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Remembering Jascha Heifetz

December 26, 1987

During World War II my first duty station was France Field, Colon, Panama. My roommates and I were more than excited to hear that Jascha Heifetz would perform in the base gym at 8 p.m. sharp.

Dressed in our best khaki, we arrived in due time and had our choice of seats directly in front of the makeshift stage. The curtain was a bed sheet tied to two portable volleyball net stands, and a much distressed upright piano was to the left of center stage.

As the performance time drew near, we became increasingly aware and somewhat concerned that the other hundred or more seats may remain empty. A group of San Blas Indians (kitchen police) were shooting baskets at one end of the gym but were promptly dismissed. The question was, would Mr. Heifetz perform for so few? At 8 sharp his accompanist appeared. The great man followed, dressed in a civilian suit and tie.

We waited for his reaction to the almost empty gym. He stood rather tall, glanced down at us, and then over and beyond the empty seats. He silently nodded to his accompanist, placed the violin under a well-defined chin supporting a most handsome face, and for the next hour--less a short intermission--he played as though there was not an empty seat.

So stand at rest, King, you were magnificent. By the way, he received a standing ovation from three brand-new second lieutenants.

JIM BROOKS

Los Angeles

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