Sunday, December 31, 2006

16 May 1956

Dear Folks;

Eight-ten—the office filled with odd, lobster-colored creatures with very bleary eyes (S-2 had a beach party complete with beer today). Luckily I was working, & therefore not one of those present.

For some reason, I don’t feel much like writing tonite—I’ve started a "light" book that shouldn’t take too long—but I have got to start practicing willpower sometime, & now is as good as ever..

The movie for tonite was "State Fair," made in Technicolor in 1942. It is now 1956 & it was in black & white (which might be called Technicolor of sorts, if you only happen to have a two-color spectrum). Oh, well, it was good anyway.

We leave Rhodes tomorrow morning—several ships have left today, including two of the cruisers, of which at least one is returning directly to the States. Still no "official" word on what comes next but everyone says Istanbul, which must make it so. One nice thing about being at sea—we’ll be able to wear dungarees instead of these hot blues.

Oh, yes—tonite while we were standing in the movie line, about fifty rosy cheeked Airmen Apprentices came on board, fresh from the States. They all had on nice starched whites with two bright green stripes on their arms, carrying their sea bags. You should have heard the wolf whistles. Four of them will be sacrificed tomorrow on the great Mess Cook altar, to replace four we lost when one of our squadrons left.

The rover boys have all gone someplace else to collapse. Nick came in completely saturated last night, so tonite Coutre had his turn. A good time was had by all apparently, including the one inevitable fight. Botz, a huge CPO cook who reminds me somewhat of a St. Bernard dog, took a swing at Steidinger, who’s about my size (his distinguishing features being his tattoos & his eyebrow—he only has one that runs clear across his face, only dipping slightly in reverence to the nose), "Stinky," as we call him, just laid there in the sand, while Botz tried to get him to get up & shake hands. "Oh, no you don’t, you S.O.B.—I’m not going to get up just so you can knock me on my ass again." Then he started crying. Coutre asked him what was wrong—"Oh, nothing—I always cry when I get drunk." As I said, everyone had an excellent time.

Botz has one of those "Ho-Ho-Ho" type laughs that sounds like a mad Santa Claus—he gets playful after a few drinks, & he plays rough.

A chief came over this morning from the Roxbury, a troop transport, to borrow 5,000 lbs of flour & 3,500 lbs of sugar. Naturally, the good old Ticonderoga, the cornucopia of the 6th Fleet, poured forth.

Aha!! The word is spelled Corniche—not Corneesh or Kornech or however I spelled it in describing the road along the sea at Beirut. My will power sagged a bit & I started reading my book—the trials & tribulations of a war correspondent in the Med.

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I will close now. Till tomorrow.



Saturday, December 30, 2006

15 May 1956

Dear Folks

At payday this morning, I drew the grand sum of $19; shortly thereafter, I learned our schedule had been changed, substituting Istanbul, Turkey, for Salonika, Greece. I quickly mounted my horse & rode off in all directions. I’ve got to get some more money, somewhere….Then, to make the morning even more enjoyable, we had a mail call, at which I received my fifth consecutive nothing from you.

This afternoon, however, we had another mail call & got three, on your new stationery (which meets with my approval). You’d be surprised what mail (or lack of it) can do to a day.

Speaking of TV, did you happen to see "A Night to Remember" a few weeks ago? It was about the sinking of the Titanic & all the critics raved about it. Sure wish I could have seen it.

Towels—big ones cost 60 cents, medium 45 cents & little (wash rags) 30 cents; I can get tons of them, but compare prices first. As I said before, you can dye them any color you want.

My car insurance at Pensacola cost $126 for a year. Which. is just a little more than $72. The road maps came today & were greatly appreciated. I’ve got to write to that garage soon & tell them to fix it up for me (battery, hydraulic fluid, oil?, grease?, wash it up, & all that).

You liked that picture of me? Let’s put it this way—it wasn’t as bad as some of them, but it’s still horrible. Of course, I spend my life on the inside of my face, looking out, & I suppose I sort of imagine things that aren’t there, or rather change things that are there around.

We’re still wearing blues, although it’s warm enough to make anyone happy. The result is that we roast. Yet, when we switch to whites it will be even worse because they get so dirty so quickly. Oh, well….

No, I haven’t received any brownies or handkerchiefs for several months, but am looking forward to them.

As for your binoculars, dad—they’re all packed & ready to go, except for two things—one of them is the fact that I need some brown wrapping paper—which chose this time to make itself very scarce, & the second is money—I can’t afford to send it until next payday. See? That’s what you (I) get for trying to save money. Oh, well…..

Nick went ashore tonite; Coutre is around but I don’t know where, & Lloyd is studying for his Seaman test, which is to be given tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon, both Cou & Nick are going over—I have so much work to do I’ll be working all day.

Coutre just came back in, with his "Lift-That-Barge-Tote-That-Bale" spiel, then he left, expecting upon his return to find 1) the trash cans emptied, 2) floors swept, 3) desks dusted & washed, & 4) chairs straightened. Boy, is he going to be surprised!

Upon re-reading the first paragraph, it sounds like a hint. It wasn’t. Besides, it couldn’t reach me in time to do any good; we’ll be long gone before your answer gets here.

Oh, yes—two visitors from the Intrepid (CVA-11), which pulled in this morning, have said we are not going to Istanbul at all, but right home, arriving June 15 as originally originally originally scheduled. You would think Christ had spoken to His disciples the way everyone takes it for gospel, All I have to say is---Hmmmm.

Well, I think I’ll close for now. Please send more stamps—lots more.

Till next time



Friday, December 29, 2006

14 May 1956

Dear Folks

I went to "quarters for entering port" as a participating member for the first time since we left the States. It was a nice day, the sky cluttered with nondescript clouds that never seemed to get in the way of the sunlight.

We entered Rhodes, Greece, close on the tail of the heavy cruiser Newport News, & were among the first ships in. All day long the other ships came—more heavy cruisers than I knew we had over here—four of them in all; cargo ships, supply ships, transports; in the late afternoon the destroyers came, precise as a drill team & graceful as a ballet; all looking like mirror images of one another. Landing craft & their mother ships, submarines, & odd little semi-destroyers. God knows how many are here; from a mountain we counted 22, & later saw more on the other side of the island.

Rhodes itself is shaped something like a ship, with the bow pointing toward the massive, shrouded hills of Turkey. Rhodes (the city of) is located at the end of the island, & at the very tip, which comes to a distinct point about twenty feet across, is an aquarium, standing all by itself since there is no room for much else.

At 1300 today, Lloyd & I decided to go over. It was almost 1420 (2:30) by the time we got there, & the first thing we did was hunt a bicycle shop. One of the mess cooks, a kid from the south—at the base of the hills if not in them—named Thompson came with us.

We rode. And we rode. And then we rode some more—most of it uphill. We must have been at least five miles from the town. From a flat mountain on which someone was growing wheat, we looked out & down at the ships & the town. It was very pretty, but I had chosen to run out of film a few moments before.

The road we had originally intended on taking ran along the sea; we obviously made a wrong turn somewhere, & ended up in the mountains. A little gravel road, like some country lanes back home, sprouted off the main road & meandered into the trees. We followed, hoping it might go down—it did, through pine trees, past small farms where the people stopped work in the fields to watch us go by—down & down; we had to keep constantly on the hand brakes or we would have gone splattering all over the countryside.

After four happy hours in the saddle, we got back to the ship. Oh, my poor legs!

Mail closed out ten minutes ago, but I’ll see if I can make it.



Thursday, December 28, 2006

12 - 13 May 1956

Dear Folks

I am deeply puzzled—our Captain spoke over the intercom a while ago & said he would give us the rest of our schedule. We’re returning to Rhodes, which I was glad to hear; we get there Monday. But that isn’t what bothers me. June 18 we arrive in Gibraltar for one day, to take on Attack Squadron 66; from there, on the 19th, we will proceed to the United States, to arrive there on 27 June.

"Where" I asked Coutre, "is the United States?"

"Far across the sea, my son" he said.

"Is it nice there?" I queried.

"They probably won’t give us any liberty," he answered.

"Why? Are we at war with them?"

"No, but they say human beings live there."

"Gee," I said, my voice in an awed hush: "I’ve never seen a human being before…."

Tonite, after the movie, I walked out to the foc’sle & watched the stars, as I did when I was little and allowed such things as dreams. And I thought again how little they were, & how very far away—so far that it takes millions of years for their light to reach us. I never fail to think: "Around some of those stars are planets, & on some of those it is night, and someone, somewhere is looking up at their stars & see our own sun as a dot of light."

And then I get…homesick?…for the stars, & feel cheated & hurt to think that I won’t be around when man steps out of his playpen & goes calling on his neighbors. Someone once said "Everyone has 20/20 hindsight." When someone has a dream, & it is fought for with minds & bodies, & generations have died—some of them violently—for their dreams; then, when it is finally accepted, those same people who laughed & threw stones say: "Why sure, I saw it all coming years ago…."

When we began this cruise, there seemed to be lots of time for writing letters (& there was—six months), but now with only 45 days until we get back, I have no time at all. Oh, well, the mail didn’t go off yesterday, so it doesn’t really matter—you’re getting two letters in one envelope, that’s all. As you may have gathered, it is now Sunday (or rather one day later than the previous paragraphs).

Tomorrow we pull into Rhodes, & I want to go over & rent a bicycle. We won’t have much time until it gets dark, but it should be fun.

Oh, yes---Oh, yes, what? Left the sentence there for three hours’ fruitless attempt at sunbathing. You should have seen that flight deck—all we needed were Confederate uniforms & Scarlett O’Hara & it would have been exactly like the railroad station scene from Gone with the Wind. I’ll bet there were more guys above decks than below.

Of course after three hours of sunlight reflecting off white pages (I was reading) & having no sunglasses, everything here below has a nice yellowish tint.

Took a shower this morning, & looks like I’ll have to take one again, since I smell of suntan lotion (57 % alcohol—some guys drink it). You think they don’t? I know for a fact that certain cooks have an arrangement with Sick Bay whereby they get & drink the alcohol used to clean surgical instruments!

Just came back from another shower & clothes-changing. I can still smell that lotion. Oh, well, maybe it’ll wear off in a few weeks.

I can see now I’m going to be a busy boy tomorrow—Mr. Clower has presented me with 12 letters to type, plus the next week’s menus, plus 135 Replenishment Orders (13 pages each) I’ve got to assemble.

Speaking of money—let’s.. By the time we get back, I should have almost $300 saved. For souvenirs & film, I’ve spent already about $300 or more. When I get out, I’ll get credit for 43 days leave—about $170, if they pay me full time for it. Plus my $100 getting out pay, plus travel pay. The way I figure it, it should be about $600. That’s the way I figure it—how the government figures it is something entirely different,.

Mail closes at 1000 tomorrow morning, so I’d best get this mailed. It’s Mother’s Day, I see—hope you got the flowers.

Well, enough for now. See you later.



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

11 May 1956

Dear Folks

Six thirty (p.m.) & a mail call with no mail—from you, that is; one from Effie saved the day. As I said, I know how you feel when you don’t get any. Of course you have the advantage of being at home & of not being in the Navy, a privilege I hope to share in the near future.

Sitting there at dinner today, it suddenly dawned on me where I am—this happens occasionally, & fills me with a rare childish awe. My mind works in many, if not wondrous, ways. I have yet to empty a trash can & not think (if something in there belonged to or was handled by me) of it lying on the bottom of the sea, all alone. Sometimes, when the wind is right, the papers whip into the air & fly along behind the ship, as if they didn’t want to fall & sink; for the sea is clear & blue on the surface, but cold & black on the bottom.

It never ceases to fascinate me how the blue water can be whipped into a white frothy foam, like the finest lace.

Latest "when-we’re-getting-back-home" scoop: it has been definitely (HAH) confirmed that we arrive home June 28—we will be relieved two hundred miles west of Gibraltar. Oh, well.

What gets me is that every single one of these rumors is Grade A-1 First Class Straight 100% Scoop. It is usually told in whispers, in huddled groups of two or more. Now, the guy who tells it is in R Division; he got it from a buddy in V-2 who heard a chief in X Division say he knew a yeoman in the Captain’s Office who had seen a dispatch on the Captain’s desk. The rumor?--We’re to be extended until Christmas because of possible Jewish-Arab riots. The dispatch?--"Vice Admiral Arleigh Strunk, Commander One Hundred Forty Fifth Naval District Wishes All Fleet Commanders a Belated Merry Christmas."

And so it goes….

Movie tonite was "The Stars are Singing"—an old one I’d seen before, but I enjoyed it as much if not more the second time. It had Rosemary Clooney, Lauretz Melchior, Anna Maria Albergehetti. Sitting beside me was James Bixby—don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned him before. He’s an odd looking kid, thin red hair like dyed straw, millions of freckles & pale blue eyes (the girl he writes to signs her letters "Yours Truly" so he’s madly in love with her).

Anyway, the movie had quite a bit of opera, during which time I sat absorbed. Bixby, having nothing better to do, (opera being as far over his head as his feet are below) sat & stared at me, amid chuckles that anybody could be so stupid as to go for that opera junk.

Now about three minutes to ten & I have accomplished almost nothing constructive, except to tuck another day into my suitcase.

I find there is so much for me to enjoy in the world, I have time for little else.

Tomorrow begins another weekend, thank God.

Just went in the galley for a meat loaf sandwich. Mordeno was playing games this afternoon & brought me a sandwich—which I should have known was odd in itself—which he had covered with Cayenne pepper. He watched me expectantly as I ate it (I tasted the pepper but didn’t show any signs of it), & finally said "Doesn’t it taste a little hot?" I said "Not very." That took all the fun out of it, & he left. As soon as he was gone, I made a beeline for the nearest water fountain.

Well, it being after taps, & I still being hell on getting up in the morning, I’ll close now.

Write soon.



Tuesday, December 26, 2006

9 - 10 May 1956

Dear Folks—

Surprise! It’s me, your long-lost son.---Roger---remember?---you know, the skinny, stupid-looking one? --- Yeah, I thought you’d remember.

Wonder what ever happened to my journal? Today’s would probably begin with "One hundred eight-eight days out of Norfolk, & no land in sight…"; sort of Mutiny on the Bounty-ish. Actually, we did sight land yesterday—two islands looking very romantic & mysterious; also a turtle, but I don’t think we could include him. The water is as clear & smooth as a tray of ice, though I doubt it is as cold. It’s an unbelievably beautiful blue, & you wonder how it can be so blue & so clear at the same time.

Oh, yes—dad’s binoculars will be on the way in the next few days—I finally got the box packed with paper tablecloths swiped from a storeroom. Also in there you will find eight or ten rolls of film (I want to see if they can get home all right via parcel post). You can look at them once if you wish, but I’m warning you it will get boring—three minutes of film, five minutes of winding & rewinding. Figured out the other night that I’ve spent well over $100 in film alone on this cruise! Oh, well, it’s worth it; to me, anyway.

Had GQ today for the first time in days (never have it in port). Worked our little rear-ends off for a change, rigging emergency power lines. This ship—or rather its designers—thought of almost everything. At regular intervals, no more than fifty feet apart in any direction throughout the entire ship, are small, round boxes with a triangular spacing of holes approximately the size of a dime. The boxes are black & by each hole is a white A, B, or C. Above each letter is a raised dot—one for A, two for B, & 3 for C; these are tipped in white, & they & the letters are luminous, & can be seen in the dark. By each of these boxes is a coil of heavy, rubber insulated cable, in some cases several. These can be attached from box to box (three wires at each end of the cable—one with one raised circle—it’s yellow--, one with two circles—red—& one with three—black.) It sounds complex, but there’s a reason—you put the wrong wire in the wrong socket in the dark & you get electrocuted.

We did it in the maximum time allowed, only to find we were on the wrong side of the ship. If it were a real emergency, the flight deck would be about sixty feet under water by the time we got it rigged.

Now only 94 days left. As I said in my last letter (dated 4 May 1834), the way the time goes is wonderful for whittling away the days left, but it’s hell on letter writing.

Yesterday morning a batch of German Admirals arrived on board—there’s more brass around her today than on a ton of doorknobs. Germany may not have a Navy, but she’s sure got a lot of Admirals. They’ve been prowling around the ship all day.

This afternoon, while watching flight operations, a landing plane blew one of the German Captains’ hat over the side. And what did we do; let it go at that? What—& lose all that gold braid? Heavens to Betsy, no! We sent out our helicopter after it—one of the crew members was lowered down on a hoist while a destroyer raced to the scene. The helicopter won, & the Captain got back his hat, soggy but intact.

Replenishment again the 20th of this month; our biggest yet—280 tons of food. That’s 550,000 pounds. Burp.

Bought myself a pair of gloves from Ship’s Store tonite. Don’t know what material it is. (Chief thinks pigskin—I can’t tell, but it doesn’t look like a football.) They’re light tan & cost $3.50. I like them. Hmmm—there’s a goat’s picture on the cellophane bag they came in—maybe it’s goat skin. How much do they cost in the States?

I only made one purchase in Athens—incidentally, their cloth was very poor quality—it all looked like flour sacks.

Word has it that there are three plane-loads of mail on board. That probably means two postcards & a newspaper. If gossip & rumors could be packaged, they’d make the greatest fertilizer the world has ever known.

Just been thinking again what a rat I am for not having written—I know how I feel if one mail call goes by without my getting a letter, so I can imagine how you feel now that four days or more have gone by without a word.

Well, all apologies being made & forwarded, I’d best close now & write to Lirf—incidentally, I see where they’ve quarantined his entire ship (the cruiser Toledo) after the outbreak of a throat infection. Oh, well….



Monday, December 25, 2006

6 - 7 May, 1956

Dear Folks

After several days’ silence, I rise from the dead & take pen in hand once more. Today is the Greek Easter—the Orthodox religion differs from Catholicism in this & many other ways. Today is also the morning after the night before, though I am quite proud of myself, having come through the entire ordeal with what I consider "flying colors."

Lloyd & I went on tour yesterday. The tour got over about three thirty—we got back to the ship at five minutes to twelve. Between the hours mentioned came God only knows how many bottles of wine. If it hadn’t been for the goodness of three Greek sailors, we probably never would have gotten back. We met them in the subway, & stayed with them a couple hours. A grand time was had by all.

I suppose I should be ashamed of myself—I’ve been spending far too much money, but who cares? This will be the last good liberty port we will hit until we return home. Which reminds me—did I mention our month’s extension? Now we’re not supposed to get back to the States until July sometime. (And then again, I heard today that we’d received another dispatch canceling the extension.) Oh, well, think what you will.

The guide we had on the tour did not have the gift of narration that would have been so helpful—I knew more of the legends & mythology than he, & carried on a sort of secondary running commentary on whatever he said for those who didn’t understand what he was getting at. Still, it was interesting to see what I’ve been reading about.

And here it is still another day—I have developed a muscular tic in my left arm, which is going to town at this minute. It only goes away when I concentrate on it. There—it’s gone. It will be back.

The weather here has been from warm to mild, with occasional showers & cold winds in the hills & mountains. Other than that, it’s been excellent. I shot another two rolls of film on the tour Saturday, & so when I get home we’ll have to spread them out over several evenings. Doesn’t Jack have the kind of projector you can stop on one frame to look at it like a slide or still picture? If so, we must borrow it. Maybe we can rent a hall for the showing.

I got a kick out of mom’s saying that the sea air might harm the film—they are inside a steel box in a metal locker three decks down in a steel ship. They never even see daylight, let alone salt spray.

Tomorrow we leave Athens—it doesn’t seem possible that we’ve been here a week.

Rumors still going around concerning our extension. It is almost a dead certainty now that we won’t be home until July. Just so long as we’re there by August 12, I’ll be happy. Which reminds me—I have only 97 days left! Let there be singing & dancing in the streets!

One of the movies yesterday was a new one called "Ransom." I had seen it as a television play when I was home for Xmas leave. It was almost exactly the same. Pretty good, though.

Someone has donated a tape recorder, to which we are now listening—the current selection is a classical gem called "Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes?"—a question which remains unanswered through the entire three minutes it takes the vocal group to ask the same question one hundred thirty-four times.

Later this evening Lloyd & I are going to play canasta—for which we bought two decks of cards.

You know, Saturday night we tried to figure out just why it is we should be such good buddies—I’m not the kind to have tons of friends—in the Navy, anyway. I came to the conclusion it is because he is everything I am not, or would like to be, rather; & he looks up to me for some reason; I’m a combination of big brother & conscience. At any rate, we get along. Besides, I always wanted a brother.

Ah—tempus fudgits so fast—which is good for getting out of the Navy but bad on letter writing.

Oh—now they’ve got a real tear-jerker—a "mountain-William" with the heartrending repetition of the phrase "Dawn’t let me hang around if yew dawn’t care." (Excerpt from a conversation—highly intellectual—about the new records of a friend—"Man, they got some terrific stuff—Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb—man, that’s fine music." The horrible thing was that he meant it!)
I’m getting several members of our little group highly irritated. Now, I fully believe that "to each his own"—but why THAT? Only five thirty—which only makes me four days late.



Sunday, December 24, 2006

Roger Margason (r), Lloyd Meyers, Parthenon in Athens, 3 May, 1956 Posted by Picasa
3 May 56

Dear Folks

Yesterday I made my pilgrimage to Athens. Aside from being deceptively expensive, it was also very enjoyable. Went through 300 drachmas faster than Grant went through Richmond.

The Acropolis lived up to all my expectations—I was awed by the Parthenon. Now follows a short history of the Acropolis:

The earliest town was built on top of the Acropolis—an excellent location; a sheer drop of about two hundred feet on three sides, & an almost uninterrupted view of the entire countryside.
Soon, Nature being what it is, the population grew & spilled out onto the plains around the Acropolis. When the city beneath the Acropolis became larger than the one on top, the people decided to dedicate the city to one of the gods. Athena & Poseidon both wanted it, & it was decided to give the city to whichever god presented the greater gift to the people. Poseidon, god of the sea, struck a rock with his trident & brought forth either a spring of salt water, or the horse (accounts vary—the latter is more accepted. Besides, I can’t see what earthly good a spring of salt water could do anyone). Athena then produced the olive tree. The people chose the olive tree as the better gift, & the city was named Athens.

Atop the Acropolis was then constructed the magnificent Parthenon, in honor of Athena.
Parthenon means "Temple of the Virgin," which Athena supposedly was. It is one of the seven wonders of the world, & the most perfect building in the world. The name of the architect escapes me, unfortunately—Epidus or Epirus or something like that. For one thing, there is not a straight line on the building—the base of the temple is 20" higher in the center than at either end—this is not noticeable, but only adds to the light, graceful look of the building. He also set the style for all temples constructed thereafter; if a temple has six columns on either end, it must have twice that number plus one on either side—the Parthenon has eight on each facet & therefore 17 on each side. The temple faces the east (actually, since it is exactly the same on both ends, it faces east & west). On the west facet, the frieze—that part of the temple between the tops of the columns & the roof—depicted in bas-relief the contest between Athena & Poseidon. Thanks to an English gentleman named Lord Elgin, there is almost none of the original frieze left—he had it all removed & carted back to Britain, where it was placed in the British Museum & called "The Elgin Marbles."

Opening into the inner temple from the west facet was a huge stone door, which could be swung closed in emergencies. There are still deep ruts in the floor from the swinging of the door. Inside the temple, which is the size of a football field—no, about half that—the stones remaining are beautifully smooth. To the right, just after entering through the west door, was a small room wherein were kept all the treasures of the city.

The most remarkable thing about the entire structure is that it did not decay with the passage of time. With the coming of Christianity, the Parthenon became the Church of St. Sophia—some of the murals can still be made out on the walls. Greece, & Athens, fell into Turkish hands sometime around the 10th or 12th century, & was used by them as a mosque. They whitewashed the walls & tried to destroy all vestiges of the Christian works. Through all this the Parthenon stood, unchanged.

And then came the Greek war of Independence, in 1646. The Turks used the Acropolis as a fortress, & the Parthenon as an ammunition dump. A stray cannonball entered the temple through the columns of the north side & set the munitions afire. The Parthenon, which had stood for 2,000 years, was almost completely destroyed.

If only you could see the magnificence of it, even in ruins, & imagine it to be whole & complete….
Inside the temple, facing to the east & the main entrance, stood the fabulous statute of Athena.
The statue, who was seated, was 40 feet high; its dress of solid gold, & its arms & face of ivory!
Being so huge, it was hollow, & a sort of ramrod ran through the center as a support—it is the only spot in the building floor which is not of marble—the hole for the support is still there. The goddess remained, facing the east, until the Romans came along.

Rome & Romans had a terrific case of kleptomania—they never borrowed, they took. Athena, being one of the many gods the Romans took as their own, became Minerva, & her statue in the Parthenon, being gold & ivory, was removed (for sentimental purposes, of course). The ship carrying the statue to Rome was sunk in a storm, & no one has ever found any trace of it.

The frieze of the east facet, under the triangle of the roof showed Athena’s birth. One day Zeus had a splitting headache & asked Hephaestus (Vulcan) to hit him in the head with a thunderbolt. This the obliging Hephaestus did, & from Zeus’ head, fully grown & clad in battle dress, came Athena.

Alexander the Great, conqueror of Asia Minor, gave to the Parthenon large shells of solid gold—these were placed in the frieze (must have been very large, for they had to make holes to support them, which are still visible). Everything went along fine until our friends the Romans stormed into the picture. At the time, they had an emperor who fancied himself a poet of great talent. He had Alexander’s shells removed & covered the frieze with his own poems, in huge gold letters.

When Christianity came into its own & the Parthenon became a church, the poems were hastily removed; Nero had not been ardently admired by the Christians.

People today wonder why the steps surrounding the Parthenon are so high off the ground. The answer is very simple—nobody ever used them—all the festivals & great pilgrimages to the Parthenon took place on the outside; nobody went in.

The picture enclosed of Lloyd & I will give you some idea of what I’ve been talking about. This is the west facet.

Oh, yes—one more thing—the roof was of transparent marble, to allow light to enter! And it was built 2,500 years ago..

And so we have had out guided tour of the Acropolis for today. More (with revisions & corrections) Saturday, when I get back from the tour.

Well, mail closes out at 0500, so I’d best close.



Saturday, December 23, 2006

May 1, 1956

Dear Folks

And a happy, happy May Day to you! Arrived head-on at Athens this morning, amid the sleepy sunlight & playful forty mile an hour gales that blew an uncounted number of white hats over the side, while their owners stood in more-or-less formation for Quarters. Two salutes were fired as we entered the harbor—a 21 gunner for the King & Queen, & later a 12 gun for obscure reasons. Let’s hope our coming had been previously announced in the Greek papers, or the Athenians might have gotten a rather unpleasant surprise to be jarred out of bed by the heavy "pom-pom"ing of cannon, & rushing to their windows to see the formidable American Sixth Fleet sweeping in on them.

Athens is more or less surrounded by mountains, large & small. The largest part of the city lies in a hollow behind a tall but rolling mountain. In the center (or what appears to be the center) of town is a high hill, shaped roughly like a volcano. On the very top of it perches a white building—I don’t know what it is. In front (toward the sea) is another hill—it is broader & about half as high. It looks as though it were a long ramp leading to a table; in fact it looks as though it were man made. And on top of this hill—better known as the Acropolis, stand the ruins of the world’s first great civilization. The Parthenon, huge & broken, crowns the Acropolis, To the right & rear stands a large mass which may have been a gigantic statue; to the left & almost on the down-ramp, are lesser ruins; small, toppled temples.

The total impression of Athens & its surrounding mountains is one of brown. The city itself is sprinkled with white, & green fields lap at the base of the mountains. But there are almost no trees. On top of the round mountain behind which Athens rests are three trees, looking very, very small. Along the shore can be seen a few more; but aside from them, the land is naked.

Tomorrow I’m going ashore at 1300, armed to the teeth with camera & film. And guess where I’ll be going first thing?

Mail call & I received two letters from you & one from Harry Harrison (NavCad made good). First, to answer your questions—yes, I got the pictures of the cottage, as you know by now—& no, I did not go to the bullfights, which brought no tears to my eyes.

Once again, I didn’t fill in the "home town paper forms" because I do not find it at all a great distinction to have made 3rd class. That’s like Einstein passing a third grade math test.

The chief has appointed me a "supernumerary Master At Arms," which can mean almost anything, good or bad.

I am now down to two pair of skivvies, & don’t know what I’ll do after they’re gone. And with no more of my size on board ship, I am in a slight predicament.

Nick has come out of his shell at last, & today was driving his car (the imaginary one) complete with sound effects, which means he’s fully back among the living. Let us hope he doesn’t try his Garbo again—not until August at least, when I won’t have to worry about it.

Haven’t had time to read all day—trying to type the menu, run errands for various people, etc. It being the first day in port, the office was crowded with assorted Greek civilians, trying to sell produce & fresh foods to the ship.

From the back of one of those clippings you sent, I see Little Annie Rooney is still at it, blabbering happily away about her coming adoption (if I had a nickel for every time she’s been going to be adopted, I could retire), while Zero, her trusty 27 year old dog, is still stuck with the same old line: "WUFF." One of these days someone is going to get wise.

Well, tonight being Shower Night, I’ve got to knock off early. I was up till midnight last night, talking with Jim Bassette about our Paris adventures. Ah, well….

Till tomorrow (or maybe Thurs., since I’m going ashore tomorrow)



P.S. Oh, yes—we’ve been extended—get home around 22 June.

Friday, December 22, 2006

27-28 April 1956

Dear Folks

Nine thirty & time for a quick if not too inspired letter. Spent most of the evening trying to polish my shoes.

As usually happens, it is now Saturday morning & the announcement has just come that mail closes out today at 1200 noon. It is now a race to see if I’ll make it or not.

The first two lines were all the further I got. Lloyd had been in, studying for his seaman test, & left to sweep his compartment. Coutre had stepped out for a cup of coffee, & all was still….For a moment, that is—then both Coutre & Lloyd came back, & we sat up till eleven; Cou working & me asking Lloyd questions from his seaman book.

Nick has been playing the role of St. Joan at the Stake & has succeeded in getting on everyone’s nerves, including mine. He has that "Oh, life is just too, too…" attitude. It is now about nine thirty, & he hasn’t said one single word since he came in at eight.. A day or two I can see—but this has been going on now long enough to get any psychiatrist interested. If he doesn’t snap out of it, he’ll crack up before the cruise is over.

Speaking of the cruise being over—let’s. Only forty more days & we’ll be heading for home--& only 106 before I get out. Oh, what a wondrous day that will be.

This is a lost cause, I can see—guess I’d just better give up & finish it tonite, even though it won’t go off today.

Just had a mail call—got three letters from you (20-23rd) & two rolls of film, which look like they should be excellent. It’s always so nice to get mail, especially since the office atmosphere resembles the least attractive aspects of the Okeefenokee swamp I am ashamed of myself for not having written sooner or more often, but the lethargy I’ve mentioned previously really gets at a person.

Tomorrow, praises be to Allah, is Sunday, which means I can sleep to my little heart’s content. This means one of two things—either I will wake up of my own accord about seven o’clock, or someone will do it for me by having a shouting contest. Oh, well, we shall see.

It was a nice day today—the sea a beautiful blue & the wind just a bit cold. The sun was a nice warm yellow & displayed an attractive sunset, the sleepy reddish-yellows reflecting from the surrounding ships & skimming the tops of the waves.

There are quite a few civilians aboard, with pot bellies & blueprints; trying to get some things straightened out before we come into the yards.

Many times I have bemoaned the neutral-grey if not the dullness of life at sea. True, there isn’t much to write about—the physical day doesn’t alter much, but there are variations, all of them mental, which make it not uninteresting. I read, & think (occasionally), & watch & listen. But at times I think of myself as a sort of blotter—I absorb, but it doesn’t do much good. Oh, well….
I am anxious to get back to college, because there I’ll be forced to work. I have, at times, all the will power & forcefulness of a three-toed sloth.

Nick has deigned to give us the honor of his exalted presence. Andy & I are the only mortals in the office. To Andy he speaks—I am only a part of the furnishings & not worthy of his notice. I’m not saying anything—two can play at his asinine little game; & I can play it longer. If he ever decides to come back to Earth, he will find that Roger doesn’t live here anymore. Coutre still tries cajoling him out of it—I’ve washed my hands. He’s named the tune—let him dance to it!

The book on mythology is long overdue at the library—until I hear from them, it will stay overdue. Conscience to the contrary, the vow I made when I left Pensacola still goes—anything that the Navy hasn’t got nailed down, I’ll take.

Subject—film, mailing of. It has been decided not to mail certain films home. There now being approximately twenty rolls, it would be impractical to mail them air-mail (not to mention expensive). And to place them in a box to lie in the bottom of some hot, stuffy hold on a ship would be unwise, as it would most likely end up as a wad of fused plastic & melted film.

For padding for dad’s binoculars, I have an ingenious idea. Coutre suggested last night that prior to discharge I stock up on a few items from Small Stores—namely, towels & pillowcases. The latter are a little small for civilian-type pillows, but the towels are excellent. They are Canon towels, & come in wash-cloth, regular, & bath sizes. They range in cost from 45 cents for the regular to 60 cents for the bath size (22x44"). I understand they are quite expensive on the "outside". How about it, mother? If you want, I can get tons of them—they can be dyed any color you wish.

Well, my dear parents, I shall try very hard not to be so negligent in the future. And with your kind permission, I will close

Your Obedient Son


Thursday, December 21, 2006

26 April 1956

Dear Folks

Last night I got all of two lines of a letter written, & then gave it up—there just wasn’t anything to write about. This is the second draft of this letter. The handwriting in the first was so atrocious even I couldn’t read it. I can see this is not going to be too much of an improvement. My handwriting is definitely going down hill.

Been munching cookies, of which I took a handful from the galley to stave off my hunger. Besides, we had liver for supper, & you know how I love liver!

You’d be amazed how clear the water is around here. Lloyd & I were up on the foc’sle after dinner today, & we could see the entire bow of the ship (which goes down quite a way). It was so clear we could see streaks of rust on the hull.

The sun came out for awhile today, but it wasn’t very strong—sort of diluted. The Intrepid is still with us, about two miles ahead & two miles off to port, with a little destroyer toddling along after her like a puppy. Two prop planes were doing acrobatics & made me wish I were up there with them.

This is only our fourth day at sea, but it’s the tenth—no, the 12th, since I’ve been ashore; the longest single stretch I’ve ever done on this thing. We pull into Athens on Monday, which is also May Day. In America, we used to make May baskets & fill them with candy—in Europe, May Day is the day when all the Communists come out in full force, spreading their own special brand of pleasantries in the form of riots, stonings, & burnings. We’ll probably have to stay on board until everything cools down.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…Nick has been sulking around for three days now, saying next to nothing, & on the rare occasions he does speak, it’s an unintelligible mumble. Can’t figure out what’s wrong with him, but he’s certainly doing his best to make everyone miserable.

Just finished reading some more out of the mythology book I got two weeks ago from the library—this time it was the Trojan War. This particular legend never ceases to fascinate me, though I’ve read it a dozen different times in different books, from "The Iliad" on down. I’ve found that the characters in mythology are all inter-related & linked, even though they do tend to blend & fade together at times. Mythology is far more enjoyable, & at times more believable, than history. And now why do I say that? Mythology is a history—a sort of "pre-history" that lived more by word of mouth than by printed page.

Well, now, I’ve got to go take a shower. I see my handwriting has degenerated into illegibility.
More tomorrow.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

24 April 1956

Dear Folks

I’m starting tonite’s letter early, so that what it may lack in quality it may partially atone for in quantity. Of course, like I said last night, if I insist on writing so small, no matter how much I write it won’t look like much.

Slept like a log last night, & hated to get up, as usual. Today was a second-class day—cloudy but not really too bad. Oh, I forgot to mention in passing the last few days—Saturday while we were out strolling along the flight deck, we sat down on the edge where the catwalk had been torn away by the storm. When we looked down at the water, I couldn’t believe it at first—there were literally thousands of jellyfish—so light & transparent they could hardly be seen, floating just below the surface. They were completely surrounding the ship; whether we attracted them or they’re like that all over, I don’t know. They were almost a solid mass, just lying there, wafting slowly back & forth with the motion of the waves.

We’ve had more mail calls in the past week than in the preceding two weeks. Got a letter from you today, mailed on the 19th, which isn’t bad, all things considered.

Oh, about that Fantasia record again, mother—I know it has Swan Lake on it—it has all his great works, & I think it is beautiful. Please get it & I’ll pay you for it.

I have a box for your binoculars, dad, & will send them on in a few days. I think I’ll also put in several rolls of film with it; you may look at it once, if you like.

Tell me, mother—do you want me to pick up any silks or brocades if I get a chance in Istanbul/Ismir (whichever one)? I can get just plain cloth—roll or bale or whatever you call it—by the yard. I still kick myself for not having gotten any in Beirut. It was $9 a meter (39"), but would be about $15 or $20 in the States. I won’t pass up a chance like that again, if you’d like some. Oh, well….

Athens is supposed to have some good buys, too. If there is anything you want in the way of practically anything, let me know & I’ll try to pick it up. After all, my Mediterranean Cruise is just about over.

Here are some "advised buys" in Athens: "dolls in regional costumes, ceramics, ash trays, vases, plates, etc.; hand made silver & silver plated jewelry, mirrors, desk sets, etc.’ hand embroidery & hand woven covers for tables & luncheon sets, bags, blouses, & children’s clothes; hand woven silk & cotton by the yard; hand woven mufflers & scarves, men’s ties,….." The underlinings are mine. If you want me to pick up any of this stuff, either for you or for Xmas presents for the relatives, let me know. I have, or will have next payday, about $200 on the books, so you needn’t worry about my having enough money.

Don’t count too heavily on my getting out early—the other day I did what I should have done the first time I heard those rumors—called a buddy in Personnel & asked him. Personnel Office handles all transfers & discharges, & said they hadn’t heard a word about anyone getting out early. It’s possible, of course, but then almost anything is possible in the Navy.

Oh, yes—it’s official now about being 3rd Class ("glorified seaman") so you can address my letters AK3 instead of AN.

It’s been awfully warm down here (below decks) lately. Guess Spring is here.

Any further ideas or thoughts on coming out to meet me? You can no doubt get last-minute plane reservations at almost any time. I was just thinking how long it’s been since I’ve seen you. I remember mother standing before the Cathedral in New Orleans, & eating toasted cheese sandwiches by the swimming pool at the motel. That was a very nice place—too bad we didn’t get any pictures of it. And I remember both of you when you got off the planes—mom in a brown suit or dress—I can see it, but don’t recall which it was) & dad looking out that weird egg-shaped window.

Well, I think I’ll start cutting that box down to mail the binoculars. More tomorrow.



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

23 April 1956

Dear Folks

This will have to be short, since it’s quarter after nine & I’ve got to take a shower yet. They’ve announced that mail will close out at 0600 tomorrow morning. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going anywhere—just that it might. Again today we had another surprise mail call, & I got a letter from you. (As Chip Muchler, one of my NavCad classmates used to say, "Good-O.")

For some reason, I’m very tired—well, not very, but quite. I’d love to sleep for days. This afternoon I went to Clothing & Small Stores to buy some more skivvies—mine have a habit of disappearing at the rate of three pair returned for every four sent. The smallest size they had were 34’s, which I’m sure I’ll fit into very nicely, if only I can find someone to share them with me (I got one pair). Also bought another white hat (incidentally, in the navy, we say it whitehat, not white hat.)

It’s so quiet in here tonite—sounds from the movie on the after mess decks drift in occasionally, & there is a fan going, but it is comparatively silent. Don’t recall if it was mentioned, but last night I saw "The Jazz Singer," a remake of the Jolson classic, & the woman who played the mother reminded me an awful lot of you, mom—she even looked vaguely like you.

I wish I didn’t write so small; here it is 9:25 & it looks as though I’ve scarcely begun.

Finished reading Polly Adler’s "A House is Not a Home;" enjoyed it a lot. We arrive in Athens on payday, as I probably said yesterday, & I plan to spend every spare second ashore.

Getting so I can’t even think straight. Please excuse me for cutting it off here, but I need my beauty sleep. God knows I need something.



Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, 22 April, 1956
111 Days to Go

Dear Folks

I must really be slipping—I didn’t write at all yesterday. Well, let’s hope it doesn’t happen again. A surprise mail call woke me up this morning around nine, & I netted two letters from you, including the pictures of the cottage.

Both yesterday & today were beautiful, sunny & warm. The entire United States Sixth Fleet is crammed together in Suda Bay—all neatly laid out if anybody wanted to pull a quick raid. Suda Bay is a long, finger-like inlet that is almost a lake. Its only entrance is through a narrow inlet, past a small fortified island. The whole thing is completely surrounded by bare mountains. We’d be pretty bottled up if anything happened.

The captain talked to us via the loudspeakers today, telling us we leave tomorrow, to be at sea for eight days. On May first, we arrive at Athens, Greece—wonder of wonders! We’ll be there for eight days, then put to sea again until the 16th, at which time we will "put in to an unknown port in either Greece or Turkey." (Most likely Ismir, Turkey.) After that, who knows? And who cares, for by that time we’ll be ready to head for home. I hope we stop at Gibraltar for a few days so I can buy a lot of last-minute things.

Actually, this trip to Athens about climaxes my European "tour deluxe." With it, I will have been to every major city in Southern Europe, with the exception of Madrid!

Lloyd & I went sun bathing this afternoon on the flight deck, after seeing the first half of the afternoon double feature. And guess who we saw, out for his daily stroll? My old buddy, Dale Harris, from Pensacola. Perhaps I should say Carrier Division Four (one of his titles), or "Admiral Dale Harris, onetime Chief of Naval Air Basic Training." He walks from the island structure to the forward end of the flight deck—starboard (right) side, turns around, & walks back again. This he does at least six times, & was still pacing when we left. He’s accompanied by an armed Marine, who stands discreetly but comfortably distant.

Tonight I went back to see the second half of the double feature, & as a result staying up after taps to get this written. I know it is short, but trust you will forgive me. Again, thanks for the pictures & send more any time you have a chance.

Till tomorrow, I am

Your Humble Son


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Replenishing the U.S.S. Ticonderoga at sea, 1956. Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, V1 Div. Posted by Picasa
20 April 1956

Dear Folks

Thought I’d break my long-standing rule about typing a letter and try it for a change.

Typewritten letters are so impersonal (except Mother’s, of course), but certainly more legible.

Sorry I haven’t written in three days; which also is not something in the rules, but I’ve been kept slightly busy. Up at four a.m. this morning (brilliant—that’s like saying "that-there" or "ain’t go no") for replenishment at sea, which went off quite well with only a few minor mishaps like a guy falling over the side of a destroyer. They picked him up all right. We certainly look impressive, if nothing else—two carriers, eight or ten destroyers, several tankers, oilers, AF’s (food cargo ships) and AK’s (material), and even a heavy cruiser or two. And we are all going to pull into Suda Bay, Crete, tomorrow morning. That ought to be loads of fun. From what I hear of Suda Bay, a good time will be had by all; the Shore Patrol has to take over its own drinking water, the town isn’t even a wide spot in a cow path—it was completely wiped out during World War II and never bothered to rebuild. Oh, well, we’ll only be there two days,. Forgot to mention that liberty is up at 5 in the afternoon. Monday we pull out to God knows where; you may take your choice—1) since the Arab-Israeli peace treaty has been signed (and everyone knows that automatically means the solution to all problems), we will skit right back and pick up our schedule where we left off, in Barcelona. 2) We are going back to the Western Med, but first stopping at Athens, Greece, and Ismir, Turkey. 3) No one has the vaguest idea where we’re going, and all the big wheels in the 6th Fleet are having a get-together tomorrow night to figure things out.

I would rather fancy the second one, if I had my choice. Well, we’ll see.

Today has been a very long day, now stretching into its eighteenth hour.

I also got a little note from the government, about which I may have said something previously, saying I owe them $7.46—first time I’ve ever paid any income tax. Made a money order out this morning. From the sounds of the typewriter, I’m almost out of paper. And, being sleepy, I will ask your permission to close. Yep, I was right.



Saturday, December 16, 2006

16 April, 1956

Dear Folks

Let there be singing & dancing in the streets—I finally got a letter; it was good to hear from you after such a long silence. Also very happy to hear things are going along so nicely at home.

Now for the bad news—the rumor is not a rumor. The Captain announced this morning that we are going "to the Eastern Mediterranean for an indefinite period in support of United States policy. We will go first to Suda Bay, Crete, where we will anchor for three days. Our schedule after that is unknown. There is a possibility that we may not be relieved at Gibraltar, but somewhere in the Eastern Med. If such is the case, there may be a delay of ten days in our arrival home. The ship will be operating out of Crete, & Greek & Turkish ports."

So off we go, into the wild blue yonder, to aim an unloaded pistol at a bunch of people who want to get rid of unwanted guests. As I may have said yesterday, I hope we hit Beirut again.

I wrote to the Andersons this evening—which I should have done a long time ago.

Remember what I told you in yesterday’s letter about the cottage. I mean it.

Oh, yes, I become officially rated on the 16th (Monday). From then on, I’ll be getting twenty dollars a month more. And you can believe me—it will come in very handy.

The yellow paper-blue ink combination isn’t too good, or easy on the eyes. Better luck next time.

Tomorrow is the day Lloyd wants to go to the bullfights. I don’t know how we’ll manage it for several reasons—1) we only have $5 between us, 2) liberty is up at 8:00 at night, so that we can pull out at 12.

You’ve probably heard by now whatever has happened to us—we never hear anything. The only time we get any news at all is while we’re at sea.

Well, now if you will excuse me, I must get back to my mythology. I never get tired of reading that stuff.



Friday, December 15, 2006

13 April 1956

Dear Folks

Up until now all our rumors have been semi-pleasant ones, concerning going home. The one making the rounds today is not so pleasant—according to this one, we will be leaving Valencia at midnight tomorrow or Sunday, to proceed to Suda Bay, Crete; from there to Cypress—an island you may have read of recently in the papers. We should know later tonite, when tomorrow’s Plan of the Day arrives. This is one rumor I hope is no more than that.

Should, by any weird set of circumstances, a war develop—a real one, I mean—I want you to 1) rent a trailer & move all the valuable stuff up to the lakes; commute from the lakes to work every day, if possible. If not 2) sleep in the basement, on the side nearest the driveway. 3) Go to the cottage every weekend or if anything should happen at home. That way I’ll know where you were.

As for myself—we’ll probably be quite busy with one thing & another. Don’t believe anything you hear, unless you hear it from me directly. I’ll manage to get home somehow, but I don’t want to worry about you being in town in case anything happened.

All the above may sound very dramatic, but should anything happen, do as I’ve said. Remember that.

I’ve just been thinking—if a war starts, I doubt that it will begin in a blossom of atom bombs—it will start like this one could; two kids fighting & then the parents stepping in.

Now don’t start worrying—nothing will come of all this, but I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have to worry about you.

Today, oddly enough, is Friday the 13th. Along with the above rumor & the fact that we had a mail call last night & everyone in the division got a letter but me, the day didn’t look too promising.

Then, around noon, I heard that I made 3rd Class Petty Officer; which really doesn’t mean much except $20 a month more. I still don’t believe it, though—after all, I only spent about a week in Aviation Supply before they sent me mess cooking! If it’s true I am now an AK3, but don’t address my letters differently till I know for sure. If so, it will make quite a difference in my discharge pay, & will help me in the reserves. Well, I’ll close now---till I hear from you.



Thursday, December 14, 2006

Flight Operations U.S.S. Ticonderoga from Rescue Helicopter. Photo courtesy Dale Royston, V1 Div. Posted by Picasa
12 April 1956
121 days to go

Dear Folks

Here I am again, after just having been chased off the quarterdeck by the OD—all we were doing was playing leapfrog. It all started when Lloyd, Jack Moore, & I went out to get a breath of fresh air after the movie. We went out to the wing deck near the quarterdeck, & were looking down at the ladder-gangway. I said I’d bet that if you had to jump from where we were, you’d spatter all over the ladder—or at least hit it on your way down. Lloyd said no. So we measured out a spot on the wing deck & tried jumping it from a standing start. I think Lloyd was winning when the OD came up & asked us icily if we were on watch. We said no. He thereby ordered us to go play our games elsewhere.

It was a beautiful day today—we pulled out to sea just for the day, & I got a chance to take almost two rolls of film of launching & landing planes. Also got a shot of the dropping of the anchor when we pulled back in, for which I had to lean halfway over the railing, & still got Lloyd’s hat in it (he was below me on the catwalk.)

Sorry I didn’t write last night but I tried writing a bit on a story I’d done once before. Most of my stories I find are pseudo-psychological. The endings can be taken two ways—either logically, wherein whatever befalls the person is brought about by his own mind, or fantastically, where the mind is not restricted to the limits of the body.

This particular one is about a mentally defective man with the mind of a seven-year old. He wants to be a bird. I’m going to do more on it tonite.

Another day with no mail call &, logically, no mail. I’d much prefer to have a mail call & get some mail.

I’ve already picked out the courses I want to take when I get back to school—Education 488; Introduction to Philosophy, Social Science 385, Public Opinion & Propaganda; English 400, Creative Writing, English 48s; Modern Drama, & Journalism 231: Radio Writing.

Though it’s a beautiful day outside, it’s hot as an oven inside. Hate to cut this short, but it’s 8:30 & I want to work on the story.

Till Tomorrow



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

10 April 1956
123 days to go

Dear Folks

I was just talking to Wheeler, who had gone to the bullfight yesterday—& I am very glad I didn’t go. How can anything be as horrible? The way he described it, it wasn’t a fight, but a massacre.
On second thought, I wish I had been there, sitting in the center of the ring with a large machine gun & several thousand rounds of ammunition. I would honestly enjoy nothing more than spraying that crowd with machine gun fire. They want to see blood? Fine—then let them see their own, damn them. They came to see suffering—I’d love to show them "But the bulls are only animals; wild & cruel." Well, what do you suppose those things sitting there cheering are?

No doubt Lloyd will drag me to one next Sunday, & I will undoubtedly become very ill. Maybe I can sneak a machine gun from the ship’s armory. Wouldn’t that be fun? Can’t you just see the looks on their faces? Ah, but there I go, daydreaming again—wishful thinking.

Sadistic little soul, aren’t I? Well, I’m only human….

I’d go on to more pleasant subjects, if there were any more pleasant subjects to go on to. Had a lousy night last night—woke up in the wee hours with one hell of a sore throat. My nose has been playing Niagara Falls all day.

At about 8:00 tonite I took my NavCad book up to show Lloyd. It is now 9:15. It was fun to talk about it again, & I didn’t feel at all bad—oh, a little nostalgia, perhaps—but it didn’t hurt.

Evidently there is to be no mail call tonite. Didn’t get any mail the last couple of mail calls—the last one I got said you’d received & seen the film; I hope you enjoyed them. The 8 feet of nothing comes from not taking the lens cover off. Did you get an idea of the size of the columns from the pictures/

No, mom, the kids weren’t Americans, I don’t think. I suppose kids are kids any place. Speaking of kids, how about—uh, no, that’s another film—or is it? Did I send the one with the two lambs butting their heads together? If so, how did it turn out?

The five pesetas enclosed in yesterday’s letter was done so as on afterthought—it’s worth about 10 cents.

Realize this is short, but I’ve got to take a shower & get to bed, to give my throat a chance to get really sore again. Till tomorrow



Tuesday, December 12, 2006

9 April 1956

Dear Folks

Saturday morning we anchored three miles off Valencia, Spain, where (according to the ship’s Bulletin "it almost never rains") it was raining like mad & the seas were amazingly rough. The day got off to a good start with the arrival, in a private boat, of a contractor who wanted to sell provisions—among them fresh milk—to the ship. One man came to the office, & said he had two friends waiting in the boat to come aboard. I was sent to tell them to come on, & show them the way to the Commissary Office. When I got to the quarterdeck, the OOD told me to go down & give them a hand. The boat was bobbing & tossing like a cork & trying to maneuver up to the gangway. One of them men threw me a line, which I could not fasten anywhere because one moment the boat would be even with the gangway & the next be ten feet down & twenty feet away. At this point, two waves swept over the gangway, up to my knees. I tried to get up on the railing before a third hit, but didn’t quite make it. The OD called me back & told me to go change my clothes, which I did.

That afternoon I wanted to go over & make arrangements for the phone call home. The sky was black with dirty grey clouds racing low over the water. The Ti had three liberty launches in operation for the 34 minute ride to the beach; two of them were covered & one was not. Guess which one we got? To top it all, the rain began as soon as we got in, & didn’t let up all afternoon. I am beginning today to reap the rewards of all that damp & drizzle.

Valencia is a good sized town—about 500,000; the downtown area is a good three miles from the landing. We were lucky enough to be given a ride in a shore patrol truck. Valencia’s main Plaza is a large, roughly triangular affair surrounded by substantial buildings—all corner buildings being rounded & usually one or two stories higher than the others.

We wandered all around, looking in all the stores—they have a lot of material for sale, but Beirut spoiled me for material.. I got a chance to use my Spanish, & got along fairly well. Lloyd seems fascinated by my semi-ability to speak at least a few words of every language, & by the fact that I’ve got their money down pretty well.

The telephone office is on the main square, in a building that looks like a telephone office. I made arrangements to call Los Estados Unidos (EE.UU) Sunday at seven. For that, I paid 475 pesetas (roughly $11), which isn’t bad at all.

Afterwards we wandered to the Bull Ring, which looks vaguely like the Coliseum in Rome. It seats 20,000 people on plain wooden benches. The center is a large circle covered with sand, roughly the size of a round football field (if you can imagine a round football field).

In back—the whole thing being circular, by "back" I mean on the opposite side from the street—we looked down on the bull pens, where five great black animals with impressive but not conspicuous horns stood or laid placidly about, waiting to die. In another pen were two white bulls—why they were separated I can’t guess. A lean tomcat strolled casually between their thick legs.

I could go on & on, but time is getting short, so I’ll get on to yesterday. It sure was wonderful to talk to you, even though I had nearly an hour’s wait. It was a few minutes after eight, Sunday night, that the call came through. I was talking to one of the telephone operators, who said that there was only one line between Spain & the U.S., & at times it took awhile. I think the connection was much better than the one from Naples. You all (grandpa especially) sound good—hope to see you soon.

When the call was through, I was refunded 115 pesetas--$2.75! Spain has a "tariff" on phone calls—Saturdays & weekdays are more expensive than Sundays—I paid Saturday rates for a Sunday call. So it only cost about $8.00 for the call!!

I’ll relate more of my Valencia adventures tomorrow. Right now it’s time to go to bed.



Monday, December 11, 2006

6 April 1956

Dear Folks

Just spent a most enlightening, if not enjoyable, hour and a half trying to clean the white stripes on my dress blue jumper. I was spurred on to this Herculean task by the fact that tomorrow we arrive at Valencia, & I wish to go ashore, to see what kind of telephone connections I can get with home.

We have two Puerto Ricans on mess cooking, & I try to talk to them only in Spanish. Usually, though, the conversation breaks down into English when it comes to the main points. It will be fun trying to get around in Spain. Incidentally, I’m glad I didn’t plan too strongly on going to Madrid, since they canceled the tour anyway.

Mail call today &, wonder of wonders, I got a letter from home! It was strung out over three nights, & only goes to show you’re slipping. I want one every day, even if it’s only a movie schedule.

The latest "discharge" report hot off the grapevine—we get back to the States on the 17th or 16th, or the 18th of June; a "draft" (Navy term for "group") will leave the ship for the receiving station—those whose discharge dates come between 20 June & 17 July. On the 27th of June, another draft leaves: those getting discharged between the 17th of July & 17th of August—that’s me. I heard it from a guy who gets out the 7th of August, but it sounds good anyhow. That would mean I’d be discharged by the first week of July.

Yes, dad, I agree—I’ve done quite a bit of "gadding about," & I’d love nothing better than just to sit home watching TV, going to shows, and buying clothes. But—one never knows, in this outfit, just what is coming off.

Oh, yes, also received your package of cocoa & books. Someone had tied it up with string, but it still was trailing a stream of brown. Very clever idea, putting the cocoa in between the pages of the book. I salvaged three & a half packets from it—the half packet coming from between the pages & poured from the big envelope. I hope you read that article on Lebanon in that "Highways of Happiness" booklet, mother. The photo, which I’ll send back, was taken, oddly enough, on the exact corner where the USO Canteen was—the building it’s in can be seen to the right. It’s a small world.

Hope you’re buying & saving Life every week for me.

How nice it is to be grown up at last & have dad ask me what I’m planning on doing, rather than telling me what I’m going to do. Just think—I can do anything in the world I want to, & nobody short of the police can stop me.

I must give you credit, though—you were never too strict on me—not many nineteen year olds go galloping off to New York by themselves. Remember the first time I went to a movie all by myself? How old was I, anyhow? I remember it was either a double feature (at the State), or so good I sat through it twice, or both—anyway, I was late getting home & you nearly had fits.

Oh, yes, it was Easter, wasn’t it? I don’t remember a thing about it, except that Lloyd & I had gone ashore the night before. Speaking of Lloyd, he’s slightly sea-sick today—only seen him twice, & he went to bed right after supper. Me it doesn’t bother in the least.

Beautiful bright day today—still cold—& the sea is still rough. The Intrepid has been tagging along with us for two days now. She’s pulling into Valencia with us. So are six destroyers. That ought to be lots of fun—ten sailors for every two feet of ground.

Just clipped out the Beirut pictures & story, in case you missed it. The "x" is where the Ti was before she broke loose; on the far side of the sea wall. The second floor of the building at right is the USO, or Lebanese-American club. Your loving son walked right along the same road, & looked out the window beneath the second (pillbox) thing. Notice all the American cars.

Well, bed time again.



Sunday, December 10, 2006

One of the Ti's destroyer escorts. Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, V1 Div. Posted by Picasa
5 April 1956

Dear Folks

One thing I will say for myself that can’t be said for you lately—I write every day, almost. Another mail call with nothing from the Margasons; nothing from anybody, as far as that goes. Sure is good to get mail. Oh, well.

128 days to go. I keep hearing the rumor that everyone whose discharge date falls prior to mid-September will be released the first part of July. This is a wonderful rumor, & the only thing that keeps me from believing it completely is that the only guys I hear it from are getting discharged prior to mid-September.

Slightly rough today, & I loved it. Also a little on the chilly side. Unfortunately, some of the guys fresh out of boot camp did not find the rocking & rolling quite as enjoyable as I did.

Went back on the fantail twice to watch the waves—they fascinate me. Those poor little destroyers trailing us really take a beating in weather like this. They pitch & toss like a wild bull—charge head on into huge waves & come rearing up in a fountain of spray, till their black keels show above the water. With us, we ride several waves at once, & the action of one more or less cancels out the other. But the destroyers ride each one as it comes, rising high out of the air & crashing down the other side, only to plow into another.

Today was "M" day, & it went off very smoothly, all things considered. I signed my name 180 times in about three hours, & 90 men came & went.

Saturday we arrive in Valencia, & I may go ashore & make arrangements to call home Sunday. Of course, by the time you get this, Sunday will have come & gone.

Imagine—we complain when it takes six days to get a letter halfway around the world; two hundred years ago—even one hundred—it took three months to get as far.

Ten after nine—thank God the days go as fast as they do. I’d go nuts if they went slower.

Well, again it is time to go to bed, even though it is short.

Till tomorrow



Saturday, December 09, 2006

4 April 1956

Dear Folks

Just for a change, I thought I’d type a letter. Just got done typing one to Lief. All I do twenty-four hours a day is sit at this darn (now that’s an odd looking word—I was just being polite) typewriter, so a few minutes more will give me a chance to practice.

Tomorrow is the big day for the Mess Cook Change-over; 45 guys coming and 45 guys going. This place will be a mad-house for awhile—at least my end of it will be.

A bunch of VIP’s flew on today from somewhere, and in order to give them a really good show, full of chills and spills, they sacrificed an enlisted man tonite (thought at first it was a pilot, but enlisted men are lots cheaper). They’ll be bringing him down to the reefers in a while now.

Chief just clamored all over my chair to turn on an air vent—it is awfully hot in here.

The Intrepid joined up with us today—she came over to relieve the Lake Champlain. Funny that she’s back so soon; we relieved her in November, when we came over.

Afraid there’s going to have to be a day’s pause in letters—I’m tired and think I’ll go to bed.
Hope you understand and will forgive

YOUR Loving Son


Friday, December 08, 2006

3 April 1956

Dear Folks

I was just standing here twiddling my thumbs wondering what it was I’d forgotten to do when it came to me—write to you. So here I am. As was predicted yesterday, we had a mail call today—I got two letters from you, with the clippings about Sandy. Good Lord, but we have a crazy family. The last letter was dated 30 March, & this being only the 3rd of April, I’d say it made excellent time.

Lloyd wants to go to a bullfight when we get to Valencia. I have absolutely no desire to. Maybe I’ll go to take pictures of the pomp & ceremony, but I can’t see watching a bunch of mad animals screaming for blood. I’m talking about the animals not directly engaged in the slaughter; those who sit in the stands & chomp hot dogs, watching the blood spurt from a safe distance, through beady, inhuman eyes.

Ah, but there I go, preaching again. Forgive me if I get carried away at times.

At times, such as now, I feel as though I could write words that would be remembered as long as there are people to remember. But then something always gets in the way, & I end up doing nothing—or at best scribbling a few sentences in a book of dead stories.

I once wrote a poem; did you know that? It was written down in Pensacola & was quite fatalistic & very revealing. But it got lost somewhere along the line. It had something to do with the last leaf on the last tree in the world, which was about to be drowned by the rising seas. The rhyme scheme itself was quite da da, da da, da da, da DA-ish, if I recall. But I liked it & wish I could remember it. Oh, well.

I was just thinking—if someone could take a battering ram & knock down these walls I’ve built around myself, I wonder what they’d find? Either something about two inches high that looks like it just crawled out from under a wet rock, or an explosion so great & powerful it would put the sun to shame.

Always I have the feeling that people are in mental cocoons; some of them more developed than others—& I keep waiting for us to come out of them—to turn ourselves into the butterfly I’ve always expected myself to be.

Sometimes, when I try to think very hard, I can actually feel it—like trying to push against a gigantic door. And there’s always the maddening idea that it would be easy to open, if we only knew how. Once again, "oh, well."

Thank you for the stamps, mother. They came just one step ahead of the cavalry. The last batch of cocoa you sent was in such a lousy shape that I only salvaged two bags out of the whole mess. But it’s good.

Well, dad, now that bowling’s over, what are you going to do with yourself? Why not try writing every now & then? Incidentally, if you have any pictures of the cottage, please send them to me—either the old way (to give Lloyd the general idea) or the new way—so I can get a general idea.

Regards to all the relatives.



Thursday, December 07, 2006

2 April 1956

Dear Folks

Just got word that mail will leave the ship sometime tomorrow. It hasn’t gone for several days now, so you’ll probably get a batch of letters all at once. If I remember it, I’ll try to keep putting the date on the upper left hand corner of the envelope, so that when you do get a bunch all at once you’ll be able to read them in order.

Actually, if I were a model Mess Cook Yeoman, I’d be busy trying to dig my out of the six tons of work I’ve accumulated & been bequeathed during the day. Oh, well, it will only take ten or twenty days to catch up, working 24 hours a day.

It feels good to be at sea again, which is really a rather inane comment, since the only way I can tell we’re moving is by the vibrations.

I’ve been reconsidering going to Madrid; much as I’d love to go, it would be nice to have that money saved. But you know me when it comes to a choice of buying something I want or saving money. Well, we shall see.

Actually, aside from Berlin, I’ve been to every major city in Europe—Paris, Rome, Naples—not to mention Cannes, Nice, Genoa, Beirut, Rhodes, Palma, Gibraltar, & San Remo. I’ve covered almost every foot of both the French & Italian Rivieras. So if I don’t get to Madrid…well…. If I don’t go, I’ll definitely call home from Valencia, which will be somewhere between the 7th & 16th of this month. You probably won’t even get this until the 10th or so.

Tell me (you may already have)—did you receive the film yet? And did you, as promised, show it only once? As I said, I’ve only seen Baalbek once, & I wouldn’t want you to beat me at my own game.

Speaking of movies—I wish they’d get some good ones on this tub; the other night we saw "Random Harvest" with Ronald Coleman & Greer Garson. It was good, & I was way too young to remember the first time I’d seen it. Oh, when I get home.

I managed to get Lloyd a job in the ship’s store office as a yeoman, & he got off mess cooking today. He’s a good kid—typical All American Boy type. All he’s worried about is getting home to see his girl—poor kid; he’s been away from home four months now, if that long.

131 days.

Chief Sewell has taken over the management of the mess decks & control of the Mess Cooks. He advocates a steel fist regime, which makes it misery for the poor mess cooks. He’s taken over almost all my duties, which leaves me rather lost.

I never have been quite sure just what I’m supposed to be around here. Officially, I am the Mess Cook Yeoman—I check them in & out, make up liberty cards & do any paperwork in connection with them. However, I also type up the menu for the Chief, type all sorts of letters for Mr. Clower, & do odd jobs for Coutre. I belong to everyone & no one. Oh well.

Did you know that 131 days has 3,144 hours—I’ve already spent 600 days or 14,400 hours in.

And with that fascinating bit of news, I leave you.



Wednesday, December 06, 2006

1 April 1956

Dear Folks

Eight-fifteen on Easter Sunday, 1956—a holiday on the calendar only. The whole day has passed in that state of passive nothingness so many of the days do around here. Two months & six days & we’ll be on our way home. 133 days before my discharge.

Tomorrow we leave San Remo for Valencia, from where I hope to go to Madrid. But nothing is certain around here, so we shall see.

Last night we climbed a mountain. Lloyd, myself, & two other mess cooks were out wandering around when we ran into two American girls going to school at the Sorbonne in Paris. One was from Georgia & the other from Louisiana & they had just the syrupy-est drawls you evah did heah.. We talked to them for awhile—they speak French with a Southern drawl, which is no mean accomplishment.

After awhile we left them, & Bader (one of the guys) said he knew a nice place "up on the hill." San Remo is surrounded by "hills" that would stand out like sore thumbs in Illinois. We said OK, & he said: "We can either walk or take a taxi." Only having about four dollars between us, we decided to walk.

So we walked—it wasn’t so bad at first. As we got into the older part of the city, where the houses cluster together & only grudgingly permit narrow streets, it got a little steeper. At last we came to the "suburbs," where the houses are more scarce, but where the paths are hemmed in by garden walls. An occasional dim streetlight emits a bare light. The paths became very steep, & on the other side of the walls, the tall silhouettes of poplar trees stand black against a black sky. Now & then a dog barks, but otherwise it is deathly silent, with only the ghostly street lamps far apart.

We came, half dead, to a place where we could look down on the city, twinkling like scattered diamonds, with a necklace of light along the shore reflecting from the water. Out in the water was another group of lights, echoed in long shimmering lines, that might have been a small village on an island—it was the Ti. I could have stayed up there & just looked for hours.

When we finally reached the restaurant, 787 feet above sea level, we had a large plate of spaghetti (for only 50 cents).

Where I’d had trouble coming up, Lloyd had trouble going down—somehow, though the path twisted & turned & there was only one way down, we lost the other two, who’d walked on ahead.
Not wanting to come back to the ship, we went back to the little bar we’d visited every time we’d been ashore, to say goodbye to Maria & her folks. We stayed there for awhile, watching the Milan Opera Company do "Madam Butterfly" on TV, & returned to the ship at about 2300 or so.

And so to bed, after first sweeping down the office—which I am quite sure Boswell never had to do.



Tuesday, December 05, 2006

30 March 1956

Dear Folks

Amid the turmoil & confusion we call the Commissary Department, I sit down to write my nightly note. In the last few weeks, several minor tremors have shaken the ship—occasioned by the slow unveiling of a gambling syndicate aboard ship that would do Al Capone proud. First off came the discovery, in a remote diesel or hydraulic pump room, of a home-made gaming table, complete with red & black numbers. Shortly thereafter, in an S-2 provisions storeroom, a compact little social group was deeply involved in a game of hearts, or some such, when who should walk in but the Executive Officer. So intent were the players on the game that they didn’t even notice him standing behind them until several hundred dollars were in the "kitty."

There are many ways to make a not-legal but very profitable living in the Navy. Of these, one of the most profitable is called the "slush fund"—a sort of Household Finance Corporation. I have five dollars; you want to borrow it. Fine—you take it & give me six (if I’m a rat & you need it badly enough, I’ll get seven) next payday.

One of the cooks started out in this modest fashion &, a la Horatio Alger, soon built it up to a tidy $5,000. And this is not the only source of income he has.

The major quake came today. It began innocently enough the other day, when the shore patrol stopped a guy skirting Customs. He was carrying a large can of spice. Now, you’ve probably never thought of it or even known it, but the people over here will give almost anything for spices. You can get more for a can of spice than for a carton of cigarettes.

One thing led to another & climaxed with a discrete "investigation" early this afternoon. That’s what I like about the Navy—they’re always discrete. One full Commander, one Lieutenant Commander (Fitzpatrick), one Ensign, Mr. Clower, & two gigantic Masters-At-Arms—one of them clutching a large pair of lock-cutters—stomped quietly from the Commissary Office to my compartment. They’d asked me to go along to show them where O’Haire (the cook)’s locker was.

Joe O’Haire himself was on leave, living it up in Cannes--& if anyone can afford to, he can. The Masters-At-Arms looked very disappointed when they found that Joe didn’t have a lock on his locker.

While one MAA spread a blanket, the ensign started placing on it things from the locker. I don’t know what they’d expected to find, but they all looked a little disappointed. They did come up with a good-sized bag of poker chips, & a brand new box of twenty decks of playing cards. The ensign nearly went into spasms of ill-concealed glee (though he tried to look very solemn) when he found a notebook containing the names of dozens of guys, across from varying amounts of money.

No doubt when they find him, he will be ceremoniously fed through a jet intake, after a lovely court-martial.

And so it goes aboard the Mighty Ti.

Don’t know now whether I’ll be able to call from Madrid or not. If not, then it will definitely as soon after the next payday as possible.

Have I mentioned the color of the water around San Remo? It’s green—almost grass green at times, but usually several shades lighter.

Sure could use some 3 cent stamps. Sure could. Yep.

We’ll have to have both our Xmases (1955 & 1956) next August when I get home. I surely hope you like what I got you. So far, I’ve acquired some three five-pound tea-tins full, plus some other things that are either too large or too bulky to fit. Gee, I can’t wait to get home. Two years is a very long time, you know.

And so to the movies.



Monday, December 04, 2006

Roger Margason (l.), Lloyd Meyers, 1956 Posted by Picasa
29 March 1956

Dear Folks

On the way to you now, perhaps getting there the same day & perhaps even before—I mailed them this morning—are two rolls of movie film. One of them is of Rhodes (I have another that hasn’t come back yet) & one of Lebanon & Baalbek. I decided I want you to see Europe while I see it. You’re seeing, on these films, Europe exactly as I saw it. But remember—I only saw it once, & you promised to show them only once until I get home. Otherwise, you’ll be so sick of seeing them that no explanation of mine will interest you in the least.

On the film boxes you will find what little explanation is necessary; I’ll go into detail when I get home. I’ve only seen them by picking them up & squinting, but they look excellent (except for a ten-foot-long blank space in the Baalbek one). There should be another roll on .Baalbek, too. I still can’t get over the magnificence of those six pillars, & a feeling of awe when I think of them falling.

Only two letters from home—why? Got the envelopes with the Morning Star front page & dad’s typewritten letter.

In answer to mom’s question about the location of Beirut & Lebanon—Lebanon is on the Mediterranean—a very small country, roughly the size of Connecticut, if that big. It is right next to Jordan, & Beirut is only a short distance from Jerusalem (100-150 miles?). If a straight line were drawn around the world, passing through the straight of Gibraltar, Lebanon would be the first land it touched, on the far side of the Med. It is now independent, ruled by a President, was once a French protectorate, & before that was part of ancient Persia; even before that, it figured prominently in the Bible on numerous occasions (as mentioned previously, King Solomon built his temple with Cedars of Lebanon).

I’ll call home from Madrid if I have enough money. Don’t know what date yet, but will let you know roughly later. Wonder what the telephone operators think—after all, not everyone in Rockford gets phone calls from Europe.

I’ve promised Lloyd (after many gin fizzes) that he can use the cottage for a week for his honeymoon. OK? He’s all excited about it, & has written his girl already.

So now I shall close. With only 136 days to go, I shall be seeing you very soon. Till then



Sunday, December 03, 2006

27 March 1956

Dear Folks

Yes, it is I—your roving son, four days late but here nonetheless. Saturday Lloyd Meyers & I (haven’t I written since then? Seems I recall mentioning him somewhere) went over to see the town. It rained every single minute, but we had our raincoats & didn’t get too wet. San Remo is a nice little town, typically Italian with narrow side streets & back alleys. Some beautiful modern apartments—many, in fact, growing out of steep hillsides & along the coastline. Buildings are all pastels, with a few harsh shades in the modern ones. We covered almost every inch of the city, including going up & down mountains. In some places in the older parts of the city, the streets are only six feet wide or so, & very steep. People evidently throw their garbage right into the streets, for they’re lined with eggshells & bits of vegetables. Sometimes the streets become tunnels, where the buildings are built right over them. And then, in all these narrow little passageways, you’ll come to a small open square surrounded with pink & yellow buildings, with green shutters on the windows & laundry hanging out of them. In the center of these little squares will be a small fountain of some kind—usually shaped vaguely like the Washington Monument, only about six feet high.

That night we had spaghetti & wine for supper. I ordered "Vino dolche"—sweet wine—but they bought that just-been-stomped-on stuff the Italians drink for water. From there we went on & had a vermouth, more wine, & finally ended up in a small bar & settled down to gin fizzes. The bars over here are just beginning to advertise TV. This one had it, too, though it wasn’t advertised. The station (no "s") comes on at 8:30 p.m.. Reception is fair, & programs pretty good.

This particular bar is run by a family—momma, who reminds me somewhat of Aunt Marge—poppa, & Maria, their 16 year old daughter. It’s a small place, with only five or six tables, but modern, being in one of the new apartment buildings.

Sunday I can’t remember what I did—went to the movie, probably. Don’t remember writing a letter, though I may have. Yes, I guess I did at that. Oh, well…

Monday we (Lloyd & I) went on a tour. Aside from the fact that we drove off & left our guide—who didn’t catch up to us until we’d sat at the French-Italian border for an hour—was pretty good. It was worth the money just to get off the ship. We crossed the Franco-Italian border on foot just far enough to take a quick picture & came back to the bus, safely parked in Italy. From where we were, I could see the odd-shaped mountain that rises over Monaco (Monte Carlo).

Ate lunch in Imperia, a smallish (I’m "small-happy" tonite, aren’t I?) town—the bus parked in the town square, directly across from the gloomy building housing the "Partito Communista Italiene"—Italian Communist Party (Imperia branch).

Back to San Remo by four; we left the bus & fleet landing & headed for a park along the waterfront—Lloyd wanted to get a picture of some palm trees with the Ti in the background.
Another kid came with us—Jack Moore, a good looking kid from Tennessee, minus the drawl. He has, if I may say, beautiful eyes—he’s very dark & his eyes are light blue or grey—you seldom see people like that, & they fascinate me.

We went back later to the same bar & more gin fizz. I was elected to talk to Maria because I can speak a little Spanish. Maria can’t speak Spanish, but we got along, after long struggles with me trying to think of the right word.

Incidentally, I’m getting to be quite a linguist. I can say "sweet wine," "thank you" (Gratzia), "you’re welcome" (Prego), "excuse me" (permisso—pronounced like "pedermeeso"), "good morning/evening" (Buena suerte/sera), & "goodbye." (Arivederche). My spelling is probably as bad as my pronunciation, but I have fun..

On the way back to the ship, Jack pretended he was completely drunk—he does it very well--& whiled away the forty-five minutes we had to wait for a boat by dickering with a peddler over some music boxes. There were about fifteen music boxes on the cart, & Jack had to listen to every single one of them. He ended up buying a Parker 51 pen with his last 1,000 lire.

Now for more news on the European Front. The Lebanese earthquake, I learned from as reliable a source as it is possible to get around here, did hit Baalbek & toppled two of the remaining 6 columns of the Temple of Jupiter, & all the remaining cornice. That is a real shame—they were so beautiful & so unbelievably huge. To think, had it come four days earlier, had we been there four days later, we might have seen it. And I do have some of the last pictures ever taken of them. I don’t know what happened to the Temple of Bacchus—it was just being reconstructed after an earthquake in 1745. Things do happen.

A mere 137 days to go.

Oh, yes—I’m allowing myself one more extravagance while in the Med; a tour is leaving from Valencia (by air) for four days in Madrid. I’m going, if I possibly can.

Well, it’s almost taps, & so I’d better close.