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FICTION CAVEAT EMPTOR / Barry Targati JOEY ROGOVIN SWUNG in and out of the way of the hard platoon marching like hammers on the Boardwalk. Like one more in the vast undulant sheet of searching pigeons, he would move aside for the rectangle of men and then fold back in the wake behind them. And like the pigeons, he was a gleaner too. At fifteen, unsure of the shape of irony, yet he responded to the fact of it: heavy armies might trample down the golden fields and destroy Empire, but along the way they also smashed it into the little pieces manageable by small scavengers. What Joey Rogovin in his own lifetime could never have hoped to share in now fell easily to his hand and wit, and he battened upon his luck and opportunity, for this was war. Not that the Boardwalk was a golden grain field, not that Atlantic City was that sort of Empire. Rather, it had suddenly become the largest military training camp in the world. By the potent magic of Supreme decree, it had been changed in a few months from the Queen of Resorts to the King of Armories. From December 1941 to the following April 1942, the grand hotels—the Haddon Hall, the Traymore, the Dennis, the Marlborough-Blenheim, the Shelborne, the Breakers, and all the rest—as well as every modest sidestreet inn and even some of the larger rooming houses—were converted to barracks. Nothing else in America was so ready-made, so in place, so quickly adaptable in 1941 to such a purpose as was Atlantic City. Partitions divided space to multiply it. The magnificent suites such as that on the fifteenth floor of the Ritz-Carlton high over the grey-green Atlantic of the south Jersey shore, that which even through the recent summer past had sheltered variously the Ludens of the Luden cough drop fortune; the Clothiers from Ardmore, Pennsylvania; the entourage of the mobster Louis "Thumbs" Mangore—that suite now housed forty common men. And now with no splendid view. All the windows facing the sea were blacked out, darkened against the lurking eye of the maurauding enemy U-boats, steel sharks waiting out in the ship channel not more than a dozen miles off shore. Partitions were erected or walls were ripped out, toilet facilities were expanded, shifted, or built. Stairwells and fire escapes repaired, evacuation plans made, elevator cables restrung—there were details. But in the main nothing could have been easier than this transfiguration . The large kitchens were ready, the crystal chandeliered dining rooms were turned into mess halls, the parquet ballrooms cleared for calisthenics when it rained. And of course there was the perfect drill field—the wide, substantial, flat, clean, resilient, and nearly endless The Missouri Review · 85 Boardwalk. AU day from reveille to retreat the khaki men would drill, marching north in the inland lane, south on the seaside. Between each element sufficient space was left, a hundred yards or sometimes two hundred, for the troops to be wheeled about and wheeled again, to be moved from ranks into files and back, to be dressed right, to parade rest. Order, containment—the discipline upon which unquestioned response in battle depended—was established here. "Companeeeeeee. . .halt!" the sergeant would call. "Take ten. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Don't leave no butts." Then it was time for Joey Rogovin. The men on their ten minute break could move about but only within the loose shape of the unit. No one could walk back a half a block to a Boardwalk store to buy a coke or a hot dog or gum or cigarettes. Even if they were on the beach side of the Boardwalk and the company had chanced to halt across from a store, they could not cross to the opposite side. And along much of the Boardwalk where the men drilled, that part of the Boardwalk which before December had been an elegant promenade of elegant shops (Wing Fat's oriental knick knacks in jade) and auction galleries (Lloyd's for the finest lace, Boughton's for Wedgewood and Louis Quatorze chairs), along this stretch there were no hot...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 83-105
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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