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

 

100-1466 Black Notebook One 106-117, 127
Black notebook One p 106 John began more and more to spend time at his father's office at the Administration Building at Pearl Harbor on weekends and in the summer. Saturday noons pork and beans and brown bread would be served at the Pearl Harbor Officers Club. The librarians at the Pearl Harbor library were very friendly, and John read a great many books on geography, travel, astronomy,and natural wonders. The Thomas Jefferson School had Richard Halliburton's "complete book of marvels" and eventually we bought a copy. We also accumulated the Dr. Doolittle series and the Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit series, the Mary Poppins books, the Tongg's Hawaiian Fishes, Birds, Flowers, Insects, Wayside Plants series, "Shark Hole", "Keola a Boy of Old Hawaii" "The Bee People" and the "Thrum's Hawaiian Annuals". Our garden featured gaillardias, nasturtiums, marigolds, caliopsis, cosmos, petunias, geraniums- which increased rapidly from slip cuttings- snapdragons and mr. Glockner's perennial plants - a big coconut palm, a panax hedge, pink and red hibiscus bushes [actually on Needles property next door] one surviving papaya tree that gave much fruit, a fan palm with big shiny leaves, elephant-ears related to taro, Mexican creeper, allamanda with big yellow flowers and milky sap, passion flowers growing on trellis in the driveway and next door at #2411 Ala Wai canna lillies and flowering ginger and a breadfruit tree. We tried growing little red plum and yellow pear tomatoes, but we had to put each tomato in a paper bag to protect it from the fruit flies. This required patient hard workd by Jack. = The Lincoln Zephyr speedometer registered 53,413 miles when the gauge broke in April, 1944. We kept the 1937 twelve cylinder car another ten years, though we were thinking about buying a new one in 1946 when there were extreme shortages. We took it across the country in 1947 and used it locally in West Roxbury in until 1954. John met Admirals Calhoun and Furlong on his visits to Pearl Harbor. Jack was on a committee in connection with war bond sales, and John met Admiral Furlong February 1944 at one of the war bond rallies. We bought many war bonds, and the boys and girls in John's class at Thomas Jefferson competed to see whether the boys or the girls could buy more war bonds. There were four more girls than boys in the class, and Admiral Bagby's daughter Mary finally bought more than we could keep up with. In the fourth grade the Thomas Jefferson School began released-time religious education. At first we were uncertain what to do, but John attended Bible history classes, conducted by Mrs. McCarthy, who lived a half block east of us on Ala Wai Boulevard between Kaiulani and Liliuokalani Streets. There was a Parent Teachers Association at the Thomas Jefferson School through which I met some of the other parents. The day school opened I met Peter Perser and his mother, who lived on Tuisitala Street two blocks from us. Rose Lee lived on the gold course in Kaimuki across Ala Wai Canal from us. Third grade teacher Celia Ponte and Janet Iekda, Nancy Kawamura, and Diane Trease were also in Kaimuki. Fred Curtice was east toward Diamond Head. Robert Ho, Nicholas Vaksvik, Fred Hunt, Milford Chong, and Joseph Kinoshita lived in Waikiki, as did teachers Mrs. Hazleton on Kuhio Street and Mrs. Barbour on Ohua Street. The nearest children were the Cook sisters Elizabeth and Penny east of us at 2465 Ala Wai. Their father Edric worked for a shipping company. His wife Anne was from Seattle, and her father born in Europe came for an extended visit about 1945. He was concerned about inflation, saying that the increased earnings were meaningless owing to the high cost of living. After a while he got homesich for Seattle and returned there. Esther Trease, an official of the Parent Teachers Association, asked me to do committee work. I declined, but we got acquainted and visited their home on a large hill in Kaimuki and attended the tenth birthday of her daughter Diane. Mrs. Trease commented that nobody ever bothered to celebrate her birthdays because they fell two days after Christmas on December 27. Diane Trease also met the Cooks through us and atended one of thweir parties in Waikiki. p 112 On March 4, 1945 the Navy sopnsored a swimming meet on the Pearl Harbor base at which we saw the famous Australian crawl champion Duke Kahanamoku, who has been Honolulu sherriff in 1920s. Jack met retired Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, New York Giants slugger Johnny Mize, and all-star Yankee catcher Bill Dickey at Pearl Harbor during the war. He had an autographed Bill Dickey catcher's mitt, johnny Mize baseball, and large Gene Tunney photo. He arranged their transportation for Navy morale and fitness programs. We saw many major leaguers, including Yankee center fielder Joe Dimaggio in an exhibition baseball game between the Third Fleet and the Fifth Fleet. We also saw exhibitions of prominent tennis players. There was a major tidal wave in Hawaii in 1946.which wrought majr damage, but our imediate area was not affect. John was working in the school kitchen that morning, and Mrs Billie the head cook said she could see the high water at the east end of Ala Wai Canal looking out from the school, but there was no overflow bacause the Canal had high concrte walls. The winged termites sometimes were conspicuous in spectacular swarms but did no danage to our house. We heard from my sisters Esther in Hartford and Babe in New Britain fomr time to time during the war. Babe's two youngest children Harold and Suzanne were born in 1940 and 1942. They sent some excellent photographs of Geetter, Babe, Esther, Ben, and the children around 1942. Ethyle Meranski also sent pictures of Ted and Carol Jane. We saved three pictures each of my Baltimore brother Pete and his daughter Deborah. Pete was an Army doctor first in Georgia, then in Paris, France. His favorite story from his Paris days concerned his discovery [114] of a soldier from Mississippi who could neither read nor write. Pete was rather astonished, but another doctor commented cheerfully, "In Mississippi even the teachers can't read or write." We also received a picture of my eldest nephew Athur Meranski in Army uniform in 1943.He has recently retired after a 28-year career as an Army officer. In 1944 my brother-in-law Dr. Isadore S. Geetter was drafted as a Navy doctor.My sister had to give up her house on the grounds of the New Britain General Hospital, and in 1946 after Dr. Geetter returned, they purchased a larger home at 92 Fern Street in Hartford near the West Hartford line. Dr. Geetter, who had trained as an anesthesiologist, was director first of New Britain General Hospital and then of Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford. Dr. Geetter got to see us briefly in Waikiki January 1945 en route to duty at Samar island in Philippines. Jack had to help in getting him off the ship. One Sunday afternoon I got a telephone call from a man who would identify himself only as a doctor who had just arrived ashore from a ship anchored off Pearl Harbor. He said, "Are you Dr. Jeeter's sister-in-law?" When I agreed that I was, he explained that Dr. Geetter was aboard the anchored ship and that the captain, Vardaman, would not send a boat to get him back to the ship if he came in to see me. He hurriedly mentioned the name of the ship and cut off the conversation. I immediately telephoned Jack the news, never dreaming that he could do anything about it on Sunday afternoon. Soon Jack called me back from the Overseas Transportation Office saying that Admiral William Furlong had arranged to send his gig out to the ship for Dr. Geetter with instructions to the crew to return Dr. Geetter to the ship when he was due back. In the middle of the afternoon Dr. Geetter arrived with Jack, said he was en route as a Lieutenant Commander to be an anesthetist at a hospital in the Philippines. We took him swimming at Waikiki, dorve him about Waikiki and Kahala, gave him cold roast beef for dinner, and Jack took him back to Pearl Harbor where he boarded the gig for his ship. He gave John a pocket knife with a canopener and corkscrew. [115] Although he was a Naval doctor, he was given a citation for his work with Army men and when discharged at war's end he was a Commander.On his return he became Director of Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford. = One afternoon in Waikiki I enjoyed a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as Dr. Horn of Baltimore- a friend of my brother Pete's. When I invited him to come to the house, he explained that they were on their way to a forward area of the war, and that he was allowed only two hours in Honolulu, most of which he had already spent seeing Honolulu and Waikiki. I was amused when he said, "Tell Pete that 'Trader Horn' called up when you write him in Europe." He promised to call me up on his return trip, but I never heard from him.= Easrly in the war I had a telephone call from a young Marine enlisted man who was a guard at the gate at Pearl Harbor. He told me that his sister lived across from me in an apartment house on the corner of 97th Street and Shore Road in Brooklyn. When our old neighbor Mrs. Rooney told his sister that I lived in Waikiki, she wrote to him about me, and he looked me up in the Honolulu telephone book. His name was Warren Griffith, and he asked if he could come to call early Sunday afternoon. When I agreed but told him he would find it dull because Jack worked every Sunday, he wanted to come anyway, saying he was anxious to be in a real home.So that was the first of a long line of Sunday afternoon visits with us, when Warren Griffith always looked handsome and smart and spoke frequently of the girl he was engaged to back home. He did his best to amuse John occasionally bring his camera and taking a few pictures. He gave him a "good luck" [116] book present "Each in his Way" about famous animals - Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus, carrier pigeons in World War I, St. Bernard dogs and others. Suddenly about 1944 Warren Griffith failed to come to see us, and I guessed he was sent to another theater of the war. But two months passed, and he returned, glowing with the news that he had gone to the mainland on leave, and that his fiancee was now Mrs. Griffith. After only a few visits, we neither saw nor herd fom him again. Since I did not know his sister's married name, and since Mrs. Rooney had died of cancer in 1944, and George Rooney at 9615 Shore Road wrote that he had no idea who Griffith's sister was in the tremendous apartment building across 97th Street, we lost track of him. I realized that if he wanted to get in touch with us again, he knew our address, - and if he was a war casualty, I was just as well off not knowing it. =When John was in the third grade 1943-4 Phil Miller, young brother of my good friend Helen Miller in New York my Commonwealth Fund assistant 1927-1929 came to see us on the Ala Wai. He was en route to the front in the Chaplain Corps where his duty was mainly singing in religious services but he helped dig graves when necessary. = As I mentioned early in my account of our experiences in Hawaii, my close friend Gertrude Rice lived close to the Army Fort DeRussy and was alone much of the time because her daughter Nathalie was at the New York School of Social Work, and her husband Captain Paul Rice worked day and night in his personnel work with those who repaired damaged ships. We often discussed evacuation, and Gertrude told me she would stay in the Hawaiian Islands unless Singapore fell. About the time the Japanese took Singapore from Britain, Gertrude left by plane for the mainland [about February 1942].Captain Rice stayed for a while,[117] but I saw him only a few times, and finally he came to say goodbye, like so many others, because he had received orders for duty in Washington, D.C. When Gertrude went to see her daughter Nathalie in New York, she met my brother-in-law Bill Barrett at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He invited her to lunch or dinner. = among my saddest experinces in Hawaii was the letter from my sister-in-law Virginia Barrett in late August 1942, telling me that Pa Barrett had died. When Bill Barrett learned from Mollie that his father was sick, he decided to take his charming wife and his three-year-old son to South Boston, thinking their presence would cheer his eighty-seven-year-old father. Bill was shocked to find his father had passed away August 21 before his arrival, so he remained in Boston to make the funeral arrangements while Virginia drove back to Darien with young Billy. Pa Barrett was buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury with his second wife Mary Lane Barrett and their daughter Catherine. Mollie Barrett continued to live alone with the wire haired fox terrier Skippy at the old home in Souh Boston. She took a refresher course in typing for a few months and then went to work April 1943 as a clerk and typist in the South Boston office of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, then on Broadway just west of Dorchester Street. Her cousin John Lane of Melrose was a Met employee who helped her find the job, which was outside the jurisdiction of her brother Bill in New York. In later years she was a cashier on the "window" collecting payments from a great many South Boston neighbors and was well known in the neighborhood and active in Gate of Heaven church. The Met office moved west near Boston Street beyond Andrew Square, which required riding the subway instead of walking, but her boss for many years Aaron Goldstein of Newton was friendly and considerate, and permitted her to complete twenty years service for a pension to April 1963, though she turned 65 February 11 of that year, - the normal retirement age.= Toward the end of 1944 or January 1945 Mollie wrote to us in [p 127] Waikiki saying that Virginia was in a hospital suffering from sciatica. That was about the time Dr. Geetter visited us en route to the Philippines [January 1945], because I remember asking him aoubt sciatica, diagnosis and prognosis. I was stunned when Mollie wrote again May 1945 saying that Virginia had died and that her mother Mrs. Brady had moved into Bill's Darien Connecticut home to take care of young Bily. We now believe that Virginia died of cancer, but Mollie gave the cause of death as sciatica. Grandpa's death, followed by Virginia's less than three years later before we could see her again, was a severe blow to us - so far away. + Both my brother Pete an Army major in the medical corps and my nephew Arthur Meranski a Lieutenant in tanks in Normandy-Brittany invasion under General Patton served in France during the war. Pete received a letter from Arthur's mother Sade who said she had failed to hear from Arthur for two months and could get no information from the Army, which stated it was not certain of Arthur's whereabouts and couldn't be certain until it received his pay account information. Pete took a short leave determined to look for Arthur. He went to the American Army headquarters in Paris + eventually learned that Arthur was in a French hospital went to see him there and was satisfied that he would soon be recovered and returned to duty.[127] Jack and John were at Pearl Harbor the day the Japanese surrender in mid-August 1945 was announcd. All the sirens and bells in the Navy Yard sounded, and there was general rejoicing. John had just recovered from measles in July. Most of his fourth grade classmates had had measles during the spring, and John must have had considerable resistance not to get them sooner but as it worked out he had measles when they spoiled his summer vacation, and he did not have the consolation of being absent from school. The Cook girls were sympathetic and wanted him to go out and play, but we observed the quarantine. The end of the war led to a particularly joyous and pleasant fifth grade year in Mrs. Davidson's class.Her son Douglas photographed the class on Valentine's Day 1946. She had them memorize interesting old poems "True worth lies in being not seeming In doing each day that goes by Some little good, not in dreaming Of great things to do by-and-bye." "Into my heart's treasury I slipped a coin That time cannot take or thief purloin. O better than the treasure of a gold-crowned king Is the heartfelt memory Of a lovely thing." She had interesting china figures in her classroom. Her maiden name was Agnes Dee Mason, and she was a descendant of the first New Hsmpshire Governor Mason, who received the colony charter from King Charles in 1630. She had taught in Arizona and used to bring in Arizona Highways magazine, with fine photographs, and she told many travels and experiences. She covered a great deal of sixth and seventh grade material in English and mathemathics so that John has very light work in the sixth grade at Punahou and was well prepared for the seventh grade when we returned to Boston. One of her two daughters was on the staff of the new Honolulu radio station KHON in 1946, which broadcast the comedy series "Our Miss Brooks" set in a school setting with actress Eve Arden. Mrs. Davidson lived about six blocks west of us on Lewers Street, and we heard a great deal about her travels and experiences. She gave us a photo her son took of Waimea Falls on the north coast of Oahu. = Not long after V-J Day Jack was transferred from the Overseas Transportation Office to court duty. Of his associates I knew Captain Edward D. Washburn, a Naval Academy graduate and courageous officer who risked the displeasure of Admiral Nimitz and Acting Navy Secretary Sullivan to protect a defendant whose case Nimitz's staff had improperly pre-judged. One of the objectives of the subsequent 1950 Uniform Code of Military Justice was to eliminate this type of staff influence. Washburn sharply questioned a prosecution witness who refused to produce a letter he had written to a politically influentiual friend about the case. The witness was a Reservist, and Washburn found him evasive and unresponsive on cross-examination. The court acquitted the career naval officer who was the defendant, and high officials of the Truman administration were antagonized. At first all members of the Court received reprimands. Later all but Washburn's were rescinded, since he had been the chairman and had conducted the questioning of the witness. His reprimand stood, but he should have received a medal for his courage in safeguarding the rights of the defendant. = in the spring of 1946 Mrs. Davidson spoke to me after school, saying that she could lose her job for what she was about to say, but she thought we ought to transfer John to the Punahou School, which had reopened at war's end, - so that he might benefit from the extras offered by a private school, such as music and dramatics.She also said that she hoped we would enter John in Exeter or Andover when we returned to the mainland.So John entered Punahou's sixth grade in September,1946, - we rented a piano, and John began taking piano lessons from Miss Laura Canafax and violin lessons with Mr. William Rusinak. Other members of the musch staff including Miss Vetter were friendly also. The studios at Montague Hall, the music buidling were air conditioned. Soon after school opened Miss Canafax gave an evening piano concert,which the three of us [130] attended, and we got our first night view of the gorgeous big night blooming cereus cactus flowers widely distributed on the walls surrounding Punahou school grounds. Mrs. Archibald McVey was the sixth grade home room teacher and took the class on tours of the Dole Pineapple canneries, where spigots provided running pineapple juice, and pupils could watch automated canning and the processing of pineapple bran for animal feed. She also took them to visit the publishing facility of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper.Athletics and dancing received much time in the schedule, with good facilities, and there was a swimming pool. The elementary grades were near the "New Spring" for which the school was named in 1841. The spring had formed a pond with water lilies.Punahou is the oldest school west of the Rocky Mountains and California forty-niners found it safer to send their children by ship to Honolulu than to go east through the Indian country by cvovered wagons. Jack retired January 1, 1947 after terminal leave starting November 1, 1946. Frequently he drove John to and from Punahou and sometimes gave Mrs. McVey or other teachers rides home. Miss Canafax was very friendly and came to Waikiki twice to swim with us and have supper. John took part in two piano recitals at the end of the year. In the second he played "The Fox" by Francesco B. DeLeone.
Year: 1945_