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


Revenue Cutter School cadets with sextants on ITASCA
Revenue Cutter School cadets with sextants aboard training ship ITASCA 1909 or 1910 Admiral Wilfred N. Derby probably is at center of group. #1198 p 69 and this material on Thanksiving 1958-or-9is in notebook two. I also found a January l928 letter my father wrote to New York Post under pen name "Xanthos." He had recently been to sea Dec. 1927 in very poorly equipped small harbor tug PENOBSCOT when every available vessel was rushed to try to help small submarine S-4, which sank in very deep water off Provincetown Cape Cod, when S-4 surfaced without warning in front of Coast Guard cutter PAULDING, which was not proved in any way at fault - captained by my father's schoolmate at Revenue Cutter School Jack Baylis, whom I visited in New Jersey 1970. There is material on website about S-4 by my father's friend from Naval Hydrographic Office DC Gershom Bradford - native of Kingston MA 1879-1978 - he helped lay out the test course off Provincetown about 1902. and knew one of the PAULDING officers who stood up for Baylis when he was critcized. The PENOBSCOT, the tug my father was on after being called out in middle of night about 18 Dec 27 had weak radio, lacked food and blankets for long trip and was otherwise lacking equipment for high seas.. She was assigned to get in touch with another ship the CHEWINK, which was trying to recover some pontoons - someone hoped they could be used to refloat the S-4, which proved to be in water too deep for rescue, though survivors could be heard tapping for two weeks. When the modern sub THRESHER sank off Boston 1963, there was still no technology to rescue crew from great depth and pressure. My father's letter does not deal specifically with the S-4 but dealt with the general issue of presparedness and Navy budgets in the period when Hitler and Tojo were coming to power and gradually eluding the weak-minded democracies. The name Xanthos originally mean +fair+ or "blond" in Greek, but it was the name of the horse that warned the great hero Achilles who killed Trojan Hector to avenge his friend Patroclus that his turn was coming soon too -Achilles got the bad news in no uncertain terms "from the horse's mouth" as they say at the race track - then the gods intervened to hush the unnatural speech and warning. My father was considered at times a prophet of gloom and doom Pearl Harbor, etc --like the talking horse of the Iliad - and there seems to have been some fanciful allusion to his red hair - perhaps based on humor at Boston Latin in class of 1906 - though in good Greek "xanthos" means blond not red. Jack Barrett in the 1906 "Class Prophecy" was called Pyrrhus, in allusion to his sunburned freckled countenance as after mush time boating in South Boston during school years. It was natural to extend it from red face to red hair =Pyrrhus to Xanthos. The actual content of the letter has to do with Naval budgets in context of disarmament treaties, in which Britain and Japan scrapped plans to buiild ships while US gave up existing ships. German -Americans were influential through religious groups in neutralist anti-armament movements and isolationism, many people were entirely sincere - there was a Pacifist movement 1930's at Oxford, but the German government skillfully exploited the sentiments. Franklin Roosevelt had to overcome isolationism, and the support of German-Americans was vital in the war effort- In regard to the one-sidedness of 1920s naval disarmament see Admiral Knox's introduction to first volume of fifteen-volume "History of U.S. Navy in World War II." My father had several assignments in War Plans - he took junior Course at Naval War College Newport RI 1923-1924 - I am starting to type his TACTICS thesis for website - he participated in 1925 War Game Hawaii that demonstrated vulnerability of Oahu and Pearl Harbor - he was in War Plans and Reserve Training three tiimes New York 1927-9; Boston 1932-3, and Philadelphia 1936-8. He drilled a great many Naval Reservists out of Charlestown Navy Yard 1932-3 on EAGLE 19 built by Ford motors, and the Springfield Republican newspaper told of the last cruise in a front page story Sunday June 18, 1933 with photos of my father in uniform and the EAGLE 19 and members of the Springfield unit. Then President Roosevelt cut the budget attempting to keep his 1932 campaign promise to balance the budget. President Hoover built no new ships in four years. Then President Roosevelt heard about the fiscal ideas of British Lord Keynes and the Labor party that fiscal deficits are necessary to stimulate demand and employment in depression times, so he turned around and suported rebuilding the Navy, but Hitler and Tojo got an amazing headstart. (This may be happening today on FUSION ENERGY). My father saw the Atlantic war close up at Branch Naval Hydrographic Office New York, where he was in charge 1940-41 - then he was shocked at stupidity and complacency and refusal to plan when he was sent to Pearl Harbor as Assistant War Plans Officer Fourteenth Naval District July-October 1941. He was transferred to personnel Oct. and ran Overseas Transportation Office four years till October 1945. evacuating families after Dec. 7 attack -shipping very short till after Midway June 4 1942. In 1946 he was on courts martial - supported Capt. Paul Washburn who believed there was reasonable doubt when uncorroborated Reserve Officer with political connections accused career Naval officer of thefts from commissary - Nimitz and Navy Sec. Sullivan were angry - there was political pressure for conviction. Head of court Washburn found the witness evase - he was demoted by Nimitz but it was rescinded. The 1950 Uniform Code of Military Justice was suposed to reduced this type of "staff influence" pressure for conviction without fair procedure. Nimitz and staff did good job with intelligence for Battle of Midway 1942 - made good judgment permitting Orlin Livdahl gunnery officer on carrier ENTERPRISE to re-position new Swedish guns Sept 1941 to save four airplane spaces on carrier deck and increase firing angle of guns - Livdahl was friend of my father from destroyer CLAXTON 1936. Have you had chance to look through website ? XANTHOS letter 1928-- 1932 honeymoon trip 67-1185 Edit : XANTHOS letter to New York Post Jan 24, 1928 New York Evening Post Friday January 7, 1928 Letter was written Tuesday, January 24, 1928 by "XANTHOS" Name of talking horse in Homer's ILIAD. Latin school pseudonym of John Berchmans Barrett who thought term meant 'red-head' or facetiously applied it to his own prognostications of danger like Homer's horse. The more usual translation is "blond" or "chestnut". TITLE: "Sees Need of Strong Navy" To the editor of the Evening Post: Sir It may seem 'smart' for Senators or others to deride what they do not understand.Just because the Navy spends its best energies "on the job" instead of sobbing about the difficulties imposed upon it by incompetence and indifference of alleged statesmen when laws and treaties are made, it seems the fashion to belittle the serious effects that must be faced by the Navy if and when any other nation or group of nations decides to attempt to take forcibly things they sorely need from our plenteous supply.= So I wonder then: What would be adequate then? Is the contest between Standard Oil and Dutch Shell a type of contest for control of products which might easily lead to international difficulties? Will nations fight to get their share of the necessaries of life? Will words feed the hungry or win battles? = Can our present high standards of living, comfort, and luxury be maintained if our foreign trade is curtailed or even held stationary at present volume? Is there any better use for life than to spend it in support and defense of home and country? = Give the Navy at least half a chance to save you from your own folly by providing it with at least a few items of modern equipment that the other have. [despite their poverty] instead of spending all in wasteful luxury, rum chasing, building post offices in deserts and giving idlers useless work at fancy salaries with which to support night clubs and other sybaritic parasitical growths.= Otherwise who knows even the Navy might get discouraged and join the wasters in the last made whirl before the final SMB's Black Notebook # Two pages 277-8 Sophie comments on link to S-4 rescue effort previous month Dec. 1927. It also reflects l917 experience at Bureau of foreign & Domestic Commerce. and points toward effort to warn at Pearl Harbor in War Plans very reminiscent of "Xanthos" the horse.-p. 238- When Joe Hurley had dinner with us at the Victoria |Hotel, |April 15, [1932]his wife, Peggy Strickland Hurley, who before her marriage had been an editorial worker for the Boston Post, was in Ireland. Shortly after her return, she telephoned to me at the Victoria Hotel to introduce herself and to invite me to be her guest at a lecture she was scheduled to give at a suburban women's club that afternoon.She drove me to the club, where as a paid lecturer she gave an entertaining and instructive lecture on her experiences in Eire.She had tried to learn to speak Gaelic. Before she left me,she invited Jack and me to dinner at her home on Moss Hill Road in Jamaica Plain. The party was most enjoyable, because Peggy had -239- invited five Boston Post reporters to join us at dinner.The food was delicious, and the conversation flowed.After dinner, in the living room, Jack began a long tale about his [part in]efforts to rescue the Submarine S-4, which had gone down in Provincetown [Cape Cod] waters on December 17,1927. I had never heard the tale before and have never heard him talk about the S-4 since. But I remember him saying that he was on shore duty in New York City, living alone in an apartment, asleep one night when he was told by telephone to go to a tug immediately, as the tug was about to leave to go to the aid of the Submarine S-4. He related that the tug did not have the properequipment for the job, told in detail what they did,and how they finally had to give up.{John Barrett note- after Sophie wrote this late 1969 we found records of the New York harbor tug PENOBSCOT trying to make radio contact with CHEWINK, which was trying to recover pontoons lost at sea for use in effort to refloat S-4, which could not be rescued from great depth and pressure. We got additional information from Gershom Bradford later and Commodore Jack Baylis USCG retired. p 224 Our first stop on the PIERCE was Shanghai where we hired two rick-shaws because Jack wanted to say goodbye to some people he knew there. First we went to see Ah Sing, the ship's chandler who had entertained us at tiffen in his home in July, 1931.Then we set off to Cockeye the Tailor's establishment on Bubbling Well Road When I remonstrated with Jack for calling the man such a name, he opened his wallet and showed me a card reading "Cock Eye- Tailor" and giving addresses in Shanghai and in Chefoo. When we arrived, one of Cock Eye's sons greeted Jack warmly, told us that Cock Eye was now too old to work, but he took us to Cock Eye's quarters for a visit. Then I knew at once the derivation of his trade name because he was indeed cock-eyed. He gave me a white terry cloth kimono with a peacock embroidered on the back. They gave Jack a pongee robe. When I boarded the PIERCE at Kobe,all the clothes I wore or carried in my suitcase were winter clothes, as it was very cold in Tientsin and in Japan at that season. However, in my trunk, which was stored in the trunkroom of the PIERCE, I had sme lovely summer clothes, which I had made for me in Shanghai on my previous visit there in July 1931 - clothes to be worn in hot Manila, at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, in Penang and Ceylon and India and at the Shepherds's Hotel in Cairo. While en route from Hong Kong to Manila, it got very hot, and I went to the trunk room to get some of my warm weather clothes.At first I was not alarmed when I could not find my trunk, but I did become worried when the trunk room man couldn't find it either. After much searching, the disappearance was reported to the purser, and I suffered in my winter clothes. Just as we approached Manila, the purser got word that my trunk had mistakenly been put ashore in Hong Kong and was on the dock there. I could not have my trunk again until we reached Marseilles in March. We tried to buy summer clothes in Manila but were unsuccessful except for two identical cheap cotton morning dresses. We had no time to have dresses made there as we were to be in Manila only one more day- when we planned to ride the rapids of Pagsanjan in canoes - a thrilling experience - [well out toward the southeast tip of Luzon island in direction of the Mount Majon volcano. Jack Barrett was amused by the pronunciation of the volcano - like "my own"- a photo of the very symmetrical cone hung in the Barrett dining room in West Roxbury from 1947 on.] So while other women appeared at dinner and dancing in lovely summer dresses, I had to wear the only one I carried in my suitcase, a black velvet dress suitable only for cold weather, and when an evening gown was not appropriate, I appeared in a cheap cotton morning dress in the Shepperd's Hotel in Cairo and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and at the Gardens of the Sultan of Johore, where I wore a [borrowed] man's sun helmet. While on the PIERCE we became friendly with Mr. and Mrs. Harry Pardee of Saticoy, Ventura county, California/ They were on a Cook's tour of the world, traveling to try to improve Mr. Pardee's health. He had a circulatory disorder.They stayed at expensive hotels, whereas Jack and I tried to stay at "pensions" in Europe or at moderately priced hotels. We learned about foreign hotels the hard way. When we arrived in Italy, I aksed the taxi man in Naples to take us to an inexpensive hotel, making it clear to the driver, who could speak English, that I did not want to spend much for room and board. I asked the hotel clerk how much we would have to pay for a room and two meals a day PER WEEK. He quoted a price which seemed reasonable to me. When the waiter inquired after dinner, "Coffee, madame?" Jack refused, but, thinking I was paying for it anyway, I said, "Yes." I took only a few sips of the thick liquid, but every night I answered "Yes" to his "Coffee, madame?" At the end of the week we called for our bill, and I was stunned to learn that we owed the hotel seven times what I thought we owed them, plus seven cups of coffee served to me. I had no idea that the coffee was extra. They also charged for the baths I had had. I was amazed that they knew exactly how many baths I had had.-227- I argued with the clerk that he had quoted a weekly rate, but was charging it for each day, but he only shrugged and said that I had understood. Also we had to pay a tourist tax. I had learned an expensive lesson, which helped me in every other city on our itinerary except Florence, where we were too cold to enjoy anything. The Florence tea houses saw more of us than the art museums with their cold marble floors. {Jack Barrett brought home detailed guide books of the art Museum in Naples and the Louvre in Paris - he often remembered Sophie at the cold Uffizi in Florence saying "Can we PLEASE GO home?"-John Barrett note] In Naples we saw Vesuvius and went to the ruins of Pompeii but were told it was the wrong seaon to go to Capri. In Rome, our next stop, we were very fortunate to have a reasonably priced "pension" with good food, and we spent our days in the art museums, thew Colisseum, the Vatican, and the Tombs (catacombs). One day we met Mr. and Mrs. Harry Pardee on the street.Mrs. Pardee invited us to the opera. that evening, and p. 231 From Venice we went to Vienna Austria, where my mother ws born (or lived in youth). I remember our standihg up at observation windows to see the Austrian Alps in route. Jack probably thought of our trip when he bought imported Austrian Alps Swiss cheese at our local First National Stopre Supermarkets in West Roxbury Austrian Alps swiss cheese was a staple item with us in the 1950s and 1960s.1950s)
Subject: cadets,sextants (9)
Year: 1909ITASCA