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The August Moon

Veteran's Corner

Many of you older folks may remember the 1956 movie, ‘Teahouse of The August Moon,” starring Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford. It was a satire of the U.S. occupation and Americanization  of the island of Okinawa. 

After serving 10 months aboard an aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific, I was assigned to Commander Fleet Activities-Ryukyus, with Okinawa being one of the Ryukyu chain of islands southwest of Japan. I worked under a lieutenant commander with oversight from the base commander. It was great duty — exciting, challenging, sometimes dangerous but always achievable. While on Okinawa, I had the once in a lifetime honor and privilege to attend a function at the Tea House of The August Moon as the island’s Navy representative. 

This is my story: One afternoon, my lieutenant commander summoned me to his office to ask me for a favor. Would I fill in for him one evening at a function at The August Moon? I agreed and he said to include my wife, Yoshi. The reception, presented by the Okinawan Chamber of Commerce, was an elaborate event involving several hours of  dining and entertainment. I was to dress casually and pass myself off as a lieutenant commander. It was quite a stretch — my rank was as a second class non-commissioned officer. 

Most non-commissioned officers run the military. Strict deference to authority and chain of command is enforced. Smart officers listen to their non-coms. I was told to keep my eyes and ears open for useful information. 

It appeared to be an all expense paid fun night. The venue proved to surpass my wildest expectations. The August Moon exuded opulence, elegance and splendor with a delicate balance of charming atmosphere, which provided unbelievable service, hospitality and courtesy. 

We entered by an alcove and were ushered in by two elderly gentlemen who took our shoes and coats to store, and providing us new slippers. Our coats were taken to be brushed and our shoes to be shined so bright they looked like mirrors, all to be claimed upon our departure. We were escorted to a large tatami room with low tables adorned with a flower and bird design. Drinks were immediately served and refreshed every 15 minutes, regardless of their content. There were appetizers galore presented for over an hour. 

I was seated beside  a  lady in her mid-50s, who obviously had a head start on the liquid refreshment. She was semi-annoying and extremely distracting. She examined my nameplate and remarked I appeared awfully young to be a lieutenant commander. I thanked her for the compliment and replied, “Many others have often said the same.”  Thankfully, this seemed to appease her. 

Entrées were served, featuring Oriental, French, Italian and American cuisine. We chose Kobe beef prime rib with much to supplement it. On an elevated stage in front of us, Japanese folk songs, Kabuki and ’60s music were performed by talented individuals. The night passed quickly. 

We left thoroughly satiated and hydrated after claiming our coats and shoes and tipped the ushers for their excellent service. 

This was one of several experiences on Okinawa that will remain forever in my mind. But never once while I was at the Tea House of The August Moon did I have a single cup of tea. 

God bless you, faithful readers, and your families. Don’t forget to say a little prayer for our selfless health care workers and first responders. 

Stay safe and enjoy what’s left of your summer as best as you can.

Till next time…

 

Millerton resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam veteran who is a member of both the American Legion Post 178 in Millerton, N.Y., and the Couch-Pipa VFW Post 6851 in North Canaan, Conn.

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