Saturday, January 17, 2009

Diesel tech

I just don't hear Sven and Ole jokes down here in So Cal. So, when I came across this joke recently I enjoyed it. The joke also sent me unexpectedly on a trip down memory lane.

Sven and Ollie had been buddies for many years and one day when they reported for work, they discovered to their distress that their factory was closing on that next Friday.

On Monday we find them both standing in line at the unemployment office, signing up for unemployment payments.

The unemployment clerk said to Sven, "What job did you have?"

Sven said, "I vas a panty sewer. I sewed the elastic on the panties."
Kinks T-Shirts

"OK," says, the clerk. "I'll set you up for a payment of two hundred dollars per week."

Then she turns to Ollie and says, "And, what job did you have?"

Ollie says, "I vas a diesel fitter."

"Ok," says the clerk, "I'll set you up for a payment of four hundred dollars a week."

"Four Hundred Dollars," yells Sven. "How come he gets four hundred dollars and I only got two hundred dollars?"

"Well," said the clerk, "he is a diesel fitter, that's a much more mechanical job, harder work handling piping and welding and all. So, he gets more money."

"Vhat do you mean," says Sven. " I sew the elastic on the panties, and pulls 'em over his head and says, 'Dese'll fit 'er'."

Thanks folks, you've been a great audience. I'll be here all week. Be sure to try the prime rib special.

Before I left the Pacific NW to seek my fortune and adventure in Uncle Sam's Yacht Club I worked a couple years with some old boys at a service station. I'd pick up from them in the afternoon after my A&P classes at the local Voc-Tech.

They were story and joke tellers like we just don't see anymore in this age of diminishing conversation and "always on" media.

One of them, Stan(the owner), was a Swedish Immigrant -- a WWII Swedish Air Force Vet. A real American success story and always hopeful for tomorrow and next year: even though he was losing the station at the time due to tailend of Carter's stagflation economy. He could laugh at any time on any day, no matter how bad things were.

There was the oldest of the bunch, John. He was a veteran of the Pacific war. He'd been an Army Reservist in the late 30's and was already a sergeant or staff sergeant when the balloon went up. So, he found himself deployed in the early dark days of WWII while most guys were still trying to sign up. He claimed to have been stationed on Bougainville longer than anyone other troop (13 months if I recollect). Said they called him the Mayor of Bougainville. If I recollect, he'd been a mechanic then too and wound up in charge the Motor Pool and maintanance.

John had lots of stories about crazy times on an island we never fully occupied. The Jap's keep bringing to them from outside the perimeter for the duration. He told of being pushed back to small perimeter along the water by the Japanese at one point.
Dark days. Dark like Helm's Deep dark.

Even when the perimeter expanded and was mostly secure they had to live with shelling and air raids. The US didn't have air superiority. Looking back he saw the humor in many of those situations. Lot's of shenanigans by enlisted guys with too much time on their hands -- some funny stuff. Some sobering stuff too.

Most of the jokes came from Adrian, a grizzled old retired Army Tank mechanic. Adrian was in his early 50's but between the weathered skin, whiskey eyes and missing teeth hillbilly grin he looked like he was 75. He always had a cigarette hanging on at the corner of his lip. Actually it was seemed to be suspended on his lower lip with no apparent means of support or capture by the upper lip. Ol' Adrian was at the same time the grumpy old man, the OC (original curmudgeon), and also the court jester. Like I said, most of the jokes came from Adrian. He had a whole pile of war stories too -- and the scars visible on his body to go with them: stories of frozen marches retreating down the Korean Peninsula, tanks stuck in cesspools in a remote Korean village, wild times in Japan on liberty, keeping the faith on multiple tours in 'Nam and so on.

Outside it all was Old Bill. He's another story. Just an old guy who hung around the station for fellowship -- didn't work there. He'd worked in mills and wasn't a Vet. He didn't have the same perspective and while welcomed in, I sensed he didn't have the connection the other old guys shared. There's a bond between Vets that crosses ages and even countries of service.

Anyhoo, these old boys were joke tellers. So was I. I'd been practicing and annoying family and neighbors since very young with my attempts at joke telling. Well, those ol' boys took me to a whole new level of play. /LOL

Every day there was a new (old) joke) and a different war story. In large part they were just passing the time. In some larger more important way, I realize now they were educating a young "soon to be vet" and passing the torch. I miss those guys.

But I digress... I'm WAAAYYY off track.
That's a long way around to get to the thought/joke that gave rise to this post. In the Seattle area there is a large base of folks who descended from Scandinavian immigrants. Along with that there's a regional flavor to their jokes. Let me put it this way -- "Sven and Ole" are big factors in most jokes. So is "Lena."

I miss that.

I didn't set out writing this to trigger all those memories in myself.

Boy, more than the jokes, I really miss those guys too.