​C l a s s  o f  1 9 5 8

Gatlin's Musings

​​​​​​​​​​Russell High School

November 16, 2021

 
Most of you know that in this long life of mine I have done a lot of cooking. Starting at an early age, cooking was a necessity, not a pleasure. When my Father died at the age of 42 in 1940, we, Mother, Willie and I , had to find work. Mother found work that kept her busy late at night. These siblings had to be fed, lessons gotten, baths and bed by nine each night. This chore was mine. So—my early cooking experiences started. Having to learn my way around the kitchen was a new activity that I had not counted on. I had a marvelous instructor, my Mother. Strictly Southern Cuisine was the menu Chez-Gatlin. I had watched and observed Mother work magic with the Great Depression limitations.. After frying a pan of chicken, Mother would toss flour into the drippings—-Mother seldom measured anything—-; using a fork to work the gravy, she produced, every time, a perfect gravy-never a lump. I was never able to do this, and to this day, this escapes me. Forgive this long introduction..Gatlins are wordy.
In recent years—or since the 1970’s, I have had many compliments on my gravies and sauces. Recently, some one asked how I made such good gravy. It took a good many years and a summer in Paris to learn this culinary trick. The formula is TWO PLUS TWO PLUS TWO.
    Two tablespoons of butter
    Two tablespoons of flour
    Two cups of liquid.
Into a frying pan add the butter and the flour. Start cooking—three minutes or more——you do not want raw dough. This will turn into a yellow roux.
Then: For Chicken or Turkey two cups of stock. I keep can stock in the pantry for this.
For Brown Gravy a can of—or two cups of—Beef stock.
For White Sauce use milk.
The can stock is about two cups. When the gravy reaches the desired consistency, the Brown Gravy, can be enhanced by adding sautéed mushrooms or onions. For Thanksgiving GIBLET Gravy add chopped hard boiled eggs and diced chicken livers.
I have so enjoyed using this easy way to do excellent gravies.
Before leaving you,
I am sending you BEST WISHES ;
FOR
A GLORIOUS THANKSGIVING.
LOVE AND BLESSINGS,
WILLIAM LEON


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October 6, 2021


More musings—those long ago World War Two years.


When I arrived at Geissen, Germany in September of 1944–Geissen is a city of learning—many Universities—-after a train trip of a week starting at Aachen; I was placed in this huge military hospital to recover from the battle wounds. There I met three POW’S who had been there for several days. Two were Air Force Sergeants and one an Infantry Private, who was an amputee. We were concerned about recovering from our injuries and facing the unknown. After several days, the Infantryman was repatriated through the Red Cross. He was sent to Switzerland for this transaction. I discovered an interesting fact about War and The Geneva Convention Rules of War. There were occasions of inhuman treatment, but I did not encounter any during my months as a prison of war. Just days before, I and others were enemies of the Reich, and we had to be stopped. When a soldier was no longer a threat; political, ideological leanings and hostilities were put aside for humane treatment. We were sort of a Member of The Brotherhood of Man. I received excellent and professional treatment. The lack of food was a problem in Prison Camp. This was a problem of the whole of Germany. It was the last months of the war; everything had been used. No one had enough food. I had never experienced hunger, but for those long months,
I learned about never getting enough food . When I was captured, I was twenty—a healthy lad weighing in at 160 pounds, when I was liberated in late April of 1945, I weighed 104.


At the hospital in Geissen, my wounds were healing with the excellent treatment I received. A doctor checked on us, and the nurses were excellent. One nurse, a lovely lady was with limited English, but she knew the basic greetings and she smiled all the time. And, although she was the epitome of nursing professionalism, she was still a German, and had seen much devastation to her country by the American Air Force that flew missions at night and the Royal Air Force that flew daytime missions. If she happened to be on duty during the daytime; and the RAF flew over on a mission, she would go the window and shake her fist at the sky and shout
“Churchill.” At night, if she was on duty, and the American Air Force flew over on a mission, she went to the window, shake her fist and shout.
“Roosevelt.” This never failed to crack me up. I am so thankful that the people at the Hospital in Geissen were so professional . We received excellent care for the month that I was there. There I met Emil, Erwin, and the nurses who saw to our needs. One of the Airmen and I were discharged at the same time. Emil pushed me to the train station in a wheel chair for the trip across Germany to Meiningen. I have always been amazed that enemies can become friends; certain compromises have to be made. Too bad that society as a whole has not learned this important lesson. More musings from Gatlin soon. Blessings to all.

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September 21, 2021

With all the destruction of materials, property, and lives, during the weeks following the DDay landings on 7th of June, 1944, when we were waiting for the gas trucks to catch up with us, there were moments of sheer delight when we were carried away from the intense fighting . One day near the end of June, we were bivouacked awaiting the gas trucks, when our sergeant stopped by our tent. He invited us to attend a USO show in the adjoining field. Grabbing our steel helmets, a group of us left for the show.


A makeshift stage had been set up, and the hillside could seat thousands. Opening the show, and Master of Ceremonies, was the actor, Edward G. Robinson. He was gracious and Hollywood articulate in a monologue about the film city and some of his fellow actors. He said that there was a upstart in the film industry who was attempting to take his place as the cinema’s tough guy. He had news for Mr. Bogart. He said that his mother had to nail his diapers on. He introduced a magician who, amount his tricks, swallowed razor blades. In removing them from his mouth—he had swallowed several—, they came out all on a string….amazing. They finally retired, and a five piece band took the stage playing a medley of pop tunes. Lights illuminated the curtain, it opened up and this charming and Southern girl appeared—-Miss Dinah Shore. The hundreds of GI’s went wild. She was on stage for one hour and a half singing request after request. What a treat for a bunch of most appreciative young soldiers!! The USO today is still going strong bringing to the soldiers in faraway places a bit of home. Our thanks and gratitude .

I also recall on another occasion; a battle had just ended with the Germans retreating, leaving behind numerous wounded on both sides. Medical personnel -both American and German—were busy gathering up the wounded on stretchers and transferring them to ambulances. The Americans and the Germans worked close together in these times. Suddenly, an American GI set a side his patient, moved over to a German and punched him in the nose. A fist fight followed with punches being exchanged until they were separated by other medics. It was all over shortly..later..we inquired about this battle field encounter, asking what was that all about? The Medic said the the German had said a nasty thing about President Roosevelt. He said: I could not let him get away with that. Wars are not only waged worldwide, but on a small battlefield with an American patriot defending his President.

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September 13, 2021
 
The German City of Aachen.
Seventy-seven years ago today, I was on a Red Cross Train traveling into the heartland of war torn Germany. This was the 13th of September 1944;
I had been wounded on the 11th of the month in the vicinity of Aachen. I spent a night in an aid station behind the lines and another night in a huge hospital in Aachen on a mattress in the corridor. Crowded conditions necessitated this. I was a frightened lad of twenty facing the unknown. The only American on a train filled with wounded Germans, I communicated with a German Captain who spoke some French. We were both limited in the language department. I was on this train for a week, a month in a huge hospital in Geissen, and then across Germany to Stalag 9 C in Meiningen.I was there until liberation in late April of 1945.


Meanwhile, back in Aachen the battle was raging. The Battle lasted until the surrender of Aachen in late October of 1944. Aachen is a city today of 250 thousand persons. It was the capital of The Holy Roman Empire of ancient times. Strategically located at the crossroads of several countries, it was and is a rail hub of the highly important industrial and commerce center of the Ruhr Valley. Aachen developed from a spa and a Roman Settlement . It was the medieval residence of Charlemagne and was the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned King of the Germans. A bit of false information came my way—-I do not know how—Charlemagne was not crowned in Aachen on Christmas Day 800 but by Pope Leo the Third at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Christmas Day in the year 800..Charlemagne’s birthplace is unknown. Some historians have suggested Liege and others Aachen. We do know that he selected Aachen as the capital of the Empire that included all of Southern Europe. Aachen was, also, occupied by Napoleon in 1794 and attached to France with a French name, Aix-la-Chapelle. Certain people of importance—rulers—have had visions of ruling a unified Europe . Charlemagne wanted to unite all the Germanic people and convert his subjects to Christianity. It does not appear that a unified Europe is going to happen.


This small amount of history was to tell you a little about Aachen, the first large German city to fall to the Allies on October the 20th 1944. It is astounding thinking of how long it took to capture the city. But, the German army was entrenched, protected by the Siegfried Line.
More War time musings soon.
Blessings to all.

William Leon

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​​September 11, 2021


Today is September the Eleventh, 2021. This date is memory time for me. It is a day that will live in infamy. When I first heard this word, I was a seventeen year old Senior at Griffin High School. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used this word in his Declaration of War address to the Congress. He was referring to the suddenly and deliberate attack by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor. This sent me to the dictionary for definition. It means: the quality of being famous for something considered bad. The word certainly fit the occasion. In my long life, there have been “other days of infamy.”


Twenty years ago, New York City and other parts of Eastern United States were attacked by terrorist, bringing down the World Trade Towers in Manhattan causing the loss of many lives trapped in the buildings. Nearly 3000 people were killed. Other lives were lost in other areas. It was a day that shall life in infamy.

Seventy-seven years ago today, September the Eleventh 1944, I was attached to the 745th Tank Battalion as a Scout. While on a mission near the German border in Belgium——we were on the vicinity of Aachen—-,our reconnaissance platoon ran int a hidden machine gun nest. Three of my comrades were killed. I was injured , picked up by the enemy, and became a Prisoner of War. It was a day that shall live in infamy.
Now a pleasant memory of this date, September the Eleventh.


Several years ago, I had the honor to serve Father Zachary Thompson as his acolyte at the Noon Mass at Our Saviour, Atlanta, on September Eleventh. On that day, rather than the Regular Prayers of The People, we used Fr. Zach’s special prayers remembering the fallen victims of the terrorists attack. We included my fallen comrades in the prayers. We recall those today who lost their lives in these attacks—civilian and military and ask:
MAY THE SOULS OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED REST IN PEACE.
Blessings to you.

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August 25, 2021

Some musings and thoughts of yesteryear on this day in history.
I waked this morning with a heart that is so pleased to be able to relate to you events of this day seventy-seven years ago, August
the 25th, 1945. I was a young man of 20 having left my teens a few days earlier. I was a Private in the US Army attached to the 745th Tank Battalion, Reconnaissance Platoon. We were camped out on the banks of The River Seine some sixteen miles south of Paris at Ris-Orangis, a commune in the southern suburbs of the city. We were awaiting orders. After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris was liberated this day by The Second French Armored Division under General Phillipe Leclerc. I find it incredible being a part of history although a minor role. We were hoping to be a part of the conquering forces that day, but General Eisenhower and members of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces allowed that honor to go to The Free French Division. That was the fitting and proper thing to do. Hitler had ordered Dietrich von Choltitz, the Commander of the German Garrison and Military Governor of Paris, to inflict maximum damage to Paris and its monuments. Von Choltitz ignored the order and surrendered to the French at the Hotel Le Meurice. The hotel was the newly established French Headquarters, and General Charles de Gaulle of the French Army arrived to assume control of the city as Head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. Alas, our visions of parading down The Champs-Élysées with thousands of Parisians cheering and waving magnums of Champagne were short lived; we did receive orders. We skirted Paris and headed north-east through the trench battlefields of World War 1. We traveled through the area of Chateau Thierry, Saint Quentin, Laon, Amiens, Compiègne and Soissons toward the Belgium border. I shall get back to the Battle of Aachen one day soon. Although, I missed out on The Liberation of Paris in August of 1944; I was there for VE Day in May of 1945.


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20 July 2020


Dear Facebook Friends and Kin,
Tomorrow is BASTILLE DAY in France—le quatorze juillet
La FĖTE NATIONALE. This holiday is much like our 4th of July
Celebration. I am not sure about this year’s celebration, but in former years there were: a huge parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysêes, family picnics, dancing in the streets, and the most spectacular fire works. To see fireworks with the Eiffel Tower in the foreground is a life long memory. I once asked a French friend to go to see the Champs Parade. She replied, Mais non, Cher Guillaume, merci, trop militaire pour moi.
Then, the dining is a treat even more so than ordinary dining out. I have thought for many years that la Cuisine Francaise and our Southern Cuisine are kin. It is all in the seasoning. At le Cordon Bleu, I was on a team with two beautiful ladies—a model from Sweden and a teacher from California and a Spanish man who was a Chef to a French family that was cruising the Mediterranean that summer. He was back to brush up on his cooking technique. We cooked on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning. One day, when the assignments for the day were given, I was not included. The others left to get to work. Then the Chef said to me. Come Guillaume, I have a job for you. I was asked to get two packages from the fridge. I brought them, both rather large, to a counter where he was working. I opened the packages to discover a large eye of the round roast in one and a huge chunk of streak o’lean in the other. He said that we had to “lard” the roast. The word lard was new to me; it means bacon in French. Larding at the Cordon Bleu involved cutting the streak o lean in long strips and tying them to the roast. Mother and I had enjoyed an eye of the round many times, but using the streak o lean had never occurred to us. The fat of the roast has been removed so that you have a roast of lean meat. Something had to be done to enhance the taste. We used olive oil to coat the roast and covered it with Italian seasonings. On returning from the cooking school, we used the streak o lean method ever after. Streak o lean had been a staple in our kitchen for ever. If you do not know streak o’lean, it is just bacon in a chunk that has not been to finishing school. Mother used it for seasoning vegetables, and at times, she would fry pieces of it to eat with her buttermilk biscuits. The dripping were saved in a Mason jar and used. I recall mother using a fourth of a cup of drippings to season cornbread. Well, I started this to wish my French friends a Happy Holiday and ended up at the Cordon Blue again. A note; Anyone can be a gourmet cook. Just add more wine. The streak o’lean in the kitchen of the Cordon Bleu in Paris is proof positive to me that the two cuisines are relatedi