Mystery poem may have been written by alternate Bob Karolevitz

Mystery poem may have been written by alternate Bob Karolevitz
We've got a dilemma which dates back to 1946, when I was a 24-year-old lieutenant in Japan after World War II.

It seems a professor in Virginia is writing his memoirs and seeks permission to use a poem written by one "Lt. Bob Karolevitz" in 1950. He must have been in the military, because the piece was called Reconversion – and it has to do with a guy called Geisha Gus who supposedly might have trouble converting from Japanese ways after his service in the occupation forces.

The trail led to the South Dakota State University archives, which has most of the stuff I had written – but Reconversion wasn't there.


So Dr. Stephen Van Buren, the archivist, contacted us, asking if I would give permission for its use. Heck, I didn't even remember writing anything called Reconversion. It sounded too scholarly for me!

Well, Van Buren reported back to the inquirer, telling him that I didn't think I wrote it. The next thing I knew, the professor's secretary – or somebody – e-mailed a copy of the poem in question to Van Buren and he forwarded it to me. It struck me as kind of familiar.

But how did the prof get ahold of it? Did I actually write it – or was there another Lt. Bob Karolevitz out there? (If my name were Smith or Jones, I would believe it.)

Then another thing happened. I had written home almost every day of my time in the service and as a gift, my sainted mother had saved all of the letters and presented me with typed excerpts from them. Wow! I and a diary of my entire service up to that time!

She also included some of my work – and therein lies the dilemma. In one of my June of '46 letters was a handwritten copy of Reconversion – 1950, but she had copied only the poem. No date or where it was published.

Was it in the Pacific Stars & Stripes? Did I write it or merely copy a poem somebody else had composed.

It sounds like something I would write – but I'm not sure! Do you have any advice for me?

Reconversion – 1950

Geisha Gus the called him

In them days of '46

When all the boys were chasin'

Little silk-clad, tilt-eyed chicks.

Tourist-like, he covered

All the tearooms, bars and joints.

He never spent much money

Cuz he had less yen than points.

But now – in 1950 -

They have sent him home at last.

Five full years of occupation …

Could he shake that dim, dark past.

Will those oriental habits

Hang too heavy on his head?

Will his thoughts go back to Nippon

When he breaks his daily bread?

Will the smell of poultry markets

Tend to set his mind at ease?

Will a tractor-driving farmer

Help to stir up memories?

Will his gum and chocolettos

Thrill that pretty blonde next door?

Will he still enjoy a drink

If he's not sitting on the floor?

The six-foot cop who strolled his beat

Is worth a stare or two

He's nothing like that sword-slung Nip

In train-conductor blue.

So "Geisha Gus" is home again

It's been a long excursion

And Gus can tell it's gonna be

A longer reconversion!

Lt. Bob Karolevitz

APO 25, March 1950

I don't know the professor, but I'm glad he liked the poem. Meanwhile, I'll keep searching to find out if there's another Lt. Bob Karolevitz out there!

© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz

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