Aside from the entertainment provided by C. A. Hollis’s “Our Prison Canteen,” this poem is interesting as a snapshot of one aspect of prison life—the long wait in line to be served at the canteen and the disappointment when supplies sell out!
Of interest, too, are the foods the poet lists as available at the canteen.
Historian Giuseppe Millozzi has this to say about the Camp 59 prison canteen:
“The camp shop was open at the following hours:
• Morning 8.00 – 10.00
• Afternoon 13.30 – 16.00
“As time went by, besides the usual items, the shop started to sell wine and more and more POWs called it canteen. Takings were used to cover part of the camp expenses.”
Our Prison Canteen
In our camp, there is a queue,
Of men eternally waiting.
And if you want ought, you’ll wait too,
Each hour, fresh hopes creating.
Polony, oranges, cheese, and jam,
Will there be enough
To serve these men, and also me.
Now “Tutti” do your stuff.
The system’s bad, and blooming slow,
Two Italians, only serving,
Hooray!, only a hundred more to go.
It really is unnerving.
Perhaps one day, I’ll reach the door,
Before they’ve sold right out,
Maybe tomorrow they’ll have some more,
Till then, right turn about!
Salami, oranges, cheese and jam,
I never get a “Smell”,
With all these men in front of me,
Oh! “Tutti” go to hell!
“Tutti” was the nickname given to a Rhodesian, who acted as interpreter at the Canteen.
Note: Tutti in Italian means “all” or “everyone.” Polony is another name for Bologna sausage.