William Metcalfe, 7/30/2018

Current Occupation: Having retired from profitable work, I am playing about with either writing or photography.
Former Occupation: There were 40 years of picture framing. My company was one of the first in Washington, DC, to push for preservation as a very important aspect of a framing job. 
Contact Information: After 30 years of aimless travel, I settled down in Washington, DC. after I found I enjoyed working as a picture framer. In the years of travel and of working with customers, I have accumulated a large collection of stories, which exist as short notes. For a period, I was also, by acclamation, a interesting photographer, but a move to a near suburb, a wonderful wife and our 3 children took more and more time. I had to curtail my pursuits. Now that I am retired and my children are adults, I have returned to earlier interests. The iMac which sits on my desk offers itself as a means of rendering a legible copy of a story from the dusty corridors of my mind. It also offers itself as a instructor in converting digital snapshots into something much more meaningful, might I say art. One can only hope

 

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READING RUSSIAN IN ALASKA

 

    For part of my final two years as a soldier I worked as a typist in G2, Intelligence, at Fort Richardson, Alaska. This Fort is very close to the town of Anchorage. I assumed that our post was created so that the US could keep an eye on that part of Russia which was very close to Alaska. But because I did not have a security clearance then, I knew nothing about our methods of acquiring intelligence about Russia nor what intelligence we gathered.

    I did know a man, who was probably in his mid-20s, who worked in the Russian Section as a translator and interrogator. It was possible that he was drafted into the military. Supposedly, there was an Army base somewhere for highly educated persons who objected to war on philosophical or moral grounds. They were assigned manual jobs well below their education. If the person’s objection to war was religious, he would be exempt from service.This man may have taken a chance with the draft. He was quite intelligent and would obviously have a promising career in whatever field he applied himself to after he left the army.  As he did not socialize with the flotsam of our military universe, I did not know him well enough for anything other than a casual conversation.

    One day I looked into his office as I walked through the corridors of the headquarters. Almost simultaneously with my arrival, a multi-stripped Sergeant arrived and grilled him about the work done that day. The young man held up a thick paper-backed book with bright red letters on a yellow background. Somehow I could tell that the letters Russian. This non-commissioned officer demanded to know what that book was about. With a steady stare at the Sergeant, the translator complained that he had to read this damn Russian manual on military troop care and training. Boring, dull and incompetent were the words he used to describe it. The Sergeant nodded his head in agreement, mumbled some cliches, and left. The young man looked at me, smiled and admitted that the book in question was in Russian, but the contents, which did deal with war, were by Tolstoy.  In English, the manual would have been titled WAR AND PEACE.

 

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