Thursday, August 31, 2006

12 November 1955

The day started out on the wrong foot with the loss of still another hour. As a result, I forced myself awake (& believe me, it was a real battle) & glanced at my watch. Through the haze of my newly opened eyes & mind, the watch read 25 til 6. Since I am the type who is rigidly alert at the first moment of awakening, I immediately remembered that we’d lost an hour during the night, thought it was 25 till eight, & practically broke my neck trying to get down to the mess decks.

Fortunately, the one good thing about it was that I managed to miss standing the inspection. I type the list of those who have to stand it, & somehow I neglected to put down my own name. Good thing I did, too, because I’ve been working straight through since eight this morning (it is now 7 p.m.), minus an hour spent at G.Q.

Speaking of G.Q., they kept us busy every minute—we (the other OB & myself) were sent running around, sounding tanks (measuring the depth or lack of liquid in a tank, described previously). Two were thick black gooey oil—26 feet of it in one tank--& the other two were supposedly void. One of these had roughly four inches of water, which is hard to measure on a metal tape, since it doesn’t cling like the oil does. Upon removing the valve on the other, air began rushing out in such volume & at such length that I supposed a ventillation fan were on inside it (what a fan would be doing in a closed tank I didn’t think of). I’d learned that if air came out that meant something else was in there with it. The size of those tanks must be enormous, for the air rushed out for a good five minutes. When we lowered the plumber into the small (3" diam.) opening, we found that this supposedly void tank had 18’7 ½ " of water in it! I got a little shook, thinking we’d sprung a leak someplace, & envisioning us all standing on the flight deck singing "Nearer My God to Thee" as the Ti sinks slowly out from under our feet. Strump, the other OB, allayed my fears by telling me that these void tanks can be filled for ballast—if the ship is too heavily loaded on one side, the void tanks are filled on the other to prevent listing.

These void tanks also serve as an outer protective hull around the ship, so that if she should be hit by a torpedo, it wouldn’t be fatal (we hope).

Things started coming apart at the seams again this afternoon—troubles cascaded in & upon us with not quite the same intensity of a few days ago. This time, we reacted differently to the crisis—the worse things got, the less we seemed to care, & the sillier we got. Geneva Convention Card worries were on me again, & as I called different people to find out if they needed cards or not, & if so why, Botz (one of the cooks) enlivened matters by blowing a police whistle into the connecting office phone, scaring the wits out of whomever I was calling—I had to call one guy three times, cause he kept hanging up after the whistle.

As part of the "morale building" program, a special board has been set up to issue each division a box of games—ours included two chess sets, one cribbage board, five decks of playing cards, & a game of Parchese—such fun. This same board has also suggested skeet-shooting off the flight deck. Hmmmm………

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

11 November 1955

Mother’s birthday—the first time in 22 years I haven’t spoken to her (or, in my earlier years, burbled). And in three more days I’ll be 22—I can hardly believe it.

Today’s "entry" will probably be quite short, since my mind is not exactly at it’s sharpest. Just returned from a movie (a different one for a change—they’ve shown the last one three times), which I’d seen before but nevertheless enjoyed.

The day itself was one of those vacuum (?) days, during which practically nothing happened. Quite a relief from yesterday. It being Friday, a below-decks inspection was held; as usual we worked like mad to get the office cleaned &, as usual, they didn’t even bother to look in. On the one brief trip topside, I found the weather much in character with the rest of the day—overcast skys, but not particularly gloomy; very nondescript waves.

The radios have begun picking up England & the semi-monotonous voices of the BBC. They would announce the end of the world with as much emotioin as a weather forecast.

Returned the ghosts to the library & picked up a book containing all of Shakespeare’s comedies, & a book on the complete writings of Thucydides, the first real historian of Greece. It deals mostly with the Peloponisian War & is not at all as dull as it may sound.

Have you ever seen photographs of the original manuscripts of great writers? No matter how bad the penmanship, they all are perfectly constructed—no grammatical errors (such as in the spelling of grammatical) no crossed out words—no hesitations, dashes, or underlined prases. Then sometime look at my writing. Quite a difference.

It’s odd to live in a world completely of men; it is just as bad as any woman’s world; just as petty, & just as much gossip. These are the men, cooks & mess cooks mostly, I work with. Mordeno, the baker, who is never without a cigarette & a coffee cup. He has a little boy’s face & a large paunch. He is completely impartial in that he hates everyone, & tears each of them to pieces, dissecting them among the others.

There is Allen Davis, a nice guy with beautiful blond hair—it fascinates me. Then there’s Frazier, the 17 year old who’s always in trouble—the one who cried when Mr. Clower scolded him. Schnappauf, the MAA, a good guy with little education who reminds me of my uncle Pete, though not near as tall; he playes Simon Legree to the mess cooks & has a terrible disposition; Coutre, the SK2 (storekeeper second class) in our office. From Chicago, he has erratic changes in disposition—one day he doesn’t have a care in the world, & the next muttering how he "hates this God-damned Navy!" Miller, a cook who works in the galleys & could pass for the original illustrated man—almost solid tattoos (which I consider about on the same level as painting oneself blue, like the ancient Celts). Everyone around here seems to have tattoos, each one more hideous than the others. Of all the idiotic things in the world to do—get drunk one night & go around for the rest of your life looking like an advertisement.

Tomorrow is another inspection. I’m going to try to get out of it, if possible; if not, I’m ready. Let you know tomorrow. Right now, on with Shakespeare….

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

10 November 1955

God, what a day. Around here, we don’t do things gracefully—we go our own merry way with nothing to do but look at one another; & then the roof & walls fall in. Everyone & everything is on edge. 750 things have to be done this minute. Mr. Clower has five or six voluminous reports that have been lying around, gathering dust. But now they’ve got to be typed (eight copies—the most I can get on carbon copies is five—after that it’s all just a smudge). New mess cooks are lined up outside the window, waiting to check in; the guys they’re relieving are waiting to check out. Schnappauf, one of the MAAs, wants to change the jobs of ten or twenty others, giving the older guys the best vacant jobs. He wants the boards changed immediately, which necessitates standing on a chair, erasing names of those checking out, putting in the new, reshuffling jobs.
Each new mess cook must have an index card filed, aside from having his name, rate, division, job, & date he reported to mess cooking on the board.

To top it all off, we have the Geneva Convention cards. Everyone must have one before setting foot on European soil. It is a small white card stating that you, ____, are a member of the United States Navy, & your serial number is ____. This is so in case you are captured by the Russians, who wouldn’t obey the rules of the Geneva Convention anyway, you show them the card & they’re only supposed to ask you your name, rate, & serial number.

So we have 132 mess cooks. Over half of them don’t have G.C. cards. I’ve got to make them up. But Personnel, always tops in teamwork, doesn’t want to give me any. They don’t believe the mess cooks don’t have them. "Do you realize how many men we’ve got on this ship?" "That’s your problem—this is mine." I should have said "Yes, I know how many men there are—& I’ve got to worry about almost 1/10 of them!" And so it goes; fight, argue, bicker, plead—call here, call there; run to Supply, to Personnel: "The ship’s MAA says that rack you assigned me is already taken, so they won’t sign my check-in sheet." Call the MAA—explain patiently that that rack is now empty—that we will send him a correct list of all rack assignments as soon as possible. Back up to the MAA he goes—back again in ten minutes. "He still won’t sign it cause he says that rack is taken." Several handfuls of hair later, the dust suddenly settles & there you stand, ready to scream if one more thing goes wrong; but all is calm, all is bright. Peace settles over the Commissary office; Andy (the PPO –Police Petty Officer) & Nick get out the chess board, & I reach for a pen & paper.

Lost another hour last night, & another tonite. I think they just don’t want us to get any sleep.

At G.Q. today, a drill was held in which yours truly participated. It consisted of the OBA’s (there being two in my repair party) sounding tanks. The first one was an oil tank, with oil so thick & black it would stick to mercury—16’4" of it. Each team of two came equipped with the metal tape measure I described previously. What the drill was supposed to prove, I can’t say, since when the metal weight hits the bottom of the tank it goes "plunk" & you can’t help but tell where the oil reached when you reel the tape back in. Surprisingly, almost everyone got exactly the same answer. Next we sounded a void (or air ballast) tank, which had all of three inches of water in it. Water is harder to detect on the metal than the oil was, but luckily it was oily water, so we were OK. We only missed it by 3"--or 150% error

Chop suey for supper, so naturally I’m hungry. Caught myself singing Silent Night today (as witness "all is calm, all is bright" on the previous page). This has got to stop….

Monday, August 28, 2006

9 November 1955

Variety, they tell us, is the spice of life. Therefore I am writing on green paper instead of yellow.

As of this morning, we were 1837 miles west of Gibraltar & 1800 miles east of Norfolk. Either we’ve been chasing ourselves around in circles, or somebody’s widened the ocean.. Still, I guess, 300 miles a day isn’t bad at that.

Somehow, last night, I went on a ghost rampage. Got two books on the subject from the library—one was quite interesting, but the other wasn’t very convincing. I went to bed wondering what it would be like to be on a haunted aircraft carrier.

The only near-psychic experience I’ve ever had, next to the time when I was quite small & saw God, was a time at the Little House. I remember it very distinctly.

My room had not yet been built, & I was sleeping in what later became the bathroom. It was late at night—how late I cannot say, since I had been asleep. Luckie’s scratching in the living room. I know I was awake. Someone was walking in the living room, very slowly, as if on tip-toe. I thought it was mom or dad. The steps were about five seconds apart. They moved from the living room (pausing even longer by my door) to the kitchen. I became frightened & whispered "Mom?"…"Dad? And the steps stopped in the kitchen, then they started back for my room. By this time I was terrified, & said "Mom?…Dad?…Lucky?" The steps stopped again for a second then began again. Finally, I yelled "Help" several times & mom & dad came running. They found nothing & no one, & said I’d been dreaming. ….I hadn’t.

This was supposed to have been a journal of the Cruise of the Good Ship Ticonderoga, but one day differs so little from the next that it is difficult to find anything to write about.

G.Q. again today—they’ve taken to not announcing it, which makes it a lot more fun. There is one valve I have to shut off that takes a good sixty seconds to close. I dislike that one very much. There is also a small, vertical-dogged hatch (with individual bars previously described as opposed to the single lever which dogs the whole thing) leading to a closed vent room where there is a valve. By one of the dogs at the top of the hatch is a small hook, on the hatch itself. I invariably smash my finger between the hook & the dog. This I do not care for….

Broke down this afternoon & bought two new T-shirts (which should make someone very happy, since I probably won’t have them long); also bought a new towel—nothing is sacred around here—my last one was "borrowed" right from my rack.

I’m playing sort of teacher & father confessor to Nick. He wants to go to college when he gets out (three years!) & I’m helping him, I hope, by suggesting what he should read in preparation, & discussing them with him.

Went to a movie tonite for the first time since we started over. Prior to that, we were shown a propaganda film entitled "A Scrap of Paper", intended to show us the importance of giving out no information whatsoever in the Med, & to leave all our private papers, even our drivers licenses & home address on board ship. Somewhere along the line someone crossed a few wires, because the film was made in about 1943, & its moral was to turn in any papers found on dead Japanese or in waste cans. Well, if we ever go to war with Japan again, I’ll be ready. When I was working at W.F. & John Barnes, I found a label written in Russian in a wastebasket—maybe I should have turned it in & perhaps prevent the third world war.

"Discussing" religion for the last half hour—as usual, nothing comes of it. Why can’t everyone see things logically—or is my logic wrong? I doubt it….

Sunday, August 27, 2006

8 November 1955

Just finished eating a small tin of chocolate chip cookies purchased at the ship’s store across the way. I will probably be sick. They had the vague taste of, if not being soaked in, at least baked near, rum. The taste lingers; a sort of gastronomic hangover.

A beautiful day today—warm with just enough clouds to make occasional shade—like driving down a tree-lined street. The sea was calmer than I’d imagined it could be. No waves, just gentle rolling swells. The water itself was a blue no ink-bottle could match, with occasional cookie-brown clumps of seaweed floating by. It was the kind of day when I wish the ocean were made of glass, & I could go walking for miles & miles & miles.

Been at sea four days now, & still no mail; none till we get to Gibraltar. I’d better get used to the idea.

This ship has the most remarkable laundry system; very efficient. You put your clothes in one of the large (6’high) white canvas laundry bags in your compartment. It is carried down to the laundry by the same people every day. Once at the laundry, it is taken from the bags & placed immediately in one of the large washing machines. The contents of one bag should be sufficient to just fill one machine. From the machine, it is put directly back into the same bag, brought up by the same person, sorted out & returned. So far, I have only lost ten T-shirts, seven pairs of shorts, two hats, & one dungaree shirt. How in hell they could get lost I’ll never know. Everyone else seems to get their clothes back. But not me. I think somebody hates me….

Yesterday afternoon we spent at least an hour discussing the advantages of staying in the Navy. I had it explained to me how much one could save, the medical benefits, the opportunity to retire at an early age with a large pension, etc. I was not impressed.

Lost another hour last night—I’d be willing to wager than on our return, we’ll have it arranged so that the hours will change during the day—that way they can get another hour’s work out of us. G.Q. again today—no warning this time, not even a book to read.

Played "Hannah the scrub-woman" last night with 7 ½ pairs of socks in a head wash basin. How I got 7 ½ pair of socks dirty is a complete mystery. But I swore I’d not send them to the laundry. At this moment, I am only wearing a dungaree shirt, because I only have two T-shirts left. Of course, there are always the three I folded my first day of indoctrination in Pre-Flight & have never worn. And I never will….

Saturday, August 26, 2006

U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CVA-14) Photo courtesy of
Dale Royston, V-1 Division Posted by Picasa
7 November 1955

General Quarters at 1300 to liven up the day. They have the habit of announcing that they are going to have G.Q. five minutes before the gongs sound. This gives everyone a chance to get to their stations and have half the ship secured before G.Q. starts. Unfortunately, were there ever any real danger, there will be no five minute leeway.

Learned something quite interesting at G.Q. today, in line with my job—if the ship sinks, I’m the last one to leave, unless the Captain happens to be an extreme romanticist. The title of my particular job is O.B., which seem to be letters picked at random, since nobody knows what it means. It’s probably “observation” something or other, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

Supposing, just for the sake of something to do, we were hit by a torpedo amidships on the port (left hand while facing forward) side. This is our territory. G.Q. sounds. We rush around, closing valves & securing hatches. I don my rescue breathing apparatus. They want to know where the hole is. Guess who has to go & find it. That’s right. I am loaded down with gear. On my head is a battle helmet with a coal miner’s lantern on it. I’m carrying a large wrench, a “plumb tapper” or some such thing (explained later), & a plumb line. Also an “explosometer.” First I use the wrench; beside most hatches are air escape nozzles, bolted closed. If, when opened, air rushes out, there is something in the compartment to force it out; probably water. I open it; nothing happens. So far so good.

Open the hatch & enter the compartment with my little explosometer. After manipulating this, it tells whether or not there are explosive gasses in the compartment. No. I want to get to the next deck below (the 3rd). I open a scuttle in the deck hatch. The ladder has been knocked away. Back I go for a rope. The rest of the repair party comes in with me, if there is no poison gas or explosive fumes. They lower me down into the compartment with a rope. Beneath this deck are the fuel storage tanks. Now comes the “plumb tapper”—on the deck are small brass plates, in the center is a sunken X, like a large screw. That’s just what it is, I guess. And the “plumb tapper” is a sort of screwdriver, though it looks more like a small car tire wrench. Open the plate. The plumb line, which is like a large metal tape measure with a metal weight on the end, goes down. If it hits bottom without a splash, & the hold is supposed to be full, you can deduce something is wrong—or if sea water gushes in, you can also get a slight hint that all is not well.

Of course, if sea water roars in, you’ve had it. Of if there is explosive gas & someone sets off a spark, you get a close-up view of your own personal fireworks. More darn fun….

Friday, August 25, 2006

6 November 1955

Noon on our first Sunday out. Unless the ship sinks from under us, it looks like this day will be as uneventful as the rest. Samuel Pepys had the London fire; Boswell had Johnson; but all I have is the U.S.S. Ticonderoga. Now you’d think that with 3,000 men aboard, something would happen, but it doesn’t. Reminds me of an ant colony I saw once in a movie in High school—thousands of ants, running around like mad, going nowhere.

Turkey for dinner, evidently a preview of Thanksgiving; well, if Thanksgiving dinner is no better than this one, it looks like a lean winter. The only thing outstanding was the whipped cream, which was whipped for a change.

Been working on my novel (I‘ve decided to expand the Harrisonville story) & rewritten the first half page four times. If anyone ever says writing is not work, don’t believe them

We lost the first of six or so hours last night; probably will lose one a day from now on.

The day is cloudy, with patches of sunlight on the horizon. The ship is still going through her rocking motion—it’s most noticeable on the flight deck, where the horizon disappears & comes back Walked way up forward, to the edge of the flight deck. The catwalks aren’t steel way out there—the first ten feet are only heavy wire mesh. You can stand there & look straight down at the water. Under the leading edge of the flight deck runs a very small catwalk—from there you can look right down at the bow of the ship. The water is very blue, but you can make out the shape of the hull & prow under the water—a very unusual effect. The forward gun tubs are not, as I said yesterday, loaded with engines—I don’t know where they’ve got them. On the hanger deck by the island, the bulkheads are hung with wing-tip tanks, looking like ornaments in a knit shopping bag.

Eight o’clock the same night. Well, the day hasn’t been a complete loss—the library opened.. It’s been closed for remodeling ever since I came aboard; the Captain opened it officially at 1500, amid many posed pictures of happy sailors studiously reading. Not quite the Library of Congress, but it will do. The furnishings are comfortable & modern, & the room painted in bright colors, which is quite a relieving change from the grey of the rest of the ship. Now I’ll have something to do nights beside count my toes….

Thursday, August 24, 2006

5 November 1955

The second day of our Great Journey was as uneventful as the first. Even though I try to look upon it as a sort of Columbus-in-reverse, the conditions are completely different. Where Chris came bobbing haphazardly across the seas in a little pea-shell scarcely bigger than those toy ships one floats in a bathtub, we are plowing unerringly for Gibraltar in a steel world where night & day are regulated by a light switch. It’s difficult to imagine that we’re going anywhere, for life goes on as usual.

Began the morning with a big breakfast, which is surprising in that my usual morning ration consists of a carton of milk & an occasional roll snatched from the gallery or bake shop. This morning, however, I had sausage, farina, grapefruit, & milk They had egg omelet (powdered eggs, which look & taste like sponge rubber) & fried potatoes, which I passed up..

The Captain held a personnel inspection, which I happily did not have to attend, & will hold another next Saturday, which I will be forced to stand. I must try to leave something unbuttoned or unpressed so that the Captain will stop & speak to me. They usually do anyway.

Work went on much as usual, though it was a little slower than it has been—for which I’m duly grateful. Last night Nick (Lyzchyn—pronounced La-cision, like decision) & I held a field day in the office in preparation for the below-decks inspection to follow today’s personnel inspection. We scrubbed the floor (deck) & spread wax on with two rags, on our hands & knees. Naturally, nobody bothered to even look in. When I say nobody, I mean the inspecting party. I think they are about the only ones on the ship who didn’t come shuffling in at one time or another. A wax-&-shine job lasts about two minutes in this place. We have linoleum tile on the deck, which few places aboard do. In a way it’s better, but mostly it’s a bother.

One indication that we are quite a ways out at sea is the ship is rolling. It seems that the further we are from shore, the larger the waves. The ship has adopted a “rock-a-bye-baby” motion. Another is the radio—we can still get stations from the States, but they’re becoming poppy.

The flight deck is comparatively empty, but every place else is packed—the hanger deck is jammed with planes; even the catwalks outside the hanger bay doors are loaded with gear. The bow, which in wartime carries two five inch guns, are now filled with sixteen jet & radial engines. We’ll be a long time & a long way from home.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

4 November 1955

The day began with a wintry chill reminiscent of the Illinois I had not seen in a year, & will not see for almost another. The small typhoons which always blow through the ship’s hatches were enough to wish ourselves back in bed under thick Navy blankets.

I got up around seven, when the voice box near my head blared “Now up all late bunks.” It took quite a bit of willpower to force myself out of the top rack; when I jumped down, the metal deck was not much warmer. Breakfast consisted of two half-pints of fresh milk, a “luxury” not to be found in the Med. The ship will also have to go on water hours beginning when we left port. This will be hard, but necessary, as lately the ship has been consuming 39,000 gallons more per day than she is able to produce.

About 0830 I caught my last glimpse of America. I’d gone up onto the hanger deck to get the liberty cards from a box on the quarterdeck. Because it was so cold, I only took a fleeting glimpse of a bright day and yellow-white sand.

Quarters for leaving port were held about 1245, & the ship got under way at five minutes till one.

The only other time I went topside was to empty our wastebasket, at five this afternoon. Evidently we are already far out at sea, for the water is deep blue & the waves comparatively larger—and the United States lay somewhere out of sight, attached to the ship only by an ever-lengthening wake.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

3 November 1955

Dear Folks

Permit me to introduce myself; my name is….I won’t say I’m sorry for the delay—that line’s a little stale by now anyhow. I plan to take Mom’s suggestion & write a journal of my trip; it may not be Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps") but it will do.

Tomorrow we return to Mayport for the last time. Sometime Friday morning we shove off for the Med. At sea for ten days, & arrive at Gibraltar on the 14th, as a special birthday treat for yours truly. Our stay there will be very short, though, for on the 16th we again put to sea to relieve the carrier Intrepid, one of the Ti’s sister ships. On the 22nd of this month, the ship will anchor off Cannes, France, where it will remain until the 30th, when we again put to sea. That is as far as our schedule goes up to now.

One of our biggest problems will be that we will be unable to actually enter a port, since only Naples has a pier large enough for us. So, we must anchor out & stand in endless lines waiting for the liberty boats to take us ashore.

Mom, I don’t know if you’ll be getting a birthday card or not—I got you a nice one in Jacksonville & lost it in a movie. If I can find another one just like it, I’ll send it.

Met one of my ex-NavCad buddies in Jax—he’s getting married in Feb. to a swell girl whose father runs the U.S.O.

At sea we play games—I’ve mentioned them before; they’re interesting & all, but have an un-pretend purpose. It’s really exciting, sort of; just like the movies—gongs clang wildly with a monotonous urgency, men running all over, feet racing up ladders. The only difference between it a & the movies is that the "camera" is more or less restricted; it is incapable of flashing from the scurrying feet to the Captain’s anxious face; from the swinging guns to the flights of enemy planes & the sneering profile of an enemy pilot as he prepares to drop his bombs.

Instead, our little anchored camera swoops up a ladder, down several passageways, & through several compartments, shutting valves & closing hatches, which clang shut with a sound not unlike a slamming car door & a refrigerator door. Then suddenly there are no more running feet, no more clanking hatches, & the whole ship is still—not completely silent, but more as if you can hear & feel her holding her breath. It’s a weird sensation, & you feel locked in. Everywhere you look are the closed hatches, secured with a dozen "dogs"—double levers. Along the bulkheads are banks of dials, slender white needles indicating the water level in various compartments, resting reassuringly on "empty." Some dials glow a soft red, showing that certain valves are closed. You go to the scuttlebutt (water fountain) for a drink—step on the activator, & nothing happens. You’d be surprised how thirsty you get when you know there is no water.

When you look around, you feel closed in—but when you look up, you feel trapped. The ladders leading to the hanger deck lead up to five inches of solid steel! On all decks below the hanger deck, the inner-deck hatches all have scuttles—small round openings in the hatches which can be unscrewed & allow one man at a time to escape in an emergency. But there are no scuttles on the hanger deck—all the hatches are solid steel, & there is no way out.

I’ve told you that in 1945 the Ti was hit by a kamikaze & almost sunk—that 345 were killed. I’m still surprised it wasn’t more.

Imagine an all-metal ship which in a fire would heat like a frying pan—all enclosed, so that the least smoke seeps through the ship & lingers, even with the blowers & vents on.

I was taught to use a rescue breathing apparatus, which is quite complex & would be completely useless to anyone who did not know how to operate it properly. It also takes some time to adjust & get working correctly; time in which you could die most unpleasantly. (For one thing, if you had the mask on too tight before it began working, you could suffocate.)

And then there is the canister of chemicals which, when mixed with carbon dioxide from the lungs, produces more oxygen, but if mixed with water has the explosive force of three pounds of TNT.

And so life goes aboard the good ship Ticonderoga. I’d write more, only we’re shaking so (which always happens—the convulsions being in direct proportion to the speed) that I can hardly read it myself. So, if you will excuse me, I will close with


Monday, August 21, 2006

16 October 1955

Dear Folks

Excuse again the long loud silence; I am an ungrateful & unworthy son, & would commit hara-kiri post-haste except that I can’t stand the sight of blood.

Here it is another weekend. God, how many of my letters start that way—little chips & flakes of time, trapped on paper. I was sitting in a movie the other night, with a small bag of Hershey’s Kisses, & I’d count them as I ate them, watching the number left in the bag get smaller and smaller; as it got near the end, I’d try to eat them slower, so they’d last longer—but they didn’t.

That’s the way I am with time—I let each day pass without doing anything, & feel angry & confused with myself for wasting them. Always watching them, like the candy, getting fewer & fewer. Odd that someone as "young" as I am should be bothered with things like that, but I am & always have been. I realize that I have years & years & years ahead of me, but I dread watching them go by—every second is a second less.

No, I’m not gloomy—you should know by now that I can be serious without being gloomy. And it gives me a chance to pawn off some of my excess philosophies on someone. "My cup runneth over"—well, that’s the part that "runneth."

So, onward. I’ll be getting the car out about Wed. They’re going to wash it for me. I wonder how much the bill will be? No matter how much, it will be too much.

Went down & made reservations for dad yesterday—they don’t have any big hotels in town, but this is the nicest one. You know, I was just thinking—we didn’t take any pictures of the place mom stayed. That’s too bad, but it’s too late now.

Boy, is it ever cold—not quite winter-type cold, but cold enough that you know winter is just around the corner. Hope it warms up by next weekend. And I certainly hope it is warm in the Med.

Still can’t believe it, really. In just two short (backward-looking) years I have done more, seen more, & been more places than ever before in my life. Just hope I’m not disappointed. Things in reality are unfortunately not what they seem on paper & film.

Got a letter from DeFoe the other day—he’s almost ready to go to Corpus Christi. One of my other roommates, D.B. Lee, is already there, & a third, George Jackson (the gung-ho one) somehow managed to lose a wing (the whole wing) on a night-flying hop. I guess he was on the ground at the time, cause DeFoe didn’t mention his bailing out. Good old George (or "Pudge" as I called him).

As of today, we have 19 more days in the States--& I have around 301 more days in Uncle Sam’s Service. Incidentally, the 12th of next August falls on a Sunday, so maybe they’ll get real generous & let me off a day early. You suppose?

Soon as dad brings that tin back, mom, please fill it at once with brownies—I’m starving. Tell Aunt Thyra that I want her to meet me at the door (next Aug.) with two banana cream pies. I told her in the postcard, but keep reminding her for me. Tell grandpa I said hi, & give my regards to all the relatives.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat Supper—as I said, I’m starved. ---- (denotes passage of time) ----Just finished supper, which was filling if not particularly appetizing. Hope it lasts me.

Well, I guess I’d better close now. I’ll try to write more often. Till next time, I am
Su hijo

Sunday, August 20, 2006

308 Days Left
10 October 1955

Dear Folks

Please excuse the delay, but in the last week, I’ve worked at least twelve hours a day every day, & didn’t have time for anything, even writing.

I felt sorry for a kid who came in here today—he had overslept & missed a muster, & gotten into trouble on the mess deck (he had taken a bite out of a green pepper & replaced it in the Salad Bar tray). Whenever anyone does anything wrong—one of the cooks or mess cooks, that is—the Master at Arms brings him in to have a little "talk" with Mr. Clower, our division officer & my boss. The MAA, like a guardian angel, stands by.

He came in, holding his hat in his hand, & stood at partial attention before Mr. Clower’s chair.

"Well, Frazier, what’s the matter with you? The MAA says you didn’t get up for muster this morning."

"He didn’t wake me up."

"I did, Mr. Clower—he opened his eyes & said he was awake."

"Well, I wasn’t—five other guys didn’t get up either."

"But you were the only one late for muster. I know it’s hard to get up some mornings—I have to get up, & there isn’t anyone to wake me."

The conversation went on along this line for several minutes (when I say conversation I mean it was more of a monologue, with the MAA contributing every now & then.)

"What’s this about you taking a bite out of something & then putting it back?"


"A green pepper."

"And what did you say to the MAA when he saw you? You said you didn’t have to eat it if you didn’t want to. You realize that’s a good way to poison all your shipmates, don’t you? Your division chose you to come down here mess cooking, trusts you enough to let you handle their food. You want to poison them all?….How old are you, lad?"

"Seventeen" (very low, almost a whisper).

"Well, you’re a man now, doing a man’s work. You’ve got to work hard down here. We don’t ask you to do any more than we ask a hundred other mess cooks to do. What would your mother say if you did that at home?"…(silence)…"You got any brothers & sisters?"…(silence…a nod yes)…"Don’t just nod your head—when you speak to an officer you’re supposed to say ‘yes, sir’. You live with our family?…."

"No, sir."

"Your parents alive?"…(shakes head no)…"Mother died when you were little?"…(again shakes head no).

The poor kid was standing there with tears running down his face, trying very hard not to cry.

"Well, I shouldn’t do it, but I might keep your report chit down here & not send it to the captain. Do you think you can promise to get up in the morning?" …(shakes head yes)… "What do you think, Brasted (MAA)?"

"Well, sir, the sleeping is all right, but taking a bite of something & putting it back with the food his shipmates will eat is inexcusable."

"Well, OK—I guess we’ll have to go up & see the Captain. But I’ll tell him that you promised to do better if you’re given another chance. That’s all for now."

The kid turned around, wiping his eyes with his hat, & walked out, followed by the MAA.

A Captain’s mast goes on your record permanently.

And so goes life in the United States Navy.

As for yours truly, life goes by without the benefit of sunrise or sunset—only the light switch, & the gleaming red eye of the fire lantern serving as the moon. Last night I practically froze. Very seldom do we hit a comfortable medium—either we roast or freeze. I hope it’s nice & warm in the Mediterranean.

Latest grapevine on visiting places—Athens, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Cannes, France (or Le Havre, or Marseilles); Gibraltar (almost certain); Naples, Italy; Barcelona, Spain. It is by now almost a dead certainty about Naples for Xmas. Naples is such a long walk from Rockford, Illinois, U.S.A. But still, much as I’ll miss being home, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to go to Europe for anything in the world.

In remembering back, I think I mentioned in one of my infrequent letters from the receiving station that I wouldn’t mind getting stationed aboard the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, which, it was rumored, was going on a Med cruise sometime in November.

Well, it has been exactly two months & four days since I took my last ride in a little yellow SNJ (pronounced "Snidge").

Like to know my daily routine? No? Well…up at 0700, up, dress, make my rack (smooth out the wrinkles—we use mattress covers like I had in college), & wash (up one deck to just below the hanger deck). To work at 0730; sometimes I grab a roll or carton of milk or just a chunk of bread, if the galleys are still open. Make out muster reports, have them signed by Mr. Clower, run them up one deck to Personnel. (Our sleeping compartment is on the same deck as the mess decks, but cut off from it.) From Personnel on down the passageway, heading forward, or to the front of the ship, to the Supply Office, where I pick up any notices or miscellany in the S-2 box.

Back to the office. Monday to Wed. I spend the morning typing menus & running stencils for them. Thursday is check-in day for new mess cooks—I have to make cards on them, list them on our work boards, type up liberty cards for them & run them up to Supply to have signed.

Friday is inspection day—clean up. Afternoons I type forms & requisitions, straighten files, write memos, run errands, & catch up on the work that has been piling up all morning. Time out for chow at 1030 & 1600 (4:00), then right back to work. Fun? You bet!

Tomorrow comes a locker inspection, so best I close & get busy (it is now 2050—8:50). See you on Oct. 21, dad, & you on Aug 12, mom.

Till then I am

Saturday, August 19, 2006

One of the Ti's ever-present destrpuer escorts.
Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, V-1 Division Posted by Picasa
3 October 1955

Dear Folks

Well, here it is Monday night & we are somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean—not far from shore, but far enough so that I’d hate to have to walk home. We are being escorted by two heavy cruisers & a destroyer, which spent the afternoon intermittently running around & being hidden in heavy rain squalls. Rain squalls at sea are different from those on land, save perhaps on the great plains; there are no buildings or hills to break the wind, & the rain beats with such fury on the waves that clouds of mist or steam roll over the waters.

The other day I saw my first flying fish, & they seem to do just that, even though science claims they merely glide with extended fins. They are quite small, I’d judge from my vantage point on the foc’sle (bow or front end), & glide low over the waves for distances up to two city blocks.

The day before we entered Mayport, we sailed through a slight current from the River Styx. One chief died of a heart attack during flight operations at night, & was found on the wing of a plane. A Lt. Cdr. Died that same night in his sleep, & a pilot was killed flying from shore to the ship. The chief was carried below decks, down steep ladders & through narrow hatches, to the vegetable refrigeration room. The next morning one of our mess cooks, who had been asleep & heard nothing of the event, went down to get something for the noon meal. The poor guy practically had a fit. I imagine it would be a slight shock to open your refrigerator & see a body lying among the onions & potatoes.

Just got a letter from one of my NavCad buddies—Harry Harrison (I’ve mentioned him, I think—he was four classes ahead of me in Pre-Flight). He’s in Corpus Christi now & going to get his wings very soon.

Bought some postcards in Jacksonville, but don’t know when I’ll get around to mailing them. You know, I’ve just had a thought—I told you about the "I"’s in my letters; well, from now on I’ll do like the kings do. Refer to myself as "we."

Right now it is near taps, so I’d better finish up for now. I’ll write more later.

Till then, I am
Your waterlogged Son
P.P.S. When you coming dad? There isn’t much time!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Posted by Picasa Men of V-1 Division, U.S.S. Ticonderoga, 1955.
Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, front.
25-26 September 1955

Dear Folks

It’s been a long time since I’ve used any of this stationery. I set what was left of the box away with the rest of my NavCad things. I wouldn’t be using it now, except that my other stationery is locked in the office, & I’ve just come back from a most interesting, if not amusing, weekend—which I’m sure you’re dying to hear about (HAH!)

First, though, let me say that after pricing some of those Turret Cameras in downtown stores, I’ve decided that the one I have will do quite nicely. Nowhere did the prices run below $280.

Now—the weekend. Friday afternoon, about five o’clock, I left the ship & took a bus into town. I then proceeded to get a room at the "Y," ate supper (hot dogs & milk) & went to a movie (The McConnell Story). After that, I started strolling down the street looking in store windows at all the things I’d like to buy. I was just about to go into a drugstore & have a coke when I ran into two guys from the ship, who worked with me during my brief stay with Aviation Supply. We got to talking & I asked where they were going. They said nowhere in particular & I said fine, I’d wander that way with them.

That was the wrong thing to say—I should have known that sailors "with no place in particular" to go are invariably drawn to East Main Street like flies to honey.

East Main St. is a unique phenomenon, being six blocks of solid bars--& every single one of them selling nothing but beer. In the course of the evening, we hit every bar on both sides of the street, with the exception of three, which one of the guys had gotten forcibly removed from the week before.

It wasn’t the bars that got me; it what was what we found inside them. At one of the first places we stopped, I got a bag of pretzels to keep my mind off the fact that I don’t care for beer.
Suddenly, there was an arm on my shoulder, & a voice saying "You got a quarter for the juke box honey", I turned around very slowly to see that it was one of the waitresses &, it turned out later, that is what she did want. I said no, I’m sorry, I didn’t (I did), she moved on down the line. I was talking to one of the guys when another voice said "You know, I haven’t had pretzels for a long time." On the heretofore vacant stool beside me sat a small woman with glasses, about mother’s age.

Now, as you may or may not have noticed, I frequently find myself in situations which I cannot comprehend—I just don’t know how to react or what is expected of me. So I said "Here, be my guest" & pushed the pretzels in her direction. She said "Oh, no, thanks—I used to eat them all the time, but I got sick on them one night." She went rambling on in the same general vein, & after awhile I said I had to go to the restroom, got up, & went. The minute after I walked in, someone became very sick behind the door, so I turned around & walked out again. One of the guys I was with had slipped over into my place & was carrying on the conversation where I left off. He offered her a cigarette, & she said "You don’t smoke my brand." "That’s too bad" he answered. "you come to my place & I’ve got some." Fortunately, at about this time we were through with our beers & left. And that’s how it was at every place we went—the waitresses were all obviously engaged in other fields of work after hours—no self-respecting woman could work, let alone just go into one of those places, what with saturated sailors all over the place.
They are continually asking for money for the continually blaring juke-boxes (one asked for a dime & when I said I didn’t have it, emptied my jumper pocket & took one). Others asked for a drink, which is only orange soda pop & costs the "host" from 50 cents to $1.00.

For some reason I kept thinking of mom (not that there was the slightest resemblance) but merely that they could be my mother, or somebody’s mother, & what a terrible waste their lives were & what on earth they had to live for. Night after night to be insulted & pawed-at by drunk slobs (the younger ones make the biggest fuss). God, what a life!

Well, now, that wasn’t exactly pleasant, but then, life isn’t always, either. And as I said, it was most interesting. Sometimes I wish I were just another one of the "common horde", always at home in any situation, able to make idiotic jokes & mix in with everybody at an time. But just think how dull it would be!

I hope you haven’t gotten the idea that I’m in a gloomy mood or anything. On the contrary, I feel fine & am in the best of spirits. I just like to get serious for awhile now & then. Honestly, I am a strange creature!

It is now (& has been for some time) Monday night, & we are steaming our merry way to Jacksonville, Florida.

We’ll be in Mayport (outside Jacksonville) for 17 days, only 3 of those in port, the rest of the time we’ll be at sea. Think about it—I do want to see you before I leave. We’ll be in Norfolk from 12 to 24 October. Well, it’s almost taps, & I’d best get to the rack.

Write soon & often. Till then, I am
Your son

Thursday, August 17, 2006

21 September 1955

Dear Folks

Greetings from the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA 14, the pride of the U.S. Navy. We’ve just sneaked back into Norfolk Harbor, after intermittently pursuing & being pursued by good old "Ion." She passed right over Norfolk, but as usual there are 3,000 different versions as to the extent of damage, or lack of it.

We are now three days behind schedule on loading supplies, & everything is in mass confusion—we need three hundred men to load them on board; we were given 227; of these, many are married & have families in Norfolk & are anxious to see how they rode out the storm. We are still anchored out, waiting for a pier to be opened to us. Then the fun will really start!

Speaking of storms, I was fascinated by the rough seas we battled for two days. I’ve never seen anything like it—waves as big as hills; mountains & valleys forming & disappearing in an instant. Some of them appeared to be leaping for the sky, only to fall back upon themselves in a cloud of spray. Very impressive, though I was told that it could (& did) get worse.

Aside from feeding of our regular crew of 3,000 today, plus all the confusion, we are having 200 civilians on board to dedicate a new 30 cent stamp to Robert E. Lee. Why in God’s green Earth they should pick the Ticonderoga for such an honor is completely beyond me. The battle of Fort Ticonderoga was fought in the Revolutionary War, not the Civil, & it took place in New York, not Dixie. The "Mississippi" is in port—why couldn’t they use her? Ah, well…

At two o’clock this afternoon I’m looking forward to receiving three shots prior to the Med Cruise. I hate, loathe, abominate, & abhor needles; always have & always will. I suppose a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of typhus, but I’d just as soon forget the whole thing!

It is now 8:00 the same night, & happily the ordeal of the needles was put off in the chaos.
Imagine, if you can, having 9 freight cars of food to bring on board & store. God knows what will happen when we go to the Med.

The brownies came today, much to the delight of yours truly & the Supply Department of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga. They are very good, though had been smashed & crumpled in the process of shipping. The tin came through with flying colors, & is an ingenious little gadget. I’ll probably be able to call home tomorrow night.

Do you realize, Dad, that I will not have seen you for almost two years? Now, don’t go blaming anyone—it couldn’t be helped, but I would like to have seen you. Oh, well, you’ll still be the same--& don’t give me any of that "your old man isn’t getting any younger" routine—you aren’t even half-way through middle age yet.

Another batch of papers came with the cookies—sure hope I can recognize Rockford when I see it again. So, with your kind permission, I will close now & read them. Until later, I am

As Always


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, AB3, U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA-14 Posted by Picasa
Sunday, 18 September 1955

Dear Folks

Here it is Sunday again—another week gone almost completely to waste. We are now scurrying away from Norfolk, hotly pursued by Hurricane Ion, which is a mere 1,000 miles to the southwest of us. Oh, well, they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I honestly can’t see why we have to run, though—almost all the other ships are remaining in port. The United States Navy, like God, moves in many mysterious ways.

Before I forget, which I have in the last three letters, I meant to tell you (mom especially) that Bill DeForest & one of my other roommates, Carl Hinger, got their commissions, & are now officers. A guy from my old pre-flight class is now here on the Ti—he washed out, too. That makes about six of us on here, now. And some of the guys in my battalion in Pre-Flight are just about ready to get their wings. Ah, such is life on the planet Earth.

They have movies on board every night, but I almost never go ("almost never"???) Either I’ve seen the picture, or we’re working, or I’m just too lazy to go & put on a pair of whites.

After being at sea all week, we pulled into Norfolk about 4:00 Friday afternoon. For some reason, we couldn’t get a pier & had to anchor way out in the harbor, on the outermost edge of a cluster of ships. In order to get from the ship to shore, we had to use the ship’s power lifeboats.

Now, there are 3,000 guys on this thing, and about 1500 were given liberty. We have three power lifeboats, each with a seating capacity of about 65; two enclosed 40’ launches with capacities of 24 each, & two officers’ boats, which needn’t interest us at the moment. After waiting three hours Friday night, I finally got ashore. After the first hour & a half, I didn’t really want to go, but I was so mad by then that I swore I’d go ashore even if I had to turn right around & come back again, which is practically what I had to do. They have a very clever way of doing it around here—officers first, Chiefs next, first-class POs next, then second class, then third, & finally us peons. And naturally, everyone at the head of the line have five or ten buddies at the back of the line, & they generously let them in ahead. Then, too, everyone jams toward the exits for the boats. The MAA’s (Masters At Arms—ship’s police, more or less) come & make us all fall back into four ranks. The first rank goes first, & so soon there is no second, & third & forth ranks—just a big mob in the first rank. You fight your way to the exits again—back come the MAA’s; back you go, further behind now than you were when you started. The guy who was in front of you a minute ago is now fourteen guys ahead of you. The MAA’s with their "God damn you, get back—ain’t nobody goin’ no place till you get back." Ah, such fun—such good, clean American sport—I’m going to make the Navy my career (as it says on the posters in front of the Post Office). Well, I’ll tell you what—when I get out, I’m going to make it a point to go to the Post Office once a week & throw rocks at the Recruiting Station. And then I’ll stand outside the office & catch prospective enlistees & give them the scoop. Somebody evidently has already been doing this, as I see the Navy is going to have to draft 10,000 guys this November!

Just been out on the fantail watching the waves. They are getting bigger. I’m hoping we’ll be in for a real violent storm, but the guys who’ve been in them say no. They say a hurricane can swamp a ship, but this is too big to imagine it sinking.

Sorry I didn’t get a chance to call Sunday (today) but they just don’t have phone booths in the middle of the ocean. I wonder how far out we are?

Enough for now. I’ll write more the first chance I get.

Regards to All
P.S. Mom—I could use one of those plastic coin purses—I’ve lost the one I had.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wednesday, 14 September 1955 AD

Dear Folks

This is the fourth draft of a letter begun late Monday night; I never got more than a paragraph or two into them when something would drive me away or distract me by one thing and another. But I’ll try to finish this one. I’ve got to take a shower & wash my hair tonight, but it’s only eight o’clock, so I’ll have plenty of time.

On the very rare occasions when I find myself with nothing to do, I’ve discovered that that is just the trouble—I have nothing to do. I can’t even go out & play in the yard.

Mail arrived on board today, which came as a very happy surprise, especially when I got your "goodies" package. Thanks a lot. I’m sitting all alone in the office, munching on the apricots.

I’ve turned out to be quite the little office worker. Though it isn’t at all bad, I can’t see spending my life at it.

Working right next to a galley has its advantages—you can always get something to eat if you want it badly enough. The late cooks (on duty until wee hours of the morning) are always around, & when we work late, too, we can go down & get ham & eggs, milk, sandwiches, & stuff. And the bakery is just a little ways away, & furnish pleasant smells, with an occasional cookie or two.

The ship has the unpleasant habit of rolling from side to side, very slowly—just enough to notice it out of the corner of your eye. If you look closely, you can see that people are walking slightly out of perpendicular. (Drawing of hatch doorway w/stick figure at a 45 degree angle) Well, not that bad, but that’s the general idea. Gad; study that drawing carefully—what dignity—what artistry of lines—those exact features, correct to the smallest detail—the subtle shadings! Oh, I’ll bet Rembrandt would be terribly jealous if he could see it.

I remember the only thing I ever did draw perfectly was a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln, in sixth grade. We were given a choice of drawing a squirrel or Mr. Lincoln. I drew the squirrel, but Miss Hines didn’t know that, & I didn’t tell her. Dear Miss Hines—remember her? How many times did Dad have to come up & have a little man-to-monster talk with her? I’ll never forget the famous "Did Lonitta Throw the Bean That Hit Miss Hines on the Eyeglass Or Did She Not?" case. Miss Hines never forgave Lonitta for that. And the only time I ever skipped school. I asked Miss H. for permission to go to the bathroom & never came back. There were about five of us, & we wandered around, & went over to Lillian Anderson’s trailer for awhile, then I decided to go to the show, so I walked home, strolled casually in & asked mom for some money. I don’t remember what happened then—probably have a mental block against it. Ah, those were the days.

As for the money belt, mom—I can use it, I’m sure. Blues do have pockets, but whites don’t. And thanks a lot for the film money—it financed my last weekend in town.

The scotch blood in me is trying to figure out if I should mail this now & take the chance of having it sit till we get to some port, or letting it collect & mailing it in one lump sum later. Oh, heck, I’ll splurge & mail it now.


P.S. 335 More Days!

P.P.S. Now that I’m a mess cook, change my S-1 to S-2 Div. O.K.? G’nite

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tuesday, 6 September 1955

Dear Folks

The U.S.S. Ticonderoga is, at this moment, moving silently (if not too swiftly) down the river from Philadelphia. I am sitting, once again, on the very back edge of the Flight deck, on the metal stairs that lead the short distance to the catwalks. We’re being pursued by a larger freighter. She’s about a mile away, & her grey hull is almost lost in the blending of mist & waster. Her red bottom can be seen, pushing a frothy white wake. It always strikes me as peculiar how such dirty water can turn white under the bow of a ship. She’s rather pretty—seen from head-on, she looks quite broad, with her white superstructure & black funnel.

Behind me now, or rather ahead of the ship, is the large bridge we passed under on our way up—I believe it shows in that picture I sent.

Suspension bridges are pretty things; graceful, almost musical—like a great harp.

The two "memories" I carry away with me from Philadelphia would not, I’m afraid, please the chamber of commerce. One took place on a trolley—something interesting usually always happens to me on a public transportation system. It was in the form of a slightly-past-middle-age man in a faded blue work shirt & pants of a nondescript color and nature. He was being continually pestered by mosquitoes (non existent) which he banished by rubbing his arms, neck & face—especially the tip of his nose—with a stick deodorant, which he generously offered to everyone on the trolley. When he was not busy chasing mosquitoes, he was kept occupied by making witty observations on topics vague to everyone but himself, & taking swigs from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. He laughed a great deal—the "ho-ho-ho" Santa Claus type laugh, & kept addressing the driver (a full 1/3 of the car away) as" John"—saying that John was the best bus driver in the whole world, God love ‘im, & it was a shame that a man could work all week & get drunk & never get sober & boy was she surprised ho-ho-ho, & look at that sloppy sailor (yours truly).

He gave John instructions to let him off at Marshall St. Since we were on Market Street, & it was the closest thing to "Marshall" on the route, the driver kept suggesting he get off at every corner. "Here you are," he’d say, & our friend would say "ho-ho-ho, best driver in the world, God love ‘im—God love everybody," he’d add, in kind deference to the other passengers.

Finally, as is the custom in Philadelphia, the trolley went underground & became a subway. We were all prepared for the event by our friend, who informed us that we were going into a dark hole now. At the first station beneath the ground, he got up to leave—the name bore no resemblance to Marshall, & he was in no condition to care. He stood up & walked to the front, where I was, & where the driver took fares from those getting off. He stood & looked at me for some time before getting off—I looked out the window.

The second also had to do with a subway, in a way. While waiting for the bus back to the ship, a guy came up the dirty subway stairs, proclaiming the virtues of John Barry who, it seems, was a Mason. Upon seeing all the sailors, he informed us all that Mr. Barry was the father of the American Navy, & signed something or other in Philadelphia; that he was Irish & could speak Spanish like that (making a non-successful attempt to snap his fingers). To illustrate his linguistic abilities, he sang a few snatches of a song that didn’t sound very Spanish to me, & went into a little soft shoe dance (which goes over well enough in Hollywood movies, but not in real life Philadelphia). The bus came before he left, & I didn’t get a chance to see the results of an impending fight between him & a newsstand dealer They say it takes all kinds to make a world, but does there have to be so many of that kind?

(Same Letter, continued).
Wed. 7 September 1955

Here I am again, sitting this time just below the flight deck, on a little platform beside the catwalks. The sea is very pretty today--& exceptionally calm. There are waves, but they aren’t the choppy kind—just gentle rollers. The color of the ocean is not blue—it is more the color of pencil lead. Directly beneath & beside the ship, it turns a milky blue to turquoise, as the ship churns it. And behind, in the exact wake of the propellers, it is robin’s egg blue—almost green. No land is in sight, but far off on the horizon a destroyer is pacing us—it looks like the silhouette of a very small toy boat.

If my writing appears more shaky than usual, it is not from palsy or old age—it’s just that the ship is turning, prior to starting flight operations. I watched some planes land yesterday, while standing on the catwalks—I’m rather glad I never had to try it. The planes make a horrible noise when they touch down, & you can smell the rubber from the wheels.

Either we’re turning again or picking up speed, because she’s shaking again.

I haven’t had any mail since the large envelope.

Another destroyer has joined us, only about a half mile away—perhaps closer. A helicopter just left us & went flitting over to the destroyer, like a large, wingless dragon fly. Four planes came suddenly from the same direction the destroyer did. I hope they’re going to land, cause if they do, they’ll come within 20 feet of me (straight overhead). The ‘copter is coming back now; maybe it has the mail (I hope so). Here comes a plane! God, it was beautiful—flew almost into my lap. Something tells me I’m not supposed to be here. Oh, well…

(Same Letter, continued)
Friday, 9 September 1955.

Well, you’ve gotten the happy news via telephone about my being elected to mess-cooking. It’s a good job <*> but my God, the hours (0730 to 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.) & no time off for lunch except just to eat. Haven’t seen the sky all day.

Just a brief glimpse of the Ti’s appetite. Since I’m in the commissary office, I get to see some of the orders. This one is for about two weeks or so:

35,000 lbs of potatoes,; 68,000 lbs flour; 5,280 lbs crackers,; 50 gallons of catsup; 36,000 lbs sugar; 15,000 lbs peas, & 10,000 lbs tomatoes. ---- Burp.


<*> Each Division on ship had to provide a certain number of men for mess cook duty; a 3 month shift of working in the ship’s kitchens. Usually, the newest members of each Division were assigned, as was my case. However, at the time I was assigned, the Commissary Office was replacing an office worker and, since I could type, I got the job. I remained there (thus saving my original Division from having to supply one of its members every three months) for the rest of my Navy tour.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Monday, 5 September 1955

Dear Folks

Well, it may be Labor Day for you, but it’s just another day here on the ship.

Yesterday I was talking about food—it, like the weather (cloudy) is always good for a conversation opener. Navy shipboard food is adequate, almost plentiful, & certainly ingenious.

They have one recipe for dough &, with minor alterations, produce bread, rolls, cake, pie crusts, & other "pastries." We always have fresh cold milk for breakfast & supper, but how that will be affected by our going to sea, I don’t know. For lunch, we usually have the Navy’s version of Kool-Ade. This is another example of Navy efficiency—they mix up huge batches of Jell-O before lunch, serve it to us still liquid as Kool-Ade, & solid for supper. Occasionally, though, they goof. Last night we were evidently supposed to have fruit Jell-O, but they started putting the fruit in before lunch. As a result, we were surprised to see chunks of "things" floating around beneath the surface, or settling slowly to the bottom. I wasn’t very thirsty.

Occasionally they treat us to Pumpkin pie or strawberry shortcake with whipcream.
Unfortunately, they never take the trouble to whip it—they just ladle it out. Oh, well, it isn’t the gift that counts, it’s the thought behind it.

The ice cream tastes as though it were packed in mothballs & stored in a dentist’s office. And the only way to tell if we’re eating bread or toast is by the color (& sometimes even that doesn’t help). Otherwise the food is pretty good.

Our compartment is directly beneath the room housing the machinery for one of the plane elevators on the side. Whenever it is in operation, the effect is like being on the inside of a tolling bell.

Be sure you go to the show frequently this coming week—they are sure to have newsreels of the National Air Show, & maybe some of the Ti. I got to see some of it yesterday afternoon, & it was certainly something to see. The Air Force had practically every plane it owns fly over—the giant, lumbering bombers, the swift & sleek jet bombers, & the darting jet fighters, skimming through the sky like a flat rock skips over the water.

The Navy did it’s part by sending the Ti, which just sits here for civilians & enemy agents to swarm over, & occasionally catapults planes from her deck. But we also have the Blue Angels, the acrobatic jet team that has anything & everything the Air Force has beat.

This afternoon, there are going to be speed races, which ought to be something—last year some guy did 800 miles an hour! Of course, ten yeas from now, that will be like somebody in 1903 saying: "One of them autobuggies did 25 miles an hour!! Don’t you dare laugh, Esmirelda, I tell you I saw it with my own eyes!"

I’ll be mailing this from downtown tonight, so you’ll probably get it the same day, if not before the one I wrote yesterday. Funny thing about Liberty—even though you have no place special to go, you do, just to get away for awhile.

A guy on the catwalks (I called them causeways yesterday) was talking to a lady on the flight deck when I went up a while ago. She asked him where he was from, & in a drawl so thick it could catch flies, he said Louisiana. She said she & her husband had just been there for a vacation. "Tell me, ma’m," he drawled, "when you was down there, you ever eat any Louisiana ice cream?" She looked puzzled. "You know, ma’m—Louisiana ice cream—namely, grits."

Your Confederate son

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sunday, 4 September 1955

Dear Folks

Yes, it’s me—your globe-trotting son. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing quite a bit from me, since there is absolutely nothing else to do around here; of course, it’s going to cost somebody a small fortune in air-mail stamps. You’ll probably get them in batches, especially once we get to sea & the mail is not picked up every day.

Today is the Sabbath, & the ship is once again swarming with wide-eyed civilians. Of course, technically, they own the ship. The run around taking pictures like mad (Daddy & junior in front of an F7U, Mom & sis in back of an F7U, junior clambering into the tailpipe of an F7U), & all the while a tired voice keeps saying: "Visitors will refrain from taking pictures on the ship—we regret that exposed film must be confiscated." HAH! Just try to get their film! "We’re American citizens, & we pay taxes—In fact, young man, we pay your salary!"….Excellent; why don’t you see about getting us a raise?

And so it goes. I’ve been "on duty" for the past two days, which means nothing except that I’ve got to sit in the Supply office all day. Actually, if anyone wants to sit anywhere on this thing, they’ve got to go to some office—that’s the only place on board where there are chairs. When I say "office" I mean a space containing two or three desks & cabinets. There are always the wires & levers & pipes & vents & hatches. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

At times I wish I didn’t write so small. Even though I write for ages, I never fill the page. This is exceptionally bad in cases like today, when I have very little to say.

Every notice the exorbitant number of "I"’s in my letters? I must be terribly conceited. Of course (third time for that phrase) when "one" is writing a letter, usually it’s about that person’s doings; therefore the "I" is necessary.

I think they’re launching planes—I’m going to go & see. Never knew a carrier could launch planes from a stopped position, but we’ve been doing it for two days now.

Wish I could get to see the National Air Show. We’re tied up about a mile from there, but we can’t see much. I just went up into the causeways (where the guns are—just below the flight deck) & there are people galore out there, waiting to come aboard, with a steady stream of busses arriving all the time. From there, I could see the tails of some of the larger planes—caught a glimpse of them the other day on my way downtown. They have all the latest fighters & bombers, & the rockets which are used to shoot them down.

Oh, well, such is life. If you will excuse me, I’m going to close now & go eat dinner. Until next time, I am

As Always

Friday, August 11, 2006

3 September 1955

Dear Folks

The good word for the day is—send food! There isn’t a single place on this gigantic toy that you can get something to nibble on. Even the fingernail supply is running dangerously low. Why don’t you see if maybe you can send me a CARE package?

Got the mail today—it only took two days! I’ve read it all twice & am planning on going over it again. That is a very good idea, mom, sending money to the Cancer fund. Everyone should do it. You realize that that was the first mail I’ve gotten in over a month! Poppa, you should write more often—if you expect me to write twice a week, you’ve got to write at least once.

As for this "rank" business—I’ll try for Petty Officer 3rd Class, but I can’t do it till February, & the results don’t come back for from three to five months. But I’ll try. It all reminds me of my old Cub Scout days.

The ship has been crawling with civilians all day, who come clutching their little kiddies & gaze wonderingly up at the towering hulk. "How many men on board?" (3,000) "Is it brand new?" (No, commissioned in 1944) "How do you pronounce it?" (Ty-kon-der-o-gah) "Where’s the ladies’ room?" (???) To quote Thumper in Bambi: "I made that last part up myself."

On the way up here, they were having all sorts of drills. In the short space of one hour, we were rammed by a destroyer (port side), had a terrific fire in B compartment, a lesser fire in D, & cruised through an atomic explosion. During these drills, everyone is supposed to go to his assigned duty or battle stations. However, about 1/3 of the guys on board are new, & don’t have duty or battle stations. So we just hid. This place would be hell if anything ever did happen—all the hatches are closed & locked, & anyone caught in the wrong compartment has had it, with no way to get out. Some of the hatch doors are so large they need several men & a pulley to close them

The guys around here have an odd sense of humor, but I like it. During one of the drills, during which things supposedly got worse & worse, section after section of the ship was abandoned. Finally, the order came for everyone except rescue & repair teams to get onto the flight deck. Everyone had to tuck their pantlegs into their socks, button the top button on their shirts, & don battle helmets, if available. So up we went. The gun turrets were revolving back & forth like mad, & had they been firing, they would have blown hell out of the ship & each other. Finally, one of the gunners got off his turret & came up onto the flight deck to speak to a buddy. One of the guys in our section—a huge guy, who bulged out of his dungarees & looked positively ridiculous in the tiny green helmet that perched on his head, leaned up against the tail of a plane & said: "Man, we’re really going down---they’re abandoning the guns."

A few minutes later, the gunner strolled back to his post as a little 12-foot speedboat came running out toward us. He probably wondered what was going on, seeing 3,000 guys cluttered around the flight deck in battle gear. One of the guns swung around in his general direction & somebody yelled: "For God’s sake, don’t shoot! That’s our rescue ship!"

Well, enough for now. Write soon & send me a ton or two of Brownies & stuff.
Regards to all the relatives. See you next year

Thursday, August 10, 2006

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Friday-Sunday, 26-28 August 1955

Dear Folks

This is the second draft of a letter begun some days ago, & is in pencil mainly because my pen chooses the most inopportune times to run out of ink.

The other letter was a detailed description of my trip to Washington, & sounded more as though it was a travelogue than a letter. Also, like Aunt Maude, I have a habit of beginning with the dessert & making my way back to the appetizer.

Life in Barracks "C" is not, to put it mildly, pleasant. It is composed of mess-cooks (how aptly named!), & men fresh out of the brig awaiting orders. I never got more than 6 hours sleep a night, with one thing & another. During the day we were kept amused by sweeping, swabbing, & polishing. At night (& occasionally during the day) we were allowed to stand watches. And night before last, we were all highly pleased by a Gestapo raid at four in the morning—police all over the place, searching for concealed weapons. They did find one or two innocent hunting knives; their owners moved quickly to Barracks "K"—the brig.

So, this morning it came as a great surprise to be called upon to check out. I was handed one of those little oblong cards with holes punched in it, reminding me of an office building at night with some of its lights on. These cards are ingenious, being composed of rows of number (each row identical)—the spacing & pattern of the holes tells everything imaginable about you. Well, anyway, to get back to the subject at hand.

I stood in a line for two hours, waiting to get my medical records, reading a collection of stories by Guy de Maupassaunt (?). I had gathered, from looking at the card, that I was to go aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga. To make a long day short (which is easier to write about than do), I had to wait a total of eleven hours before I finally got my orders. I wish Lief could have been around while I frantically packed my sea bag; he would have died laughing, though I didn’t see the humor in it. After lugging that thing for six blocks (my arms are still sore), we caught a station bus to Pier 7, where loomed the monstrous bulk of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga—on one side of her, on the opposite side of Pier 7, lay the battleship Iowa, bristling with cannon & looking very formidable. On the other side, at the next pier, crouched the Valley Forge, another aircraft carrier.

Ships, for some reason, are referred to as "she"—if the Ti is a she, she is an amazon; a metal giant. Everywhere is metal—her veins & arteries are the passageways through which course hundreds of sailors like white corpuscles—her blood. Miles of pipes, tubes, hatches, switches, levers, ladders, wire; all making up her inner fibers. Her innards are her great engines & bilges.
She is alive—you can feel it in her decks—a throbbing & quivering that never ends. Below her landing-field flight deck are immense hanger decks, without planes at the moment, but showing the vastness of it by several power boats & launches (two larger than anything around home or the lakes—about 60’) stuck in one corner, & taking no more space than two corn flakes in a box of cereal.

Beneath the hanger decks is the labyrinth of quarters, passageways, offices, galleys & storerooms, Down here day & night is regulated only by the electric switches. Everything is both chaos & efficiency. I sleep in a room two levels beneath the hanger deck, not much larger than our living room which I share(d) with twenty-three other guys. Two feet above my rack was the ceiling, girders & pipes. Next to my head was a stainless-steel ladder, heavily hung with green steel battle helmets. Reminded me of a Christmas tree with odd ornaments. Since beginning the sentence where the pencil left off, I’ve moved to a much larger (comparatively) bunkroom.
There is only one set of racks four tiers deep (like carried-away bunk beds), & I was given the topmost of the four—I almost have to be a mountain climber to get up there.

We were supposed to leave for Philadelphia today, or so the scuttlebutt said—as usual it was wrong. Our agenda, as far as I can gather, is Philadelphia for a week, then down to Florida (that will be novel) for an undetermined time, & then on to the Mediterranean for eight months! We leave for the Med sometime in November & won’t return until the following July. In a way, I’m as excited as a kid with the prospect of going to a zoo; but then again I feel terrible—just think—the first Xmas away from home in 22 years! Oh, well, I’ll be saving you tons of money on phone calls anyway. Or I can call from Europe.

I put my car in storage last night--inside & insured at $10 a month. If I find I’ll be gone too long, I’ll see about sending it home. Incidentally, I’ve been assigned to strike for Aviation Storekeeper (don’t ask me what "strike for" means, ‘cause I don’t know; it means something to the effect that if I ever become rated, that’s the rate I’ll get.)

I hope it’s a good deal, but in the Navy you never can tell.

Word just came over the squawk-box that we’ll probably leave tomorrow. Oh, well----

There are several Japanese destroyers in port—real novel. Hah—I almost forgot—my address—it is

F.R. Margason, AN
S-1 Div.
U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CVA-14) –love that name
c/o F.P.O., N.Y., N.Y.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

24 (?) August, 1955

Dear Folks

This is my twelfth (?) day in Norfolk, and I am no more attached to it than the last time I wrote. Nobody in the Navy seems to know (or care) that I exist—if, in fact, this can be called existence. Ah, no no no, Roger—no bitterness. Well, it isn’t quite all Hell.

Last Saturday, after standing an 8-12 Fire watch (which is really a burglar watch & consists solely of pacing up & down the bunk room eyeing everyone suspiciously) I & Dave Bagg, a guy from Binghamton, New York, took off for Washington.

To get from Norfolk to Newport News, which lies directly across the wide bay made from the mouth of the Elizabeth River, we took a ferry. It was a fine day, & the ferry plowed through the brown water, making a billowing white foam along her sides. I have never seen so many ships in my life! Large freighters in black & red, rusty old merchant vessels, sleek Navy tankers & troop carriers, & far off the grey hulks of battleships, cruisers, & aircraft carriers. Yet large as each one of these was individually, they looked like toys in a huge pond.

The ferry trip & the trip to Washington (about 187 miles) took us five hours. It was still light when we reached the city, & the first thing we’d seen, while still out in the country, was the tall white spire of the Washington monument.

The city itself is unique. It is in & surrounded by several states, & yet is a part of none of them.
The District of Columbia is the shape of a tilted square, with one corner knocked off by the Potomac River, I believe. Its citizens have their own license plates, & are not allowed to vote.

Immediately upon crossing the Potomac on U.S. Highway 1 from the South, you enter the city.
On your left is the round dome of the Jefferson Monument, modeled after the home of the gods upon Mt. Olympus. The highway then curves around it, in a half moon effect, & upon crossing another bridge you are in the outer rim of the business section. This goes on for about three or four blocks, & then comes the Mall. It is a two-block wide park stretching from the Capitol to your right (several blocks away) to the Washington Monument, about two blocks or more to the left beyond that to the Lincoln Monument, near the banks of the Potomac. All these are directly in line. From the Washington Monument, cutting off to the North (?) at a 90 degree angle, another wide park leads to the White House.

Since the Washington Monument was closest, we drove to it first. It is located on a man-made hill constructed about a huge, pyramid base. The monument rises straight up as a needle for 560 feet. Standing at its base & gazing up, it seems to lean out over you. Of greyish-white marble, it is two toned, the bottom 136’ being slightly lighter than the top. It was at this point that work on the monument was halted for almost forty years due to the civil war, lack of funds, & political arguments. An elevator rises to the top, while a recorded voice tells you the history of the monument. From the top, you look out over the city at the Capitol, the White House, & the Lincoln & Jefferson memorials. From the Washington to the Lincoln monuments of a distance of roughly eight blocks. Between the two stretches the Reflecting Pool, wherein both monuments are mirrored in the calm waters.

The Lincoln Monument, which we visited first thing the next morning, fascinated & completely awed me. As I said in the postcard, I fully expected to see people in togas milling about the thirty-six huge columns, or ascending & descending the long flights of stairs, so broad they were like terraces. It is like nothing so much as a Greek or Roman temple, wherein Lincoln, like Zeus, sits & stares out over his people. A group of Negroes posed for their picture beside one of the great fire-urns which flank the stairs. The monument is open only on one side, & Lincoln sits serenely against the opposite wall beneath the words "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." On the left wall, as you stand facing the statue, is the Gettysburg Address—on the right is his Second Inaugural Address (which is excellent, though largely unfamiliar). I spent about ten minutes just staring at the building itself. It is modeled after the Parthenon in Athens.

The Jefferson monument gets more attractive the closer you get to it, until when you stand beside it, towering columns & sweeping lines, it becomes beautiful, with its shining white dome & sugar-colored marble. Unlike the Lincoln monument, this is open on all sides. The entrance (main entrance) faces upon the Potomac, toward the Washington monument. Gleaming stairways cascade almost to the water’s edge. The statue of Jefferson, in contrast to the rest of the structure, is of dark bronze. It is 19 feet high & stands upon a six-foot pedestal of black granite, facing toward the Potomac.

And now we come to the grandest building of them all. (Enter Sunday edition—written to the accompaniment of organ music from Divine Services being held on the flight deck).

The Capitol building itself is immense—great & sprawling, yet not heavy or clumsy. It possesses the dignity such a building should have. It sits (surprisingly) on a hill—when you approach from behind, three are flights & flights of stairs, & two huge terraces. Upon one is a large tier-bowl type fountain, looking also dignified despite the little boy who lay in his shorts on its edge requesting everyone who passed to throw pennies into the fountain so that he could go in after them. The second terrace, at the foot of the building, has long rows of vivid flowers, which contrast very nicely with the solemn grey of the building. Walking around to the front of one of the wings, under a great pillared portico, you find evidence that, even though it is a very stately & important building, it is still a symbol of a highly unorthodox America. On one of the windows, which was slightly dusty, someone had traced with his finger –"Wash these windows once in a while—A Taxpayer."

The front view is the one with which we are most familiar, the whole dominated by the Dome. Atop the dome stands a 19’ statue of Freedom, a plaster replica of which stands in the basement of the building—she is quite ugly.

The main doors are a wonder—of wrought bronze (or brass, or iron), the contain tiny (1’) statues of Columbus, Isabella, & many others who had to do with the founding of America.
These statues fascinated me, for they are perfect in every minute detail—complete scenes in the panels, with individual statues along the edges. On either side of the main doors are the large statues of a Roman warrior (right side) & his lady (left) He has his nose & chin missing, she a right arm. No doubt the work of eager souvenir hunters. They look like marble, but evidently aren’t, for in the lady’s broken hand can be seen the rust marks & indentations of a metal frame.

Inside is a kaleidoscope of statuary, paintings, marble colonnades & hallways, murals & paintings, staircases & chandeliers. The Senate & House chambers are dignified—the House done in pale blue, the Senate in gold. The Senate sit in chairs with desks attached, like in old fashioned schools. The House, because of so many members, has no individual desks. Both have galleries around & above.

The lady guide who showed us around had a marvelous effect—she believed deeply in everything she said, & she had a fine sense of the dramatic, without being "corny." I remember her remark as we sat in the Senate galleries & looked about at the plain, but very dignified, room, with no huge drapes or gaudy paintings. She said: "you see how wonderful it all is? Something that is good & honest doesn’t need to be plush or elaborate."

Well, I have rambled on now for five pages, which should be enough for anyone. I forgot to mention we also went to the Smithsonian Institute—I’ll take Chicago’s Hall of Science & Industry any day. So, my good parents, I will close now & send this off.

Please remember your erring son, & count the days with me. Until I see you, I am,
As Always

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monday, 15 August 1955

Dear Folks

Look!…Ink! Ah, what a noble work of art is Man; beaten, degraded & disgraced, yet he fights valiantly upward, if only flaunting the powers that be by the forbidden use of pen & ink. "Hah", they cry, in imitation of Marie Antoinette, "let them use pencil!"

Have I ever mentioned that fact that I loathe the United States Navy? Permit me---I loathe the United States Navy! Of course, those words contain more than enough treason to have me hung from the highest yardarm & investigated by numerous House Committees. But, unfortunately, I must speak the truth. The truth means many things to many people, & is elastic enough to be bent & twisted into whatever shape desired.

This morning I went to "Classification", where I sat for almost an hour, as inconspicuous as the yellow tile walls, & as unnoticed. The room had all the quiet charm and homey comfort of a prison visiting room. In one corner, huddled over a coffeepot (which is the Navy’s crucifix) were the staff, eagerly discussing the sworn fact of one of the chief petty officers that the sea was gradually rising. From the heat of the discussion, one might expect water to begin seeping in over the windowsills at any moment.

"Classification" consisted of me choosing from four places I’d like to be sent—on the Atlantic coast. I chose Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or Miami. They will undoubtedly put me on a ship. I don’t think I’d mind a ship at all—especially the new aircraft carrier Forrestall, which has not yet been commissioned & is going on a world cruise.

At dinner today, a Negro next to me summed up the Navy’s efficiency perfectly. He was talking to some of his buddies, & I was a casual but interested eavesdropper. It seems he wanted to get off duty one half hour early for liberty. He talked to a petty officer (P.O.) second class, who sent him to a P.O. first class, who sent him to a chief. By the time he got permission, everyone else had left on liberty a half hour ago.

The Naval base here is sprawling, & you can almost get snow-blind looking at all the white uniforms. An average meal takes a little less than an hour—twenty-five minutes in line to get in, ten minutes to eat, & twenty to get out again.

One of the utmost sins of the U.S. Navy is to be an individual. The very idea of someone possessing an independent thought is unspeakable. To the end of a perfect sailor, you are pushed, prodded, insulted, treated like a rabid dog; your brains are washed & hung out on a line to dry in the pure sunlight of naval ideology. Pompus sounding, but true. (Note the spelling—ugh!)

I’m very much afraid, as I may have mentioned before, that I may have to spend some time in the brig before my happy association with the Navy is over. I never could stand to take orders, even from you, & I will not be pushed around by some ignorant, sadistic tin god. The smaller the man (in character at least) the more godlike he becomes Civility is a word with three syllables more than his vocabulary includes—except, of course, for profanity, and which he can ramble for ten minutes, using extremely complex & hyphenated words. Confidentially, I don’t give a good tinker’s damn for what the Navy thinks; if the time should ever arrive (heaven forbid) when one of these blithering idiots (who, incidentally, are not officers, & many of whom haven’t even graduated from high school) tells me to do something to please his inflated little ego, I shall give in to a long-harbored impulse to tell him where he can go, how to get there, & what to do when he arrives. Once again, though, heaven forbid. The Navy can be exceptionally nasty if it wishes, & would no doubt end up before a firing squad. You don’t think it can be done?

Funny—I was just a few minutes ago standing outside with a batch of guys who can’t even stand in a straight line, for one of our innumerable daily musters (presided over by the aforementioned kindly gentlemen) when three Navy patrol planes flew over, very slowly & gracefully, & did carrier breakups prior to landing at nearby Chambers field. I got an odd empty feeling in my stomach…

Like many things, the further removed I am from NavCad life, the better it appears to have been, in retrospect. I do miss it very much, but it is too late now. Like Scarlet O’Hara, "I won’t worry about it today; I’ll worry about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

Love to all

P.S. While glancing through my billfold, I find that my drivers license expired Aug. 8. Suggestions, dad?

Monday, August 07, 2006

13 August 1955

Dear Folks

Yes, it is I, your long-lost son, writing to you from the quaint & lovely "capital of the Navy"—Norfolk, Va. You will notice that I’m using pencil again. Also, if you look closely, you will probably notice several spelling, diction, & punctuation errors, all signs of the Navy’s highly effective demoralization system. Yesterday, I spent two hours walking around & around a room with a rag, dusting woodwork. About five feet ahead of me, & five feet behind were two other guys with rags, dusting the same woodwork. Of course, when my time is up, I plan to rush right out & reenlist.

Today is an anniversary, of sorts. Exactly one year ago I joined the Navy. August 13, 1954—a day that will go down in my personal opinion with Dec. 7, 1941. What’s this?? Do I sound bitter? Heaven forbid. If you have somehow gotten the impression that I haven’t enjoyed every instant of it, & do not worship the very toes the Navy treads on, you are right!

I was even cheated out of my hurricane. Connie followed us all the way up the coast, though we were too far inland to be affected by her. Then she staged two or three sit-down strikes, sulking off shore, while everyone concerned felt rather like the smaller member of a cat & mouse game.
The Navy (bless her) sent all her larger ships to sea—downtown Norfolk taped its windows & piled sandbags in its doorways. Yesterday she came this way—tides rose, turning some of the downtown area into imitation Venices. The sandbags came in handy as salt water lapped up the streets. I thought "A-hah—tonite come the winds." I stayed downtown after the tide receded, & went walking in the rain, which was almost a fine spray. The streets looked very pretty—splashes and ribbons of color reflected from the neon signs overhead. But no winds came. Connie had passed meekly by, to the great relief of all (that is, almost all.)

We (a guy named Don Stalhut & I) bid a teary farewell to Pensacola at about ten o’clock Monday, August 8. By 8 o’clock that evening we were in Atlanta, Ga. (354 miles) where we spent the night. Left Atlanta about 9 the next morning, & arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina about 8 that night. Got to Norfolk at five Wed. night.

I was very proud of the car; it didn’t give me a bit of trouble. Of course, last night I had to spend $3.40 for new fluid for the window lifts, & they told me I should get a new voltage regulator—the one I have is not the right type.

Norfolk is an odd town—a business district completely out of proportion to the size of the town—probably because of the Navy. There are lots of bars, but the peculiar thing is they can sell nothing but beer! I can’t figure out how so many places can be supported by such a limited thing as beer. After all, there are only so many brands of beer. Of course, none of that phases me too much anyhow—I don’t care for beer. Even if they were regular bars, I’m afraid I have too much Scotch blood in me (national, not alcoholic)—I can’t see spending all sorts of money for drinks & then have absolutely nothing to show for it.

Well, I could go on indefinitely, but I guess I’ll end it here. I’ll write again soon.

Regards to all the relatives