Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos

 

p 100-1463
[John Barrett note This letter December 27, 1929 expresses Sophie's appreciation of Jack's Christmas message from the Philippines-"Dear lady of my fondest dreams - Come join me in the Philippines Where I will build a house for you Of SAWALI NIPA, and BAMBOO With Windows made of pearly SHELL - In SINAMY I'll dress you well, And you shall have your every wish - The while we dine on rice and fish.". Their June 1929 marriage was kept secret from most of Sophie's acqaintances in New York, including Macy's friends, where Sophie remained Director of Personnel Research until August 1930.. Emanuel Lyons much older than Jack and Sophie had been a friend since summer 1923 when Sophie worked at United Hebrew Charities. He published books "1001 Business Ideas" and "2222 Business Ideas." For years he invited the social workers to his western New Jersey farm, where Sophie appeared in three February 1926 photos with heavy snow. Joe Brill, a Fordham Law School classmate of Jack Barrett,. remained in New York City law practice up to the 1970s, and occasionally through Anne and Ivan McCormack the Barretts would hear news of him and other acquaintances, including Anne's family, the Taylors, the Nelson family from Charleston, South Carolina, various social workers,, and Jmmy Jemail, the "Inquiring Reporter" of the New York Daily News, later editor.]"IV-286 To. Lt. J.B. Barrett USS TRUXTUN US Asiatic Fleet c/o postmaster Seattle from SMB R.H.Macy + Co. 34th St. + Broadway New York City December 27 1929 Barrett dear, Mr last letter to you was sent just a week ago today. Since that time there hasn't been a dull moment. Want to be bored with an account of the events? You will recall that I was planning to go to dinner with the dentist last Friday evening. Imagine my surprise when he told me his mother, father, and sister were waiting at home for us and that I was to be their guest for dinner. Gosh, but I was scared to be looked over by the family, but I pretended it was a every-day ooccurence with me. He lives up on Madison Avenue and Ninety-sixth Street. The dinner was delicious, we all got along famously, and I have an idea 'mamma' approved, because as I was leaving, she said,'Come to Christmas dinner, my dear.' I thanked her in my most charming manner and pleaded 'not guilty'. = The next day dawned like every other, but it was to be different. I was scheduled to go to a big party in Flushing- an annual party which I had turned down because you were you. To look all dressed up I decided to go home at noon, - and there I found a box from you with two adorable rings and some earrings. Promptly the rings were put on - they fit nicely - a wee bit large - and I love them. I can't wear them all the time because they are fragile, and the little decorative flowers fall off. You were nice to adorn me at this season of the year. I wear both rings on the fourth finger of my right hand. = The party was something or other - not very successful. Agnes Drummond and I stayed overnight. Sunday noon the family drove us into town, and we went to Agnes's apartment for tea. = Sunday evening after much persuasion on Martha's part I agreed to join her and Dottie on a date with three Spaniards. One of the men had a Auburn car. One of the men is an artist named Camilo Egas who has a studio on Charles Street. For some unknown reason his eyes rested on me, and he has been pursuing me ever since.Foreign men don't interest me, and when he phoned last night, I told him I was sick. He got my phone number through Martha. = Your Christmas card was received on Tuesday. It is without doubt the most beautiful card I have ever seen - and I say that in all sincerity. When Mrs. Smith rang the bell Christmas eve to deliver the card telling of the attractions of the Philippines in the form of fish, rice, and coarse clothes, my Chritmas happiness was complete. The card is just too clever and too funny. I love it and may even frane it someday. = Santa Claus was more than generous: From Mr. Lyons there came a subscription to 'The Nation', a bottle of perfume, + a beautiful compact. From Mabel there came two pairs of silk stockings - from Edna Walton there came handkerchiefs - from Anne there came Yardley Old English Soap From Willie Kennedy there came 'SRM' stationery - from Martha there came genuine amethyst earrings. = Mr. Lyons and I started out five o'clock Christmas morning. We took the train to Landsdowne, [New Jersey] where we started our five mile hike to the farm house-- it was work and fun to go through all the ice and snow. After a fine Christmas dinner we hiked the five miles back. = Helen Miller called up just after I got home Christmas night. We plan to take dinner and a walk together this Sunday. = Joe Brill called me up last night. He told me he received a card from you and that he sent you one. After much conversation about nothing at all, he asked me to take lunch with him today. I turned him down on the basis of being 'busy.' I couldn't be rude to him because he may be sincere, but perhaps he may become discouraged with repeated refusals. Harold Nelson spends a lot of time at the apartment. - Sophie." TRUXTUN-TULSA transferred from p 57 Mukden Paca Rice Rupertus -25 TRUXTUN-CHAPTER "Duty on the Destroyer TRUXTUN in the Asiatic Station" He did however complete the school year & his law examinations before he left New York City at three o'clock in the afternoon of Friday June 2l,l929 for Chicago & San Francisco to sail on ammunition ship USS NITRO for Manila. He was a working passenger & stood watches- not on leave-on that ammunition ship.He had married me just one hour before he boarded the train to ensure my getting government passage to the Orient.At Manila the heat & humidity were trying,especially as his next ship the destroyer TRUXTUN was out at sea,& he had to live on the POPE & another destroyer, where only the thought of a mango for breakfast could get him out of bed.But the TRUXTUN did return,& he enjoyed being with its captain- an old shipmate-Lieutenant Commander Carey.Jack soon went ashore with Carey to make arrangements for Carey's impending marriage to a girl who was coming out to Manila.But Carey got sick &had to go to the hospital at Canacao while Jack took the ship as temporary commanding officer.Jack had to take the ship back to Manila so Carey could get his gear off.He had to go back to the mainland to be treated for tuberculosis,& he was retired.On August 2, l967 Jack Barrett wrote a letter to the "Prospective Commanding Officer" of a new TRUXTUN (ship names are recycled) (c/o Supervisor of Shipbuilding,Camden, New Jersey)- "A note in a recent Naval Institute (professional magazine) stated you wished to locate personnel attached to earlier TRUXTUNS.In the summer of l929,after arriving at Cavite & reporting by dispatch to Com.Desron 15,I was ordered to wait for & report on board the TRUXTUN as Executive Officer & Navigator upon her arrival from China for overhaul at Cavite.I was on EDSALL & POPE until TRUXTUN arrived,then reported on board TRUXTUN.Lieutenant Commander Charles B.C. Carey was then commanding officer.I became "exec."Ralph Earle was gunnery officer.Other officers were SP Martin CommunicationsS.Y. McKown engineer,Selman S. Bowling,LF Keyes. When overhaul was completed I took the ship to Olongapo for a week for standardization & small arms practice,as Carey had to go to Canacao (Naval) Hospital to clear up a respiratory condition.We were recalled to get Carey's gear off in time for him to sail to the United States a few days later because of his physical condition. It was a sad business. I had accompanied him earlier in connection with arrangements for his wedding (his fiancee was to come out to Manila- & we had high hopes of real success with the TRUXTUN,having been shipmates on the shakedown cruise of the MARBLEHEAD in l925 (newest & fastest ship in the Navy at that time) & on sister ships during the Australian cruise in l925.He was a grand person & very able.I became temporary commanding officer for Cruise of Division 43 to southern islands, Zamboanga,Jolo, Cebu-for Navy Day-then back to Manila to prepare for duty on the Yangtze.Thomas J. Keliher joined as commanding officer on our return to Manila,& I resumed my job as "exec."We were at Nanking,China for some weeks (February-March,l930); then at Tsingtao & around to Chefoo and Tangku.There I was detached & sent to the TULSA at Tientsin. I still have films of photographs of the TULSA at Zamboanga taken from broad off thew starboard bow- one in Full Dress & the other plain. I believe CBC Carey is in the New York area.I think Ralph Earle is a Rear Admiral, retired.If I can be helpful,please call on me.Sincerely yours,John B. Barrett,Commander USN Retired."I wrote to Jack November l0,l929:Last week I read in the papers that the TRUXTUN hadbeen ordered to Shanghai to report to the Chief of the Asiatic Fleet for further orders.I'm scared pink there may be major disturbances in the vicinity of Hankow.Your responsibilities quite overwhelm me-& I can understand why your notes to me are so short.On January 24,l97l,Rear Admiral Dundas Preble Tucker wrote from La Jolla California:"In reply to your recently received letter regarding the TRUXTUN's trip up the Yangtze River in the spring of l930...In February l930 I reported to Commander Yangtze Patrol aboard his flagship,the LUZON as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral T.T. Craven.At that time all the larger cities on the Yangtze were in the hands of government forces under Chaing-kai-Shek,but Communist forces under various leaders,including Mao (tse-Tung) controlled large areas inland,particularly to the north.They made raids on the river towns & held them until driven out by government troops or foreign gunboats protecting their nationals. The Reds were quite active in l930,& the LUZON was under shore fire at least seven times that I know of between Hankow & Ichang,where they held long stretches of riverbank.In general the gunboats controlled the river from Hankow to Chungking,& the destroyers were called in to handle the lower river from Hankow to Shanghai.Since the destroyers' service under Commander Yangtze patrol was only temporary,I had occasion to board them very seldom...."On October l9,l929, the "Mindanao Herald" of Zamboanga, Philippine Islands published this story:"Officers & Bluejackets of Destroyer Divisions 39 & 43 Renew Old Acquaintances in Zamboanga: -Until the end of October the people of Zamboanga will again have the pleasure of entertaining quite a large contingent of Uncle Sam's fighting ships in Far Eastern waters.Nearly the entire fleet has returned from the China coast to the Philippines for the winter & will carry out maneuvers here.The 43rd Division comprising the PEARY,STEWART,POPE.& TRUXTUN arrived in port October l6 & will remain until October 24.On October 24 all of the ships of the two divisions of ten destroyers will fill the harbor.Numerous entertainments are being arranged for the officers of the Squadron.This evening there will be a dance at the Overseas Club in honor of the officers of the 43rd Division.The bluejackets are an intelligent,orderly bunch of young felows & seem to be enjoying their shore leave very much."Jack enjoyed this cruise to the southern Philippines.On March 23,l97l Dr.Charles Stelle wrote from Kansas:"I remember John (Barrett) very well.He was an excellent officer & well liked by his shipmates. I remember the TULSA...with tall masts.I was detached in November,l930 while on duty up the Yangtze river & returned to the US via Europe to New York.My wife was also living in Waikiki in December l94l but returned to the mainland several weeks later.I was Medical officer on BOISE cruising at that time in Philiippine waters.Best of luck."At Christmas time l929 Jack went to Baguio in northern Luzon, a cooler upland area to spend a few days at the Army's recreation quarters.He bought a pair of wooden bookends carved to make figures of dwarf Igorotes- one carries a hatchet & the other a spear.Chronology: He left San Francisco at 7 AM June 29,l929 via the USS NITRO as a working passenger He arrived Manila July 25-detached NITRO July 26 & reported on board POPE -detached POPE August 5 & reported on board EDSALL l:00 PM. August l4 :Detached EDSALL & reported on board TRUXTUN, CBC Carey commanding officer- From the Medical Officer of Destroyer Division 43: Dec. 23,l929 "To Senior Medical Officer Camp John Hay, Baguio, PI This is to certify that Lieutenant John B. Barrett has not been exposed to any communicable diseases & has not been exposed to meningitis 14 days prior to his departure from Manila." Jack got four days leave of absence December 2l & went to Camp Hay, Baguio.On the seventh of May, l930at Tsingtao, China, Jack requested six days leave, giving the address "Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking,China." Leave was granted. Visit with classmate Rupertus is probable endTRUXTUN chapter:- 22a China- #22 China Mon, 13 Apr 1998 15:17:49 PDT Between Manila & Hong Kong we encountered a typhoon when the ship rocked & pitched dangerously & even I spent much time in my bunk-not because I was seasick but because it was not safe to be on deck.An Army wife,Florence Hilldring,came aboard in Manila for the trip to Chingwantao en route to Peking for a change of climate as she found Manila too hot & humid. Finally on the fourteenth of November l930 the ship arrived early in the morning at Chingwantao far in in northern Chinsa near the Manchurian border.Although Jack was very thin,he looked well & very happy to see me & was most complimentary about my small velvet hat & my coat trimmed with Persian lamb fur. We took a motor car to the Court Hotel on Victoria Road where we had lunch-callled "tiffen" by the Australian woman Miss Moore who owned the small hotel.Then Jack dropped the bomb.He told me that Captain Rice had held the TULSA over one day so Jack could meet me & get me settled.The next morning-early-the TULSA would sail for Shanghai for a month of overhaul & liberty- & I would be left alone again-this time in the Orient where I knew no one.I left the hotel with him right after tiffen to go the mile to the ship.Two ricksha coolies came up,& Jack signalled me to get into one.Aboard the TULSA I met some of his shipmates & saw many linens which Jack had bought-then we went to call on a civilian family-Mrs. Faison Jordon,whose husband was friendly at the Tientsin Country Club.When she learned I had been graduated from Mount Holyoke college, she said trhat Mrs. Evans, wife of a Tientsin lawyer, was president of the Mount Holyoke Club of North China, so we made a short call on her too.Then we called on the Captain of the TULSA & his wife, Commander Paul Rice & Gertrude.They were most gracious.When the ricksha coolies finally dropped us at our hotel room early in the evening for our dinners, they were well paid by Jack. Jack spent a lot of time warning me to drink only boiled water & to eat no fresh fruit or vegetables-I would get Chinese stomach ache or even cholera.Also he told me never to touch shellfish as the water was so polluted.Before I knew it,early morning arrived,& Jack was off to the TULSA & to Shanghai.Things picked up a bit when Mrs. Jordon called on me during the following week & (p.l5) invited me to a formal dinner at her home on Saturday night followed by dancing at Tientsin Country Club.Next to me at table sat Nora Waln, contributor to the Atlantic Monthly of many articles on China.Her husband ran the Post Office in the British concession section of Shanghai,where my hotel was located.Mrs. Evans had told my former Mount Holyoke (class of l925) student Grace Liang, that I was in Tientsin.Her father had graduated from Hartford Public High School Connecticut about l880, & then a change of government policy required him to return to China, where he had a distinguished career first in north China railroads & customs offices & then in the Foreign service.I believe he was the first Chinese to be invited to address the United States Congress- around the time of the Nine Power Conference in l922 when Japanese commercial ambitions conflicted with America's Open Door policy on China enunciated Secretary of State John Hay in the McKinley administration & with the principle of self-determination pronounced by Woodrow Wilson. Grace came to call on me very soon after I arrived & invited Jack & me for tea at their home when the TULSA returned.Soon we called on Mrs. Liang ,who served us tea-we left when the servants brought our coats & hats & bowed us out-but she had given us the honor of inviting us to dinner- at which her distinguished husband,her daughter Grace,& her two doctor sons would be present.These young men had been educated in England,& their services were greatly in demand.The family occupied a spacious compound.Years later when the Communists occupied Tientsin,the family lost all its possessions and Tou.....Liang though a valued physician,was liquidated.Later in l93l Grace married Dan Yapp of Shanghai.In l970 we located them in Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue.For some years Grace taught in Connecticut.At that dinner party Grace & her mother appeared in exquisite Chinese dresses,but the men wore European clothes.Since Mr. Liang expressed an interest in ships, Jack invited the family to dinner aboard the TULSA.That evening the dock was crowded with Chinese people,who had gotten the word that Mr. Liang was expected. They respectfully kept their distance & silence as he left his car & boarded the ship.They remained on the dock throughout the dinner to get another glimpse of the respected diplomatic official.He told us about the low standard of living of most Chinese laborers & how little it took to support a family in those days deep in the worldwide economic depression.In the spring of l93l the gunboat TULSA went to Shanghai for Asiatic Fleet maneuvers & shooting excercises. She was kept near Tientsin primarily for intelligence purposes.Gertrude Rice, wife of our captain, (with her daughter), & Rachel Doughty,wife of our executive officer & I decided to go to Chefoo & Weihaiwei on the Shantung peninsula while the TULSA was cruising south.Jack agreed I could go on a British freighter provided I take twenty-four bottles of boiled water-sold be the case in a drug store.Since the TULSA left before we did,Mr. Eismonger bought the case of water for me & drove me to the frieghter,where the coolie stored the box near my bunk.I shared a cabin with a British missionary lady returning from leave in England=she was on her way to a very hot dry region in Southwestern China.She was in the cabin when the case was stowed & subsequently had nothing to do with me-avoided me like the plague.When we arrived in Chefoo,I offered my case of water to the missionary woman,as I hadn't used any of it,&it was too heavy to take ashore.She was startled but very glad to have the water, which she thought all along was gin,as she understood that all American Navy women were heavy drinkers of strong liquor.The reason she avoided me was she thought I was planning to drink a case of liquor in her cabin.Since the whole Asiatic fleet was in Chefoo for exercises,Jack had trouble fng a place for me to live.Finally the chaplain, Father William Maguire found room & board for me in a small boarding house owned by Mr.Wineglass. The goats lived right outside my room- there was no running water=a makeshift toilet & no bath.In later years we would sing the Navy song,"They wear clothespins on their noses in North China- Thet wear clothespins on their noses -(Be)cause Chefoo don't smell like roses - a verse of "O the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga." The gunnery was successful beyond anything the ship had previously scored. Jack & Captain Rice were delighted. to celebrate Jack wanted to give a party at the Chefoo club for all the ship's officers.I bought hand painted place cards, candles,Japaese lanterns as the party as to be outdoors on a lovely summer night.Every officerwas invited even though there were only three wives attached to the ship at that time. There was much good conversation for twenty-six guests.After every other guest had gone, the wife of the executive officer, Rachel Doughty came up to me & said, "Sophie, you ought to know better than o seat me in candle light. It is not becoming to me."As we approached Wei-Hai-Wei became excited because I had often enjoyed breakfast at Gertrude Rice's home in Tientsin,where we were served in bed.The coffee pot was red pottery with pewter,& the cream pitcher & sugar bowl were also red pottery with pewter-lovely pieces of china as well as being useful & unique & Gertrude told me that they had come from Wei-Hai-Wei.It was a beautiful town developed by Germans but given back to China after World War I. I wanted to buy a Wei-Hai-Wei coffee & tea service of this red pottery with silver trim.But to my disappointment the ship anchored out quite a distance. We coul not even see Wei=Hai-Wei from the ship.Butr a smll boat was leaving our freighter & withouteven going to my cabin to get my purse I persuaded Gertrude Rice to get into the boat with me with me for the trip to Wei-Hai-Wei.. I took it for granted that the Chinese man running the small motor boat was on an errand for my freighter & would certainly return to it.I don't know why,but we left ten-year-old Nathalie Rice on the freighter when we made our hurried departure,& we waved to her as we left.Our boatman spoke no English,but I believed he understood us when he nodded assent to my questioning him as to whether we could have two hours in Wei-Hai-Wei before returning to our ship. It was getting to be late afternoon & I did not want to be in the Chinese city after dark.We started off happily & even found the shop which sold the Wei-Hai-Wei coffeee & tea sets. There I charged a set to be sent to the TULSA as I had no money with me in my haste to get into the departing small boat.When night threatened,we returned to our dock,but found no small motor boat.At first we were not alarmed,but when we heard the freighter's whistle soundig repeatedly & impatiently & when no small boat appeared as darkness approached, we bargained with a sampan to row us out to the freighter. Gertrude paid him from her purse & he tried hard to row us but made litle headway with the heavy seas.He managed to reach a Chinese junk sailing along in the wind, & we again bargained for a ride & paid the owner of the junk to take us aboard.The wind held, & the junk mnade good progress with the large square sails & we again met a difficult transfer from the junk to the freighter.The captain of the freighter was greatly annoyed by the delay & stated he would have stranded us if Nathalie had not tearfully apealed for him to wait for her mother & Mrs. Barrett. Our friend Colonel William W. Paca,US Marine Corps (native ofAnnapolis Maryland,where he was named for great-great-great-grandfather who signed Declaration of Independence) wrote June 23,l970-he was the Marine officer on the TULSA & worked closely with Jack in winning the Asiatic Fleet l93l gunnery competition:"I remember Jack fondly as a fine officer & one of my best shiipmates.I remember him too with gratitude-which I hope I expressed directly to him at the time-for his guidance & advice-which as gunnery officer of the TULSA,he gave me relative to the training of our Marine gun crew & which resulted in our winning an "E" at that year's gunnery practice.I do have an especially clear memory of Jack- & that is that he was one of a rare group of people who have the faculty of being 'where the action is.' Frequently during wardroom conversations on the TULSA when past events were mentioned,it would develop that Jack had either been there or nearby or otherwise had been in a position to have special knowledge pf the event.In past years I have several times remarked that I once served with a naval officer who had that rare facility or gift.My great great great grandfather was William Paca,a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland.The main part of the hotel Carvel Hall in Annapolis was built on the (to. p.35A) In the winter of l930-31 I met two American fur buyers in the lobby of the Court Hotel.When they remarked that my cloth coat trimmed with Persian lamb was not warm enough for the piercing cold of North China,I remarked I could not afford a fur coat. They offered to buy fur skins for me in Manchuria-said they would be beautiful & very inexpensive.When thney returned,they had some sea otter skins,which were made up into a lovely coat. Sea otter is a short,durable fur with a lovely silver sheen-very warm & comfortable.In September l93l they returned to the hotel & I visited with them before they left for Mukden & other parts of Manchuria to buy furs for their New York concern.Only a few days later they reurned to the hotel,visibly shaken as they had barely escaped with their lives when the Japanese captured Mukden September l8-l9,& they got away on the last train allowed to leave the city- a bribe to Japanese officers was necessary for them to leave.The Japanese claimed that the railroad track to be used by their troops had been bombed by the Chinese,-&they used that as an excuse to occupy Mukden. I immediately telephoned Captain Rice, who was at Taku Bar with the TULSA forty miles east of Tientsin at the mouth of the Hai Ho River,because of unusually low water levels that year, which made navigation to Tientsin inadvisable.He immediately telegraphed the Admiral of the Asiatic Fleet at Shanghai-probably the first report the United States government received.The U.S> ambassador in Tokyo was on vacation. The Navy was told to keep "hands off" the situiation.When we did nothing to stop them,the emboldened Japanese militarists established the state of Manchukuo with a puppet emperor Pu Yi.They proceeded to conquer much of North China & attacked Shanghai in l932..Their heady successes in China ultimately encouraged the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, l94l.Has we pushed them out of Manchuria in l93l, we might have avoided large scale conflict later.Secretary of State Stimson & many European leaders favored action, but President Herbert Hoover
Year: 1930_