Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 3, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
Saturday, August 3, 1974 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 People of the South By Chris Stewart Sensitivity essential in songwriting THE VOICE OF ONE Dr. Frank S. Morley When Bill Buchan of Claresholm prepared a tape of organ melodies for the Gordon Highlanders' annual reunion he included his own composition, Farewell to St. Valery sure to revive memories of that fateful June 12. 1940. when he and his bud- dies from the Fifth Highland Battalion were forced to sur- render. Bill's moving song depicts the drama and suspense of that latetul day when the proud Scottish soldiers, made prisoners at the French village near Dunkirk, began their gruelling trek through France. Belgium and Holland to Camp Stalag VIII B. in Lamsdort. Germany on the Polish-Silesian border. It was to be the beginning of five long years' imprisonment for Bill during which he would attempt tour escapes. The despair endured by the green and black tartaned Scots and the grimness of their solitary march are described m Bill's song with a sensitivi- ty only realized by those who have been captives. It was in the confines of prison Bill wrote Alone, the hrst of his 300 songs. It describes the emptiness and frustration the Gordon Highlanders suffered so soon alter their successful French landing at Le Havre. Deep in the King's mine shaft in Poland 'reputed to be the deepest in Europe, where Bill was assigned following an es- cape attempt) he memorized the words and tunes for numerous songs and tran- smitted them to paper when he was hoisted to the surface following his long day's work. He and his buddies brighten- ed the prison's drab routine by purchasing instruments with their meagre allowance, a ROW orchestra and played many of Bill's songs With each escape Bill forfeited his music, songs and instruments and had to re- write the words and acquire more guitars and violins following his recapture. Bill's creative output con- sists ol songs laced with feel- ing like. There Must be a Way, A New Day is Born and Whis- tle a Tune When Skies are Grey. They don't fall into the pop-tune category but stem from his personal ex- periences. They portray his lifestyle the simple things he loves and the things he knows which affect him deep- ly like his childhood memories ol PYaserburgh's beautiful church spires, his grandmother's garden, the senselessness ol war, the sanctity ol life and the necessity of faith 1 appreciated Bill's lifestyle when 1 visited him in Claresholm recently. As I approached his two-room cot- tage edged with a newly- seeded lawn and manicured garden I was greeted by the strains of beautiful organ music and an attractively ap- pointed tea table arranged with freshly-baked shortbread, cookies and Scotch scones a bit unusual for a man's home. I figured. When I arrived I wondered momentarily whether I had mistakenly entered a ship's gallev. efficient office or an army kitchen. Everything was so orderly His tiny working area featured an assortment ol mixing bowls, carving and paring knives and baking and kitchen utensils attractively hung against imitation brick vinyl wallpaper. The fridge, stove, counter and sink were within arm's length as was his well- organized office with desk, typewriter, maps, files and data covered walls. The liv- ing room featuring his Italian organ, violin, guitar, music stand and recording equipment, served as his music centre while his braid- ed rugs and homemade drapes gave the home a cozy air. The mirrored cupboards gave it an air of spaciousness. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Bill emigrated with his family (parents and two brothers) from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshirc. to Windsor, New Brunswick, as a boy of 13. His engineer father, piper Martin Buchan, a member of the First Battalion Gordon Highlanders was awarded the Boer War medal in South Alrica in 1902 while serving with Lord Kitchener's Mounted Infantry and the Mons Star in the Second World War when wounded and taken prisoner in France. The Scottish family believed farming their newly ac- quired 160 acre Maritime tract would offer a new life and it did until the Depression hit and they were forced to ex- change firewood for groceries. But despite scarce funds Mrs. Buchan, nee Jessie MacGregofi, insisted Bill be given voice and organ lessons in preparation for oppor- tunities as a church vocalist and in an all-male choir. He got his first chef's job in 1930 at age 15. at a 200-man crew New Brunswick lumber camp and subsequently in 1936 at the King Edward Hotel in Wind- sor before his family, a year later, returned bankrupt to Fraserbargh. Bill, now 25. joined the Gordon Highlanders' Territorials. He was called up on September 1. 1939. with the outbreak ol the Second World War. sent to Aldershot to train as a chef, graduated with a 98 per cent average and was assigned to the officer's mess before his battalion left for France and their subsequent surrender at St. Valery. When the German officers asked lor volunteers for the King's Mine at Hindenburg. Bill (who had heard mine workers received better rations) volunteered. It was from here he escaped to 10 wonderful days of freedom by cutting the barbed wire fence and sneak- ing through but existed on only bread and water and was assigned to Opplen to work in a horse leed plant when cap- tured by the Gestapo at Katowitz He enjoyed 14 days' freedom two years later when he escaped again but was cap- tured by the S.S. troops, returned to Stalag VIII B (the main camp) then transferred to a stone quarry in the Chechoslovakian mountains. When the German guards heard of his plans for a third escape he was hurried off to a Polish coal mine, where the work was even harder and the guards tougher. Bill will never forget the tension of January 26. 1945. when the Russians were clos- ing in and he was given mere- ly one hours' notice to pack and start inarching. 'Everyone seemed to be go- ing crazy." he recalls. "There were thousands of soldiers, women and children along the roads carrying meagre belongings on their backs or in little carts." They trudged in winter snows and spring rains through Hungary, along the outskirts of Budapest, Wienblinz and the Danube all the way to Bavaria. It was at Landshutts, Havana on April 11. that same year. General Patton's American tank force arrived to release them. "Everyone reviews was almost wild with joy that day." he recalled. "I couldn't believe I was actually free! I guess I acted stunned until 1 heard the tune. There'll Always Be an England, com- ing over the American tank radio (josh, it was good to hear it! Then I knew it was for Discharged and back in England Bill returned to his chef's career. He worked at the Traveller's Club in London followed by stints at Aberdeen's Northern and Imperial hotels: the Saluation in Perth. Star in Montrose; Bay in Stonehaven and the Station in northerly Wick before returning to Canada in 1957 to assume the chef's job at the Admiral Beatty Hotel in St John's. New Brunswick. Since then he has criss- crossed Canada more than 40 times tickling the palates of connoisseurs from coast to coast in many of the main hotels from the Algonquin in St. Andrew's to Sydney. Van- couver Island Preparing a beautiful meal and composing a moving song are synonymous with this Robert Burns' admirer. One requires creating a mood with words and melody while the other demands retaining that atmosphere with good food, tastefully prepared and attractively served. Few chefs, other than Bill, can provide both. He says he would find it dif- ficult to choose between food or music if his choice was limited to only one. Without a song he doubts he could have endured the rigors of lengthy war imprisonment. He knows the scanty rations kept his body nourished but that wasn't adequate to keep one's spirit buoyant during those, long, depressing years. He had to have music and the up- hit it provided. Bill, a member of BMI (Broadcast Music Incor- porated) knows practice makes perfect and excellence as a composer or performer requires tenacity. He burns the candle late, writing and re-writing his songs or prac- ticing his organ and guitar (no less than tour hours a day. he He's been featured with the Oldtimers in the Claresholm area, is tentative- ly helping to organize a sex- tette of musicians and has done considerable solo work as a performer and singer. He believes song-writing requires a perspective gained only from experience and observa- tion plus the ability to tran- smit to paper thoughts and ideas as they really are. He recalled the evening he and a buddy were sitting in front of their camp watching German troop trains head for the Russian front.' Suddenly when one packed coach ground to a stop to await the repairing of the line the soldiers aboard burst into spontaneous singing. "It was the most beautiful choral work I have ever heard." Bill remembers. "They sang the old familiar war songs, and suddenly, as if by magic, there was no barrier between us. We weren't enemies we were suddenly friends. In music there is no war." Illingworth BILL BUCHAN P.T. Barnum showman and politician "Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum" by Neil Harris (Little, Brown Company, 337 Long having considered P. T. Barnum to have been primarily an exploiter of human gullibility, I was sur- prised to discover in this book that there was much more to the man than simply the purveying of humbug. In fact, my impression is that it is misleading to suggest, as the title does, that Barnum was a fraud. If he was. then Professor Harris has failed to concentrate sufficiently on that feature of Barnum's life. Undoubtedly Barnum was a great showman and promoter. He was astute in his assess- ment of human nature and knowledgeable about the techniques of selling. This does not necessarily mean that Barnum cheated the public. When he brought Jenny Lind. the Swedish nightingale, to the United States for a concert tour he had to resort to tricks to in- terest people who didn't care a fig for culture. Once in the concert hall the people could forgive whatever deception had been practised on them because they were in for a treat. The shrewdness of Bar- num is seen in the way he emphasized the singer's moral virtues, something that appealed to Americans in the middle of the last century. Besides being a showman, Barnum was also a politician. He served in the Connecticut legislature and also as mayor of Bridgeport. In both offices he made his mark. A strong temperance man, he travelled the U.S. making effective speeches denouncing the use of alcoholic beverages. Most surprising for a man who seemed always to be schem- ing to make money (and he made lots of he was a philanthropist The seeming incongruity between Barnum's strong belief in virtue and the oppor- tunism he practised is recon- ciled by seeing him as a child of his time. He grew up in rural New England in the ear- ly 19th century where vic- timization was a way of life. Professor Harris says, "The nostalgia that currently shrouds many pictures of 19th century communities hides a world whose poverty of recreation and scarcity of material goods forced even kinsmen to spar for advan- tage. Barnum never sen- timentalized his past." There is a kind of Horatio Alger quality to Barnum's life. He fought his way up from relative poverty to riches and he overcame many setbacks. Unlike his neighbor, Mark Twain, he never suc- cumbed to dark moods. "To the end. Barnum remained a positive, contented, and blandly optimistic vision of existence the world of nightmare and despair lay beyond his senses." Somehow P. T. Barnum fails in this book to become the engaging real life person he must have been. There is too much analysis and com- parison in the way. But that, I take it, is the purpose of this book. There are numerous other books that are biographical apparently, in- cluding an immensely popular one written by Barnum himself. DOUG WALKER Background to modern Africa "Africa Emergent" by John Hatch, (William Heinemann Ltd., A quarter of the earth's land surface, a third of the world's hydro-electric power, vast mineral resources and an area of land under cultivation per head of population three times that of Europe thus is the awakening giant of Africa en- dowed. Yet. in 1970, the average per capita income of Africa was only a little over The economic position in many countries is very near desperation. "There are many reasons for the poverty of the vast ma- jority of Africans, amidst the riches of their continent: several thousand years of isolation for most of them from contact with the rest of mankind; the handicap of tropical climate and poor soils, the slave trade and alien rule which succeeded it; the lack of interest displayed by European imperialists in the development of their sub- jects: a consequent absence of modern technical equipment, skills, organization, social in- stitutions and capital for investment." This book is a comparative study of the political and economic development of the modern states of Africa. Colonial rule left a hastily constructed governmental and judicial superstructure based on nothing but the mother country's own history. Tribal authority had been lost and tribes were often divided. The solutions attempted by the politicians varied between the democratic socialism of Tan- 7. a n i a to the outright capitalism of the Ivory Coast and the near-fascist regime of South Africa. The part played by multi- national corporations in developing or exploiting Africa receives secondary consideration in this book to the internal political possibilities of ei.'h country, but underlines t involve- ment of the outsioe world in Africa. The instability of these new nations, which many in this country abhor, is made worse by multi-national corporations" manipulation of markets, sponsorship of coups (e.g. Israel's to Idi Amin of Uganda which backfired on the and the "Red Menace" of China and Russia's aid to Africa. This is an extremely readable and informed book by a man obviously in control of his subject. One chapter deals in detail with Zambia apart from which the book is a matter of comparisons between the various states in the various fields of development. Anyone wishing a background to modern Africa could not do better and all in 220 pages, with good bibliography and index. A.' R. F. WILLIAMS Mankind's greatest shame Reading The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn is an overwhelming experience. The author makes no attempt to be polished or clever but splashes the truth, stark and hideous, in letters of blood. Here are the stories of 227 martyrs, of forced labor camps as a means of political terror, of murder, torture, and deportation. Solzhenitsyn tells of the most bestial tortures. Of Masha G.. an 18 year old girl kept barefooted for two hours in the Chernovtsy Prison up to her ankles in icy water until she (eared losing her feet. Helen Strumskaya was lorced to remain seated on a stool for six days without sleeping or moving. During brief walks looking up at the heavens was for- bidden "keep your eyes on the ground Everyone was put in the punishment cell to be kept submissive. Here stripped of clothing, freezing in an unheated cell, on bare ground, prisoners often Went insane. A girl stooped to fasten her shoe and fell a step behind the con- voy who set dogs on her viciously biting her buttocks A pretty bride refused to sleep with the plant foreman Arrested on a pretext she was raped by criminals in the Black Maria. robbed, then sentenced to five years in prison. Sometimes the convoy would announce. "We aren't going to feed you today: nothing was issued for you today." Tortures were more ghastly than these so that the stomach turns sick. Why were they inflicted? To ex- tract "confessions" when there was nothing to confess. Countless thousands suffered the most bestial, senseless, sadistic torture. Stalin's slaughters went in waves, the worst being the dekulakization of 1929-1937 which Swianiewicz in Forced Labor and Economic Development, estimates as having 30 million victims, a third of whom died or were killed Solzhenitsyn tells of peasant revolts from 1918. the peasants being ruthlessly slaughtered as they attacked machine guns with pitchforks. He describes the accusations against the church as responsible for the famine ol 1922. a persecution pursued into the present. Basements of churches were used as torture chambers. Solzhenitsyn describes prisoners tran- sported in railway cars divided into com- partmen' "From the corridor side all this is very reminiscent of a menagerie pitiful creatures resembling human beings are huddled there in cages surrounded on all sides by metal grilles, looking out at you pitifully, begging for something to eat or drink "Not even the African slave trade was as ghastly as these Communist "slave caravans Solzhenitsyn records the purging of the wives who failed to renounce their husbands 11940) and the dreadful destruction of minority groups The most monstrous of Stalin's deeds, however, wus his treatment of prisoners ol war returning from Germany. As "traitors" they should have been shot, but "mercifully" had their sentences commuted to slave labor Solxhenitsyn indicts Stalin as the traitor who should have been shot, who did everything humanly possible to lose the war This incredible story is being told tor the first time today As Solzhenitsyn says, the Stalin government was one of "insanity and treason Another priceless contribution of Solzhenitsyn is the line ot demarcation he draws between the Tsars and Communist inhumanity. The brutality of Lenin. Stalin, and the rest did not grow out of the Tsars No Tsar could have transgressed the laws as the Communist leaders did. The Empress Elizabeth could be cruel indeed, but she abolished capital punishment. Communism retarded Russian development tragically From 1890 to 1914 Russian industrial and cultural development had the highest rate in the world She had the world's finest body ot engineers, all to be slaughtered by Com- munist brutes. Her railroad mileage was se- cond only to the U.S in 1912 In 1880 Tsar Alexander III initiated labor legislation as advanced as any in the world Children under 12 were not permitted in in- dustrial labor Monev wages were augmented by free lodging hospital service, and factory schools. Workers' accident compensation was introduced in 1903. health insurance in 1912. Education and medical care reached from the poorest ot the city population to the peasants Russian scientists, sculptors, painters, and writers were the world's greatest Solzhenitsyn does not develop this because he is not a professional historian or sociologist He is content to show that the Tsarist inhumanity and bestiality was not comparable to the Soviets. With the Com- munists atrocity reached a new dimension, was something of a far different kind and ex- tent. Solzhenitsyn thus provides a twofold in- valuable, salutary service No longer can peo- ple be blind to Communist monstrosity No longer can they link it to the Tsars as something native to Russian character The world is provided with an eye witness ac- count ol the diabolism of Communism and the appalling evil and suffering such a philosophy makes possible Buying a bathing suit By Betsy Wade, New York Times commentator NEW YORK Everyone's talking about the bathing suit made mostly of shoelaces Well, at or so a yard, it may be the ultimate expression of the perils of inflation, but those of us who do noi suffer anorexia, who have been known to partake of a meal between Monday and Sunday, have problems we can't laugh off. I mean trying to buy a bathing suit we might actually wear. Vacations loom, and we are here with last year's diaphanous threads and an invitation to the beach Action. For one week. I told my friends. I would not be able to hear about their super- market traumas, their primal scream therapy, divorce litigation, crisis of middle age or child with lockjaw. I focused myself entirely on the pursuit of a suitable suit. One can get through the winter. It takes a certain amount of dodgyness like calling up Abercrombie Fitch or Sears to order a pair ot slacks in the banjo seat model For reasons that probably lie at op- posite ends of the protein ladder, these two places have remembered that some of us in the great out here are slightly larger than 31-18-31. And one doesn't have to go into that hellish room with the mirrors all around and the head that pokes through the curtain to check on your anguish You can lock the bathroom door and untie the package and if the pants don't go past your knees, you just tie them up again and mail them back asking for the next size up. No postman has ever been known to say: "You want Now there's some talk that manufacturers have been shrinking the pattern before the garment is cut to save fabric so that a size 14 is more like a size 12'2. Last winter things got so bad that the bootmakers shrunk the pattern, everything in the stores was in the spindle shank model. But trying to compensate for the shrunken pattern in the bathing suit department is futile the marker appears to have been thrown away one steamy afternoon in 1964 Since then, manufacturers have evidently- been cutting bathing suits from the scraps left over from the year before, with fragments from bandanas thrown in. A scrap of this, a snippit of that and presto bathing suit. To find a suit, one must go into the store because of those little notices saying nothing is returnable. Eventually, there is no hiding from it. Well. I did hide for a couple of years. I had the good fortune to visit an un- derdeveloped country, a place where women made of more than skin and bones are con- sidered to be normal or possibly even advan- tageous I was unceremoniously presented with a greenish garment into which I could slide in comfort and ease. My arms and legs and head stuck out at correct angles and I could bend over When I entered the water. I was able to manipulate my limbs in a way that propelled me forward without causing the garment to pop off In that underdeveloped area, this was call- ed swimming and I found it truly diverting, perhaps even more enjoyable than sitting on one ol those floating chairs in the water while holding a drink, or better than pushing expen- sively dressed people into the pool. 1 so enjoyed the experience that I asked the proprietor if I could buy the greenish gar- ment After some discussion about why I didn't go into a store and buy one just like it i I've been that route, and no thanks i, I bought the sopping thing, dried it and ultimately im- ported it into the United States. For a couple of years I've been able to go to the beach feel- ing like a member of the human race But now. oh woe. the greenish garment is worn out. I besought the advice of chic friend She had done her usual thing ol wrapping herself in two yards of batik and a gamelan orchestra and the mere sight of her made my hem fall out and one heel break off one ol my shoes. "Don't be silly." she said airily. 'You're the athletic type and you should wear a leotard." Me in a leotard. Well. Have you ever seen the Michelm tire man? I tried on a "dressmaker" suit, made by an upholsterer from miles of fabric It looked as if it would be like swimming in a downed parachute I thought ot cut off blue jeans and a T-shirt, like the kids, but I fear I would dare swim only at quarries and deserted beaches Nudism leaves me cold. What is really needed are some bathing suits with enough material in them of a relatively plain sort Even my sveltest friends complain that they can't cover their flanks with what's offered unless they remain standing bolt upright at all times. I think the manufacturers might be delighted with the closet swimmers that emerged il they set out something to wear But at this point my psyche is so cheesy that I'm planning to spend the weekend in transcendental meditation. My mantra is fannv tannv fannv. Building up a nest egg From Rapport It's time with the high cost ot living to reprint this novel plan for building up a nest egg. Anyone seriously inclined to try will have need to readjust the prices upward to today's level. If you cannot refrain from drinking, then start a saloon in your own home. Be the only customer and you'll not have to buy a license. Give your wife 555.00 to buy a case of whiskey. There are 240 drinks in a case. Buy all your drinks from your wife at 60 cents a drink and in twelve days (when the case is gone) your wife will have to put in the bank and to buy another case. If you live ten years and continue to buy all your whiskey from your wife, and then die in your boots (or cups) your widow will have on deposit enough to bring up vour children, pay off the mortgage, marry a decent man and forget she ever Knew a bum like vou.