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.



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