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

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