Tag Archives: surf history

Capt. Dan, part 13: The War ends and a runaway train…

I finally got orders to the Sub-Chaser School at Miami, a one-month course. Upon completion, I was ordered to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego. At night, while at Sub-Chaser school, Eunice would flash signal cards at me so I could memorize them. While in school, Pat was born at Fort Lauderdale in Broward Hospital, Dec 11, weighing in at about 9 lbs. Eunice had to stay in the hospital more than a week. Doctors were awful fussy in those days. Eunice drove herself to the hospital as I was out on a sub-chaser. The course at Fleet Sonar School, now Fleet Anti-submarine Warfare, was four months training to be an ASW Specialist. I came cross-country by train from Miami to San Diego the end of Jan ’44. Eunice followed in early April with 4 months old Pat by train, stopping in Phoenix to visit her sister Libby. Before Eunice arrived, I billeted in Balboa Park with 150 officers in one big room, double deck bunks. You lived out of your suitcase. There were three showers, three washbasins and commodes. To beat the crowd you got up way before 5:50 reveille. Buses took us down to Sonar School where we ate in the general mess. We also had lunch there but evening meal back at Balboa. We sure made use of the small “0” club at the school. That building is still in Balboa opposite the large gym building.
When Eunice arrived in San Diego, we shared a house with a divorcee with a baby girl Pat’s age. The deal was that Eunice would mind both tots while the divorcee worked in a defense plant. It worked out well since Eunice is easy to get along with and loved kids. The house was the second one in on the SE corner of Pescadero and Sunset cliffs Blvd. It is still there, same color, light green; we got the place by placing an ad that read about as follows: “Four months old baby boy looking to share home with baby of similar age. My Mommy will take care of both of us while yours works.” It got a few quick responses. I use to walk from there over the barren hills of Point Loma to ASW school and back as we had no car, about 2 miles. Eunice use to push baby carriage from Pescadero up to Newport Ave to shop in OB. A few times, Eunice and I rode open busses from Grant Hotel out to Camp Elliot, a Marine Camp at that time, to get a steak dinner for $1 and drinks at 10cents each!
Netting covered Pacific Highway, so that from the air it camouflaged the Convair plane buildings. They are now General Dynamics. From the air, the area looked like a farm as they had rigged barns, silos, etc on top of the buildings to blend in with the netting that looked like plowed fields, grass, etc.
I really learned a lot, as we had to break down sonar gear, trouble shoot, etc., plus learning all sorts of ASW tactics on training devices plus, at sea in ships. After finishing the course, I received orders to report to the Fleet ASW Command in Boston Navy Yard. We rode the Santa Fe Super Chief, 59 hours to Chicago at which point our sleeping car shunted over and hooked onto the 20th Century Limited for 15 hour run to NYC. I had some leave so we stopped and stayed with my parents for a week.
Eunice rented a small house over by LaGuardia Airport. Planes use to fly right over it at low altitude, as it was in line with runway. She pushed Pat in baby carriage all the way up to Roosevelt to shop, even when snow covered the streets. When I didn’t have the duty I rode the train down from Boston on weekends. One weekend I was to meet Eunice, my parents and Frank Costello’s friends at the Copacabana for dinner. The Boston train was two hours late. I hadn’t eaten since early that morning, made the mistake of tossing down a few hard drinks and just about passed out in the men’ room at the Copa.
While at Boston, I use to operate an Attack Teacher for training ship sonar teams. I remember a French crew, one day they were taking a run on a sub on the attack teacher when the French sailor started arguing with a French LT which way to turn to attack the sub. He let go of the helm while arguing and the ship went around in a circle while they jabbered away in French! I thought to myself, my God no wonder the Germans knocked the French out of action so quickly.
I received TAD orders to go to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for two weeks to work with their scientists in developing tactical sonar doctrine on how to use screening ships depending on sonar conditions determined from bathyograph readings (temperature vs. depth). From this, we developed screening tables used by sonar-equipped ships. Next, I attended a one-week course of instruction on the new British l47B submarine depth determining sonar gear. We also received instruction on how to install it in escort ships.
While at the Boston Navy Yard, I was under the command of the ASW Unit, Fleet Operations Training Command, US Atlantic Fleet. I received further TAD orders to Quonset Point NAS for a one-week course of instruction in Sono Buoy operations, devices used to track submarines. This was during August 1944. In October I received TAD orders to supervise the installation of the British l47B depth determining sonar on the UCS HAVERFIELD (DE 595) at Boston Navy Yard. On completion, I rode the HAVERFIELD to Bermuda, and while in the Bermuda area, we were involved with making practice runs on an Italian Sub that had previously surrendered. While on the Haverfield, which was part of an ASW Hunter-Killer Task Group, we chased a German sub for three days. The carrier’s (BOGUE (CVE-15) air group caught the sub on the surface, about 50 miles from the surface escorts.
I flew back from Bermuda landing at Floyd Bennett NAS in Brooklyn in a PBY. In November, I received orders to report to ASW Unit in Norfolk. While there, I attended several short courses in damage control, sonar buoys, and radar. In addition, I attended a four-day course in Loran and a five-day course in ammunition handling at the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. The Radar School was in the Cavalier Hotel at Virginia Beach, which the Navy had requisitioned. There I also had a two-day fire-fighting course.
In January ’45, I received TAD orders to Key West to conduct special sonar tests at sea using sono buoys by an Escort ship against a sub. Working up a system wherein sub could be located near a sono buoy pattern. I managed to get to New York a few times, and took ferry from Little Creek to Cape Charles, then the train to Philadelphia, transferred at Pennsylvania and then on to NY.
At the end of February ’45, I received orders to report to Fleet Administrative Command, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for duty as an ASW Specialist. While there I supervised the installation of l47B depth determining sonar in the USS RAMSDEN (DE-582) and USS EDSALL (DE-129). The war had ended in Europe about this time. Eunice and I rented a cottage in Bayville east of Ferry Beach. There we used a kerosene heater to heat. We bought an old Dodge from a local clam digger, and Rode to Locust Valley to take the train to Brooklyn, then the bus to Brooklyn Navy Yard. Pat loved to push the frame of a baby carriage all over. He also liked to push boats out into the water. I bought a small dinghy for $25, and took Eunice and Pat sailing to Lloyds Neck and back. Eunice would take Pat in the baby carriage to shop in Bayville village, which was a good ¾ mile from the cottage. We also picked up our mail at Post Office there.
In September, I received orders to the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. While at Yorktown, we had rented a large cottage across the river. The cottage had a wood stove in the kitchen that was a combination heater and hot water heater. I had to load it up every night with wood so that on the cold fall mornings I would get up and light it off before Eunice got up. We had a shuttle boat to take us back and forth across the York River.
Flu finally got me and I ended up in NAVHOSP, Ft Eustis, where I was diagnosed with T.B. (Eunice went to NY and stayed with my parents when I went to NAVHOSP). I was there about two months, at the end of which time, I was ordered to be survey out on a medical discharge stating that I had contracted TB before I entered the service. I wrote a strong rebuttal to the Survey Board’s findings and eventually BUMEN reversed the findings. I was then ordered to COMFIVE for TAD awaiting orders. While at COMFIVE, I was sent over to Norfolk Naval Shipyard to inventory equipage aboard the ex-HMS TRACKER, a CVE we loaned the British. I wish I had kept a huge oaken whiskey cask trimmed in brass with “GOD SAVE THE KING.” I am sure some shipyard worker made off with it after it was removed from the ship.
In January 1946, I received orders to report to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego for duty as a PCO/PXO Instructor. In December, I had requested transfer to the regular Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Navy was seeking Reserve Officers for the Regular Navy. I dropped by NY for a few days before taking the train to San Diego. On the way west the train stopped at Needles, CA for a 15-minute stop. Everyone got off to stretch their legs including the conductors and porters. The train started up, but the conductors said not to worry they were just changing engines. Well, the train proceeded out of sight and all hell broke loose. The Station Master wired ahead, to have the train stopped. Meanwhile, a good number of school busses, local city busses and two greyhound ones were employed to take us up into the mountains, and get back aboard the train. We had to hike about two miles from the last passable road and finally got aboard. Our sea bags, orders, etc were on the train. I never did fine out why the train left, maybe the engineer didn’t like the conductor or was drunk.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 12: Eunice, Annapolis, New Orleans, Miami and the Caribbean

When a recruit company finished training, they had a company picture taken. The photo shop was by the CPO Mess (the present commissary). It was a concession working under the Navy Exchange. This is where I first met Eunice. Mr. Waterman, the owner, introduced us. I had about 10 dates with Eunice and we eloped to Yuma, AZ to get married on May 1, 1942. I borrowed another chief’s car but on the way out an old-time Chief Quarter-master spotted a bottle of booze in the back, which was forbidden on base. I had to see the commanding officer. Fortunately, his name was Kelly. I told him the circumstances and he let me off to go pick up Eunice and head for Yuma. When we got to the border, the Army wasn’t going to let me into Arizona as a number of servicemen had been deserting. After much explanation and having his sergeant go along to see, we checked into a hotel. However, I had to report at 6AM the next morning! We stayed at the San Carlos Hotel, had civil wedding at Gretna Green’s. When we arrived back, we rented the upstairs apartment at corner of Cohasset and Ocean Front.
A week later, I got orders to report to Annapolis for 50 days officer training and commissioned as an ensign in the Ton Hamilton Naval Aviation Cadet physical training program. A good number of us original “Tunneyfishers” went to that program. I sent for Eunice and she flew, arriving about when I finished the 30 day wonder program. Eunice stayed at Mrs. Ellison’s home just outside the gate at Annapolis. Mrs. Ellison was the widow of the first Naval Aviator, Lt. Ellison. They had a daughter who really use to boss the midshipman around when they were invited to the Ellison home for tea. Tommy came down. He was a boatswain mate third class the Coast Guard, operating a patrol boat in lower bay of NYC.
We went to NYC and stayed at my parents place on 45th Avenue, as I had some delay before having to report to Naval Air Training Facility at Lake Ponchatrain, just outside New Orleans. It was hot and miserable there. I was in charge of physical and military training of cadets going through basic flight training. When we first arrived at New Orleans, thanks to my father’s connections, we stayed at the Roosevelt for a few days until we found a small house on Lapeyrouse St. It had giant cockroaches, especially in the basement. At the waterfront restaurants on the lake, we would purchase a giant platter of shrimp for a $1.00. You would have to peal the shrimp, and make your own sauce from a large selection of supplied condiments. While at New Orleans, I was ordered to Naval Hospital at Pensacola for treatment of cystitis. A Navy nurse inserted a catheter in my pecker so they could work on the cystitis. While I was at the air facility, the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox came down to look into the reason why so many cadets washed out of flight training. Apparently, it turned out that the regular Navy flight instructors were telling the cadets they were muscle-bound and would never learn to fly. Knox cleaned house and got in new instructors. The reason for the intensive physical program was the fact that our flyers didn’t have much stamina to survive in a jungle, or afloat at sea for any length of time.
I got itchy to go to sea; I felt I wasn’t doing my part in the war effort. I applied for sea duty, and I got orders in October to report to the Gulf Sea Frontier Headquarters in Miami for further orders. Before I went there, I had to go to the Naval Hospital at Pensacola as I had cystitis. HQ ordered me to an YP that patrolled along the Florida coast from Fort Lauderdale up to Stuart Inlet, back and forth looking for U-boats. It had some depth charges and a 20mm gun. I got real seasick on the first patrol.
Eunice and I had a small apartment in what use to be Thomas’ Cottages. There were several other military couples living there, one was Ralph and Gretchen Underzuper. He was a Coast Artillery Captain and had the battery guarding the entrance to Port Everglades. The Sea Train ships operated from there taking near a 100 freight train cars to Havana and back. Later in ’43, these ships were used to carry the tanks that saved the British in their battle in the deserts against Rommel in North Africa. The ships under heavy escort ran the gauntlet in the Mediterranean to reach Suez.
The Navy Section Base from which my YP operated was in Port Everglades just opposite the Sea Train piers. Eunice use to see the YP go by once in awhile when she was on the beach. Our place was only a block in from the beach. Everyone used rationing books during the war. I still have one, however with all the stamps gone. I had my mother and Ellen down for a month or so during the winter. Should mention here that when Eunice and I first went to NYC to stay at my folks home (place upstairs was empty at time) my mother had all the O’Connell relatives over for dinner to give Eunice the once over. She made it with flying colors. She got along real well with my parents and learned a lot from my mother over the years we were in that area.
The base needed someone to take charge of a 60′ Alden schooner that was to be used for coast patrol. I volunteered as I had some sail experience from my younger days. It was named “KIKI”. My crew was a seaman and fireman first class and myself. We went on 5 day patrols. I had to teach them how to handle sails, work the voice radio, etc. It was tiring duty as the few times I could grab a catnap I would be called for something or other. When a good northerly blew down the Florida Straits, I would hole up in the lee of a breakwater, by harbors along the coast. Nothing exciting occurred except avoiding tankers running independently.
After a few months of that, I got orders to take a 50′ crash boat down to Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. We picked it up in Miami, joined a small convoy escorted by a Canadian sub chaser. I had to go in at LaFe on the western tip of Cuba and get fuel from a base we had there. They gave me aviation gas, which apparently was too much for the engine I had. We ran into the tail end of a hurricane. The engine quit, and the sub chaser took us in tow. Seas were mountainous, and we ran before the seas. The strain was too much, as we would surge a few hundred feet on the tow hawser then fetch up. It finally caused the stem of the crash boat to pull away along with the Sampson post and we began to take on water. All that night my 2-man crew and I bailed water trying to stay afloat. By dawn, we were pooped, and the boat sank. The crewmembers were not good swimmers, so I tied us all together to prevent separation. After two to three hours in the water, a small freighter rescued us. The convoy lost its position, as we had been socked in for a few days. They radioed Grand Cayman, which sent out a PBY that located us the next day, and gave us a steer to the island. It was a British possession, which we got the use of under the Lend-Lease program when Roosevelt gave them 50 WW l destroyers for our use of some of their islands to set up anti-submarine patrol bases. I can remember the swarms of mosquitoes on that island!
I flew back to Key West in a PBY and got Navy transportation up to Miami. I received orders to take charge of a 125′ wooden trading schooner the ICAROS. It had a 12-man crew, plus two ensigns besides me. We carried 200 tons of cargo; spare plane engines, ammunition, and high-octane aviation gas in drums, spare parts and chow for the outlying bases in the Bahamas and Caribbean waters. The ICAROS drew 16 feet when loaded.
Just before the ICAROS orders, I was sent on temporary duty on a 70′ ketch out of Port Everglades. The Navy had many ocean going auxiliary sailboats, some were 125′ “Bluenose Schooner” types. We use to leave Port Everglades, six boats on average, bend on every inch of sale and race across Florida Straits to Great Isaac Light House, where we anchored inside the reef for the night. We would have a great gathering there. Next morning we all went our separate ways on assigned patrols, covering various passages and islands of the Bahamas looking for subs and to see if Germans were caching supplies on any of the islands, as a great number of them were uninhabited.-
After several runs, each of about 10 days duration, to bases in the Bahamas, Caribbean area, (Neuvitas, Gaybarien both east of Havana on the Old Bahama Passage), and the Isle of Pines off the south coast, I recommended that the ICAROS be surveyed, as there was extensive rot in timbers and planking. In addition, in a seaway the masts would show a 5-degree angle between them, looking from aft. This was due to ship yawing in heavy seas. In addition, when we hit head seas, the masts would whip forward quit a bit. The Navy inspected the ship and agreed. Later on my mother sent me a clipping, which I have in my scrapbook, wherein the ICAROS that, after being sold to a Caribbean trading company, foundered in a hurricane, ran aground and lost several crew.
The ICAROS history is unique. Built in l867 in Greece as a Mediterranean packet, and then sold to the Germans who used it as a pilot vessel in the North Sea. At outbreak of WW I it became a training vessel for the German Navy. After the war, it ended up back in Greece as a packet. The Great Depression caused it to be laid up in the port of Piraeus. In 1939, the General Manager of General Motors, Mr. Sorenson, purchased it. He hired an American crew to go over and sail it back to Miami. While fitting out for the trans-Atlantic crossing at Gibraltar, the engineer sold the big diesel engine. He jumped ship while the Captain, probably drunk, was ashore. A gasoline engine, Chrysler marine type was installed, but due to high RPM, it had to have a six to one reduction gear installed. They finally arrived in Miami, went to a boat yard and had it converted into a yacht at great expense. It took a year to convert the boat from a brig to a topsail schooner rig. Old man Sorenson only used it a few times before Pearl Harbor occurred. The Navy requisitioned it, tore out most of the yacht’s accommodations, painted over mahogany paneling, and converted it into a packet. The Navy gave Sorenson about $25,000 for it. He claimed he had put $250,000 into it!
The ICAROS loaded out of Miami. When we got to sea, I let the crew wear shorts. We had no radar, but sending a man aloft, while the weather was clear, to the spreaders some 70′ high, did just as well. I use to sit up there myself and could go hand over hand along balk stays between the masts, and slide down halyards. One very interesting base was located at Caibarien, a small coastal city just to the west of the head of the causeway and halfway down the coast from Havana. It was a sugar mill port. The bay was triangular with the outer reef some 15 miles from the port. The mouth was also about 15 miles wide. On the reef was an old concrete tanker from WWI, grounded purposely by the Cubans to store molasses in. (The mosquitoes were terrible due to the molasses. You needed netting everywhere). Our Navy restored the superstructure on the stern on a deal with the Cubans. The Navy leased the after half of the ship and used it to berth floatplane squadron personnel. The floatplanes moored naturally to leeward of the tanker. They patrolled the Bahama Passage.
We had an ammo barge and a fuel barge moored inside the reef in the lee of the tanker. There was a passage through the reef to allow the ICAROS, drawing l6′, to get through and moor on the lee side of the tanker. The aviation personnel would always unload the steaks and ice cream and have a feast, plus a beer party. The next day they would get the important cargo off like ammo, spare engines, parts, etc. They were a motley looking outfit. Some of them had been there a year or more.
We went ashore one time to a dance in the town. The Cubans were very Spanish in their customs. The rumba was the big dance at the time. Whole families were there, Grandparents, children etc, all of them doing the rumba! To ask a girl to dance was considered the equivalent of a marriage proposal! I did learn to rumba. I got a kick out of custom in town square, boys walked around in one direction, girls in opposite to look each other over. The chaperones were there in force to make sure everyone kept moving!
On the run back to Miami, I would cut across Cay Sal Bank and anchor in the lee of one of the islands fringing the bank. We would go ashore and have a cook out and a few beers. On the run south from Miami, I would head across the Straits and enter the Bahama Banks near Gun Cay. I then would head SE across 190 miles of banks where you always saw the bottom but never any land! A little eerie at night with a moon and clouds giving the water ahead different shades, making you think you were going to run aground! Actually, the water was about 4 fathoms on average but one never knew. At the south end of the run, you had to feel your way off the bank by putting a boat over to go ahead and sound for a way to get out into the Old Bahama Passage.
After the survey of the ICAROS (YAG-16), I received orders to take over the YAG 20, a twin-screw diesel powered houseboat type yacht, 120′ in length. It had been converts like the ICAROS to carry cargo to the island bases. I made runs to Great Exuma in the eastern Bahamas, Walker Cay in northern Bahamas, Nassau, Grand Cayman and Neuvitas on the north coast of Cuba east of Havana. During this period, a truck strike jeopardized the Key West Naval Base. I was pulled off the Bahamas/Caribbean runs to haul cargo from Miami to Key West, made three runs a week for two weeks. The Navy was not going to let the truckers blackmail them. The truckers capitulated and I got back to my regular runs. We used Hawk Channel on the run south to Key West, which is just inside the fringing reefs along the straits. We ran night and day. I drew 10′ with the YAG 20 and many times, we were smelling bottom from the way she handled. On the run north we went outside the reefs and rode the Gulf Stream north, picking up a few knots speed over the bottom.
We had a great Motor Machinist Mate about 45 years old, a reserve. He owned a fleet of sport fishing boats at Palm Beach, but volunteered for service. He kept our diesels running like fine watches. There was a Radioman 2/c, who I am certain stole $100 from our mess fund. I had accidentally left the cash box in my cabin went on deck for something and later discovered the money missing. He was in the best position to have done it. Could not prove it, but had him transferred. I had to make up the $100 loss from the mess fund! That was near a month’s pay in those days.
On return runs with empty holds, I let the crew troll for mackerel and kingfish, which they sold at the Miami docks for 25cents per lb. They always had several hundred lbs of fish. I had two Lt’s aboard plus an ensign and myself. I was Lt (jg.) then. I was an Ensign when I had the ICAROS. We had one particularly rough crossing of the Florida Straits with a 60-knot wind from the north bucking the Gulf Stream. We rolled on beams ends. We picked up radio transmissions from a group of DE’s that were trying to figure out where they were. Everyone in my pilothouse was seasick had an old-time boatswain who tossed his cookies. I had enough worries as where the DE’s were and unescorted tankers all running without lights due to wartime. Sure was glad to pick up the radio towers behind Miami!

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 11: The West Coast

A group of us got orders in early October to report to the Naval Training Station, San Diego. Six of us in two cars drove it in five days. On the way, we stopped at the Grand Canyon for a night. The cowboys and gals who worked there took us down to a place they went to outside the park. It turned out the owner of the place was an ex-Navy man. He was so glad to see us sailors he closed up the place and we had one great party. I woke up at 5Am after two hours sleep and there was 5″ of snow on the ground, and lots coming down. I got everyone up and we drove out to get down to Williams and lower elevation, as we had no chains, we made it. From there we headed for San Diego via Indio along the west shore of the Salton Sea and up the Banner Grade to Julian, which we reached about 8PM. The grade in those days was tortuous for cars. Indians mostly occupied the town at that time. We stopped at what looked like a restaurant but it was dark. I saw a light in the rear, knocked, and got an Indian to open up and feed us. He had steaks, and I’ll tell you they sure hit the spot after our all-day trip. Got to San Diego about 11PM and checked into the Army-Navy YMCA.
The next day we reported for duty, and immediately assigned as assistant company commanders. After taking one company through, we became regular company commanders. Not to boast but we won our share of best company pennants. We use to hang out at the Tower Bowl, Grant Hotel and El Cortez. Since the evenings were cool, we “slick arms” use to carry our topcoat over our right arm to cover where hash marks would normally be worn. Since at that time we had Chief Boatswain Mate insignia, hash marks would have been on your right arm. Chiefs were split into right arm and left arm ratings in those days. Those connected with topside duties were right arm, others left arm. Our regimental training officer was the former skipper of the gunboat “PANAY” that was sunk by Japanese on Yangtze River in 1937, cannot think of his name now.
On Pearl Harbor Day, a gang of us chiefs took a charter fishing boat out to the Coronado Inlands, and fished all day. We had no radio and didn’t know the war had started. We saw the aircraft carrier SARATOGA steaming at high speed and zigzagging that after noon heading for port. When we started back, as we approached Point Loma, a Coast Guard patrol boat stopped us, boarded, lined us up and checked for identification. When they told us war had started we were dumbfounded, they directed us to return immediately to our command. We noticed on the way back from Coronado that many lights were out in San Diego. We got off the boat at Broadway where there were thousands of people.
The SARATOGA was at North Island loading out sailors, Marines, ammo, etc. Boots with only three weeks in the Navy were loaded aboard. The SARATOGA sailed the next morning and made Pearl in 72 hours. Captain Gearing had us all. in the station movie hall telling us that we were going to have to form a Naval Brigade to help the Marines defend the border, as rumors were flying around that the Japanese were due to lend in Baja. I can recall us going through infantry and landing force tactics with officers holding the Landing Force Manual and telling us what to do. About a week later, I got orders to take a 500-man draft to San Francisco and deliver them at the pier in Oakland where Treasure Island officers would get them out to various ships in San Francisco Bay. On the way, I had to march them into the Harvey House restaurant at Los Angeles Santa Fe station. Being a troop train, we highballed it up there.
I had a few night watches patrolling the area where the present Admiral Kidd Club is located; the chiefs ate in the CPO mess that is now the commissary store. To teach boots sentry duty, they carried a Springfield rifle and patrolled behind their barracks. The night duty chiefs would make the rounds checking up on them. Once in awhile you would find one asleep, we never put them on report, which was a most serious offense. Instead, we would get a bucket of cold water, a big dishpan and ladle and a flashlight. One chief would throw the water on the sentry while the other banged the pan and flashed the light into the startled sentry’s eyes. At same time, we yelled, “the ship is sinking”, “abandon ship.” Well, you will not believe those kids would, in some cases, start swimming right on the pavement. That cured them and kept their record clear. Sailors who didn’t clean up after scrubbing clothes would have to carry their wash bucket with wet clothes in it on the end of their rifle all day. Others who looked up at aircraft passing overhead while being lectured to, would lie on their back and point their rifles at planes passing overhead for an hour or so. This was anti-aircraft duty.
Right after Pearl Harbor, the Navy requisitioned all the buildings in Balboa Park for billeting naval personnel. Four of us Chiefs assigned to each of the Hospitality cottages that now represent various countries. They had no heat in them so it was very cold in winter and rainy days.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 9 & 10

A huge hurricane hit NY and New England; I believe that fall, late in September. Fortunately, summer residents had gone back to the city. The large surf caused a lot of damage along the south shore of L.I. and New England areas; new inlets formed on Fire Island and the Hamptons, and damaged the boardwalk at Jones Beach. A 5′ high pile of shellfish covered the beach, what a smell two days later! I was driving over the George Washington Bridge at the time it hit the city. The roadway was swaying a good bit. Between that and the side wind, it was a job steering the car.
My sister Margaret married Eddie Regan about 1935 when I was in the CCCs. Tommy graduated from Newtown HS in 1938 and went to Transylvania College after working that summer as a guard at Jones Beach. I remember taking Jimmy Regan in the ocean when he was about three, even had him jump off a 10′ springboard at NYAC. One time at the NYAC, I had him stand on the side of the pool to wait for me while I dove in and fetched across and back. On my way back underwater, there was little Jimmy coming back up from the bottom. Apparently, he jumped in after me! He swallowed some water but otherwise was okay.
Frank Costello had a power yacht and came to Zach’s Bay a few times with my father and other cronies and usually some show girls. He always had large boxes of sandwiches, which Lindy’s Restaurant in NYC made up for him. I would get about a dozen or so of them to take over to my guard crew. Each sandwich was a meal in itself.
In 1940, I swam on the NYAC 400 freestyle relay team. We finished fourth in the Senior National AAUs. The club would have won it but our two best swimmers; Peter Pick who had tied Johnny Weissmuller’s 51 flat for the 100 free was disqualified along with Walter Spence who won the100 in the National Collegiate Championships. Jack Thompson and I substituted for them. We were only 54 seconds plus compared to 51 and 52 for Peter and Walter.
I loved going to NYU’s fall camp on Lake Sebago in Bear Mountain State Park. There was a time I could identify some 50 or so different trees by the leaves, which was required in one of the camp courses. We took all the Red Cross tests, first aid, lifesaving, water safety, etc. At NYU I always swam the 50, 100 and anchored the 400 freestyle relay. I made Lt. in charge of the Central Mall lifeguard crew at Jones Beach. Pete Carter and I teamed up and won all ten events of the officers’ decathlon, the highpoint of my lifeguard days. Things were going along well at home, no money problems, great years for my mother.

WWII and the Navy:

The National Emergency had been declared and the big talk around campus was when we would be called up. We all registered for the draft. The system then was to have a VIP pick numbers out of a bowl down in Washington. I was Captain of NYU swim team in junior and senior year. A lot of us at NYU got our “welcome to the Army” notices in early 1941. A classmate of mine, Ted Nowasacki, who had worked at Jones Beach with me, went down to apply for the Navy V-7, “Ninety-Day Wonder” program. Ted made it; I didn’t, failing eye and teeth parts of the physical.
The Army was breathing down my neck. At the last minute, we heard about Gene Tunney starting up a physical fitness program for the Navy, and that he was taking college “jockstrap” types in as Chief Pretty Officers. Thanks to Madge Cuggy I got an introductory letter. Along with two other classmates, we were in the first 17 he recruited for the program. I was sworn in at 90 Church Street on May 19, 1941, and left a few days later on a coastwise steamer for Norfolk. We got to the Naval Training Station on a Friday. The next morning we were lying around in the barracks when an inspection party came through. I remember the inspection officer raising hell with us, as he didnt know we had just arrived, had no uniforms and no one in charge of us. Finally, a Chief Gunner’s Mate was put in charge with instructions to put us “Tunneyfish” through the regular boot-training curriculum. He sure did, as the old chiefs were mad that the Navy had brought in “slick-arm” chiefs. We took everything they dished out. When we finished, we were assigned as assistant company commanders learning how to take a company through boot training. I got along well with my commander, as I trained our boat team and we won the ten-man whaleboat-rowing race. We all picked up what had to be done in quick time, as we were older and educated.
I remember working with Fred Apostoli who had been world middleweight boxing champion. Fred and I use to lead all the boots on the parade ground in mass rifle and semaphore drills. We were each up on a 20′ stand. It was a hot summer. We had a chief known as Cannonball Jackson. When boots in his companies goofed, he would make them lug a stack of cannon balls that weighed about 75 lbs apiece down to the other end of the drill field and restack them. We got the boots up at 5AM and took them for a 2-mile jog. Most of them were coughing, but that is what we were told to do.
I use to sail the ketch-rigged whaleboats out in Hampton Roads. On Saturday afternoons, we headed for Virginia Beach. One of the “Tunneyfish” chiefs had a relative who worked at the Cavalier Hotel. He would introduce us to some of the southern belles who came there for the summers. We got chow and drinks gratis, as he was a big wheel in the hotel. We use to rent kayaks and ride waves off the hotel. Later in the war, actually right after Pearl Harbor, the Navy requisitioned the hotel and it became radar, loran, and other electronics school setup. In 1945 I took a one-week radar course there, oh yes; I won the Eastern Collegiate 50 freestyle at Rutgers in April of ’41. I missed NYU graduation, as I had to go in Navy early. I never found out what happened to my diploma, it must have been lost at my home, suppose to have been sent there.
Two “Tunneyfish” chiefs got into a few fights. Vic Marino, who had been an All-American guard at Ohio State, tangled with Woody Hayes also from Ohio State. We had a tough time separating those two. They also got into a fight or two with some of the old-time chiefs who were riding them as “slick arms.” After a few of the old-timers were decked at the CPO Club, they didn’t hassle us anymore.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 8

Tom Blake, lifeguarding, and surfing!

After I left the tug with proper notification to Peter and Murray, and thanking them for getting me the job, I contacted my swimming friends who were now trying out for a lifeguard job at Jones Beach. I went with them, passed the tests and hired on about the end of July 1937. I was out of shape as far as swimming and legwork was concerned. It showed in the lifeguard championships at the end of August. I did poorly in the rescue races but very well in pulling boat races. It was during this first year as a lifeguard that I was introduced to surfing. The previous year (1936), Tom Blake talked Mr. Sawyer, who was the civilian head of lifeguards, into getting his paddleboards for rescue purposes. Blake showed the Lieutenants how to ride them; the Lieutenants in turn instructed the other guards how to ride the hollow 13-foot paddleboards. They were so big and cumbersome that the most we could do was ride them straight into shore.
Come Labor Day, one of the guards, Ralph Froehlich decided we would drive down to University of Alabama and try out for a football scholarship. Ralph had a 1936 Ford convertible that he had souped up. We drove from Long Island to Jacksonville, Florida in 25 hrs and 20 minutes beating the train. Roads were only two lanes wide in those days, and we had to go through all the major cities. He had a cousin in Gainesville. We visited Silver Springs then headed up to the University. Boy did those southern players work us overt, with high 90’s heat and humidity, Ralph and I decided we had better go back NY way. We did. I then got a $300 loan from my Aunt Bessie with the promise to pay her beck the summer of ’38, as I had the lifeguard job. I enrolled in NYU to become a phys ed teacher. My father wanted me to go to Fordham to become a lawyer. I am sure if I had, I would have had Costello trying to influence me by getting me appointed as a judge later on. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Harry Berr, Joe Tucker, Charley Hanniquet, Pete Carter are names I remember. Of course there was Captain Johns, the old (50) Dutchman who was Captain of the guards.
The first (freshman) year was little tough after having been away from the books for more than 4 years. I had odd jobs. I also made $5 an evening at the Elks Club, out on Queens Blvd in Elmhurst. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Tommy McDermott and I took turns playing “fish” for deep see sport fishermen. They would rig a harness around us attached their fish line. The pool was 25 yards long; we started out at the 10 yd mark, and when they said, “go” you had to try to make it down to other end of pool. Their job was to hold you from doing that. This is where I got a Nickname of “Tugboat,” as I broke more lines or made it to the end of the pool than the other swimmers.
I made NYU swim team and swam for NYAC and Flushing “Y”. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get from home to NYU School of Ed down in Washington Square. I forgot to mention my folks had moved to 742& 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, a two family house that my father bought about 1937 having come into some dough. At the same time, he opened O’Connell’s Bar & Grill on 49th St and 8th Ave the corner of the old Madison Square Garden. I use to take my pals there for lunch once in awhile. In addition, I use to get tickets left there by scalpers for all kinds of sporting events, and other events like rodeos, circuses, etc. I also got tickets to Yankee and Polo Ground stadiums, even sat on a team bench once.
In my sophomore year, I received a Charles Hayden Scholarship for my B-plus average and athletics. In addition, I got a National Youth Administration student job working in Athletic Officer’s office, and paid $20 monthly for 40 hours work per month. Riding high in clover, I paid off my Aunt Bessie’s loan.
That summer, at the beach, Joe Tucker and I won all the events involving boats. Joe came from a fishing family while I had had lots of boat work in my life. We also won the line rescue event involving my swimming out with a line fed by Joe and another guard, when you reached the volunteer victim, girls naturally, you signaled and the two guards would pull you in. The reason we won was because Joe and I believe Ralph Froehlich ran the line clear up the steps and over the boardwalk while the other teams used the old method of each alternating taking a strain on the line. My legs were in good shape that summer what with swimming and lots of gym work. I saw my old girl friend, Regina Lyons from Bayville days, one day at the beach. She had -just graduated from college and was engaged to be married.
We had beach bunnies then as they do now, so we guards had no trouble getting dates. We use to drive out from Flushing in an old model “A” Ford each day. We met under the clock at Main Street Flushing. Guards got 50cents an hour. If it was cloudy or rainy day we were only paid $1 for showing up, which we proceeded to get rid of in card games in the bathhouse. As for eating out at the beach, we knew a German fellow who worked at the Central Mall restaurant. He would get food out to us from the restaurant to a place under the boardwalk. He never was caught. That restaurant is still there. I did my four summers at the Central Mall area beach. We had another gimmick or two to get eats. One guard would holler down to the next lifeguard stand and ask what they had and if they could spare you a sandwich. People sitting in between would hear the conversation and sure enough, a few would come up and offer you a sandwich, fruit, etc. Another gimmick was to call some little kid walking by your stand and tell him you would let him sit on your stand for a little bit if he could get you a sandwich. We saved lunch money. We had a hot plate under the boardwalk to heat eggs, soup, etc. One day I went to put a frying pan on. It touched a loose wire in the hot plate, and I got 220 volts down my right arm and body through my bare feet into the damp sand. It jolted me right off my feet and I was woozy for a while. Fortunately, one of the other guards helped me as I was knocked away from the hot plate. Charley Haniquet was Lt and Harry Borr was bosun of our beach. Bosun made $36 per month, a Lt $45.
In 1939 I made bosun at the beach and bought a used 1931 Chrysler 6 cyl. convertible for $25. I had some problems with it, but it ran okay overall. That fall I loaned it to Bobby Knapp when I went to NYU’s camp where I had to take courses in camp counseling and administration. In the contests that August, Pete Carter, who was now Lt, and I did pretty well in the decathlon for officer guards. We won the two-man boat race and two-man boat rescue. I won the row boat race over in Zach’s Bay. Because I was bosun, I only had to work 7 hours a day, five days a week. We had about 40 guards for all the beach areas on weekdays and 80 on weekends. The week-enders had jobs during the week and had been former regular guards. We were all issued a blanket and parka and two suits for the season. In addition, we got clean white duck trousers and a towel each day.
We played a good trick on old Cap’ Johns. He use to come around, especially on weekends, and take muster re-ports from the Lt. While up on the stand he would stand up and in the act of adjusting his cap he would flex his muscles for the beach dollies. Well one hot Sunday with a big beach crowd, we dug a hole about six feet deep in front of the lifeguard stand. He always approached from the sides and climbed up. When he got ready to leave, he stood, flexed his biceps while adjusting his cap, and said, “Well boys I see you later.” With that, he jumped off the stand and right into the hole, which we had camouflaged. He let out a stream of German cuss words while we all laughed. He couldn’t get out right away, as the sand kept falling in on him, as he clawed the sides. Finally, someone gave him a hand and helped him out. We all took off and hid behind the boardwalk waiting for him to cool down. Another time we stuck horsehairs in cigarettes, and when he would bum one, we gave him one with horsehair in it. He didn’t seem to notice the difference being glad to get a cigarette. We held our sides trying not to laugh. Another time we dumped a bucket of ice water on him when he was sunbathing ala nude up in the lifeguard section of the bathhouse. Another time we sawed partially through an oar. Capt. Johns challenged a newly recruited guard that had been and was on Cornell’s rowing team. Cap Johns took great pride, in that he could beat any college oarsmen in a bank skiff, the kind of boats we used for rescue purposes. We set up a race for him and the college rower. Sure enough, old Cap Johns broke his oar and went ass-over-tea-kettle in the boat. He never did find out who sabotaged the oar. He did however, on another rowing race we set up for him. We tacked a canvas drogue on the bottom of his boat, and when he saw something was wrong, he dove over the side and found the drogue.
After the lifeguard contests and the last weekend before Labor Day, we had a big blowout for the guards at a big restaurant on Sunrise Highway with lots of beer and plenty to eat. Jones Beach in those days was immaculately clean. We had State Troopers who worked for the Long Island State Park Commission. Littering would get you hauled in and fined, the same would happen if you got out of line. Bob Moses who built parks, bridges, tunnels, parkways, etc. around the area was a political powerhouse. Governors and mayors bowed to him.
We had many rescues on bad days, as most people were not use to swimming in the ocean. One of the worse: A couple of hundred people waded out to a sandbar and a series of large swells came and swept them off. The waves filled up the shallow area between the bar and beach, making the water over their heads. It fortunately happened mostly off the West Bathhouse area. Those guards that could be spared rushed there using every piece of equipment we had, resulting in the rescuing of more than fore hundred. Bank skiffs, surfboards, torpedo buoys were loaded with people. All the resuscitators were in use. Ambulances came over from towns on the mainland to help. Out of that mess, only three people drowned. One time I had four big black men hanging on to me for dear life while we were all getting hauled in on the torpedo buoy line. I was able to keep my head up enough for air. Didn’t have to hold them, they held me but not in a way to interfere with what I had to do. Rescued a big fat woman one time and as I carried her out of the water in a fireman carry her boobs were hanging out. In those days you laid people on their stomach and gave artificial respiration by straddling and pumping there back near the bottom of the rib cage. In this position, the fat gal’s boobs were not as readily seen.
We made extra money working in the water shows, and operettas held in the marine stadium. We earned $5 a night for maybe 15 minutes work being pirates, etc depending on the show. We also swan in water ballets made up of about 24 gals and 24 guys. One couldn’t help pinching a gal once in awhile in the water. In practice, they would scream thinking it was a crab that were always around, but really wouldn’t bother you. There were fire works after the shows. That summer some of us roomed at a house in Freeport and ate supper in a diner on Merrick Road, good chow and low-priced. I believe we paid $5 a week for a bed, two to a room. It saved driving back and forth to the city.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 7

In the summer of ’36, word came that the camp would be decommissioned and personnel reassigned. I had been in touch with Madge and she said she could get me a job with the WPA in NYC. I took it, office clerk. It was a project writing scripts for out-of-work actors, etc. My job was to run the stencil machine and collate the pages run off. It was boring work. In the fall of ’36 my father got me a job with the new Gallagher Bros. Sand & Gravel Co. The owners were the sons of old Pete Gallagher who had died back in ’25. They had just started up the company and had bought a WW1 Navy tug at Philadelphia. The sons, Murray and Peter, and the prospective skipper, Jack Sullivan, drove all of us down there. A tug towed the Navy tug to a dock in Philadelphia where the crew was to put it beck in operation. I worked my tail off on that tug, scraping pitch and sawdust off wooden decks, dismantling brass fire hydrants, scraping red lead off, cleaning Cosmoline off all the stainless steel in the galley area, and lots of painting. When new coils of mooring lines came aboard I thought I would make points with the skipper and splice an eye in a 7″ mooring line. Unfortunately I pulled the wrong end of the line out of the coil, spliced the eye. When he saw what I had done, I got really bawled out. The eye was ok, but when you pull the wrong end out, the line will develop kinks in it. To correct, it was necessary to stream the line astern later on, after we got underway to get all the kinks out.
When we finally got things together, we got underway for NYC via Delaware River, up along the coast and on in to NY. I got very seasick on the way, and I remember being drooped over the starboard bulwark railing with waves breaking over me. One washed me down the deck, but a fireman standing inside of a fire room half door reached out and got me by my britches to keep me from going overboard. The way I felt I didn’t care if I did. We towed scows from Port Jefferson to the city. Each weighed 1000 tons with sand or gravel. We towed from 8 to 10, one behind the other until we neared Whitestone area, at which point the tow was made up into a harbor one. This was done by reeling in the 2″ tow wire, which was about 1000′ long, and disconnecting it from the lead scow. Our tug would then whip around and come in alongside the sixth scow; if 10 were present and run a bow, spring, and stern line to it. The scow captains of the 5th and 6th scows would disconnect their mooring lines at same time. Our tug would then ease the last five scows out a bit and proceed ahead and lay them alongside the front five, which were still proceeding along due to the momentum of their weight plus currents. Scow captains would lash the two tiers together. Our tug would then move ahead and maneuver in front of the double tier, pass a bridle and haul them down through Hellgate and the East river to a dock on Newtown Creek opposite 54th Street, Manhattan. As we approached that creek, the tug took in the bridle, moved back along the portside of the tow, made up, and eased the ten scows in alongside the dock. From there we would take one or two scows to various sand & gravel docks around the Hudson, East River, and over in Staten Island and Brooklyn. We would also pick up empties and take them up to a stake scow near College Point. When 10 or so assembled, we would haul them back to Port Jefferson for a new load.
I can remember having to climb up the high sides of empty scows and crossing from one to another with snow and ice all over them to release mooring tines that were usually frozen. I got pretty good, thanks to older deck hands showing me the knack of tossing a 7″ mooring line eye onto bitts or bollards 20′ away and some 10′ or so above our deck. There were three deckhands, and we stood watches as follows: two stood six on and six off, while one was day man on call all day and anytime at night. You usually weren’t called at night unless it was an emergency while day man, or around the harbor moving scows around. One time I caught almost three days of night and day operations in NY harbor. I would catch a catnap at the base of the smoke stack in between moves. When the skipper needed me, he would toot a whistle, which was steam and would wake the dead. I got $96 a month plus keep.
We worked six days a week, after which time we would tie up the tug wherever the last job was. We got 24 hours off and had to be back at the end of that time. Sometimes you got off at some God-forsaken place and it would take an hour and a half to get home. My father and the crewmembers cautioned me in getting from docks to nearest subway always to walk in the middle of the street to avoid a mugging. Out in the middle you had a chance to run. We ate good, always had two kinds of meat with a meal. I had to help the cook peal potatoes. We had home made pies and cakes. The day man also had to clean the Captain’s and crew’s heads, splice lines, mend fenders, do some painting, grease the towing machine, and wash down the decks. These chores were divvied up with the two six on, six off watch standers. Coming down the East River with a big tow at 5A.M. always intrigued me as the city looked so quiet. Some times, we tied up at a dock and the skipper would phone our dispatcher for orders. While alongside you had to keep an eye on dock hang on types who would steal you blind. Dirtiest job was pulling in a mooring line that was in the water in Newtown Creek. I am sure it was 50% heavy crude oil and chemicals plus sewerage.
When we left Philadelphia, the end of ’36, a northeast storm off Cape May caused our steering cable to part. We all turned to with block and tackle getting the two broken ends together and putting wire clamps on. Waves were breaking all over the fantail with a lot of us being knocked down every so often. Another tricky operation I had to do was get the chafing wooden beam under the tow wire so the latter would not chafe on the metal “monkey” rail around the stern taffrail. The beam was 8’ long, cut from a length of 6×6 wood. The top was hollowed out about two inches. After the tow wire paid out to 1000′, the skipper would go ahead a bit and surge the wire. When that happened, the wire would spring up a foot or so above the monkey rail. That is when you would get the chafing beam under the wire as it came back down. When the wire was seated in the beam I secured it with four tie-ties. The wire would stay in the beam due to its weight. We would grease the monkey rail occasionally to reduce friction. When it came time to take the wire in, you would take the tie-ties off and when the skipper surged the tow wire, remove the chafing beam. You had to move fast on these. I also ran the large steam-driven towing winch.
Tides were a major factor in towing, as you had to get through Hell Gate with a favorable one. Many times old Jack would bellow down to the engine room, to give him every turn they could get on the propeller. We had a triple expansion steam engine. The oilier had to stand on the guard railing surrounding the engine to reach the various bearings that needed oiling. When the rpm got too high, the engine would throw oil all over the engine room and the oilier. Whet a mess! How they kept their footing was really something.
When we were in Philadelphia, I was painting a boat deck ventilator that led to the fire room. A Swedish engineer was below getting ready to light off the boiler, and he had an explosion. The fire and smoke came up and knocked me out of the front of the ventilator. The engineer was burned a bit but got the fire out. Damage was minor. Another learning experience for me was when I jammed a turn around the after bits. I had to use a fire axe to get the stern line loose. Old Jack really read the riot act to me. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the owners had put me aboard I am sure Jack would have put me on the beach. Another company towed scows out of Port Jefferson and a few times, we raced them to see who made it through the gate first. One time we had 10 scows to their nine and beat them, shades of Mark Twain and the stern wheelers!
I really loved the life and studied books to become a pilot. Old Jack Sullivan taught me a lot. However, it was not to be. About the beginning of July 1937, we were shifting from long to harbor tow. A foul-up in bell signals from Jack to engine room occurred that caused the tug to back into the lead scow almost killing the scow captain. Our rudder got jammed over. Old Jack did a lot of maneuvering and by going astern got the ten scows over to the stake boat at College Point. Well, it was going to be necessary to have our tug towed to a shipyard for repair and it would take sometime. We were to go on half pay. The old-timers advised me this would be a good time for me to go to college as tug boating was for people without an education so I decided to try that.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 6

The continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan

In 1934, we moved to 43rd Street and Queens Blvd in Sunnyside into a nice apartment. My father was getting back on his feet. I had a few dates with the superintendent’s daughter, Pearl. Grace Wainwright and Regina Lyons had gone off to college. I should mention a Roslyn Golding and a Marylyn Volk. . They both were in Earl Carol’s Vanities as hoofers. My friend Vinnie Guido went with Marilyn while I dated Roslyn. My friend, Vinnie Sims, also liked Marilyn. Their mothers escorted them to the shows and home. We had to meet them at their homes to go out on a date. Marilyn later on in life married Toots Shore who had a famous nightclub. I think Vinnie still carries a torch for her based on a get-together we had in 1988. I had a job the summer of ’34 taking care of the swimming pool at the Lakeville Country Club. I kept it cleaned, acted as lifeguard and gave a few lessons at $5 each. Still managed to swim at YMCA but was now on men’s team. Brooklyn Central Y was our main competitor. See my scrapbook for swimming meets, etc. About once a week, we got Boston brown bread and baked beans to go, at a Horn & Hardhartson 47th & Queens. I worked for a while in Calvary Cemetery on my own. I would paint letters on tombstones for a few dollars. Eventually, we kids were not allowed to do it any longer. I believe union workers complained to church officials.
When I lived on Ithaca Street in Elmhurst, we kids use to ride the Junction Avenue Trolley over to where La Guardia Airport is now located. There use to be a creek that came in from Flushing Bay with a wooden bridge over which the trolley ran. We use to dive and swim off the bridge. Over on the bay side were the remains of what had once been a big amusement park. La Guardia Airport is there now. We also use to go ice skating on a pond over about 94th Street near Astoria Blvd. while playing ice hockey you had to watch out for tree branches etc. sticking up through ice. After a few bad spills you developed an extra set of eyes.
In the fall of ‘34, I got a temporary job with a movie operator who went around showing I6mm movies at CCC Camps in New York and Pennsylvania. The fall colors were terrific up in the Poconos. He usually had frost on his old Buick sedan windshield in the mornings. We slept overnight in each camp. He charged 10 cents admission. I got about $2.50 per day plus chow and bunk at camps. I also worked in the Post Office sorting mail during Christmas that year.
In early 1935, we moved into a second floor apartment over a store on the corner of 93rd Street and Roosevelt Ave. My bedroom window was about 10′ from the “El” tracks. Got use to it after while. Only woke up if trains stopped running. I got a temporary clerk’s job in a Sheffield Farm store close by. Served customers, stocked shelves and made house deliveries. I continued swimming at the Flushing “Y”. (See my sports scrapbook for those days.) Aunt Mary lived on the other side of Roosevelt Ave near 94th street. Uncle Danny was also living with the Cuggys. Eddie Regan, who married my sister that year, and George Treutlein played football for a Corona team. Some of the games were at Woodside and Baxter Avenues where the Queens Hospital is now. We were still in the economic doldrums. I know my father was getting money for different political jobs for the Costello outfit, as he listed his occupation as a promoter. I played with a team in Flushing. Half of us had little football equipment and many bruises with the Fort Totten team.
Through Madge Cuggy I got a job with the CCC as a -recreation director, and was assigned to Co. 1247 at Bear Mountain State Park. The company relocated to Seneca Falls the latter part of October. It built a State Park near the camp on Lake Cayuga, and did the grading of the banks along State Route 89 on the west side of the lake. I arranged various sports; we had a championship baseball team, winning the State title for the CCC. We also ran games, etc. in camp recreation hall. The Modell Sporting Goods Co. sent a lot of stuff up to me, as my father knew the owner, Stanley. We had an Army Captain for C.O., an Army major for camp doctor, a 1st It for Exec, a construction superintendent, who wore a US Forestry uniform and had two assistants. They over-looked all the work the CCC did. The Army ran the camp. The officers, construction supers, educational counselor and the arts and crafts counselor all lived in one barrack where we each had a room to ourselves. There was a pot-bellied stove at each end of the building. The “VIP’s ate in a separate section of the mess hall. I got room and board plus $96 a month. I sent half home to my mother. I have a scrapbook with some pictures of the camp and personnel.
I bought a 1924 Chevy 2-DR sedan for $10, and made two trips to NYC and back with it, once in a blizzard. I plowed along, thanks to thin solid disk steel wheels and narrow tires. I almost froze my feet coming back from NYC when temperatures dropped to 25 below. Our CCC trucks went out a few times to rescue school kids whose bus bogged down in drifts. Cayuga Lake froze to depth of 6′. NY Central RR would come out on the frozen lake, cut up the ice, truck it to their icehouses, for use in their passenger trains, and produce cars.
In 1936, I bought a 1929 Chrysler 6 cylinder 4dr sedan from Jimmy Holmes father, who was an auto mechanic. It was in great shape with 75,000 miles on it, and took it up to CCC Camp. On my return to NYC almost ruined engine when the oil line broke and pumped out the oil. I heard a ticking noise, stopped and saw the problem. It was a Sunday morning, very early. I was able to coast down a long hill for a mile into the out-skirts of Syracuse, parked, asked around and finally found a mechanic who installed a new oil line. Fortunately, it only had one bearing with minor damage. The cold weather helped in preventing further damage.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 5

the continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan

In 1930, we rented a large bungalow in Bayville on Madison Ave. My maternal grandmother stayed with us there. I remember the Lyon’s girls who lived there all year round in a house at the corner of our avenue, Madison, and the beach. I had a crush on Regina. Her sister, Marie, was about six years older.
There were many kids my age around the neighborhood, the Lynches, McSherrys, Croaks, etc mostly Irish. In fact, a Pat Kerr owned the house we rented. The Croak family had about five brothers; one was a priest, then Babe, Tom, Phil. I can’t remember the other one. They built a beautiful home for their mother a few blocks away. Phil use to date Marie Lyons. We had a raft out off our beach where we guys and gals use to assemble. We had beach fires at night, and went canoeing at night. I use to ride my bike up to Center Island a lot. Again, we had lots of company on weekends. Regina would ride a bus from Bayville to a Catholic girls school in Jamaica. The Croaks were the only family that lived there in the winter. She went to college later on, became a chemical engineer, married and had six children. I got my driver’s permit and was allowed to drive the Chrysler to the Glen Cove theatre. There use to be a good ice cream parlor on Bayville Ave about three blocks from us. It had the best malts and sundaes. My Aunt Bessie rented a house down a lane near the bayside just down from the ice cream parlor. I remember it was loaded around her area with mosquitoes and green sand flies. When you dug for clams in the mud on the bayside, you had to keep one hand free to swat the green sand flies! We had milk delivered and Dugan’s bakery truck came by everyday. Their cup cakes were my favorites, also the French coffee cake. We went to the little Catholic Church about a mile away down the road, opposite where the Harrison Williams’ estate used to be. The red brick wall of the estate is still there. Like many of the old estates, it was subsequently sub divided.
In 1931, we rented a large bungalow on the beach right next to the home of the Lyons girls, oh boy! My maternal grandmother lived with us. We also had an Irish maid and my father had his handyman from the Press Club out occasionally to do some work around the bungalow. Tony built me a small wooden kayak type boat. He had been an Italian Naval officer in WW1. One night at the Press Club, where he lived, he shot and killed a burglar. Babe Croak, or his brother Phil, used to row a boat and coach me swimming long distance from Oak Neck Point to the ferry slip at Reinhardt’s Beach. Again, we guys and gals use to row or paddle a canoe to the freighters forming the ferry slip breakwater; and picnic aboard, swim, play an old phonograph, etc. I swam in a one and a half mile swim in Oyster Bay, finished 15th out of 140 some odd entries. All the NYAC, Dragon Club, YMCA swimmers, etc were in it. One time when Vinnie Sims spent a week with me, we took the Mandy Lee, a sport fishing cruiser out. My father had gotten a boat from a friend who owed him money. It was 55′ of wooden lap strake construction. It was anchored on the bayside of Bayville. We had to go through the bridge that connects Bayville to Oyster Bay. As we headed south on Oyster Bay, the salt water-cooling line separated at a connection, doused the engine causing it to quit. While Vinnie and I were busy trying to find out what had happened, we drifted over onto a rocky shoal off Center Island and bumped gently on top of a big boulder. Vinnie immediately got an anchor out, which we should have done sooner. Vinnie reconnected the hose fitting but couldn’t get the engine started. We signaled a passing small boat, which came over and was able to get alongside as it drew less water than us. He looked the engine over and said we would have to wait awhile and let things dry out a bit. He towed us out to deeper water. Later we got it staffed, headed for the Sound via Cold Spring Harbor area. We got around Rocky Point and headed for Bayville Beach opposite our bungalow. I took many of my friends out for a ride plus my mother, Tommy and Margaret. My father was away at the time and did not know anything about it. Vinnie and I eventually got it back to Oyster Bay and anchored it without further mishap. One weekend my father took Vinnie Sims, Vinnie Guido and my family to Fairfield, Conn. to visit his partner Tom Lynch who had a cottage there. I can remember us hanging onto a towrope getting dragged astern at 10 kts, lot of fun! We also had aquaplanes that were towed behind the boat. It was sort of a flat board with a small bridle at the front connected to a towrope. You stood on it holding onto another bridle that came up from each forward corner, lots of fun, forerunner of water skiing. Labor Day came late that year, and school started a week later, so I was able to enjoy Bayville a little longer.
My mother would pick us all up at school on Friday afternoons, and let me drive the car to Bayville; which we did each weekend until Columbus Day. How I loved those Indian summer days, warm days, cold nights! Water remained halfway warm until the end of September. On such Friday nights at Bayville, it was cold canned salmon, Franco-American spaghetti, salad, cheese, fruit, cake and milk for supper. We had to dress in the kitchen by the stove especially in October, as there was no heat in the bungalow. On July 4th everyone had fireworks on the beach. My father liked to buy the biggest fireworks to outshine the neighbors. One of his skyrockets fell over after it ignited and flew out and hit a canoe in the side putting a hole in it. He arranged to have it repaired. No one hurt. We had periods of being inundated with large jellyfish that stung like all blazes, also had horseshoe crabs. It was fun picking one up and chasing some girls with it. I rigged a rowboat out as a small windjammer one time and we sailed around Oak Point, but had to row back against the wind. I also talked an Italian kid, who had a nice outboard motor and boat, to take a trip across the Sound to Greenwich. Our parents gave us hell when we got back. We had no problems over or back. It was an all-day trip.

to be continued….

Capt. Dan, part 4: Long Island Gentry, Speakeasies, and the Stock Market Crash

The continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan.

In those days, the great wealthy families had estates on the major points of land projecting into Long Island Sound. A mile to the west of us was the Harrison William’s estate; J.P Morgan’s was off Glen Cove, Tommy Mansville, and the asbestos family across the sound at Greenwich, Vanderbilt’s out at Huntington, etc. All of them had high-speed 50′ to 60′ express cruisers that could make 50 mph. They were beautiful mahogany custom jobs. They ran like clockwork, so much so that we kids could tell what time it was in late afternoon when they were returning from Wall Street to their Long Island estates
In 1929, we did not go to Bayville. My father teamed up with a Tom Lynch, and they opened the Press Club on 45th St., between 3rd and Lexington on the north side. They had the entire 4-story tenement building. The bar, which was a speakeasy, was in the basement area. The first and second floors were dining rooms. The third floor was for gambling while his maitre de, Mario, lived on the top floor. They also had a beautiful patio setup in the backyard for the summers. The advertising, sports, and news media people hung out there. All the great comic strip artists had a small mural around the wall of the barroom depicting various characters that came there. I remember Tom Mix and Texas Guinan coming to our house on Ithaca St one time. I remember my math teacher, Mr. Young, from PS 89. I made my confirmation at St Bartholomew’s a few blocks away. We use to pick wild strawberries and apples nearby. Jackson Heights, on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue, was mostly vacant lots. We use to play baseball and football in them. Later they were filled up with apartment houses. I had a crush on a Grace Wainright. One time at a birthday party in her home, I pulled her chair aside as she sat down causing her to fell on her butt. Her mother chased me home. Later on I brought her an artificial Easter bunny filled with jellybeans, and all was forgiven. My freshman year at Newtown was in the Annex, which was the top floor of my grade school, PS 89. After that, it was in the main building located over past Corona Ave. The school had a 10,000 enrollment. Some of the classes we had to sit two to a seat. We had split sessions. I averaged B-plus. I even got 100 on State Regents exam in trigonometry. I liked school and didn’t mind homework. During the summer of ’29 1 went to Bayville with the Guide’s a few times Oh yes, getting back to 1927. I broke my collarbone playing football. My mother took me to Bellevue where they put a wrap-around cast on my chest and left arm. After a few weeks, I told my mother it hurt and still felt funny. My father got Doc Woods, who was team doctor for the Yankees to look at it. My Dad knew Doc from the Press Club. I went to St Francis Hospital where he reset it. Apparently, it was healing with one part of the bone over the other. He wired it together and it came out ok. While there, Babe Ruth came down and gave me a ball signed by the entire Yankee team. The next spring my brother Tommy took the ball, which was shellacked, out and played baseball with it, scuffing it so badly that it was destroyed. I could have killed him at the time.
In ’29, the stock market collapsed. My father’s partner, Tom Lynch, was wiped out. My father did not play the market. His money went on horses and cards. We had a new ’29 4DR Chrysler sedan. I believe we moved to 74th Street just off Woodside Ave about this time. We had a fold up pool table that my father and some of Costello’s crowd use to play on. We lived on the top floor of the two family units. A family named Rockefeller, who lived bellow us, owned the place. St Mary’s became our new parish. We would take the train up to Westchester County near White Plains to visit my sister Margaret, who was in a Catholic girl’s school. We also use to drive up once in awhile and visit Aunt Bessie who had moved to a fancy house in Scarsdale. Aunt Bessie lived with her daughter Betty and husband Louie Crone.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan: part 3

We use to hitch rides on the back of Yellow cabs. In those days, they had old-fashioned bumpers and a bar on the rear that you could hold onto. The cab driver could not see you in the right rear. When we wanted to get off we would bang on the side, the cabbie would get mad, slam on the brakes, we would hop off and run for our lives, and if he caught you, he would punch you. We also hitched rides on trolley cars by standing on a truck, where the wheels were, and held onto a ledge near the windows above. The conductor could not see us. It was easy to get off as they stopped every few blocks. We also use to take long rides in the “Elevated” trains. It was only a nickel, same for trolley, and the Staten Island Ferry.
We swam in the East River off the coal docks at 56th Street. I almost got hung up under a scow one time. I tried to fetch under the scow and ride the current. My trunks got caught on a huge splinter of wood hanging from its bottom; I had to tear the trunks off to free myself. Many times, we swam naked. We hid our clothes, when cops came we dove in and rode the current down a few blocks. Our friends who had escaped by running would come back get our clothes and bring them to us. The river was full of raw sewerage. Naturally, we were not allowed to swim in it, but our parents did not know. When the Boston steamers came by they made huge waves that we called “lollypazoozas.” We would dive into them as they reached the docks.
We had a baseball field, dirt, under the Queens Borough Bridge at 59th Street. We use to ride sleighs down the sidewalk section of the bridge in the winter starting at mid-bridge and ending up at the foot at 2nd Ave where there was s 20′ pile of ashes to prevent us from going out onto the avenue. It was a good slope and really fast.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Margaret McNamara, was a laundress to Ambassador Davies’ family up on 79th Street off 5th Ave. I used to go up to see her occasionally, to borrow money for my mother, or just to see her. The “downstairs” servants always gave me something good to eat. Mr. Davies had been Ambassador to Russia.
I was doing real well in grade school so in September of 1926, I was sent to an advanced junior high down on 12th St and 1st Ave. I rode the 2nd Ave El to get there. I would ride out and see my Aunt Bessie; who had married Louie Crone, and moved to a fancy apartment house in Jackson Heights. I also continued visiting my Aunt Mary who was living on 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Aves. In 1927 we moved to Ithaca St in Elmhurst. This time a moving truck moved our furniture. On our previous moves in the city, our stuff was moved in an ice wagon. My brother Tom and I rode the ice wagon up to the new location. I finished out the term at the junior HS in the city and started in PS 89 just a block from where we lived. Kids I remember from there were Eddie Leonard, Placid LePanto and Vinnie Sims. The latter later moved to Chicago and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1939. I attended the graduation, and I even got to sleep in Bancroft Hall one night. Vinnie started out as a surface line officer but after his ship, the carrier LEXINGTON, sank, he applied for Naval Aviation and became a fighter pilot. He was killed after the war as a test pilot at Patuxent.
In the summer of 1927, my folks rented a bungalow on Warren Avenue in Bayville, the third house in on west side from the sound. They paid $500 to rent it. They could have bought it for $5000. They rented it again in 1928 for same amount! My father loved company. Oodles of relatives came plus many of his business associates. I remember him coming home one Friday evening in a taxi from NYC with the cab loaded with groceries and meat plus lots of spirits. It must have cost him some $50 for the cab. About this same time, my father had opened a speakeasy on Lexington Ave between 45th and 44th Streets, on the east side above a store, which served as a front. The advertising crowd and newsmen used to frequent it. He made plenty there, but gambled a great deal on horses and cards. Many times my mother would send me down there to get money from him for the house.
At Bayville, we played a lot of baseball in the parking lot of Ferry Beach, owned by the Reinhardt family. We actually had a ferry there that ran to Rye Beach on the Connecticut side. We rode it two times to go to the Playland amusement park where they had a roller coaster and other entertainment. My father use to have me row him out to Rocky Point at the east end of Bayville Beach. We left at 4 A.M. and came back about 9 A.M. I was the fastest rower around my neighborhood! We boys became “peeping Toms” as there was a “grass widow” who use to take showers in her basement ala nude, and we could see her through a rear basement window.
I had some bad sunburn the beginning of each of those summers as we were covered up in the city for 9 months of the year. I think it was 1928 when I had sunburn, with huge blisters on my arms and shoulders. My Mom had to take me to Doc’s. They punctured blisters, put salve on and some bandages. About two days after that, I was playing chase or something, and one kid chasing me grabbed me by my shoulders, causing both of us to fall with my arms and shoulders getting full of sand in the raw parts that were just starting to heal. It took a lot of washing to get all the sand out. I use to carve out boats and play for hours with them on the sand and down in the water. We had to dig deep holes in the sand of a wooded area where we had to take our garbage, as there was no service there in those days. We would cover the garbage each day with sand. To get the mail, we had to walk about quarter of a mile to the village Post Office. Two large WW1 wooden freighters were scuttled there to protect the ferry slip. They still had a good bit of super-structure on them and us kids used to climb all over them, dive off them, etc. It was a good 50′ dive off the bow. I was poking around near one of the freighters one day with a rowboat. Tommy was in the bow, I was standing up in dorying position, and we were sliding up on some 1ft wide jellyfish when we bumped into a side port of the ship. The bump caused a heavy mushroom anchor to fall off a thwart and almost cut Tommy’s big toe off. I had him hold it on while I rowed as fast as I could back to the beach. My mother got him to the Doctor and they saved the toe. Unfortunately, it didn’t save my fanny. I got a licking for that. We swam, rowed, fished, played games, etc., and before you knew it, it was time to go back to Elmhurst and school. It was a sad day for all us kids but a glad one for my mother. The Guido brothers use to walk over and play with us when they came to Ferry Beach, which was only a block or two away. We use to pick beach plums, from which my mother made jelly.

To be continued.