Boy Scouts and Boy Sex—Now I know
By Amy Lane
So there’s something bizarre that happens when you’re writing a period piece.
Suddenly the world becomes a giant blank past the last year of your life, and you have forgotten what existed when. You wake up from a dead sleep screaming things like, “HOLY FUCK! Did they have toilet paper and plywood in 1942? WIKIPEDIA, SAVE MY LIFE!”
And I didn’t just set this during WWII, I made them camp. I mean… I made them camp. Now, that part should have been easy, actually. I actually had six grandparents who lived through WWII. Yes, one grandparent was in his 40’s during the war and stayed home, but my mother’s parents both worked for the OSS, and my stepmom’s parents were a sailor and a nurse during the war. I mean, Grandpa Harold saved camp rations, so when I was a little kid, I actually ate SPAM from the Korean war and survived. (I shit you not. Blame what you will on it, I thought it was tasty, although now I wouldn’t touch SPAM with a barge pole.)
So I knew you could toast bread on a rack, and I’d seen metal cook stoves and knew how they worked, and was aware that people wiped their asses in outhouses using the Sears catalog, but still…
I’d have that moment of disconnect, when I was sure I was imposing something from my age on the 1940’s and panic.
So for shits and giggles, I thought I’d list some random things I learned while writing this book.
- Cattail roots are edible, and would be tasty fried or in a salad. Walter cooked them with rabbit.
- I always knew willow bark tea has the same ingredient as aspirin, and could be used as a painkiller, but now I know that willow trees are also in France.
- I know that the little house in Moselle would have had running water in the bathroom. (I actually knew this earlier—the Egyptians had toilets, which meant that Naef and Aerie-Smith would TOO have had a bathroom, all those nitpickers who read Truth in the Dark and bitched about it. Whew—wanted to get that off my chest for a while now.)
- I knew they probably had a pump through the kitchen window simply because I’d seen old houses that did.
- Yes, toilet paper was a thing back then. So was plywood. I looked it up.
- Yes, the deHaviland Mosquito was made of wood. And yes, some models had a two-man cockpit. (But the book I found with a picture didn’t show it. The guy I asked and credited in the book said it would probably be front-to-back, like the Spitfire, and I went with that.)
- They didn’t always send a guy up in the plane with a camera—that was for specialized recon only. (That was the job my Grandpa Ken had in the war.)
- But outfitting a plane with photo equipment for general recon wasn’t easy. The original photo equipment tested in the Spitfire ran so hot next to the engines it cooked and broke. The solution was to open vents in the plane to cool it off. Which resulted in test pilots freezing to death and crashing.
- They painted the planes different colors for different missions. The specialized night fliers were painted sort of a gray on the bottom to blend with clouds. The day fliers were painted a pale pink, because, again, clouds.
- Each plane would have had an insignia painted for the pilot and the squadron. Something personal.
- The German planes during WWI were called the “Flying Circus” because the planes were painted REALLY BRIGHT colors, to help the Germans recognize each other since they had no radios to communicate with during a fight. (Yes, not WWII, I know, but we were walking through the Air and Space Museum in San Diego, and I saw that, as well as some of the planes, and heard that song about Snoopy and the Red Baron, and thought it was really interesting. So now you know.)
- The OSS parachuted down crates of Liberator pistols into France during the occupation. These pistols had one shot each. I am still not seeing the point, and honestly, the only thing I can think of is that girl from Top Secret, because the gun she held was a Liberator. One shot? Really? Holy Balls. Give them six at the very least! (Okay—now that I’ve gone off on that, somebody is going to come up with a very important culturally significant reason for the one-shot Liberator, and I will feel foolish. But at least I won’t be sitting here thinking “Holy Balls!” anymore, and I will be grateful.)
- Polari was a British slang used back then to let gay men identify each other. If you knew Polari, you kept it secret. If you didn’t know Polari, well, learn at your own risk. It was originally the cant of carnival workers and entertainers, and it evolved. Most of the Polari terms have been brought to light—in fact, those of us who read M/M use them in our everyday language. There was a BBC television show that featured two men who used the language in a satirical sense in the 1960’s, and the terms became common parlance. Alas, Walter and Nate would not have known any of these terms, which meant that the three days I spent reading up on Polari ended up being strictly for my benefit. Darn.
- The actual term for being discharged from the army for sexual misconduct (homosexuality) back then was known as a “blue discharge”. (Okay—I did learn that from the book on Polari. Go me!)
- The Nazis actually imprisoned, tortured, and killed gay men as well as Jews. They were forced to wear a pink triangle as opposed to a six-pointed star. I actually knew this before I started writing this book. Jane Yolen wrote a haunting version of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale called Briar Rose. I read it in college and it’s where I think my interest in this subject—and in Jews during WWII–began. (That and Winds of War which aired on television when I was in high school.)
And whew. Have you had enough? Because that’s all I’ve got from the top of my head… oh wait.
One more thing.
KY Jelly, also known as surgical jelly, would totally have been in Walter’s little black bag. Heh heh heh… and I’m sure Walter would have figured out it worked way better than goose grease or spit.
Thank God. Things were difficult enough back then already!
Title: The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary/Historical, M/M, Romance, Ghosts
Length: 236 pages/Word Count: 65,300
Every New Year’s Eve since 1946, Nate Meyer has ventured alone to Times Square to listen for the ghostly church bells he and his long-lost wartime lover vowed to hear together. This year, however, his grandson Blaine is pushing Nate through the Manhattan streets, revealing his secrets to his silent, stroke-stricken grandfather.
When Blaine introduces his boyfriend to his beloved grandfather, he has no idea that Nate holds a similar secret. As they endure the chilly death of the old year, Nate is drawn back in memory to a much earlier time . . . and to Walter.
Long before, in a peace carefully crafted in the heart of wartime tumult, Nate and Walter forged a loving home in the midst of violence and chaos. But nothing in war is permanent, and now all Nate has is memories of a man his family never knew existed. And a hope that he’ll finally hear the church bells that will unite everybody—including the lovers who hid the best and most sacred parts of their hearts.
Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing
Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.
She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.
She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.
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