The Soldiers of the Stockade

Chow line

Being a trustee involved moving to another room, one without bars and attached steel cots.  It also involved having lighter duty, centering on the mess hall and the kitchen, and having been an exemplary prisoner I was soon elevated to that happy state.  For a while there was some friction between Sergeant Prager and myself as I tried to organize the rest of the kitchen staff into a union-like body.  As nothing came of this effort, Prager left me alone.

The other trustees tended to be older, quieter men, most of them Southerners, who had joined the Regular Army. They were lifetime soldiers, and some of them had even fought in World War II, which had only ended ten years earlier.  Now they had little problems, such as getting back to barracks on time, which made them AWOL and subject to disciplinary action, or simply declining to obey a lawful order. Several of them were repeaters at the stockade, accepting it as just one of the facts of life in the army. One of them was accused of stealing, although all he did at the end of each month was raid everyone’s footlocker to drink up whatever after-shave lotions he could find or anything else with a hint of alcohol in it.  Another had been accused of “fraternizing” with an officer’s wife, an absolute no-no, and was now serving time on some other cooked up excuse.

There was also a small, thin man, who had endless stories to tell.  I wish I could remember his name.  He was a born, natural and gentle story-teller, who knew all kinds of funny little rhymes that I had never heard of or read about anywhere else, and for all I knew, he made them up.   He used to tell this one:

My brother Bill was a fireman bold.

He puts out fires.

He went to a fire last night I am told,

‘Cause he puts out fires.

Fire lit some dynamite,

Blew poor Bill clear outta sight.

But wherever he is, he’ll be alright,

‘Cause he puts out fires.

He had another one about upside down cake which I also liked a lot:

Poor little upside down cake,

Woes and troubles you’ve got them!

Because lil’ upside down cake,

Your top is at your bottom.

Poor lil’ upside down cake,

Your cares and worries they must stop!

Because lil’ upside down cake,

Your bottom’s at your top.

Whether they were original with him or not doesn’t really matter.  Since then, I’ve found various versions of them on the Internet, but I believe he had the prior claim, as this was a long time ago.  At the time and in that place, they were a complete and delightful surprise to me.

And then there was Provost Sergeant Prager.  Prager  punished prisoners for minor infractions by sending them to the “Box” for two weeks of solitary confinement.  The “Box” was the punishment cell, a room that measured about four feet by six, with steel walls, without windows and no bed.  While you were in there, you were also put on a special diet of eight hundred calories a day, which meant that by the time you were set to rejoin the general stockade population, you had lost considerable weight, and were quite weak.  Just before release from solitary, however, you were visited by Sargent Prager, who would beat the living daylights out of you.  Provost Sergeant Prager was not a nice man, and there was absolutely nothing any of us could do about it.

About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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4 Responses to The Soldiers of the Stockade

  1. Rick Jones says:

    Prager sounds like my last boss at Citibank.

  2. AlexLevy says:

    Which may be why you’re in business for yourself now-a-days. . .

  3. Karell says:

    Were you ever in the box? It sounds hellish. I can’t believe what some people had to go through.

  4. AlexLevy says:

    Nope, never made the Box, but you can read about the near miss in the post on Why I Never Wrote the Great American Novel.

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