Washington State Red Apples – Lester Tenney

Lester Tenney, story source
Carlsbad, California

Will Foote – teaching artist, vocals

Molly Hamilton – vocals
Before his passing at the age of 96 in early 2017, Lester Tenney recounted this story and inspired this blues song about finding hope during World War II. After Lester heard Will Foote on a sketch recording, he requested a CD so that he could practice singing like Will. He and Will differed in age by 73 years, but something about this song bridged that gap.
When we walked by the Filipino’s hut,
We saw the apples and we knew
Americans were sending us a message, saying
Prisoners, we have not forgotten you.
We were Americans on a death walk,
Prisoners of the Japanese.
We didn’t know whether we were going to live
To walk, to walk, to walk another ten feet.
Then I saw those Washington State red apples
From the U.S. submarines.
I saw those Washington State red apples
Like a thorn to the Japanese.
I saw those Washington State red apples
Like a comfort to me.

The guards looked at the apples.
They were a such a shock to see,
Because bananas, papayas, and mangos
Filipinos had all of these.
The guards had Japanese money
Filipinos didn’t want.
They didn’t want to sell those apples.
They were only there, only there, only there to taunt
And I saw those Washington State red apples…
I said to my buddy as we walked along,
Take a look at that.
Sometimes it only takes one or two apples
To say a whole paragraph.
I felt better about my circumstances,
Remembered by my countrymen.
When I saw those big red apples, I swore
I was going to make it, gonna make it, gonna make it home again.
And I saw those Washington State red apples…

Alex Wilder – musical sherpa, piano, guitar, and vocals
Eliza Cuevas – organ

Chris Finn – vocals

Malcolm Brooks – musical sherpa, bass, vocals
Produced by Alex Wilder