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


Four Meranski sisters Esther, Rebekah, Bertha, Sophie with sister in law Jen Mrs. Israel Peter Meranski at left p 17 #130
afternoon of Albert Geetter's bar mitzvah spring l948 first family reunion after war and return from Waikiki +SEQ. Jack arrive N. China on TRUXTUN May 1930 six days leave at Peking Rupertus Walter Decker in command TULSa JackFirst Lt. + Gennery Officer + temporary exuc until arrival of Leonard Doughty. summer 1930 Willie Steel Tinetsin country Club. book purchases. Capt Rice + famiy arrive. Nov 13, 1930 Sophie arrives Chingwantao, train to Nanking. Meets Jordon, Evans, Waln, Rices. TULSa goes to sea Nov. 1930, chits. pilots and New Year's Eve costume party. photos of Chinese funeral probably January. Fur buyes buy furs for Sophie's otter coat. Feb. Visit to Peking. about June Fleet Maneuvers Chefoo. Sophie trip Weiheiwei. TULSa wins gunnery. candlelight party. Trip to Shangahi Ashleys, dresses. sore hands. Mr. Isemonger photo. September low water on Hai Ho river. news of Mukden. November physical exam for promotion Peking another visit with Rupertus. study for promotion. Visits with Rice family goodbye at Tientsin - Christmas dinner on TULSA. incident with Japanese sentries probably Tangku. Leave KOBE New Years 1932. p 26 #793 ---- China- arrive Nov 1930- Liang, Rice,New Years,Fleet Maneuvers 1931-Paca letter-Mukden incident- see photos p 1 #5, p 5#38 cave P7 #49+ #53 p 8 #62, p 17 #135,#136,p 18, #137,138,139 p 29 #863p 37 924w p46 #1002 red paper drum p 49 rickshaw ?Shanghai? p 53 #1068 p 64-#1160,1164" p 90# 1371 funeral Jan 1931 #1381,1382 Gertrude +Nathalie #22" China Mon, 13 Apr 1998 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 China 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 that 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 by 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.[Somewhere in China Sophie ate a dish called "one-hundred year-old egg", but in a letter Grace questioned whether her famiy would have served it.] 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 by the case in a drug store.Since the TULSA left before we did,Mr. Isemonger 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. "My dear, I've misjudged you," she graciously remarked. 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- They 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 eleven-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 of Annapolis 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 shipmates.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 of 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, a pacifist who built no ships and had lost political support in view of the deep economic Depression, missed the opportunity to nip World War II in the bud. Sophie had hand skin problems probably a drug reaction called pomphylyx. She accompanied Jack to Peking in November when he went for physical exam for promotion to Lieutenant Commander. The good score of the TULSA in Asiatic Fleet gunnery and maneuvers and strong fitness report from Commander Paul Rice and intensive study for exam helped Jack achieve this promotion. Just before [our] departure Captain and Mrs. Rice asked us if we would spend one night at their home to look after Nathalie while they spent the evening and night in Peking. So we spent the night with Nathalie, and the next morning at breakfast the number one 'boy' [they were adults - this was the term used] inquired of Jack, "Master wantchee eyogg?" Jack had no idea what he was asking about, so the 'boy' repeated this question several times. Finally young Nathalie explained that her father always had two EGGS for breakfast, and the 'boy' was merely inquiring whether Jack wanted eggs for breakfast. He pronounced 'egg' like 'IGG' the "i" being long as it is in "Ike". Jack wanted no part of Chinese eggs, which were always too old for anything but scrambled eggs. Jack liked to tell a [related] story about a man who ordered FRIED eggs in China. The servant said, "Fly - no can do -- scramble - maybe can." The Barretts had a cordial visit with the Rice family around the December 1931 holidays, and young Nathalie Rice became interested in Sophie's social work experience and became a social worker herself years later.the anchorage at the entrance of the Hai Ho River was called Tangku (note by Sophie M. Barrett"Jack & I sailed from Tangku to Japan on the Chowan Maru.Tangku is where the Japanese soldiers crossed their swords on my chest when I started to the wrong dock where a Japanese Army troop ship was next to the passenger ship dock.")The TULSA used oil-not coal {F}{S}
Subject: four Meranski sisters and Jen
Year: 19484Meranskisisters