Mt Pleasant--Westchester Veterans Looking Back, Facing the Future
By Richard Binkele

Friday, November 11th is Veteran's Day, but for some Vets in Mt. Pleasant, it began, Thursday evening, November 4th, that is when actor, Gary Ferris presented his one-man-show “Until It’s Over, Over There” at the Mount Pleasant Community Center.

The show re-creates a World War II home-front radio show in a way reminiscent of Bob Hope’s “Command Performance.” Mr. Ferris transports his audience back to the days of World War II where they become the audience of a New York City radio studio in 1944 and 1945 for the live broadcasts of a new program from Armed Forces Radio.

George Waterbury, president of the Mt. Pleasant historical society and the town’s historian, was responsible for getting Mr. Ferris, his cousin, to do the show at the center. At one point he even joined Mr. Ferris at the microphone to sing a duet, White Cliffs of Dover.
Gary Ferris is a Mount Pleasant native who now lives in upstate New York. Ferris, who looked the part in his vintage Army uniform, said he’s been doing this show for ten years. He developed the show to honor his own father, Herb Ferris.

Also joining Ferris on stage for three songs were the quartet “Freshmen Again”. Consisting of Bill Kruse, Stash Rossi, Steve Berkwits and Marty Taylor the group has been singing together for seven years. The men are also members of a barbershop chorale “The Chordsmen”. Mr. Rossi was Mr. Ferris’s music teacher at one time. “I directed Gary in Lil’ Abner when he was in high school,” said Rossi.

Many in the room, now in their eighties or nineties, were only teenagers or in their early twenties, but they clearly rememberd and were moved. The show is modeled after musician/soldier Glenn Miller’s weekly radio show “I Sustain the Wings”. Miller, an American jazz musician (who plays trombone), arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era, was traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II on December 15, 1944 when his plane disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel.
Ferris’s show imagines the radio show that replaced the missing Miller. As a conceit, Hitler has just been defeated two days earlier. Ferris portrays a young radio personality on Armed Forces Radio who, amid a few stage props including a WWII era American flag (with 48 stars) and a very prominent black box with the lighted words ON AIR embedded in the box, plays the era’s music, reads letters from soldiers and listeners, and performs advertising spots of the day.

Waterbury was stationed in the Pacific from 1942 and ‘46. “I use to listen to Tokyo Rose on the radio over there. She sang all those great Frank Sinatra songs.” After he flew 50 missions (he eventually flew 80), his crew was allowed a 10-day rest leave in Australia. “That’s where I heard White Cliffs of Dover.”

In addition to his interest in history, Waterbury is also the treasurer of the American Legion Post 77 in Pleasantville. The post’s leader is Bert Ruiz, a former Marine who served in Vietnam. His esprit d’corp is still obvious when he relates receiving birthday greetings from a young Marine in Afghanistan. It was the 236th birthday of the Marine Corp.

Ruiz’s son recently served a second tour in Afghanistan. How do the wars compare and how different from Vietnam? “It’s all different,” Ruiz said. “We had the draft which I think added to the unpopularity of that conflict. Now we have a volunteer military. The people who’ve joined the Corp accept the constant tours.” Another difference was the type of experience. “I think this is much more stressful than Vietnam because in Afghanistan you don’t have a military-on-military engagement. You have sniper fire, suicide bombers, and IUDs. America suffered over fifty eight thousand fatalities in Vietnam. Now this war has exceeded Vietnam in duration and yet the casualties are much lower.”

Joan Maybury, the recently reelected Mt. Pleasant Town Supervisor, attended last week’s show. “Mr. Ferris's radio broadcast from World War II brought us all back in time to an era that many in the room remembered very well,” she said. “To hear Mr. Waterbury sing "The White Cliffs of Dover" and recall his R&R in Australia after flying missions in the Pacific was so thought provoking. So many of our residents served their country and continue to serve their communities in vital ways. We are blessed when we have opportunities to share history and knowledge with one another.”

In the Town of Mt. Pleasant on Veterans Day we have two events planned. The Hawthorne American Legion along with the Hawthorne Fire Department have a ceremony at 10:00 at the memorial in front of the Fire Department building and then proceed to the Elwood Avenue triangle to lay a wreath of remembrance at another memorial for our veterans.

“Just in my lifetime, our veterans have paid a huge price in sacrifice for our country,” Ruiz said. “I’m proud that here in Mt. Pleasant to celebrate Veterans Day with honor. We always get a good crowd. It’s a testimony to what this Village does.”
For more information contact the Town of Mt Pleasant

Photos, Suzanne Rothberg
Editor, Sunny McLean
Publisher, Community Media on Hudson
Mt Pleasant Community Media

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