Monday, April 30, 2012

My Grandpa

This is a post I've been meaning to do for a while but it has been sitting on the back burner.  Mainly because my memory needed a little bit of jogging.  Anyway, here goes.

I guess one of the places where I got a passion for ships was from my Grandpa on my mom's side.  He died when I was around 10 but I was the only of his grandchildren that really got to know him.  We used to go fishing and numerous other things.  It was cool.  Sadly, I wasn't old enough to appreciate asking him questions about his life before knowing me.  So this has been pieced together from bits and pieces.  I guess like many things in life.

It's not often that I will use other people's pictures on this blog but it's not like I can go back in time to take them.  So I do want to give a thanks to the people that did post these pictures.
 I used to have a picture of him during World War II but I don't know what happened to it.  But my cousin still had some, so I asked him for a picture.  He had a picture but not the one I was thinking of.  He did however have a copy of his Merchant Marine Logbook.  This was like a treasure trove of information for me because it showed the ships that he worked on before World War II.
The ship pictured above is the steamer Aetna.  I don't have too many details on the ship itself as I found the picture here.  He worked on her from 1937 to 1941.  He was a coal passer which I assume is the person that shovels coal from the bunkers into the burner.  It sounds like pretty hard and dirty work.  I would imagine it was pretty hot in the summers as well.
It's kind of ironic because he would have been on the ship at the time the above picture was taken.  It was also taken in front of the cement plant where he would later work.
 The next ship he worked on was the Steamer Marquette which was owned by the Cleveland Cliffs company.  It appears that he only worked on this one in 1941.  He was designated as a fireman on this ship which means that he tended the fire for the boilers.  The above picture came from the website.  There are many other cool pictures of old ships there.
 The above picture is him during World War II.  He is the one on the right.  The sad part about some of this stuff is that all you have left at times is a faded picture.  I think he was at Dutch Harbor when it was attacked as part of the Midway campaign.  I also think he was wounded there.  I'm pretty sure that one of my relatives has his Purple Heart.
 Later in the war, he served on the U.S.S. Manileno.  I found out about this ship because my mom has a letter that was addressed to him from his mom.  It was addressed to the ship.
The ship itself was known as the S.S. Vittoria and Rapallo and was built in Italy in 1922.  At breakout of war, she found herself interned in Columbia.  Shortly after the US entered the war, she was purchased by the US government and renamed the Polonaise.  She was used to transfer fuel along the east coast.
In 1944, she was acquired by the Navy and given the name Manileno and designation IX-141.  She served as a floating oil storage ship in the Pacific until the end of the war.  The above picture was taken from the U.S. Navy historical site.  It is another really good resource for ships.

It's funny, when we think of Navy ships, we tend to think of things like aircraft carriers, battleships, etc.  We never think of the ships that are necessary to support them.  It is for this reason that I like Mr. Roberts.
 After the war, he worked at the cement plant in Essexville.  I'm not quite sure what he did there.  I do remember visiting him there a couple of times though.
 A shot of the plant from the front.
 I've taken a picture of this before but it is the safety award that the plant got.  I like to think that my grandpa had a hand in getting this award.
A closeup of the detail of the award.  I kind of like it.

I think there are some holes in the above story but again, I was piecing it together from the bits and pieces of information that I had.  Like I said above, I never took the time to ask but then again I don't think was really a priority with me until later in life.  But at any rate, I do miss my grandpa.

So I guess when I am sitting out on the Detroit River taking pictures of the ships, I can feel at least one connection to him.  Even though the ships are much different, I think there are still some common elements amongst sailors.


Christopher List said...

Nice post, Ken. I too miss my grandparents.

Gail said...

Ken thanks for sharing about your Grandpa. My Dad Harry Gibson served in the United States Navy Armed Guard on Liberty Ships during WWII as a Gunners Mate 3rd Class. He was from Bridgeport Michigan and raised his family there. I miss my Dad and Mom too. ⚓