. What a life!

There was no town water then, either. Our little piece of heaven was a one-acre plot carved out of the corner of a twenty-acre square originally owned by my uncle. He had an artesian well over near his house, which was on the opposite corner of that twenty acres. MB drilled a shallow well on our property, but the water tasted like rotten eggs. He decided maybe stringing all that pipe from the other corner of twenty acres wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Thereafter, we drew our water from an artesian well.

They sold the place in 1973. I wanted to buy it, but I was fresh out of the Air Force and, at the time, unemployed. Waveland is gone. My main regret is my kids didn’t get a chance to experience something like Waveland when they were young.

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Pete

Like most of us, my dad had a best friend. His name was Pete. They grew up together in the neighborhood along Orleans Avenue near City Park. Pete’s folks owned a barroom at the end of Orleans and North St Patrick where Orleans meets Marconi Drive. The building is still there and now occupied by an insurance agency. After the Casteix family decamped from the pharmacy/residence on Bourbon Street (the place where MB tried to launch the squeezin’s from his Cherry Bounce from the attic across Bourbon Street—and failed), they moved to a house on Orleans. This was in the thirties. Since neither MB nor Pete is here to ask, I assume that is when they met.

Both played baseball, and Pete went semi-pro for a while. MB was a semi-pro boxer in the featherweight division. Then came World War II, and MB went to the European Theater of Operations, and Pete went to the Pacific. They reconnected after the war and remained fast friends for the rest of their lives.

Pete was a very interesting fellow. He worked for the Post Office and did contracting jobs on the side. He had a 1957 Chevy BelAir (Sea Foam Green, of course) and a 1957 Chevy former telephone service truck for his contracting jobs. More on that later.

MB and Pete almost never bought anything new. They were “tight” and bought (or scrounged) used and/or fabricated what they needed. MB did buy a new boat, but he had mismatched scrounged motors on the back, and not even the same brand. One was an Evenrude and the other a Johnson. While the stuff they “manufactured” might have been functional, it wasn’t pretty, but “pretty” wasn’t their objective. This was definitely a case of function over form.

Pete helped MB build our “summer house” in Waveland. This was back in the mid-1950s.  In fact, Pete had a bedroom designated as his own in that house. Most of the materials came from a house Pete tore down. They stacked all the salvaged windows onto a trailer to haul them from New Orleans to Waveland, Mississippi. Since it was an “MB and Pete enterprise,” the trailer was homemade (function over form, remember?). It carried stuff well enough, but lacked that final je ne sais quoi—in this case, shocks. In other words, it bounced a lot. Also, notice that I said they “stacked” the windows. They were not stood on end or edge as they should have been but laid flat for traveling. Mistake. After the hour and a half drive over Highway 90 to Waveland with all that trailer bouncing, there was not an unbroken pane of glass left in the windows. They had to re-glaze them all.

MB and Pete did all the electrical wiring in the house themselves (neither was a licensed electrician as we shall see in a moment) and finished the job late in the evening about suppertime. We were staying in my uncle’s house nearby, so they ate supper and returned to the construction job after dark to test their wiring. Yeah, you guessed it. The switch in the kitchen turned on the front bedroom lights. The switch in the bedroom turned on the bathroom lights before it blew all the fuses, throwing them into the pitch black Waveland night. MB tried to walk through the walls between the studs to get to the fuse box and forgot they had put spreaders between the studs that day. One caught him right across the bridge of his nose.

Pete was a consummate scrounger and always looking for some “free prize” in life. Other’s cast-offs might be his diamond-in-the-rough. After a weekend in Waveland, we had to carry our garbage to the dump—no county garbage collection back then. Pete always managed to find some “prize” at the dump, and the standing joke was we always came back with more than we hauled to the dump.

Pete’s garage was a tinker/scrounger’s dream and full of just about anything you could think of that he had accumulated from various scrounging expeditions—like to the Waveland dump. That ’57 Chevy BelAir was in there after he moved up to a newer model. It had a cracked block, and I have no idea why he kept it. He lived on a busy street, and every time he left the garage doors open for any reason, someone would stop and ask about buying that ’57 Chevy. He also kept that ‘57 truck, but it was in the yard. When Pete’s wife passed away in the eighties, he offered both the truck and the car to me. Unfortunately, I had no money to restore them. I managed to get the truck and store it in a garage belonging to my wife’s family. My expectation was one day I would find the resources to restore it. Never did. Sold it. It was a unique truck with that telephone company box on the back instead of a pickup bed and probably more desirable than a regular ’57 pickup. The car went to Pete’s grandson, and I have no idea what happened to it after that.

Pete was someone you just enjoyed being around. He had a great sense of humor and was a perfect partner for MB in their many adventures. Pete passed away some ten years or so before MB. I know he missed him a lot.

NOTE: That image of Pete was in MB’s wartime photo album. It looks like he is wearing a military khaki uniform, so I think this was taken during the war when Pete was overseas, probably in India.

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The MB Cherry Bounce Cocktail

I said I would be experimenting with the Cherry Bounce in a cocktail. And it came out great. It is quite simple to make if you have some of my Cherry Bounce. What? You don’t have any? Sorry ’bout that.

The cocktail is named after my father and his “famous” Cherry Bounce. He liked to drink Old Fashioneds, so the MB Cherry Bounce Cocktail is based on an Old Fashioned, which, BTW, is the “hot” retro cocktail right now. Mine is a bit different.

Ingredients:

1.5-2 ozs Sazerac Rye Whiskey (Yeah, you can use another, but we designed the Sazerac package.)

2 teaspoons Cherry Bounce (Rye Recipe Version)

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

2 dashes Orange Bitters

a few cherries from the saved mash from the Cherry Bounce

Stir with ice in an Old Fashioned glass and add a twist of lemon peel. (The lemon peel is a Sazerac Cocktail thing. It adds a bit of tartness to the drink.)

The cherry flavor comes through and goes well with the rye whiskey. I may do some fine tuning, but I think I have a winner.

 

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Cherry Bounce – Update #3

Some months ago I began an experiment making Cherry Bounce. This was driven by the memory of my father telling stories of making Cherry Bounce when he was a kid. He continued to make it later when I was a child. I don’t recall ever tasting MB’s recipe and, unfortunately, I do not have it to duplicate. So, I was driven to the internet to find something I could use as a guide to making my own. What I found were many different recipes for making Cherry Bounce, some variations of which I used in two previous tests batches. Both came out good and were quite drinkable, but I was just not sure I had achieved “cherry nirvana” yet.

My two previous attempts were quite similar. Both used dried tart cherries (which my wife scoffed at, but that was all I had to work with). One was cooked with Sazerac Rye Whiskey added after, and the other was not cooked and had vodka for the alcohol. After several months stored away “aging” in mason jars, I tasted the two samples. Both were good, but the rye version was much more complex, and the clear winner, in my opinion.

Fresh Bing cherries are now available in the stores, so I decided to try another test with fresh cherries. Most of the “old” recipes called for fresh, tart, wild cherries, and sweet Bings would be a departure—but they were available. We began a third test batch today.

Janis, my spouse and cooking expert, and I reviewed several recipes and made some adjustments we thought might be an improvement. As mentioned, we started out with fresh, sweet, Bing cherries. As in the two previous test batches, I used turbinado sugar rather than refined white sugar. Turbinado has a bit of the raw molasses taste to its flavor and may not add much to the final product, but I like it and well, that’s what I wanted to use. Get over it.

Part of the decision process was how to handle the fresh cherries. I bought a nice cherry pitter from Amazon and pitted all the cherries we used. Since we wanted to save the leftover cherry mash for other uses after we made the Cherry Bounce, I elected to keep the pitted cherries whole rather than chop or just split them. I leaned heavily toward a recipe that called for cooking, reasoning the flavors might be more intense. And since the rye whiskey gave a more complex flavor in my previous tests, I decided to stick with it as the alcohol base.

Cherries pitted in my brand new, fancy-dancy, semi-automatic, cherry pitter, I cooked them down over a low heat with the turbinado sugar and some lemon juice. (The cooked mash tastes absolutely divine!) The Sazerac Rye Whiskey was added to the cooled mash. That has been put away to age.

Now the hard part—waiting!

I will publish the exact recipe once I have determined I have it refined to my satisfaction. Meanwhile, I plan to run another series of tests, using the cherry mash from the original rye test batch and some from this new batch. These tests will be for a new cocktail I have tentatively named “MB’s Cherry Bounce Cocktail.” He loved Old Fashioned Cocktails, and my recipe will be based on an Old Fashioned. More on that once I begin that test, which will probably be today as I celebrate July 4th.

Cheers for now.

 

 

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A Wartime Diary – Part 3

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily began on the night of 9-10 July 1943. The British landed at the southeastern tip of the Island, and the Americans landed to the west of them along Sicily’s southern coast. The landings went off with a few significant problems, mainly the American C-47 transports carrying paratroopers and pulling gliders being misidentified as German by the invasion fleet and fired upon. A number of these aircraft were shot down (friendly fire is never friendly) and most of the rest scattered to avoid being shot down with many dropping their paratroopers far from the designated drop zones. This incident repeated itself a few days later up the east coast of Sicily when American C-47s carrying British paratroopers were shot-up crossing over the invasion fleet. My father-in-law was flying that mission. Details here.

Flies?

Meanwhile, back in North Africa MB was running a VD clinic and being told they were to shut it down, and he was wondering what they would do with their patients. They stop taking patients on 23 July and close the clinic on 3 August, rejoining the regiment on 5 August at Tinka, Tunisia, which is northwest of Tunis and southwest of Bizerte. “Not a building standing…” was his comment about Bizerte.

It was right about here that he had the “little red wagon” incident I spoke of in earlier posts. Details here.

The infamous “little red wagon.” AKA sleeping bag.

 

The entries along here also mention he was promoted to captain on 28 July followed by paradoxical entries about multiple air raids and swimming in the Med.

On 5 Sept 43, the 16thMed Regt was reorganized into two medical battalions, the 161stand the 162nd. Company D was reduced to two platoons and all their vehicles taken away. Company D became the 601stCollection Company.

Medical battalions were reorganized to give each collecting company a clearing element, the two platoons of the clearing company being supplemented for this purpose by a third clearing platoon. Each regimental combat team in the assault was to be accompanied by one of these collecting-clearing companies, which had demonstrated their efficiency in training exercises. Each task force was to have one ambulance platoon in addition to those of the medical battalions, and at least one field hospital unit. The field hospital platoons were to be used for forward-area surgery and as holding units for non-transportables, combining the functions performed in Tunisia by the surgical hospital and the corps medical battalion clearing stations. MB has gone from a VD clinic to a collection company assigned to a regimental combat team, collecting and clearing wounded close to the front.

Meanwhile, Sicily has been taken and the invasion of Italy has begun.

 A little soldier’s humor I found stuck in MB’s photo album.

He then mentions that Italy capitulated, but the Germans were still very much in the war in Italy. MB and his unit were alerted to ship out for Italy. The Fifth Army landed at Salerno, Italy on 9 September 43. MB’s unit boarded an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) and left Bizerte on 25 September 43. He described the experience as “pleasant trip – hot ship.”

Continued…

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A Wartime Diary – Part 2

Part 1 here

England 18 Aug 1942.

MB’s Army experience soon took him to England where the Americans were staging men and equipment for Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942. An excellent study on the subject can be found in the book, An Army At Dawn by the historian Rick Atkinson.

SS Orcades

MB’s diary entry begins with the cryptic “Orcades” followed by “England” and the date. I did some research and found there was a ship, the SS Orcades, a passenger liner that was pressed into service during the war as a troopship. I am assuming he traveled to England on the SS Orcades and arrived on 18 August. It was torpedoed and sunk two months later.

What follows that is a long list of things that must have impressed him. “Trains – Underground – Buses – Taxis – Westminster Abby – Buckingham Palace – Piccadilly – Tower and Bridge – Parliament …” The list goes on and on for two pages to mention just about everything you can ever think of related to England. He does mention war-related topics like his first bombing, fire watch, officers club, rationing, and bomb shelters as well as “Lt and Mrs. Cox” (whoever they were), and lastly “English girls.”

See what I mean? I wish I had asked him to elaborate before he died.

MB on left. Caption on back says, “Air Raid – What not to do.”

Africa

24 Nov 1942

His next entry begins as above, but above that is scribbled “Dutchess (SIC) of Bedford.” Some Googling discovered that was a ship, the SS Duchess of Bedford. Further research indicated she carried a regiment of the 1stDivision, US, to North Africa for the Operation Torch D-Day landings. Those landings were on 8 November 1942.

SS Duchess of Bedford

The date of the diary entry seems to be a bit of a disconnect. I found another reference to the Duchess making a second trip in November, but she carried some British troops and left Liverpool on 26 November arriving in Oran on 8 December. I do recall MB saying he landed at Oran, which was one of three main landing areas. I am guessing that MB boarded the Duchess with the Brits a couple of days before she set sail, and he saw that as the beginning of his African adventure. During the war, MB developed a real fondness for the British and often spoke highly of them. He didn’t like their plum pudding, however.

They set up a bivouac area at Hassi Ameur about 8 miles east of Oran. From here on to the end of the North African campaign he seems to be running a VD clinic much of the time. It gets mentioned often.

What then follows in his diary is another long list of names and observations that must have had some meaning to him. I will list only some that seem significant to his situation. “Mountains against blue sea – Sunrises & Sunsets – Stars – First Air Raid – Veiled Women, Jackasses, Woman pulling cart after ass died…”

That last point was a story he told several times. It seems the Arabs were evacuating a forward area and passing by the front gate of their camp. The jackass pulling an over-loaded cart died right at the front gate. The Arab simply unhitched the deceased ass, hooked up his wife to the cart, and continued on their merry way, leaving the corpse of his jackass to rot in the North African sun.

He goes on to mention other sights like olive trees, mountains, pup tents (small two man tents), and rifles—rifles? The Medical Corps was not normally issued small arms and were considered non-combatants with the red cross emblem emblazoned on tents, vehicles, and helmets, giving them some level of protection from being bombed or shot at. War can sometimes be “civilized,” you know?

In their “infinite wisdom,” the Army decided to arm the medics and issued them M1 rifles, and their Jeeps were equipped with scabbards to carry them in. The Germans captured one of the “armed” Jeeps and sent it back with a note that said, to the effect, that unless this practice was immediately stopped they would no longer honor the red cross. The rifles were promptly confiscated, ending that misadventure.

Hard to see, but the caption says, “Hospital Africa.”

The comedian, Martha Raye, must have visited them on a USO tour because she got mentioned in the diary, but only her name shows up, nothing about how much he enjoyed—or not—her show. Hollywood types were very active during the war, doing USO tours. This gets mentioned often in the diary.

MB goes on to refer to the heat and a sandstorm called the “Sirocco,” which he explains in greater detail in a later entry as “60-mile wind, scorching hot off Sahara, sears everything … carries dust that clouds the sky & obscures the horizon.”

I then found an entry that said only “resupplied.” I believe that is a reference to a story he told several times of how the ship carrying most of their equipment was sunk off Gibraltar by a German sub, and they were left to depend on the British to supply and feed them until they could get new equipment.

The Germans were pushed back east toward Tunis during the rest of the winter of 1943 with Tunis taken on 13 May. The invasion of Sicily was already in the planning at that point.

This photo was dated 7 July 1943 (three days before the Sicily landings) and was probably taken in Tinja, Tunisia. The drinks were orange-aid, according to the comments on the back, which also said, “War is Hell!” That is MB in the middle.

Continued…

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A Wartime Diary – Part 1

This will begin a seven-part series of posts that were taken from the WWII diary of my father, Dr. M.B. Casteix, Jr. It will also draw upon his WWII photo album for some of the images you will see here. My plan is to release the seven “chapters” over the next two weeks, concluding it on Memorial Day

Why am I doing this? Because it needs to be done. We ought to remember the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, sacrifices that gave us the freedom we enjoy today and how precious that freedom is. We also need to understand that we, like them, might be called upon to make similar sacrifices to maintain that liberty.

Before we start, some background on the man:

MB, as we called him (even his kids did), was Martial Bruno Casteix, Jr. His French grandfather immigrated to America, landing in New Orleans in the mid-1860s. His grandmother was also French as was his mother. We can safely say he was French, yes? Yes. He spoke very little French, which I find surprising considering his French background and all the time he spent in support of French units during the war. Maybe he spoke more than I realized because I found some French grammar studies/notes in the back of his diary.

Technically, MB was my stepfather, but he was the only “father” I ever really knew—and he was a good one. My mother married him after divorcing my birth father. I was five at the time. They had two girls together, Jeanne and Martia.

MB was born in New Orleans and lived all of his life there up until WWII. After the war, he resided in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans, but that’s another story. His father, Martial, was a pharmacist and owned several drug stores in New Orleans but lost them during the depression. Martial and MB’s mother, May, were bona fide New Orleans characters. Go here if you would like to read about some of their antics.

MB was very bright as was his younger sister, Marguerite called “Margie.” She was born on MB’s birthday exactly two years after he was born. For a while, the family resided above one of the drug stores in a building on Bourbon Street that is now the Famous Door Bar. If you are ever in New Orleans, drop into this famous French Quarter haunt and have a drink where MB lived as a child. I told some tales of that period in his life here so I won’t repeat myself now.

As I said, MB was a very bright kid; he skipped two grades in school and entered LSU medical school two years younger than most of his classmates. (See UPDATE below.) He graduated in 1941 and since he spent his schooling in New Orleans he claims he never set foot on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. Upon graduation, he immediately went into the Army. He was 22 years old at the time.

The image above was taken before the war and probably while he was in med school.

Lt. M. B. Casteix

Co. D

16th Med. Regt.

That is what the first page says. After several pages of addresses for friends and family, we find the first date in his diary, 18 Aug 1942, and that is for an entry made in England. MB was inducted into the Army right after graduation. He once told me he received no formal military training. He got uniforms, a commission, and orders that took him to Camp Carlyle, PA and then England and ultimately to North Africa and Italy. Because of that lack of military training, he said he was never quite sure who he was supposed to salute while touring Washington DC.

Unfortunately, I never took notes during our many discussions about his wartime service, which were usually in the nature of short comments or brief “war stories” over the 50+ years of our time together. Later in life when we went on fishing trips to Alabama, after a day of fishing on the private lake of my hunting club and with a few adult beverages under his belt, MB would often tell a story or two. But I never recorded those either for which I kick myself because he told many wonderful stories.

MB served during the North African, Sicilian, and Italian Campaigns all the way to Rome and beyond. His experiences were many and varied. For a period he was attached to Darby’s Rangers has his surgeon when Darby’s regimental surgeon was wounded. He spoke of the “crazy” Rangers forming up for chow in the middle of an artillery barrage—they were on the receiving end, not the giving.

He once mentioned an orderly who came down with VD, and he treated him with sulfur, the usual treatment for that before penicillin became common. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be allergic to sulfur and almost died. “But I cured him of syphilis,” was his closing comment on that story.

He told another story of yet another orderly (the same one?) who wasn’t all that right in the head (MB’s description). He disappeared one day during an artillery barrage—incoming again. They found him a few days later. He had burrowed into the side of a hill and sealed himself in along with a case of Italian wine. He was passed-out drunk.

The image above is of the Company D, 3rd Platoon officers. Front – Bob Sharoff, MB, Sal Iraci (Platoon Leader); Back – Tom Sherman, Son Carroll.

There aren’t many stories in his diary, and the few we do find there are rather sketchy, leaving much to your imagination. In fact, his diary doesn’t follow any normal format we would associate with a wartime diary, especially in the beginning. Mostly it consists of names of towns, sights, events, happenings, people, and those are limited to only one or two words as if he intended them merely as a reminder to recall the details later. Later he did get just a bit more descriptive and reveal some of his inner thoughts and feelings as he described the amazing things he was experiencing. We get just a taste of what life was like for him. Unfortunately, it leaves us wanting to know more.

In addition to his diary, I have his photo album. Based on one contact print in the album, I concluded that he used a 35mm camera. I never knew him to own a camera when I was growing up and I don’t know what happened to it. I do recall him telling me “they” developed the film in the chemicals for processing x-ray negatives, but I can’t figure out how he printed them without a proper enlarger to do that. A mystery like many in his diary…

Like the diary, the pictures leave us wanting a context to put them in. There are no notes in the album next to the images, and the backs of most had no comments there either. The few comments on pictures were often very brief with names of people I know nothing of. I’m not even sure where most were taken and will have to draw conclusions from their place in the album and the few images that do have dates on the back, assuming they are in order.

In this series, I will attempt to take what I can from his diary and photo album and turn it into some sort of a story. I hope you enjoy this little peek into the private life of M.B. Casteix.

UPDATE: I got a message from my sister, Jeanne, that adds more detail to MB skipping grades. I had heard he skipped two grades. Jeanne says it was three. The third one was 8th grade. She tells me this is what she recalls: “On the first day of 8th grade, his first year at St. Aloysius, he was playing and bonding with some boys. When the bell rang for them to line up, he lined up with his new friends and went to class. The next part is what I find hard to believe. It took St Aloysius three months to figure out where MB was. He was in class with his buddies in 9th grade! Making A’s, they left him there. Hence, he skipped 8th grade too!”

Continued

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The Little Red Wagon – Part 2

Back here I posted about my father’s “Little Red Wagon.” Recently, I discovered more about this incident, which is what this all about. To save you the time of going to the link, here is the story.

It seems that MB, then serving with the 5th Army as a physician in North Africa during WWII (and later Sicily and Italy), asked his dad, Martial, back here in New Orleans to please go to Sears and purchase a sleeping bag and send it to him overseas. The U.S, as usual, was unprepared for the war or properly equip its army. It got cold at night in the North African desert, which is where this incident took place. Martial did as asked and dutifully ordered his son his requested sleeping bag. Well, Sears screwed up. I will let them explain what happened. Below are two scans from the New Orleans Sear’s Store Newsletter that has the details.

And here is a picture of the “Little Red Wagon” from a photo MB sent home to his dad and his comments on the back.


As I recall, MB said the Little Red Wagon did not go to waste. They actually used it to move stretchers. As the Sears New Orleans Store Newsletter indicates, they did send him a sleeping bag.

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Letters From the Front – Italy 1944 – Part 2

I posted a letter from my dad, Dr. M.B. Casteix, to his father, Martial, written in October of 1944 and seen here. He wrote a second letter to his sister, Margie, a week before that one, which is the subject of this post. These are the only two letters I have from him during that period. I do have his diary written while overseas and will post some things from it later.

Sharing the same birthday, Margie was exactly two years younger than MB. Margie was married to Robert L Manard, Jr. who was serving overseas as a pilot, and they had one child at that time, Melanie, called “Mel” in this letter. She was born on 21 Oct 1943, a year before this letter was written. She would have been only a year old, which makes MB’s comment about Mel thinking he was a “stingy old uncle” a bit confusing. MB is obviously replying to something Margie said in an earlier letter that is lost to us. Both MB and Margie had a well-developed sense of humor so this must have been an inside joke between them.

As for the content, I have no idea what MB was talking about in the second paragraph. The letter goes on to describe what we called “R&R” (Rest & Recreation) in a later war. The setting is Rome, Italy, and MB gives us a glimpse on what R&R was like, at least for officers, in 1944. He closes the letter with a request for some foods unobtainable over there.

Enjoy a little trip back in time.

As usual, click on the image for a larger view.

 

 

 

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