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.

Love

Roge

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