November 30, 2009


Bill Cosby returns to Newfoundland: 50 years after serving there on military base (Ashley Fitzpatrick, 11/28/09, St. John's Telegram)

[Bill] Cosby was stationed at the U.S. military base in Argentia, about 120 kilometres from St. John's, N.L., as an American military corpsman in 1959. [...]

Sharing his recollections recently, he said softball was a popular pastime when he was stationed in the province. He recalled one game where he was playing at second base. The experience was true Newfoundland.

"The fog was 10 feet from the ground all the way around," he says. "So the guy hit the ball and it went up into the fog. And the outfielder would put the glove on top of his head. People were in the fetal position. And the batter was running around the bases and then all of a sudden you'd hear the ball drop (you couldn't see it until then). We'd get the ball, start throwing it to each other to catch the guy out. And that's the way we played. It was the craziest. . . . And 'tap'- up in the air again and everyone in the fetal position and there's the ball again."

The weather also plays a role in another memory Cosby holds from his time in Argentia. It took place "one night," said The Cos, falling into storyteller mode.

The night, he said, was somewhere around four months after he first arrived at the base and about eight months before he left.

"The snow was horizontal - again," said Cosby. "And drifts of 18 feet and the actual landing of the snow without drifts, blown drifts, would be about four feet. And I had night duty at the hospital, which was a one-storey building. And she came in. In the dark of night, she came in by herself."

The question comes out: Who?


He continues. "She came up to the desk. And I was the admitting corpsman, the doctor is sleeping in the back. We have wards, about four or five wards there.

"And her hair is with snow and her cheeks are very, very red and her skin is taut and cold and she must weigh about 160 pounds. And she's got scarfs up to her nose and two coats and boots and it is 9 . . . 10, it's 10:30 p.m. And the doctor is sleeping in the back room and the hospital is quiet and she lowers the scarf and she says: 'I have walked nine miles. I work on the base and I just feel that my baby is going to come soon.'

"I went back and I woke up the doctor and he came out and we called the nurse, and the nurse came, and we admitted her. I took down the paperwork, and the nurse took her, and we took her clothes - and got her into that wonderful thing with the back open.

"And at 11:15 p.m., she gave birth to a boy."

"Nine. Mile. Walk," says Cosby, pausing with each word, "in the horizontal snow. Because she knew something was going to happen. It was her first child.

"That has always raised a picture for me of 'woman.' Nine miles in the dark, walking. . . . She just walked," he says.

It was after leaving Newfoundland that Cosby began working in comedy. He started performing standup in the early 1960s; he pegs the start of the career that would make him famous around 1963.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2009 6:44 AM
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