The famous apple barrel at the entrance to all Bill Graham Presents concerts.
This picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-Adendorff-002-18A / Adendorf, Peter / CC-BY-SA
Previous: After a night at the battlefront at Chailly-en-Bière, the Germans ordered us to return to Chateau de Quincy. At first it was not bad as there were only some French POWs at the chateau. When they left, a German officer and his staff moved in and we became their servants. After his discharge the Luftwaffe procured permission to commandeer the chateau and we had two weeks left to be out of there. Select prior chapters from the index at the page bottom.
Our last two weeks at Chateau de Quincy began with unbearable hunger. We would untwist the slim vines clinging to the tree branches and chew on them just to get anything into our stomachs.
Almost from the beginning of the German invasion of France food became increasingly scarce. In fact it was so scarce in the necessary vitamins and minerals that all us kids developed symptoms of scurvy and rickets. With the farmers withholding the few produce they had formerly sold us, our situation deteriorated very rapidly.
For breakfast we got a cup of watery porridge and a thin stale slice of bread. No lunch. Dinner consisted of half a cup of rice from the one bag still stored in the cellar. We spent most of our time trying to sleep. Only with sleep could we get some relief from the constant hunger pangs.
After a few days of this intense hunger the older kids decided we would forage for apples which were plentiful in the numerous apple orchards in Quincy sous Senart and vicinity. The elders divided us into military groups. They made themselves the army and the high command. The middle boys became the air force and the youngest to which I and Wolfgang belonged became the navy.
It had become customary for the teachers to put us into a large room on the ground floor in a corner of the chateau every afternoon. This room served us with recreational toys and books. For the next two weeks, the high command would assign 4 boys each day to sneak around the village for apples. They always assigned 3 from the navy and 1 from the air force. It was calculated that the youngest boys would attract the least attention if they ran into one or more of the numerous German patrols. In those times attention from a German patrol could provoke an instant deadly result.
We had found a stack of old rice bags in the cellar each of which could hold 15 to 20 apples. Each boy in an assigned group carried one bag. Would it surprise you to find out that Wolfgang volunteered to go out and forage every day. The high command wisely selected different boys to prevent suspicion by the villagers seeing the same boys sneaking around the village each day. But Wolfgang still managed to be in a group more often than others. Of course when Wolfgang went he made sure I went with him. I was not that eager and did not share his sense exhilaration at evading the German patrols.
The window that led to the rear of the chateau from our game room was about 6 feet above the ground. After a group was ready to leave, the high command boys would lower us one at a time through the window to the ground. This was the rainy season in the Paris area. Though our worn clothes quickly became soaked we appreciated the rain as it served to minimize the number of villagers out and about. Furthermore the German patrols scurried at high speeds through the streets to get back to their warm barracks. When we came back with the apples, the procedure was reversed as we were pulled up from the ground to the recreation room one by one. There is no doubt in my mind that the two weeks we ate apples every day prevented us from suffering severe starvation debilitation.
It’s a good thing we left the chateau when we did. The farmers were getting suspicious about the disappearing apples from their orchards. Some began to put out watch dogs and hired watchmen to patrol their orchards.
Bill Graham was asked often what drove him to place a barrel of apples at his concert entrance inviting the attendees to have one or two of the fruit. He always replied he did not know why he had this compulsion. Many of us now believe it was some kind of hidden impulse to share the life preserving fruit, which saved us from certain starvation, with the public as a form of thanksgiving.
A few days prior to the deadline for us to vacate the chateau, Mr. de Monson arrived at the chateau to give us a farewell speech. Here is the Hans Stern description of this sad meeting:
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