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.

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