Here’s the second part of last week’s letter.  This relates the entertaining story of how Pop came back from the War.

So let’s get on to more pleasant conversation. Yes! Indeed I agree that the San Francisco area is a beautiful spot, and as I have said so many times before in my letters, the Pacific Ocean is so much more beautiful than the “cold, grey, stormy and choppy Atlantic”. The Atlantic is a gloomy ocean believe me. I always feel an affinity with the Sea no matter which one it is, but I never felt closer to my Maker than when on the Pacific. It seemed that I just belonged there.

Pete is in Seattle, where he teaches at The University of Washington, while also studying for his PHD, and I wrote him the other day that TWENTY YEARS AGO this month I also was in Seattle. The San Juan De Fuca Strait is a beautiful stretch of water. We entered it in the daylight and I had a chance to observe it, but it was 2 A.M. in the morning when we anchored and the word came over the loud speaker that those that wished could be taken off The Lexington and “go ashore”, but they advised that we wait until the morning. NOT ME. Myself and Tiny DuPrey (my Texas buddy) got our Sea Bags packed and over the side we went as fast as we could get there.

“Tiny” was a six foot four Texan and was my best buddy in the Navy. As we paced the deck coming back from The Caroline Islands on the Lexington, they (the crew) called us “Mutt & Jeff”. I looked pretty small beside of him, believe me! I had a couple of letters from him after I was discharged. He came from Corpus Christie, and then he dropped out of sight. I think he probably died as he was over 60 and I was as you know 40 when he got discharged. He was one of the “real old timers” of the Navy and I believe if my memory serves me right was at one time a champion fighter in the Asiatic Fleet in the Peacetime Navy.

Like all Texans he did things in a big way! I know we were ashore in Honolulu once, and we had paid .90 each for a “rum and coke”. Honestly there was not an ounce of Rum in ten drinks. They really take the Armed Services in those places you know. Anyway Tiny said, “Boats we are going to get a bottle of Bourbon” (which I hate but which the Southerners love) and I said you can’t buy it as they can’t sell it to anyone but Civilians. He said “You all just come with me Boats and we’ll see about that.” Anyway we went into a Liquor store on King St. and some little Japanese American ran the place and Tiny said “I want a bottle of that there Burbon” and the chap said “no sellee to sailor”. Tiny grabbed him by the collar and said “Listen you damned Jap, hand over that bottle of Bourbon or I will throw you and your whole damned shop out into King St,” and “by gosh” he got his Bourbon in a hurry and threw his money down on the counter and then he and I proceeded out to Wakaikee Beach and sat under the Palm Trees for the rest of the day. It seems that what Texans want they get! (even to Lyndon huh?)

But for him I might STILL be in the Pacific. An AlNav came through saying that men over 35 (I think it was) could apply to go back to “The States”. The War was nearly over but not quite, I think there was one battle that Tiny and I missed. At any rate of course I had my belly full by that time and wanted to come home but did not think I had a chance. Old Tiny said “Now don’t you worry none at all, us uns is going to get to Hell off here and go home to “the babys mama” (that was his expression for his wife). Anyway I put in my “chit” to come home and so did he and in a couple of days they were approved, and all this was due of course to the fact that Tiny “dug up” some Chief Yeoman who had done Asiatic duty with him and “knew the ropes”. I, being a Reserve and in only for the duration could never have managed it, but Tiny did.

Anyway we got our Sea Bags together and transferred to The Lexington at Eneweitok and came on home. On the way across the vast Pacific we were also of course (although passengers in a way) subject to “working parties”, in other words both of us being B’suns Mates were supposed to take charge of a group of sailors each day that had to “scrub bulkheads”, chip paint or some other of the Navy’s tedious duties.

However WE were never called, but just paced the huge deck in step with each other day after day, when I asked “how come” Tiny said “Oh Boats I fixed that up as soon as I came aboard.” As far as the “working parties” are concerned we are not even on this ship. Quite a Texan!

It’s tradition in the Navy of course that when you leave your “Buddy”, he carries your Sea Bag to the Gate for you. The last I saw of Tiny was at (Gate 3 I think it was) at the Bremerton Navy Yard, with my Sea Bag on his shoulder, and I was on the way to Newport, R.I. to “see the baby’s mama”, and although I am supposed to be one of those tough old B’sun Mates, believe it or not there is a tear trickling down my cheek right now, thinking of “old Tiny”.

Funny thing that an “old salt” from the far N’East of the United States (Maine) and another from the So’West should become such “Buddies”. That is something else that makes a tear form in my eyes, the song “My Buddy”. You know Sailors are supposed to be rough and tough and all that BUT they are also very Romantic. Also men are not like women in that respect. There are very few real friends among men. They lead for the most part a rather lonely life. Women have all kinds of friends but seldom does a man commit himself to any lifelong friendship, but if Tiny had lived, I would have “made it to Texas or he here” of THAT you can be sure.

You know sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it’s really ME that is “settled down”, a darned landlubber with a wife, five sons and seven grandchildren. I just can’t believe it! I ought to be on the deck of a Schooner, with the breeze in my hair and the spray in my face and watching the “falling stars” over the Pacific. How come I ever got into such a state anyway? Well I guess “that’s the power of women,” Huh! Another of my favorite songs is “Would You Like to Swing on a Star” Etc. See what a darned Romantic I am?

Too bad I am so darned old. Did you know that a Merchant Seaman makes over $10,000 a year CLEAR. That’s with board and room Etc thrown in, and here I am “batting my brains out” and don’t clear two thirds of that, dodging drunken drivers Etc. As I say I just can’t believe it’s ME!

Well I have demanded that Mama throw my ashes on the Sea when I leave (your expression) this old ball of mud, and you know they are infuriated at even that. They won’t even let me rest at Sea when I am through “with it all”. How about that!

Well enough of the “briny deep”. It only makes me lonesome. I don’t know as I will even get to Iowa. Mama says I should go out alone and fly. The trip is pretty expensive by car, but I will try my best. By the way when are YOU coming East?

Regards to you and the Mrs.

Leon.

Tags: