Within a month of reporting aboard the USS Wrangell, an ammunition ship out of Norfolk, Virginia, we steamed north to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to go into dry-dock for retrofitting and repairs. I remember just before my very first underway watch, standing on the deck at 4:00 a.m., looking at the lights on the New Jersey shore, then going down into the engine room and four hours later, coming up topside and finding myself looking up at my first-ever skyscrapers, looming above me in the East River.
For whatever reason, Brooklyn could not take us, so we were sent to the Brewer Dry-Dock Company in Port Richmond, Staten Island. We were their first U.S. Navy ship since WWII. We spent June, July and August of 1963 there. Being an Ohio boy, I had the good fortune of being mentored by a fellow Ohioan who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. But even he was not prepared for life in dry-dock.
Staten Island, in close proximity to New Jersey, had a good many young women crossing the state line for no other reason than to party and drink, as the age for consumption was 18 in New York. Also, the townspeople of Port Richmond opened their arms, hearts and even their homes to us. While the Yardbirds were retrofitting our sleeping quarters, the Navy gave us a temporary living allowance. Well, what red-blooded American sailor would spend this money from heaven for a motel room when the townsfolks offered up everything from their sun porches to their living room couch to us?
When we had time off, which in my memory was a lot, we would jump in Bob’s Ford convertible and hit the beaches and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore. I could relate a hundred stories from that three months, but chief among them would be Oly getting stabbed by a local for getting too close to a girlfriend, Spike breaking his leg trying to jump a six-foot fence in the back of one of our favorite bars or Clark making money betting the locals he could drink a six-pack in under a minute.
I went on to make two six-month cruises to the Mediterranean, visiting France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland, interspersed with trips to the Caribbean and Guantanamo Bay, pumping fresh water ashore after Castro shut the water off to the base. But nothing sticks in my memory during my two-plus years aboard the Wrangell equaling that summer in Staten Island. These are memories made by young men that old men never forget. I turned 19 that summer, and I’m sure came of age in many ways.
I’ve been to New York many times since, for both business and pleasure, and have found myself standing on the south tip of Manhattan, looking across the Upper Bay toward Staten Island, and smiling to myself.
And, Ruthie, if by some odd happenstance you should ever read this and you still live on Staten Island… thank you.
Our Dear Mare, Holly
Ruby Regina Witcraft
Her show name was Holly Hocks and if she were a person she would have been a Prima Dona or at the very least, a Diva. That girl certainly had attitude. Mares are like that but Holly had her share and some to boot.
The racehorse trainer bought her to my Hunter/Jumper/Training Stable as a two-year-old, because she wouldn’t come out of the gate, much less run with all those other fools going nowhere but around an oval track. Yes, she had attitude, so forcing her wasn’t going to work but the price was right and I liked the challenge. I tried her and her gates and conformation were acceptable, considering the kind of training she had previously. At least she didn’t try to kill me as others had due to terrible training.
It takes about three months of daily training to get a horse into the show ring as a first-year green hunter and she was coming along well. Now most people like cowboys and race trainers never consider working with the personality of each horse for the best result without using seriously, nasty methods. Yes, each animal has a very distinct personality and Holly had her own way of telling me when she was displeased with me. For instance, she was a gitchey female and hated being brushed and groomed by giving me an “evil eye” and twitching her skin, if I got a little rough. When mounting and with my foot in the stirrup she would rubberneck her head around and bump my bottom with her nose. I thought she was trying to help me up, but truth be told, she thought I was clumsy. I could sense her distaste by the flattened ears.
Once while training in the outside ring I noticed a water puddle left by an earlier rain. When I tried to walk her through it she would jump sideways every time and go around. Why this became important to me, I’ll never know but it became equally as important to her. I decided she could not get away with this disobedience, so I dismounted and led her while I wadded into the puddle. She watched me, as if to say, “You got to be kidding,” and repeated her defensive move by jumping sideways and around again. With horses and kids you have to decide which battles are most important to win and this was not one of those I needed to win. Since horseshow grounds are beautifully groomed, I doubted she would never have to get her feet wet by wadding through mud. She had been a perfect lady until now, I gave in. She was an outstanding copper penny color and did beautifully at horseshows. No mud puddles.
However, puddle phobias were replaced by black air vents in the fairground arenas, six-foot walls. I managed to avoid them by some creative maneuvering and foolishly thought we had the green hunter division won with just the last stake class to go. She took the first seven jumps perfectly and with one left which positioned the last jump facing one of those horse-eating vents. She propped for the jump but instead of jumping she sat down instead of taking off. This propelled me over the jump without her and I too sat down. I turned and vocally questioned her paternity and threatened to sell her to 300-pound cowboy with rowel spurs. She took exception and ran backwards pulling me through the jump, foolishly, with the reins still in my hands. The whole pile of lumber came down on my head as she went bucking and breaking wind toward the out gate. Thank goodness for hard hats. The whole arena stood and clapped at the fiasco as I brushed myself off and gave the queen’s wave while heading for the out gate myself. The gate man handed me the reins and commented that he really liked the daisies on my panties. I reached back and discovered my britches were ripped from a to issard. Oh well!
These days I reminisce, with great pleasure, as I look at the beautiful painting of Holly on the wall opposite of my recliner. Those were wonderful days but now when I have a little trouble getting out of my seat. I look at Holly and say, “Help me up Holly,” and she bumps my bottom with her nose.
Our Beautiful Tradition
Jacqueline M. Ruffino-Platt
Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law Helen. August 30 she would have been 101 years young. Someone I am pleased to have met and become a member of her family.
She made me feel welcomed and loved the very first time John brought me home to meet his family. We shared many stories while John was off playing golf and his dad was tinkering in his garage or basement. We laughed together when we each told our own private stories. Helen was quick, smart and very kind. She was a complete package you may say.
When John and I moved to Arizona the driving distance from here to Colorado was closer and we chose to spend one of the holidays with his parents, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
On Mother’s Day, 2004, Mom and Dad drove out here to our new home in Chandler, Arizona, to visit with us. It was so much fun. No maintenance kind of folks. Never asked for anything. Pleasure to be around all the time.
Before they left to go back to Colorado, Mom handed me a gift for my and John’s upcoming wedding. Handmade linen towels, antique handkerchiefs, with one being blue. Something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue.
In year 2005, John and I decided to visit his folks for Christmas. The morning of December 7, 2005, we called to give Mom and Dad the good news about our visit. They were delighted and she was so happy to spend our Christmas together. The time of our conversation was 11:30 a.m. on December 7. Mom passed away 3:30 p.m. that afternoon.
John and I have a tradition, which is, every birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, we pay tribute to our parents by placing a bouquet of flowers on our dining room table with their photo and a special card. Their cemetery plots are far and we cannot visit often. Therefore, we choose to continue each and every year with flowers, photos and cards to honor our beloved parents. Sometimes I even bake a cake.
Happy Birthday, Mom, we love you and miss you.
Buttons & Bows
Did you ever see a basket of buttons in Grandma’s attic? Of course you did. And you may have wondered why, oh why, are there hundreds of buttons in this basket? The answer is pretty simple: In Grandma’s age, you recycled EVERYTHING.
If a shirt was outgrown or torn and beyond use, it would have the buttons removed for future use in another project. The cloth itself might have been turned into a different garment or, if too far gone, it would become a dust rag. Nothing was thrown out in those days.
In my case, my own mother’s mother died when Mom was only about 10 years old so she had no firsthand knowledge of this little rule. But, being a child of the Great Depression, they learned how to reuse things because said things were simply not available in those days. Subsequently, I was brought up with the knowledge of cooking and cleaning and sewing on my own. And so, in addition to Mom’s basket of buttons, I have my own collection as well. When any shirt was outgrown in our home, I cut off the buttons and used the fabric for something useful. I now have a LOT of buttons and small pieces of fabric for dust rags. But I cannot bring myself to throw the buttons out. You never know when a shirt button will break or fall off the shirt and you usually have a button that will match. There have been times that I have taken all the buttons off of a shirt when only one fell off because I didn’t have a matching button, but I still found six buttons in my cache that did all match and put them on the shirt. Problem solved!
Buttons can be used for their intended purpose and they can be sewn onto a garment for decorative purposes. If you have ever gone into a fabric store and looked at the buttons in current vogue, you will find that there are millions to choose from and that they range in price from a card with six buttons for $3.00 to a single very fancy button that might sell for upwards of $15.00 EACH.
Save buttons; save money and use all your creative ideas to do some very fancy recycling.