This is one of a few letters that is incomplete. It still is informative about battleships and yachts. In regards to me being sick, I recall being absent from school for typically about 30 days out of the year in elementary school. That lessened in high school, while my year between high school and college seemed to straighten me out in many ways.
Dear Mr. Lufkin:
Thought that I would not write to you until I calmed down from my December “tantrums”. Guess I have them all out of my system, and anyway I won’t take them out on an old friend like yourself again. It doesn’t (as you well know) take much to upset me, and between the order mixups and Kirk being sick I was just about beside myself. He has been in bed again now for over two weeks, but thank God spring will soon be here and then he can, I hope, live a normal life again.
Your letter from Florida took me back over the years. I have spent some time in Florida, but you know the things that you liked are the ones that I disliked. In other words, I have always liked sleeping hours to be good and cold. When I was in San Diego I could really sleep with a blanket over me nights. When I was in Florida, I just lay there and soaked the sheets with perspiration all night. I guess being a born New Englander makes a difference also, as like yourself, I missed looking around at the hills and mountains, and in California I could see them.
How times have changed! The first time I was in Florida was in “The Roaring Twenties” which I am of course a product of. In fact us chaps that had “gangway duty” at night when we were tied up at the “causeway” struck up an acquaintance with Al Capone’s Chauffeur. Capone himself (as I remember it) had a large estate overlooking Biscayne Bay, and he and his “hoods” used to amuse themselves, shooting machine guns at the pop bottles that used to go drifting down the Bay. I DO remember that our first “Port of call” was Jacksonville, and I was amazed, because like now it was cold and frosty. In fact it was the coldest rain that I ever remember, and having had visions of Tropical Maidens, Palm Trees and oranges rolling around in the road, I was quite flabbergasted. However when we got to Miami, the weather had straightened out and they had their usual Florida warmth. We made the Grand Tour of course (boat-wise that is). We went across to Havana, and of course sampled Sloppy Joes wares, and it being prohibition we all hid some Bacardi Rum in our Sea Boots in our lockers so that the Customs could not find them. Then around to the West Coast.
My next trip I think I have told you about, and how true that “revenge is sweet”. I had been on Atwater Kent’s Yacht and since he was too cheap to “fit out” in Novins (City Island, N. Y.) or Teaboes (Brooklyn), we tied up to a dock in the East River and the sailors had to do all the scraping and painting and what have you, AND in addition stand night watches to keep the rats away.
My third trip to Florida was of course during the last war while I was waiting for an assignment to the U.S.S. Iowa. I would say that was one of my luckier days also, as she was the envy of the entire Navy enlisted personnel. I always loved her dearly, and I was fortunate enough while she was being built in Brooklyn to be the personal Chauffeur of her Captain, John L. McCrea. As such and as one of the first ten men assigned to her, I knew every officer on there and believe it or not nearly all her 3000 men. After the war I had a letter from the then Admiral McCrea and that is something that very few enlisted men ever receive.
I had contact with “the great” of the world, as being the driver of the Captain’s “barge”, I even drove the late Mrs. Roosevelt to the docks one day. If I recall it was the day that the parents of the Sullivan boys (and were they not from Iowa?) were aboard the Iowa for a War Bond Rally. I also drove the officers of the French Battleship Richliew a great deal as she had escaped the Germans in Africa and had come to the United States.
I am INDEED getting along life’s pathway, and I have had some wonderful experiences. One of my sadder ones though was when I was picked to take 86 men from the Iowa and to help put the sister ship Wisconsin in commission. I always hated the Wisconsin. The Iowa was my first love Navy wise. I loved every inch of her and all her officers and men. The Wisconsin I hated with every inch of my being, although I did all my fighting (little it was though) on her. One of the proudest moments of my life was when we were both anchored in Ulithi (the Caroline Islands) and one of the Iowa’s officers came aboard the Wisconsin to pay his respects. To the amazement of all the sailors and officers alike of the Wisconsin, he talked at some length with me and then asked me why I did not visit the Iowa and my old ship mates. I told him that there were no boats over side for the crew, that just the officers could leave the ship, and he went back to seek out the Executive Officer, got permission for me to leave the Wisconsin AND sent a whaleboat from the Iowa to the Wisconsin to pick me up, and when I came alongside the Iowa the whole rail was lined with my former Division all of them yelling “hey pop” that was me, as all the kids were youngsters and I was 36 at the time so an ole man to them. They escorted me to first place in the “chow line”, first place at the movies and I had my first real pleasure since joining the Wisconsin. So you see the name Iowa still had nostalgia (guess that’s how you spell it) for me.
The Alondra (that Kent’s Yacht) had a Square head Mate, and of course it was my hard luck that I was hired by the Captain of the Yacht who was a “Down” Easter. The Mate of course hired all Square heads (Norwegians to you) and I was on the small end of the horn as far as he was concerned. There has always been a great rivalry in Yachting circles between Yankees and Square heads. Both claiming to be the better sailors. Actually neither of us is. The British are far better seamen than any other nationality. Britannica did not “rule the waves” for nothing for all that time. Her seamen were used to all kinds of seas, all kinds of ships and all kinds of people, and I consider them the finest seamen in the world, at least they were at that time.
Anyway the Square head Mate watched his chance, and since we got dog tired both working and standing watches nights, I finally fell asleep on watch, and the “son of a gun fired me” since we were fitting out, the Captain was home in Maine taking it easy and I had nobody to appeal to, and I did not especially care anyway. I “flared” at real or imagined injustice as easily then as I do now. My blacksmith father’s temper I guess.
Well to continue (and of course Palm Beach is what brought it to mind). I got a room in Brooklyn and haunted the “fitting out” places as it was that time of year when all the rich were getting their Yachts ready for the Southern Tour. Luckily I hit on a beautiful brand new Yacht “The Placida” that was being built at Teaboes in Brooklyn and I got a job as Quartermaster, which of course gave me a better job, more pay, and a “wheel on my uniform” which meant a great deal to me in those days. When we were built and fitted out, we of course left immediately for the South. We made all the Ports on the way down and of course put into Palm Beach. Or if I remember it (it was long ago) the Yachting Harbor was in West Palm Beach. THEN came my revenge. As we steamed slowly in, (sand bars were quite prevalent due to storms) Lo and Behold there was Alondra, high and dry on a sandbar, and THERE was my Square head Mate cursing furiously at the sailors as they strained to get a Kedge Anchor over the side and get “her off the sandbar”. I was on watch on the starboard wing of the Bridge and in spite of guests Etc I could not resist an “Ahoy you Square head Son of a B—-!” His amazement was such that he damn near fell over the side, as the Placida was the newest, the latest and just about the finest afloat, and was the envy of both officers and sailors in Yachting circles, and as a Quartermaster I had my own stateroom with the other Quartermaster.
(The rest of this letter is missing).
Tags: Pop's Letters