The Old Mess
remember with much pleasure my first encounters with the Mess Hall of
Co C, 32nd Inf Trng Bn, IRTC, Camp Croft, SC, just
outside of Spartanburg, SC. For almost 2 years prior to entering
the army, I was living in Montgomery, AL. on my own, eating catch as
catch can, in restaurants, cafes, a Morrison's Cafeteria, drug store
soda fountains, hole-in-the-wall hamburger and hot dog joints. There
were no fast-foods! I think maybe a Toddle House, but I am not sure.
Mess Hall, just a few steps from my barracks, fed around 200 men from
Company C, three square meals a day on a regular basis, all hot and
steaming except for Sunday night cold cuts.
major-domo of the Mess Hall was a Sergeant Stout, a regular army
veteran of many years, who took pride in feeding his men what I soon
called "Good Chow." I was always trying to get in the Mess Hall
early for each meal and would be among the lingering eaters which
earned me a name as a "Chow Hound." My taste for Sgt. Stouts's
food soon paid dividends. I began to gain weight and went from a
paltry 112 pounds to about 125 which my father and sister noted on my
first visit after being in the army about 2-3 months.
Mess Hall had its bad side, though. That was when you had to work
kitchen police, better known as "KP." By some magic formula which
was never explained, we all had our turn working in the kitchen in
various jobs such as "firing the boiler", working the "pots and pans"
sink, etc. After three or four turns at "KP," I finally earned
Sgt. Stout's respect to the point he offered to make me a cook if I
wanted to work in the kitchen. I said, "No thanks, Sarge,
Sir. I like the food and I don't mind the kitchen work, but I
like close-order drilling and marching better so I'll stick to doing