Friday, November 18, 2005


Last Friday night I was on the amusement park pier in Santa Monica. (It was featured in an episode of 'Eyes' earlier this year.)

It was November 11. Veteran's Day.

Below me on the beach were 2060 little white crosses with candles flickering before them within red plastic cups which provided a blood-red glow after the sunset into the ocean.

Nearby there were also flag-draped coffins which were to be carried in the streets. People were reciting the sad long litany of those lost so far in this wasteful war.

I know the whole event got coverage on CNN the next day.

Sometimes I write up a blog entry and then save it for future publication on a specific day. (I've got a quick little piece ready to go for Thanksgiving on the theme of Hope, Faith, and Wonder.)

And I totally forgot that I was saving a remembrance for Veterans' Day; a tribute to a WWII vet who passed away in 2005. I should have brought it along with me on the trip to California.

So if I may, I'd like to share with you now this overdue honor.....

According to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, approximately 1056 veterans of World War II pass away every day. So for this year's tribute on Veterans' Day (Remembrance Day in Canada), I'd like to tip my hat to one particular vet of the Big One in TV Land who must have passed away sometime after July of 2005.

Emil Peterson of Chicago, Illinois.

Based on appearance alone, Mr. Peterson was a meek little man: bald, bespectacled, and betrayed by a high-pitched, quavering voice. As he described himself, Mr. Peterson was a "spineless, wishy-washy pansy face."

In order to make up for the deficiencies in his character (and to help overcome his fears of old age, geese, and upholstery), Emil Peterson enlisted in the Marines when he was about eighteen. [It just might be that his drill instructor was 17 year old Hugh O'Brian.]

He served as both a cook and as a demolition expert. Peterson's finest hour in combat happened on April 12, 1943. The troops went into battle fortified by his stew. As far as Mr. Peterson was concerned, their victory that day could be attributed to his special recipe. (The shrapnel would which he received during the war may have occurred during that battle, but details were never revealed as to how he got it... or where it's located.)

Once the war ended, Mr. Peterson needed to find a new way to confront his anxieties, so he took up the sport of white-water rafting down the Colorado River. He must have gone on those adventures at least once a year, because he was confronted with his biggest fear back on the home-front once he married Doris - known on the pro wrestling circuit as the Masked Avenger of Death.

Even though Doris was a virago of epic proportions who blamed Emil for the troubles of the Middle East, Mr. Peterson had a deep-seated need to be henpecked by her. [I have no information as to whether or not she outlived him.]

Possible links for Mr. Peterson:
'McHale's Navy' - While in the Pacific during WWII, he might have been stationed on Taratuga, where he might have crossed paths with Naval Commander Quinton McHale and his crew.

'Jack Of All Trades' - Peterson might also have bee stationed on Palau Palau. That island had been the location for the legendary exploits of Jack Styles, Thomas Jefferson's spy against the Napoleon in the South Pacific nearly 150 years before.

'Cheers' - It is unknown if Emil and Doris had any children, but he might have had a cousin living in Boston by the name of Norman.

So here's to Emil Peterson, Leatherneck. If ever I wear that chocolate cake-scented perfume, I'll think of him.

And cake.


"I'll have you know I was one of the best Marine cooks in the Pacific.
When the men ate my chipped beef on toast,
They volunteered for suicide missions."
Emil Peterson
'The Bob Newhart Show'

"Hostile Mouse' was the description offered up by director Paul Bogert to help actor John Fielder to get a handle on the role.

This tribute would not have been possible had it not been for the research done by Joey Green for his book "Hi, Bob!", for which he has my thanks.

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