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Canned in the service

THIS year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States and also the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. These lofty happenings have somewhat overshadowed a more modest celebration, the 50th anniversary of canned Spam. Any veteran of World War II who is still nipping about can well remember the impact Spam had on his life. One could say it was the biggest thing to happen to him that he didn't have to be hospitalized for. He had Spam and eggs (powdered) for breakfast, Spam sandwiches for lunch, and Spam and potatoes (canned or dried) for supper. This evoked a whole series of wisecracks about the product, such as ``It was ham that didn't pass the physical.''

Of course, Spam wasn't all that bad. The word is a shortened term for ``spiced ham,'' which sounds harmless enough until eaten for about a week. It was never ground up and sold for dog food, as some GIs suggested. I know it was eaten in many ways. One of my buddies always soaked it in his coffee and considered it quite tasty.

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After Spam was tried out on the US Army with no ill effects, it was introduced to the Russians, who loved it. I am not sure what it replaced in the Russians' diet, but they said it was great with cabbage. Maybe they said it was great compared with cabbage, I can't recall.

While I was in the Army I dreamed, as did thousands of other GIs, of the delicious home-cooked meals awaiting me when the war was over. The dream and the experience finally came to pass.

I remember rumbling into the house in my Army boots, the scurrying, shouting, laughing, and tears. Finally I remember gathering around the table and the flourish of bringing in a platter of food.

``A wonderful thing happened while you were away,'' exclaimed my wife. ``A new product came on the market, called Spam. I've got some for you to try.''

Eventually things calmed down and got straightened out. Now that Spam has endured for 50 years and I have mellowed somewhat, I feel I can enter into the celebration.

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