Hot Summer…. Cold War Pt III
As the world poised for a showdown between those 2 cold warriors the USA and the Soviet Union, the risk of military conflict between the 2 heated up the summer of 1961 over the crisis in Berlin. The city divided up between the victors of WWII was located deep in the Soviet occupied parts of Germany and now Soviets were threatening to drag it behind the iron curtain.
The fate of Nathans Hot Dogs hung in the balance.
GI Joe in Suburbia
That summer as the melodic sound of Connie Francis longingly asking “Where the boys are” drifted over the lilacs from a neighbor’s transistor radio, the men at my family barbecue could be found shvitzing over the red-hot coals of the grill, shooting the breeze.
When tired of arguing the un likelihood of NYC Mayor Robert Wagner running for a third term successfully without the backing of Tammany Hall, libations were replenished as the men brooded over the storm gathering in Berlin.
Sixteen years ago these sunburned suburban schmoozers had all been soldiers who had happily helped defeat Der Fuehrer.
Now with their missions done, their tooth- notched stainless steel rectangular dog tags with the letter H embossed on them safely tucked away, the roar of guns and bombs a dim memory displaced by the whirl of a Lawn Boy mower and the effervescent bubbling of Canada Dry quinine water, they seemed willing to risk nuclear war to protect the former capital of that former enemy country from the evil clutches of our former comrades in arms, the Russians.
As if shifting gears between enemy and ally was as effortless as the automatic transmission in your Chevrolet, the considerable fury and fear that had fueled our hatred of those bloodless Nazi had been seamlessly and swiftly re-routed to those God-less Russian Commies
Wag The Dog
Eagerly biting into a tongue scalding frankfurter hot off the grill, Moms cousin Milton, a short and stubby man, his GI regulation washboard abs having long gone AWOL leaving his ever-expanding belly stretching the outer limits of his Acrylan shirt, offered up a compelling reason why we needed to step up and protect West Berlin from the clutches of the soulless Russians.
“I have just one word for you-Nathans!” he stated firmly, gobbling his hot dog with as much gusto as he perceived the Soviets would gobble up Berlin.
The men nodded knowingly.
A Wonderland of Wieners
Ignoring the fact that the former Wehrmacht was a wonderland of wieners and wursts, its rowdy, German beer gardens filled with boisterous, red-faced patrons washing down their bratwurst with thirst quenching weizen glasses of dark amber Dinkel Acker, if Berlin got dragged behind the iron curtain, he argued, the poor Berliners would be deprived of one of life’s great pleasures-noshing on a Nathans hot dog.
No one needed reminding of that near-international incident a few years back when Averill Harriman went to the Soviet Union and was denied a simple request.
N.Y.’s patrician former governor had asked the hot dog mavens at Nathans to airmail their specialty to him in Soviet Union, but the heartless Russians stopped the shipment of juicy franks at the border, fearful perhaps that if they let the poor Soviet people get even a whiff of good American hot dogs they’d revolt.
Nathans it seems was banned behind the Iron Curtain.
That was ironic considering those Kings of Coney Island had once catered the big “Carving up the Post War World” party hosted by FDR at Yalta where along with Churchill and Stalin, the 3 big powers greedily chowed down on some red hots while redrawing the map.
Hot Summer ….Cold War Pt IV next post
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