The Birth of the Pupu Platoon

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By Henry Mamulu

They say “something wrong with us Liberian men.”

I now search, ponder, contemplate, investigate, and examine the problem and I can find only one “variable constant” in all our lives.

Nearly every man in Liberia who would have attended kindergarten from the end of World War II to, say 1970, drilled in Pupu Platoon. For you young people, to drill is the march in rank and file as most of you do on your school’s Gala Day in uniform with your school mates. If you haven’t heard about World War II, you can get off of that Facebook and Google it. Perhaps the most destructive time in World History somewhere around 1940-1945 when millions were killed with some estimates say: Russians 25,000,000, Jews 6,000,000, USA 500,000. There is no estimate of how many African, Middle Eastern and other people of darker color died during that war. Most of us couldn’t count and nobody was helping us to take record. We were just forcefully conscripted in record numbers to fight on the front lines of all sides of the war. It would be interesting to research how many would have died. Probably many factorials more than all the rest of the Caucasians combined. But I am digressing. That time mentioned was the Age of the Marching Bands in Liberia.

The formation of Pupu Platoon rests squarely on the head of a failed American Foreign Policy. And for this I demand an apology and some restitution from the Boys of West Benson Street.

You see my fellow Platooners, the US of A decided in the Eisenhower era to participate in the carving up of Africa. It was an elephant and so they wanted their piece. But back then The US of A still appeared to HAVE A CONSCIENCE!

She decided to not enslave or shoot black men in Africa to control Africa but lure Africa in by letting it suckle at the breast of her generosity. So the great US of A introduced Non Fat Dry Milk to Africa.

Now, now Brave Platooners and Majestic Pupu Pots, we all know that a slim African woman is not traditionally considered a good woman. We like our women well endowed at the rear, front in full aplomb, ankles like some ham hock, and that little gut to cuddle when it gets cold. And as our uncle would stare in admiration and exclaim “she has a great future BEHIND her”! Na Ma Yah Miss Slim Jim. But you are our fantasy.

So who thought up this Non Fat Dry Milk African Policy? I won’t blame Susan or her cousin Condi because this was way before the Witches from the Bayous.

It was United Nations day, a day surpassed only by Flag Day when it came to drilling. The Liberian Frontier Force with their little red Fez had just returned from fighting along with our brothers the US of A in the Congo. We were led by General Harper, his mouth all puckered like he wanted a kiss after being shot in the jaw with an arrow. Earlier in the day the US Marines made a rendezvous with our soldiers on the beach at BTC. How we loved the GIs then and they loved our women back with equal enthusiasm.

Joseph Saye Goanue and John Tweh taught us this song for the day:

“We are United Nations, facing tasks too long undone;

With our eyes set on the future, our labors just begun;

Our tasks to set men free, to give all liberty;

To build for men throughout the world, one great fraternity”.

Ehn you see our trouble?

If you had a Congo Mammie like me, the drill day started like this. Mammie dearest went to the icebox and took “Pupa” not Papa left overs (otherwise termed “Cold Bowl”) out into the kitchen. Because it was from Sunday, what else but stale collard greens? And the Congo people self say, “collards gives you the colic”, whatever that is. Those days on Sunday we had two sauces to eat with rice; Split Peas/gravy or Collards Greens. “God forbid” the heathen who cooked Togbogee with monkey meat, or anything with palm oil for that matter.

After the rice and collards were warmed together, (no you do not warm them separately) Mammie gave me a warm glass of Non Fat Dry Milk. And you wonder why Liberian men got issues. My man, stale collards greens plus Non Fat Dry Milk = Pompeii. Times this equation by 2 and you get Vesuvius. (Young people please look up Pompeii and Vesuvius).

I have got to describe what most of us looked like back there. They (parents) bought you a pair of Jimmy Rogers for confirmation from none other than Old Man York down Water Side, Gurley Street. You were to wear your Confirmation shoes from Infant Reader to First or Second grade. You also wore them every Sunday to church and took them off as soon as you got home.

So by Second Grade when this narrative erupts in its entire stink, the shoes and one and only one pair of socks I had were too small. It was Mammie not Pupa who took the Gillette blade and cut the toes so that they could fit.

Now here I was, toes hanging out the too tight shoes, money catcher trousers, gut full of Collards and Warm Non Fat Dry Milk, I ran out the door to meet my men them at St. Patrick’s Elementary, up Snapper Hill where Cathedral School now stoops.

I heard the first rumblings deep in the recesses of my bowels but was already out the door, past Buzzi Quarter gas station and was up Camp Johnson Road running to meet the Lords of the Boot.

And then, the drilling began. All the schools were led by Aldolphus Shannon, General of the General Staff, which had Rosetta Stewart, and also Griselda Horace. The Colonel Staff had Willard Russell, Rosetta Randall and others, and the platoon that was to be led by the Lord of the Boot was led by Geoffrey Teteh Dapoe.

The first cramps hit me around Gabriel Cinema (the old Immigration office on Broad Street) The “gronah boys” were taunting us with this chant:

“Bungar (butt) in the trouser, puehn, puehn,

Walk like a billy goat, puehn, puehn”.

Imagine the coal tarred (asphalt) streets being too hot, the Confirmation shoes too tight, socks now ride up the crazy bone but the real trouble was the American Non Fat Milk that bloated my stomach to the point of eruption. It was ready to blow. As the beads of sweat fell down my face, like Jesus in Gethsemane I saw my disgrace in front of me as
all the contents of my gut liquefied.

I tried to squeeze out a fart. You know, to release the valves a bit as the pressure was building up to a crescendo. However as the fart came out, it was followed by a steam of stink liquefied “boot.” Eh God! where my Ma eh? O God if you alive take me to Heaven now and let me boot in a golden commode,” I prayed. Where side?

We started climbing B.W. Harris Hill. Augustine Myers, Sakpa Nynseour’s big brother, ran from the brave Platoon. As he pulled down his pants he stared at me sadly… He turned his face to the wall, strained one time, fired and found sweet release. I started crying straight!

That kind of crying we called “sneaking snot”. You exhaled and a snot bubble came out then you inhaled it back in again.

We were turning by where Sacred Heart would later be built. The band had stopped playing and we marched to the beat of the drum as the gronah boys chanted: “Bungar in the trousers puehn puehn…”. Crispin Jones broke free and ran for the door. My friend was too weak after holding his boot back but had found sweet liberation as he clung to the school’s door. I looked at him and saw the evidence of his freedom run down his leg and into his shoes.

As we moved down Ashmun Street I shook like a man with three plus malaria. There was only one more block to go. You see, President Tubman himself was taking the eyes right at the Old Mansion.

We crossed over Michelin Street and I thought I could make it but it was “just my imagination running away with me.” I was a six year old and no match for the “gbagbati” of the Boys from West Benson Street.

Now in view was Tubman, majestic in grey pants and white shirt, smoking his cigar. We were between Randall and Mechlin when my resolve failed me. I wrapped the Liberian Flag around me and the star came right under my Bungar. Well they said ‘Bungar was in my trouser…” well, they were about to see it.

Tubman stared at me and then Willard yelled, “He coming to Pupu!” And Folks I did. As Vesuvius erupted. The white star in our flag ran brown with my lava. Tubman yelled, “No!” as I strained for the next release. My father, the Madinka man Moses Mamulu, ran across the street and grabbed me and the desecrated Liberian Flag. He threw us both into the trunk of his jalopy and drove to Coconut Plantation. There the same gronah boys took me out of the trunk and threw me into the ocean. After a while, like Jonah I crawled out of the sea.

To my fellow Platooners and front line fighters the Pupu Pots, there will be a meeting Saturday after Old Timers Basketball. We will discuss our next moves. Either we demand monetary restitution from the US of A or we put some Pupu in Plastic bags, go to West Benson Street, throw them over the fence and run like sh**… or should I say, run “from” sh**?

This, my people, I, Professor Henry M. Mamulu, son of Ora and the Madinka man, has discovered the source of the Liberian Problem. Pupu Platoon. God Bless. Amen!

1 COMMENT

  1. I, Williette Dunbar, can only say to you Mr. Mamalu that your article was immensely appreciate for the simple fact that I knew all the characters in the entire episode.May those fallen eyes righters rest in peace (specifically Rosetta Stewart). As for Willard Russell, little did I know he’d become my future nephew in law. I was raised at 21 Benson St and so imagining that West Benson St was more toward Snapper Hill.
    Anyway, to make a long matter short, I just read the story of my life. Thank you, and are you by any chance related to Vivian & Judy Mamalu?

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