Diner sends ‘SOS’ to vets: Free meal of creamy concoction in Akron brings back memories

The Akron Beacon Journal, November 12, 2009

Technically, it is creamed chipped beef on toast.

To those who have worn a uniform in America’s armed forces, it is affectionately known as s— on a shingle, or SOS.

On Veterans Day, as his way to thank area vets, Fred Spencer served up a mess of expletive on Texas toast free of charge to area veterans at his Akron restaurant.

“It’s good, good, good,” said World War II Marine veteran Jonah Greer, 85, as he shoveled the creamy concoction into his mouth at the lunch counter at Fred’s Diner on Home Avenue.

Greer said he ate his share of the meal while serving as a Marine more than 65 years ago.

According to the Web site Practicallyedible.com, SOS first appeared in military cookbooks around 1910.

Spencer, 50, of Tallmadge, said he has offered free creamed chipped beef on toast to vets on Veterans Day for about 15 years as his way of thanking them.

“It’s a job nobody wants to do sometimes, and you want to reward those people for doing a job that I personally didn’t want to do,” he said.

Spencer made 40 pounds of the creamy, starchy, beefy meal and figured he could serve 100 veterans.

“It’s a meat-and-gravy type of meal,” he said.

Vietnam veteran Frank Livigni, 66, of Cuyahoga Falls, said it felt like being home eating Spencer’s special recipe of what he often ate while serving in the Navy.

“This is familiar food to me,” he said.

While in the Navy, Livigni ate SOS with “Navy coffee,” a drink he said was as thick as maple syrup.

The coffee he drank Wednesday was much better.

“The coffee is good,” Livigni said.

Air Force veteran Bill Thomas, 77, of Cuyahoga Falls, happily ate a plateful of Spencer’s SOS.

“Oh yes, it’s good,” he said.

Thomas, who owns apartment buildings, hadn’t sat down to a plate of SOS for decades.

“I haven’t seen it since I got out of the military,” he said.

Air Force Vietnam veteran Kenneth Deacon, 64, of Tallmadge, a General Motors retiree, did not eat SOS, but ordered eggs and corned beef hash instead.

“I support all of the military and what they do,” said Deacon, whose daughter, Master Sgt. Nancy Osborne, is scheduled to return from an assignment in Korea in December.

Another vet eating at Fred’s, Richard Ivy, 77, of Akron, who served in the Army during the Korean War, said his service in the military still means much to him.

“I would do anything to help my country,” said Ivy, a retired city of Akron worker, who ate bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Greer, a retired bricklayer, was wounded twice in the Pacific theater, was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service and is a veteran of Saipan and the battle of Iwo Jima. He said he learned a lot while serving with the Marines.

“The only way I could survive was holding everything at arm’s length. I couldn’t get close to anyone because every time I got close to someone, he got killed or shot up,” he said.

Greer had nothing but good things to say about the free meal he received from Spencer and his history with SOS while in the Marines. “That was one of our better meals,” he said.

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.


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