Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy - as told by Pappy Boyinton

From Pappy Boyington's book Baa Baa Black Sheep. Before he formed the VMF-214 Black Sheep, Greg Boyington volunteered with the Flying Tigers in Kunming, China. At one point his fighter group is assigned to Rangoon:

Here at Rangoon I was to meet two of the most genuine friends I hope to have. For two semi-portly gentlemen in their fifties, showing signs of years of good living, came across my path. I didn't realize then that, no matter where a person goes or what kinds of problems he may have, he always has friends.

Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy did everything a little differently from the way other wealthy colonials acted there in Rangoon. They came out to Mingaladon in person and picked up six of us AVG pilots. It was very cute, I thought, the way the inseparable pair worked together. Later, I learned, they had continued this relationship, which started when they served together in World War I. As two young men, they had realized the lack of opportunity in Scotland and had struck out to the colonies to better themselves, remaining there ever since. Jim and Bill were in the oil-refining business in Burma. Both were bachelors and always had been. And both of them had selected picturesque knolls in suburbs of Rangoon, where they had constructed their dream estates, approximately a half mile from one home to the other. The construction, the landscaping, the servants, everything appeared to blend in peaceful harmony. Jim Adams came directly to the point when they picked us up at the field, and asked us to come live with them. He said: "Bill and I have spent most of our lives in comparative comfort. But we know what the other side is like. And we decided it was awfully selfish of us, not sharing our homes with you fellows, who are the only reason we are able to live in them."

By this time all of the pilots had been billeted with different colonials in their homes. However, the six of us, living with Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy, were the only pilots whose hosts had insisted that no room and board be paid. Furthermore, they dropped everything of importance to make us feel at home, and we became inseparable.

That the best things in life are free certainly was applicable with the Adams-Tweedy homes, for at no time previously had I lived with a feeling of complete comfort. And to think of the misery of the countries we were in, with war going on full blast. The enjoyable routine still lingers in my memory, or I wouldn't bother to talk about it. And after a day's stand-by or work at the field, we would park our P-40s for the night in close-by rice paddies that had no water, just before sunset. We did this so there would be nothing but an occasional bomb crater to be filled on Mingaladon the following morning. Even lightning cannot strike something that is not there.

After our P-40s were bedded down, I would drive home to Jim Adam's lavish abode. Always, without exception, I found one, or sometimes both, of the kindly Scots with the pilots, seated about the patio next to one of the hilltop estates.

"Chota Peg" or "Burra Peg," came the friendly invitation just after darkness had set in. These were names of scotch and soda out there. The "Chota" was a single. The "Burra" was a double. Bill Tweedy laughed one night and said: "You chaps even caused us to change the name of one of our drinks. When have had to change the name of our 'Burra Peg' to 'the American Drink.'"

These evenings out of doors were augmented by typical Southern California weather that February of 1942. After we briefly accounted for the day, we downed our Burra Pegs and excused ourselves, then retired to our quarters to freshen up before continuing the enjoyable evening with our hosts. For these two Scots were the same as foster parents.

Each pilot had his own spacious bedroom with the customary large paddle-blade fan hanging from the ceiling and a large, soft four-poster bed, covered with a roomy mosquito netting. Even Angus, Jim's black dog, a great Dane, had his own bedroom and his own mosquito net.

Each household had approximately ten domestics, Indians and Burmese, ranging from gardener, chauffeur, and number one boys to first, second, and third cooks. The Indian servants lived in quarters separate from the main house, while the Burmese commuted from Rangoon.

Every bedroom adjoined a good-sized bath that was serviced from an outside door. It was baffling that with so many servants and all the attention to make your living so smooth you rarely saw more than one at a time, almost as if these servants were accomplishing the job with mirrors, as they moved soundlessly about on their bare feet.

Usually I entered the bedroom relieving myself of my dirty, sticky clothing as I walked. And by the time I entered the bathroom there was always a hot tub waiting, and the proper temperature for me. Perfect coordination, regardless of the hour I arrived. And Anto, a husky Burmese, the number-one boy, had already left unseen through the outside bathroom entrance. Nor do I remember ever calling for Anto to serve me; he must have had telepathy in addition to all his other fine attributes. If not before, I soon discovered, after I had eased myself into this refreshing tub, that cigarettes, matches, and a cool, fresh "Burra Peg" were within easy reach.

It was a king like feeling when, in fresh linen, I rejoined my associates and hot out on the tastefully shrubberied patio. As we sat around, delightfully passing the time of day, I was almost positive at times that my glass had been empty when I last set it down. But each time I picked up my glass, shaking it to be positive, I discovered that Anto or some other servant had replenished it unobserved.

Some of the evenings before dinner, which was never served before ten o'clock, Jim would ring next doore on the telephone. And the conversation would go like this: "I say, Hurumph. Hurumph. Are you there, old boy?" Blank "Sir Archibald Wavell speaking." Another blank "Would you do me the honor of cocktails and dinner this evening?"

We would alternate back and forth sometimes, with all eight of the two households at either one home or the other. Jim's Indian cook, tall and thin, was a true artist, and he served the most tasty meals I have ever experienced. This was the number-one cook, who did all of the marketing, also.

Jim explained that, owing to the higher wages in Burma, an Indian could work three years away from India, then return back home and live a year without working. Several of the Indian servants had been going back and forth for a couple generations.

The mornings, even though I was awakened before sunrise, were equally pleasant - no clanging alarm clock, no bugler, merely the delightful aroma of freshly brewed tea. This came from a teapot and a poured cup upon a table beside my pillow. And for once in my life I was able to get out of bed by degrees and enjoy myself. The cup of tea was very nearly consumed by the time I had finished a cigarette and had gotten my other slipper on my foot. Then into the bathroom for a shave and a toothbrush I went. Upon returning to my bedroom I found fruit, ham and eggs, marmalade and toast, and more tea, placed upon the little table beside my bed. What a way to live! How could I ever forget this part?

Later in the book, as Boyington and some other AVG pilots are trying to get back to the States to rejoin their respective branches, they get to Calcutta, which seems to be a holding spot for refugees:

The four of us Flying Tigers had military preference, or we would not even have slept in a hotel room with eight cots in it. Here in Calcutta I was once again to run into my two old friends Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy from Rangoon.

Jim and Bill insisted upon my coming to their room for a couple of "Pegs" for old times' sake. I couldn't help feel sorry for these two sweet Scots, who, after nearly thirty years of comfortable living, were in a ten-by-twelve room with no bath.

These Scots had really touched my heartstrings by the manner in which they had take me into their homes at Rangoon. As a matter of fact, they had been the only people who had made part of my time in the Flying Tigers enjoyable. And when I mentioned earlier, as Jim and Bill were leaving Rangoon, how relative things are, I didn't have any idea of comparing twin estates to one crummy room in Calcutta.

How can I ever forget? Jim and Bill were left sitting upon the edge of their beds clad only in shorts, balding and perspiring. They informed me that they couldn't even get any money out of England, let alone passage, for the bank accounts were frozen.

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