- 86th Fighting Infantry
- 87th's Best by Far
- A Happy Lad
- Ninety Pounds of Rucksack
- Palestine Ski School The
- Systems and Theories of Skiing
- Too Much Hay
- Two Boards
- Underneath the Take-off
- You'll Soon Be Moving Out
I was a tent mate of Bob's along with Gordy Wren at Seneca School in WVA and developed a close relationship with him. I taught rock climbing under him and had a healthy respect for him as both a supervisor and a friend.
One of the highlights of my service was my participation in a singing quintet at Seneca. It was organized by Slim Mabry and was made up of Bob (tenor), Woody Waldrip (tenor), Gordy Wren (baritone), and myself (baritone) along with Slim who sang lead, played guitar and directed. Our repertory was fairly extensive and included all of the 10th songs as well as "cowboy", hillbilly, Swiss and French alpine, Scandinavian ski songs, college drinking songs, blue grass, and some that were too raunchy to put into press. We didn't sing the swing music of the time, we left that to the big name bands on the juke boxes.
We had no sheet music or written words to sing by so everything was done by rote. I must admit that we were pretty good. We had many invitations to sing at local Rotary, Elk, Kiwanis and other clubs throughout the area and we gratefully accepted them although our only recompense was a good southern meal and a drink of applejack whisky out of a mason jar in the kitchen. I wouldn't even try to compare a good old pot luck dinner to the food(?) we ate at our tent camp chow hall.
We were well compensated for our efforts primarily by the camaraderie of our group and by the warmth and friendship of the groups we entertained. I cannot imagine any area where servicemen were welcomed any more warmly than we were.
The instructors had Class A passes which allowed us to go to any of the towns in the area whenever we were off duty and we took full advantage of them. The Army provided us transportation to town each evening and even provided transportation for our singing group whenever we entertained. We had a good first sergeant in Andy Ransom and I think our captain, Ed Link felt that our singing group promoted good public relations in the area.
My association with Bob was a memorable part of my military service.
Reprinted from the 1945 AMERICAN SKI ANNUAL with some verses added to original.
A MOUNTAIN SOLDIER SINGS
by Lt. Charles C. Bradley
It was back in the fall of 1941 that the 87th Mt. Inf. pipped the shell. In the reversed English of the army we were then called the 87th Inf. Mt., but it meant the same thing. To outsiders, even the most interested, it was only a name, unique perhaps, because of the "Mt.," but still just a name. An outfit of course is not just a name; it is the combined spirit of the men in it, and that spirit is seen through the acts of these men. But let no man underestimate the influence that the "Mt." has had on the history of the 87th. Few but Mountain Trooper know that on the other side of the "Mt." lay the complicated machinery that spirited him out of his old outfit and into the 87th, changing him from an infantryman on the horizontal to one in the vertical with snow and ice thrown in. Under the watchful eye of "Minnie" Dole, passed almost every man to his new assignment in the mountains and it was no accident that many a lover of the high snow slopes found himself a mountain trooper. Perhaps the newly activated 1st Bn. (reinforced) of the 87th was the only unit in the entire army where nearly all the men had a strong common bond beside the winning of the war. I'm sure it was the only outfit in the Armed Forces to which I could have been transferred and found waiting for me five old friends and many acquaintances. That just doesn't happen in the army unless something very special is in the wind. I think we all felt this "something" very strongly that first winter on Mt. Rainier in '41-'42, and a rare spirit cast a glow on our activities.
Perhaps the best measure of the spirit of a group of men can be found in the music that comes from them. A man gropes and struggles the greater part of his life to establish harmonious functioning with his fellow men and when he finds it, he is apt to express himself in the harmony of song. I think this is particularly true if there is no easy substitute like a radio or phonograph to dampen his efforts.
There's no doubt the 87th that winter was one of the siningest outfits to ever shoulder an army pack. Why the very first night after I'd joined, Pfc. Charlie McLane said "Come on over to the Rec. Hall. We're going to sing a couple of songs." There was McLane upholder of the high notes, Corporal Bromaghin and Corporal Glen Stanley and Lt. Dick Look who grappled with low notes. From then on almost every night a few of us from Co. A. gathered for a sing, and the few grew to many and the songs also grew. The unique feature of the situation was that even though we had no music we were all interested enough to piece together the harmony and really polish the songs down to a pretty fine point. Bromaghin was very much the spark plug. He could feel out harmony better than anyone else I've known and was able to get it across to the rest of us.
It was almost inevitable that as soon as we were old enough to have a history, much of that history should crop out in the form of new words to old tunes. Here the team of Bromaghin McLane made fame as lyric composers. But don't think the rest of us didn't insert our oar into some of the creative work.
Take for instance the song "Oola." I believe it started its career in Norway as a song about Ull,* a god of the ski warriors and hunters of old. My first contact with it was at some of the midwest ski jumping tournaments. Ull had become Ulla or Oola and was the demigod of the jumpers. But with the national emergency at hand Oola quickly joined the Mountain Troops and almost immediately became the champion, the hero, the Paul Bunyan of the army skier. The Ballad of Oola here set forth is essentially a history of the singing skiers of the 87th.
*Editor. We understand that while Ull may have been the inspiration back of "Oola," the song was actually composed by Sverre S. Elsmo; copyright MCMXXXIX; Crown Publications, Racine, Wisconsin. Its swinging rhythm has made it a general favorite among skiers, and no doubt many versions have developed under special conditions like this one.
(The first stanza only is the same as Oola's midwest history)
I'm Oola, ski-yumper from Norway brought up on Lutefisk and Sil Ay come to New York to find me some vork but I guess I go vest right avay. Ay yomp on a train for Ft. Lewis to fight for the U.S.A. Ay yoin up the Mountain Battalion and here Ay tink Ay will stay. CHORUS I'm Oola, they all call me Oola. Don't know vhere they get hold of my name. Ay never told any dem fellers. But they call me Oola yust the same. Each day and each night at Ft. Lewis, yee vhiss! how it vould rain. And if it vould keep up dis vedder, ay never go skiing again. At last ye go up to the mountain. She's one doggone place you should see. The minute I get there I'm happy. I run out and yomp on my ski. CHORUS And then I climb up to Panorama, and point my skis down from the top. Yee Goodness! but how I get moving. I tink that I never vould stop. I vunder my heart is still beating as off of a cornice I schuss. I bail out in Edith Creek Basin and landed kerplunk on my puss. CHORUS Each saturday night at the mountain, Ve go to the Paradise Inn, Aye tank dat Aye'm back home in Norvay ... It's da best doggone place Aye have been. Da vimmin are very entrancing, Vat Aye have in my mind is a sin ... But da minute Aye start in romancing, Da O.D., he always walks in! CHORUS And den Aye vent up to Pando The best doggone place Aye,ve been put. The mountains are high, not a cloud in the sky, But Aye yust can't get yust to the soot. CHORUS And guess vere dey took us for fighting, Such country I neffer haff see, Vid Vino and Vimmen exciting ... Dat's vun damn fine place, Italy. Ve fought on de Belvedere mountain, And svam in de river called Po, De vino she flow like de fountain, How Aye made it Aye neffer will know! CHORUS An ven datt damn fighting vas over Dey sent us to Caporetto To play in de Jugoslav clover And tum up de nose at Tito. And now Aye have one great big trouble De number of points Aye have got Dey may send me home on de double More likely dey maybe vill not. CHORUS
There was a couple of other verses at Rainier somewhat to one side of the chronology of history. Picture now a break during the Summer of '42 where many of us had the opportunity to go to Officers Candidate School at Benning. Reunited as Officers at Camp Hale Oola continues his army life.)
Nine months now I been in the Army. They say Oola you go to Camp Hale. Again I'm on skis and I say "Bend ze Knees" but I'm still winding up on my tail. This Pando she sure is nice country. It's the best doggone place I've been put. The weather is fine, and I'm having a time, but I yust can't get used to the soot. CHORUS I vunder vhat is going to happen if I stay with these mules for ten years. Sometimes vhen I laugh I go "E-E-E YAW-W-W"; already I'm viggling my ears. Yes I vunder vhat is going to happen; it is very confusing to me. Perhaps I go over to Norway. More likely the Desert Gobi. CHORUS
Enough about Oola for the present but don't think for a minute that his career is over. He'll be still rolling in song long after we've paid our last income tax. Wherever you find skiers you'll find Oola making history.
Shortly after Oola was drafted, another towering figure made his appearance on Mt. Rainier. He was Oola's cousin, Sven, and to the skier he represented the Powers of Darkness. On the evening of the first day that they put the budding 87th onto snowshoes Sven made his debut. We were still burning slowly after the ignominy of being shifted to the webs and in the gloomy dampness of Bromaghin's room a mild mutiny could be discerned in the strains of a new song, as five heads got together. Sven took form and substance. The next day, although the men were still no masters of snowshoes, there was hardly one in the Battalion who had not mastered most of the Ballad of Sven to the tune of the old western "Bold Bad Man."
Oola had a cousin from the wild and wooly west. While Oola liked the skiing, Sven liked snowshoeing the best They got into the Mountain Troops and put it to a test, And everywhere they went they gave their warwhoop. CHORUS Oh give me skis and some poles and klister And let me ski way up on Alta Vista You can take your snowshoes and burn them, sister And everywhere I go I'll give my warwhoop. Everyone was keen to see how it would all come out. The Winter Warfare Board was standing anxiously about, And even Axis Agents had been sent up there to scout, And everyone was waiting for the warwhoop. CHORUS The Colonel pulled the trigger and they started out to race. Sven got an early start and set a most terrific pace, But Oola whipped right by him with a sneer upon his face And when he reached the top he gave his warwhoop. CHORUS Two seconds later Oola finished in a mighty schuss, Passing on the way poor Sven a-lying on his puss. The moral of this story is that snowshoes have no use, And poor old Sven no longer gives his warwhoop. CHORUS For thirteen long and lusty weeks we skied on Alta Vista, And next on Colorado's peaks our asses we did blister, And then with neither ski nor ass they landed us on Kiska. But even way out there we gave our war whoop! CHORUS
(Later the Heavy Weapons Co. added its two bits' worth in the matter.)
The 87th had a Heavy Weapons Company It spent six weeks in Paradise but never learned to ski. The reason for this tragedy as you can plainly see Was everywhere they went they wore their snowshoes. (CHORUS "Oh give them skis" etc.)
(You can't stop a good song medium. Mountain Training Center men who were sent to Wisconsin to teach flatland snowshoeing in the winter '43 - '44 were heard singing this verse - in a minor key.)
Mountain Training Center had a handpicked group of men To teach the mountain climbing and to do away with Sven, But they put us back on snowshoes; to the flats they sent us then. It looks like Sven is giving all the warwhoops. CHORUS
Sven's swinging melody was very popular with civilians as well as soldiers. Believe it or not I heard a girl in Canada singing it. All she knew about the song was that the Banff Ski Club had incorporated it into their repertoire.
Capt. John Jay heard a girl in Columbus, Ga. sing it when he attended Benning in the winter of '43 - '44. So Sven is probably our most traveled creation.
Co. A's singing established such a reputation that Paradise Inn used to feature the singers every Saturday evening for the entertainment of weekend civilian skiers who came to Rainier. They were also invited to sing at a couple of Parent-Teacher Assn. meetings and at the farewell gathering for General Joyce at Ft. Lewis. The climax of their concert career was reached at Seattle's Meaney Hall where they sang to a crowd of several thousand. Even at its best it was never polished concert material, but that it contained the spirit of the Mountain Troops was obvious to any listener. That is why they listened - and heard.
"A" Co. wasn't the only group of singers. I'll never forget the night I wandered into the PX (Post Exchange) and was hailed by Corp. Billy Neidner of "B" Co. "Come over here. We have a new song under way." Billy was sitting on the floor with his two friends Sgt. Dick Johnson and Sgt. Don Hawkins. The air was full of tobacco smoke through which glared the naked lights of the PX. The usual crowd was milling around adding its roar to the racket of the Juke Box. In front of and surrounding the trio on the floor stretched the largest area of empty beer bottles I've ever seen. Nearest them was half a dozen freshly opened bottles. I joined them on the floor. A foaming bottle appeared at my side. It was my introduction to the best non-commissioned officer I've ever had the pleasure to meet, Sgt. Hawkins, "The Hawk." There was a notebook in his lap. Between and during beers he was adding words to a song that was destined to be the most popular song the Mountain Troopers ever sang. With his head cocked to keep the cigarette smoke out of his eyes and oblivious to the surrounding din he sang what he had written. It was to the tune of a familiar Navy song, "Bell Bottom Trousers." In conversion from Sea to Snow the song lost none of its salt. The Hawk had just worked out a tentative chorus:
"Long Handled Underwear, Socks are dirty too. He'll schuss the mountains like his Daddy used to do."
That was early in the winter of '4I - '42. It wasn't till next summer that the song completed its evolution.*
*This refers to the song "Ninety Pounds of Rucksack". The lyrics of which were not in this article originally, but which I've inserted below.
Ninety Pounds of Rucksack
(Tune and them from Navy's "Bell Bottom Trousers")
I was a barmaid in a mountain inn There I learned the wages, of miseries of sin. Along came a skier fresh from off the slopes, He's the one that ruined me and shattered all my hopes. CHORUS Singin' ninety pounds of rucksack, a pound of grub or two, He'll schuss the mountains like his daddy used to do. He asked me for a candle to light his way to bed, He asked me for a 'kerchief to cover up his head. I like a foolish maid thinking it no harm, Jumped into the skiers bed to keep the skier warm. CHORUS Early in the morning before the break of day, He handed me a five note and with it he did say; Take this my darling for the damage I have done. You may have a daughter, you may have a son. Now if you have a daughter, bounce her on your knee. And if you have a son, send the bastard out to ski. CHORUS The moral of the story, as you can plainly see, Is never trust a skier an inch above your knee. For I trusted one and now look at me... I've got a son in the Mountain Infantry. CHORUS
In the late spring of '42 a detachment from the 87th left on a special training mission. The Hawk was 1st Sergeant of this detachment and a higher-spirited gang I doubt was ever seen before or since in the army. What work they did cannot be set down here but there is no censorship on the perfect flood of songs they brought back. Space is the only limitation.
Just to give you an idea: there was the time Powell Crosley Jr. of Crosley Mfg. Co. visited the glacier camp. He was so impressed with the boys that he left a substantial stack of folding green wherewithal as encouragement for a beerbust. Actions speak louder than words. History records that in a humble effort to show their appreciation our 75 icemen drank 43 cases of beer and sang continuously for three hours without repeating a song.
There was "La Cantiniere" with a verse for everyone present, and "Oh you can't get to Heaven" which could not be stopped, because by the time one verse was finished, someone would have dreamed up another. To an obvious tune was, "I've been Working on the Glacier." The Hawk figured high in both the work and the singing as can be seen in the ending: "Someone's on the glacier with Hawkins -, Picking on a pile of snow."
The most popular song from the group was, "The 87th is Best by Far." It seems Pvt. Peter Wick used to wring from his famous accordion a Norwegian Ballad, "Best-a-för." The title and part of the song sounds like " best by far." That was all it took, and to this tune, grew the following words.
The 87th is Best by Far
I'll tell you a story that's very true Of a schuss-booming mountain crew They'll jump over canyons with out a spill And gelandesprung over the hill The road to Japan is a downhill course, And Berlin in a couple of weeks. CHORUS The 87th is best by far We'll win this goddam war The army skier's best by far We'll drink you under the bar. The roughest the toughest, we're dirty and mean Hungry and lean, but our rifles are clean. We'll fight to the finish, we'll schuss every hill By yimminy ve vill-ill-ill-ill-ill-ill The 87th is best by far we'll win this goddam war.
Many other songs were popular in our first winter with the 87th. They should be included here to bring all skiers up to date, because when the war is over you are going to hear them all sung wherever skiers gather.
From the midwest jumping hills comes "Underneath the Take-off." The second verse was added by Bromaghin to lengthen the song a bit. The verses are to their own tune, the chorus to 'Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here."
Underneath the Take-Off
Underneath the Take-off every Sunday Morn There comes a yolly bunch of skiers to yomp and show their form. The big and small; the small and big They all come dressed in a skier's rig And they yomp until they're blue And then when they get thru The President pulls a string and they drop their skis and sing; CHORUS Ja, ja, vi skall ha, Lutefisk og Lefse, Lutefisk og Lefse, Ja, ja, vi skall ha, Lutefisk og Lefse, breneven og snuse. And vhen the yomping's over, and the day is done Ve hurry from the mountain top to have a little fun. The small and big, the big and small They congregate at the Swenska Hall And they drink a foaming brew Take on a rosy hue And the President Pulls a string And they blow their foam and sing. (Blow!) CHORUS
I think someone in New England is responsible for this next one but I haven't as yet been able to track down its origin for sure. It goes to a tune reminiscent of "I Ain't Got No Use for the Women," an old western folksong.
Systems and Theories of Skiing
There are systems and theories of skiing But one thing I surely have found While skiing's confined to the wintertime, The drinking's good all the year round, Walla walla walla. CHORUS Here's to the trail on the mountain top, And here's to the skier who dares But give me my glass and my bottle To drive away all of my cares. There's the snowplow, the stem turn, the christie The jump turn, the telemark and such But I leave all of these to the kanonen 'Cause I like my drinking so much. CHORUS Now the skier must dodge all the trees-he-sees And the rocks that lie hidden in the trail But the things I fear most are the heebee-jeebees And the Snowsnake's loud hideous wail. CHORUS
Very popular with the U.S. Army skiers is the old Austrian ski song, "Zwoa Brett" with Dave Bradley's English translation.
The year may have more than one season But I can remember but one, The time when the rivers are freezin', And the mountains with whiteness are spun. The snowflakes are falling so fast, And the winter has come now at last. 1st CHORUS Two boards upon cold powder snow, YO HO! What else does a man need to know? Two boards upon cold powder snow, Y0 HO! That's all that a man needs to know. The hiss of your skis is a passion; You cannot imagine a spill. When, Bang! there's a godawful gash in The smooth shining track on the hill. What's happened you can't understand; There's two splintered skis in your hand. 2nd CHORUS Two Boards, - and some snow down your neck. OH HECK! Your skis are a hell of a wreck Two boards, - and some snow down your neck. OH HECK! Your skis are a hell of a wreck. I care not for government taxes, Take everything else that I own. But leave me my boards and my waxes, In the mountains, just put me alone. The snowflakes are falling so fast, And winter has come now at last. 1st CHORUS
To the same tune (as nearly as the words allow) is "The Palestine Ski School," made famous by Bromaghin and his guitar.
The Palestine Ski School
Oh we're from the Palestine Ski School. A wonderful clan are we. We'll iron out your faults for a dollar. For a dollar we'll teach you to ski. We press pants for sixty cents extra, And throw in a ski school for free. So when you hear the cry "Salaam," Dig way down deep in your wallet. With christmarks, front flips, and telebogens too. If youse got the toin, we can call it. (Salaam, - Kosher -) Oh, we're from the Palestine Ski School. A wonderful clan are we. We know how to bend at the elbow, But we're not so sharp at the knee. For most every night we drink gallons of beer, To keep in condition you see. So when you hear the cry "Salaam," Rally as soon as you're able. We'll drink and drink till the beer's all gone. You'll find us then under the table. (Salaam, - Kosher -) Now Oivie he teaches the snowplow, And a wonderful skier is he. Use our technique and you'll soon know how To ski down the mountain with ease. It's colossal, colowzal, terrific. In fact it is simply dee-vine. So when you find your funds all gone, Don't worry just write us a letter. For ten percent it giffs a loan. My own brudder couldn't do better. (Salaam, - Kosher - Oi Weh
When the second winter of the Mountain Troops rolled in many of us had been transferred out of the 87th into some of the other units at Camp Hale. Dave Brower, converted to second lieutenant, came back from OCS and was assigned to another unit scheduled for transfer. Every one of us, left behind, had strange feelings as we watched them go. By rights, we felt, we should be going too. It's a feeling that only a soldier can know. It took Dave Brower to express it, in what is to me the finest song that has come out of this war. The words and melody are his own. I wish you could hear it as he sings it, accompanying himself on his accordion. Unfortunately we have only the words here but they are well worth setting down.
You'll Soon Be Moving Out
Evening falls and gloomy black crowds the western sky Down along the waiting track soldiers say goodbye. Trained together day by day, now some move along Others sadly turn away and one sings this song. You'll soon be moving out to fight, your training days are thru; It's anybody's guess where you will land. I wish, as I'm alone tonight that I were going too, Soldiering with you the way we planned. Until our trails shall cross again and battle cries are still When lights of friendly life shine as before You'll share the lot of fighting men, fighting with a will Until that happy day you're home once more. Just tonight I shook your hand, saw you on your way, Hoped that you would understand words I couldn't say. Days together all too brief now have reached an end Leaving me a common grief, parting with a friend. The times we mopped the barracks floor, the talks we had at mess, Those few and fleeting days we had to ski, The times you beat my rifle score or I took you at chess, All were fun to guys like you and me. But since we've got that job to do those days are over now. Better days may come, but who knows when? Keep your thumbs up, smile some too, sweat it out somehow 'Til Fortune lets me shake your hand again.
Lieutenants Charlie McLane and Ralph Bromaghin among others had been transferred to the 86th. Shortly afterward, a Regimental Order was published which directed them to compose a marching song. Almost instantly the 86th Marching Song made its appearance, and if the 86th doesn't sing it as they march it's probably because at 11,000 feet they need their breath for more important things. The words and the tune are original.
86th Fighting Infantry
Looking down - deep in the valleys You see the men - who fight below Looking up, up to the mountains You see the men who fight on ice and snow For we - are the men of the mountains Leading the way to victory. It's higher and higher, with the 86th Fighting Infantry. CHORUS Come along, we'll sing a song On our way to battle Each step is slow, still up we go The-weight-of-my-pack-is-breaking-my-back, but-who-cares? Thru shot and shell, we'll give 'em hell, We fear not man or mountain. It's higher, still higher, with the 86th Fighting Infantry. In a temporary moment of cynicism Bromaghin and McLane also created "A Happy Lad" to the yodeling song from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At any gathering now they can hardly escape without singing it. Needless to say the song hasn't been widely publicized, and is only sung in the back room. But its popularity and the reason it is set down here is because it expresses a soldier's universal impatience to get at the business of winning the war.
A Happy LadA happy lad and just eighteen, I got into the Army By official "poop"* to the Mountain Troops, so the enemy couldn't harm me. CHORUS Oh hum, I'm not so dumb, the Mountain Troops for me. Men are made in defilade, but I would rather ski. (Yodel) Bright and early every morn we go out for close order But when the weekend comes along you'll find me 'cross the border. CHORUS Oh hum, I'm not so dumb, the Mountain Troops for me. Other guys can fight this war but I would rather ski. (Yodel) Every morning, half past eight, we take our calisthenics. The ladies sigh as we pass by, we are so photogenic. Chorus Oh hum, I'm not so dumb, the Mountain Troops for me. Some are made in defilade, but I would rather ski. (Yodel)
Another time these same two prolific songsters extracted a Division document concerning an inspection of the stables and Regimental Area, and set it to the music of a well known St. Sauveur ski song, "Sur le Côte de St. Sauveur." Again, this song is recorded here because of its popularity and because it expresses the typical soldier's distaste for the paper side of the army.
Too Much Hay
There's too much hay in our Manure, OUR MANURE Too much hay in our Manure We prefer it much more pure, MUCH MORE PURE We prefer it much more pure Says MTC, says MTC, "It's our manure it should be pure" Say MTC for sure Too much hay in our manure Such is life in the 86th Commandos Such is life in the 86th Commandos No Manure. There's no repute to our Salute, OUR SALUTE No repute to our salute Our Saluting's obsolute, OBSOLUTE. Our Saluting's obsolute It's so acute, it's dissolute, who gives a hoot so our pursuit At sixteen fortyfive To make saluting positute Such is life in the 86th Commandos Such is life in the 86th Commandos No Salute. We aim to keep our men alive, MEN ALIVE We aim to keep our men alive Thermostats at fiftyfive, FIFTYFIVE Thermostats at fiftyfive The medics cried "We can't decide if men have died, with windows wide" In Major Gregg* we will confide That men have died with windows wide Such is life in the 86th Commandos Such is life in the 86th Commandos Men have died.
I think we should not close without mentioning two of our favorite songs that we sing when we feel the need for good substantial harmony. They have nothing to do with mountain troops but are just good singing tunes. One is a Norwegian song called the "Bondemann." The other is the Russian Folksong "Stenka Razin." It is through their songs that we will best arrive at an appreciation for our fighting allies. There'll be lots of songs like these sung by our lads before the war is over, yes, and for a long time afterward too.
Reprinted from the 1945 AMERICAN SKI ANNUAL
by Lt. Charles C. Bradley