Thanksgiving Family Holiday Scandal 2011: Coming of Age

For most all of us, Thanksgiving Day has its own rhythm, a family gathering replete with a sumptuous turkey dinner, football on TV and maybe dozing off stuffed, in an overstuffed chair after desert.

My grandfather always hosted New Year’s Day Lunch. Mother and my aunt took turns preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. Of the four grandsons, stepped down in two-year increments, I was the oldest followed by my brother Ken, and cousins Tony and Mike Furgueson. New Year’s Day lunch featured the first rite of passage to adulthood, a moving up ritual. Originally we four were seated at a card table in Gramp’s parlor. As the years went by, one at a time we were promoted to the dining room table, our first real taste of adulthood.

Rarely in my 85 years do I remember the Thanksgiving Day celebration occurring in a place other than a home setting!

Thanksgiving Day 1956, I was serving aboard the Destroyer USS Abbot (DD- 629) with my brother, Ken, patrolling in the Eastern Mediterranean with another US Destroyer and two British Destroyers. Nasser had blocked the Suez Canal and things were tense in the area. Two days before Thanksgiving we fueled from the aircraft carrier Coral Sea. We took on mail, supplies and fresh movies by high line. We had sailed from Newport, RI, November 6th. The turkeys and the makings of Thanksgiving dinner, the movies and ice cream came aboard compliments of the carrier.

We were on station Thanksgiving Day. Without missing a beat, the ship’s cooks and wardroom stewards put on one of the best turkey dinners I can ever remember, complete with all the vegetables, stuffing, pies and ice cream 300 hungry sailors, chiefs and officers could devour.

I was the luckiest guy aboard. I got to eat my dinner with my brother and several other officers off watch, and had a chance to view most of “Casablanca” before heading to the bridge to relieve the OOD.

Four times at Andover, my parents came up to celebrate Thanksgiving and once several years ago we celebrated at our golf club on Long Island.

The year, 2011, would be different. The older I get, the more I dread occasions that interrupt a comfortable routine. With our son Graham and his family living right next door, I assumed that the special day would be like last year and the year before, four grandchildren buzzing in and out of our house, a fire going and a late afternoon dinner next door with Dorothy and daughter-in-law Paulette sharing the preparations.

Graham announced the week before Thanksgiving that he had made reservations at a farm an hour’s drive north in Connecticut. Why? I thought, but didn’t ask. I didn’t want to be branded old “fuddy-duddy,” a euphemism for “stick in the mud or worse!”

I quietly Googled the Golden Lamb Buttery, Bush Hill Road, Brooklyn, CT. My curiosity got the better of me. I learned that Bob and Virginia “Jimmie” Booth opened the Buttery in 1963. Jimmie was a civil engineer and worked at Pratt and Whitney during WWII. She later became a buyer for Lord and Taylor in NYC and Europe before becoming the Buttery’s chef. Bob, the owner, was a Navy fighter pilot in WWII and owner of Hillandale Handweavers. In 2008 their granddaughter Katie Bogert became the proprietor.

Quoting from the brochure, “In the quiet corner of Connecticut lies the quaint New England town of Brooklyn. High on a hill, a secret hideaway called “The Golden Lamb” is nestled among thousands of acres of pristine fields and stone walls – for those who have a flair for the finest.”

Rarely does similar prose prove to be accurate. In this case, if anything the description proved to be understated. I found myself warming to the prospect of Thanksgiving off site!

We drove about an hour from our home in Essex arriving an hour early for our 4:30pm dinner reservation (2nd sitting). Graham and Paulette and the four grandchildren had gone ahead. As we turned off the main road and headed up the long approach to the large red barn at the top of the hill we passed through acres of fields dotted with cows, sheep and horses grazing.

The barn’s deck commands a scenic view of the pond and acre upon acre of neatly trimmed fields sloping in every direction.

The barn is filled with antiques, memorabilia and family treasures. Cocktails were served as guests arrived and congregated in various seating areas in the spacious barn. A piano player added to the festive atmosphere. Just prior to being seated for dinner the guests were treated to an old-fashioned hayride complete with a female guitarist.

Dinnertime! We were led through a tiny 1950’s kitchen, where our dinner was being prepared, to our table in the largest of three dining rooms. A roaring fire and coveys of attentive waitresses set about serving an incredible dinner with special soups and an array of homegrown vegetable treats to go with a choice of turkey or lamb and a fine selection of wines and deserts that made calorie counters jettison their regimens.

The charming, talented lady guitarist went from table to table playing requests from Kern to present day songwriters.

Just as I recalled earlier, the rite of passage I experienced, when I was very young and was promoted to the grownup’s table, so too did the three grandsons also experience their own rite of passage that night.

Bradley, age ten excused himself to go to the bathroom shortly after finishing his dinner. Everyone else at the table was either talking or downing the last delicious bites of dinner.

There was a lull in the conversation. I asked the guitarist to play, “Till There Was You.” I noticed that Bradley had returned and was whispering something in older brother Graham’s (age 12) ear. They excused themselves and motioned to Duncan age 7 to follow them. We paid little attention, as the guitarist was still entertaining.

Son Graham after an interval excused himself and went to see what the three boys were up to. On his way through the kitchen, Katie the proprietor stopped him and apologized. Before she could stop them, the three boys had slipped into the small men’s room just off the kitchen usually reserved for the kitchen workers. She said that they were still in there, and that they should have been directed to the men’s room in the waiting area.   The kitchen was so busy that no one had time to stop them!

I arrived as Katie was explaining to Graham what had occurred. The boys emerged snickering and giggling. Graham summoned the three. I faded into the background and witnessed as an animated discussion took place with Graham leading in the huddle.

I suddenly remembered my earlier trip to the same bathroom, and the picture directly over the toilet. Of course, I had “hardly” noticed the portrait of the naked lady looking away with her back facing me directly, as I went about my business. She was leaning on her left elbow, half-turned and looking away, allowing an unobstructed view of her perfectly formed, ample left breast tantalizingly suspended, capped by a moist, rosy-red nipple.

I was not privy to what was said in the huddle! Whatever it was happened after the fact. No penalties were assessed. A rite of passage had occurred. The story will be told and told again and again as they grow older. Thanksgiving Day 2011 was a wonderful happening, one none of us will forget! Thank you, Katie!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! George S.K. Rider

P.S. Dorothy purchased a book authored by Katie, The GOLDEN LAMB Buttery, A 50th Anniversary Collection of Memories, History, Photos & Recipes, published after our wonderful Thanksgiving Day 2011.

Katie’s grandmother, Jimmie Booth, was also an artist. Her sketches are evident throughout the restaurant. Katie writes, “One of them she painted, ‘The Nude in the Men’s Room’ has a long list of customers who would like the painting if we ever decide to part with it. (Which will never happen!) The comments of men and boys alike as they exit the bathroom always make us laugh! We suspect that the nude may have unintentionally started conversation about “the birds and the bees” between some of the younger boys and their parents on their ride home. Katie quotes in her book, “One Thanksgiving we had a lovely family, with three young boys, join us for dinner. One of the boys used the bathroom and rushed back to report his amazing finding to his brothers. Suddenly they all needed to use the bathroom!”

The Buttery should be a must stop for anyone living in or passing through the area. On your visit, stay for lunch or dinner, and make sure to ask for Katie and pick up a copy of her book!

P.S.S. And, what Thanksgiving could be complete without an annual reading of my daughter Jenny’s favorite piece of mine… Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot 1944, a holiday full of Scotch, guns and slashed throats, and ultimately turkey salvation. We Riders put the fun in dysfunctional. Read and write on! 🙂

Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot 1944

https://redriderfi.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/thanksgiving-day-turkey-shoot-%E2%80%93-1944/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Lest We Forget: Veterans Day 2017

GSK&KGS-DAD AND HIS BOYS- GO NAVY

Me, Dad and brother Ken… British Navy flanked by U.S.

Veterans Day 2017

My father, a Brit and proud officer in the British Navy, would have turned 100 today. Marking 11/11 every year is a double-dose of memory and melancholy, infused with the great joy and gratitude of having had the honor to be his son and share the experience of serving. Happy Birthday, Dad. Thank you for your service… and thanks to all those who put their lives on the line to protect their country.

I’m reposting two of my pieces from Veterans Days past.

If you see someone who served today, take a moment to shake their hand and thank them. Best, George

Lest We Forget

November 11, 2007 – Veterans Day took on added significance for me after Dad died in 1986. He was born on November 11th, 1899 in Gorton, England. During WWI, Dad’s ship was torpedoed off the Irish coast. The U-boat surfaced and machine-gunned survivors in the water. He was grazed in the scalp and hit in his right knee. Only a handful of the crew survived. During WWII, he worked with British Naval Intelligence and later with the British Ministry of War Transport. He took great pride in being a Brit, and in his adopted country. He instilled that pride in my brother Ken and me.

For years, every Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) after he passed in 1986, at 10:30 AM, I would drive alone to the neatly tailored Memorial Park adjoining the Islip, Long Island, town hall, set on a large corner lot facing Main Street, to observe the ceremony honoring the men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country.

The ceremony is always simple and fast, yet each year the crowd dwindles. The weather alternates between blustery gusts with leaves blowing, to overcast with scudding gray clouds or occasionally rain and temperatures that chills and hints at the winter to come. Memorial statues and plaques with names and wars etched in stone are ever present throughout the park. Each year a speakers rostrum is set up at the back of the park. Members of the VFW and the Islip Town Supervisor deliver brief remarks. A band accompanies the singing of our National Anthem. Hats and caps are doffed. A member of the clergy leads us in prayer. A lone bugler sounds taps. The honor guard fires a rifle- volley. The flag on the Memorial Flag Pole is lowered to half-mast. At exactly 11:11AM a bell chimes at intervals as the flag is slowly raised to its original position.

The service is solemn. Those present include some in uniforms that no longer fit. Old proud veterans, some in wheel chairs, some on crutches, none to proud to shed a tear.

I’d stand each year by myself, on the edge of the sparse crowd alone with my thoughts and memories of Dad, and my brother Ken with whom I served aboard the USS Abbot (DD-629). He died in 1995. It’s a time to reflect and a time to take stock as the years pass by. To me, this has always been a very special occasion, an hour to be especially proud of my family and proud and humble to be an American.

This will be the first year I will not be there. We moved to Essex, Connecticut, last December. No matter where I am this year, I will pause at 11:11 on 11/11 and remember!

George. S.K. Rider

Brother Ken and I, Idkenderun, Turkey

A Time Worth Remembering

At 17, my father, a Brit, joined the Merchant Marine and became a radio officer on a converted mine-sweeper. In November 1917, his ship was torpedoed off the Irish coast. The sub surfaced and machine-gunned the few crew members left alive. He was creased in the scalp by a bullet and bloodied in the right knee. Somehow my father survived.

He and my mother married years later; younger brother Ken and I came along. We moved back from England to the U.S. in 1937. The house they purchased in Brightwaters, Long Island, that we grew up in was plunk in the middle of a generous lot with adequate room on either side, front and back, for a small garden, lawn and trees. To the right as you faced the house, between the house and the edge of the lot, Dad insisted on having a flagpole with a yardarm.

As long ago as I can remember, Ken and I were steeped in the lore and ceremonial pomp of the flag. It became a rite of passage for my younger brother and me to raise the flag at dawn, lower the flag at sunset, and lower it halfway to honor the departed, never letting the flag touch the ground, all under Dad’s watchful eye. Dad’s respect for God, Country, the Navy and the flags was etched in us at an early age.

During WWII, Dad left Otis Elevator to join British Naval Intelligence and in 1940 transferred to the British Ministry of War Transport. He participated in the swap of 50 WWI U.S. destroyers for British territories in the Caribbean. Another story we heard as kids was the shipment of 100 mules to India with their tongues cut out so that they couldn’t be heard traveling through the brush.

On Sundays after church and lunch, Dad always tuned into CBS’s World News Round Up on the den radio. At 2:30pm on December 7, 1941, John Daly broke in with the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Dad was very calm, sorry for the devastation and loss of life, but overjoyed that we would be in it finally – that his beloved England would soon get the help it needed. He immediately left the den and went outside to lower the flags half way, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack from the yardarm.

Dad worried constantly about his parents, two sisters and brother Ken, an officer in the Commandos fighting with the Gurkhas in India. We also heard of cousin Joe Wolfenden, then Lt. who received the Distinguished Service Cross for sinking German Submarine 401. To prove the kill they retrieved body parts and iced them for the trip home. Joe later captained the Cunard liner Coronia.

Dad diagrammed and showed us on a map where epic sea engagements took place; the sinking of HMS Hood; engagements between British and German cruisers and battleships; Scharnhorst and Gneisenau; the sinking of the German battleship Bismark; the cornering and eventual scuttling of another battleship, the Graff Spee, in Montevideo; and the sinking of the super battleship Tirpitz on April 9, 1941.

The Queen Elizabeth’s Captain Ernest Fall, Dad’s friend, visited us during layovers before returning to England with a fresh shipload of GI’s. She sailed without escort. Her speed enabled her to outrun the German subs. His house present was a rasher of Canadian bacon, in scarce supply here.

The war was our constant companion growing up. Pearl Harbor was indelibly imprinted on us all. Later, after the war was over, and we graduated from college, my brother Ken and I would serve together aboard the Destroyer, USS ABBOT (DD- 629), as officers in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Ken from Brown, NROTC, and me from Yale, NROTC.

Mother received a letter from Mamie Eisenhower in 1956. She had written to the First Lady about Ike’s reelection.

Dear Mrs. Rider,

You were truly kind to write such a warm, friendly letter expressing your faith and confidence in the leadership of the President. Your devotion and loyal support mean a great deal, and I can’t tell you how comforting and encouraging it is to hear from the many who constantly keep us in their prayers, asking divine guidance for the President in all acts and decisions.

You certainly must be proud of your two sons on the U.S.S. Abbot for they are patriotically doing their part in serving their country.

With gratitude for your good will and my very best wishes always. Mamie Dowd Eisenhower

The world was a different place back then than it is today. People believed in and had respect for higher office, for the institutions that make our country great, and, above all, for the men and women who fight and put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens. It’s a time, indeed, worth remembering.

George S.K. Rider

Andover & the Military! Me (PA ’51), Shelby Coates & Harry Flynn (both PA ’48)

 

 

 

 

 

Seventy-Two Years Ago and Now

The sweet smells wafting from the kitchen, the turkey cooking, the women of the clan present, stern-faced and frazzled in last minute time-juggling between kitchen duty and getting dressed for the soon arriving family and friends.

It’s no place for man nor beast. I’ve done my duty. Ice in the ice bucket, fire set and ready for the match, shaved and dressed, but the Lions and Packers’ game is still an hour away. Staying underfoot is out of the question. The sun is not yet over the yardarm, and the bar is by the kitchen in direct view of wife Dorothy and daughter Jenny. “Don’t even think about it, George.”

Tossing the football around used to be a way to pass the time. The grandchildren are in Long Island with their parents and other grandparents. And besides, I’d have to throw an underhand lateral; among other things, my shoulder is shot, and running out for a pass is out of the question!

I’m content to reread, “Thanksgiving Day Turkey Shoot – 1944,” a chapter from The Rogue’s Road to Retirement, hunkered down in my office with the door closed, and wait for the 12 o’clock whistle (when adult beverages are finally allowed!) reveling in the memories of happy times gone by. Happy Thanksgiving one and all! Enjoy this reverie of family holidays gone amok. You’ll feel much better about your own clan! 🙂

https://redriderfi.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/thanksgiving-day-turkey-shoot-%E2%80%93-1944/

https://www.amazon.com/Rogues-Road-Retirement-Groove-Sixty-Five/dp/1629147664

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Rocky’s Story

A crowd of more than 1,000 faculty, administrators, elected officials, family and friends gathered under an open-sided tent Sunday, June 5, 2016, on a cloudy day threatening a down-pour. Terence R. Flotte, MD, Dean, School Of Medicine, University of Massachusetts introduced Racquel Wells, Class Speaker, at the school’s Commencement Ceremony.

Racquel began her remarks, “I am a black woman graduating from the University of Massachusetts Medical School! Today is a Good Day! We have made it!” There was a pause as her opening remarks resonated, and she was greeted by thunderous applause as the crowd stood, led by Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker. My heart almost burst with pride.

The ceremony marked the end of the beginning of the first chapter in Racquel’s long road to becoming a doctor.

As I sat with my daughter Jenny in the midst of Racquel’s extended family, my thoughts wandered back almost 18 years to the time I first met Racquel. She was a rising 8th grader recommended to me as a candidate for Phillips Academy Summer Session. The year before I had contacted the director of admissions at the Summer Session and the Superintendent of School’s in my hometown of Bay Shore, Long Island, with the idea of sending two kids from Bay Shore to attend this outstanding five-week program.

Bay Shore was in the midst of a robust revival of its downtown. The one element that was lagging was a concentration on opportunities for our youngsters. Andover already had a history of working with communities that had a similar history.

The program got off to a fast start. The first two to attend, in 1998, returned with great results. Aisha Muharra became class valedictorian at Bay Shore and was accepted at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, which she attended, graduating with high honors. She is now a top Hollywood screenwriter. Martin Fojas graduated from Cornell. Eventually a total of 32 students attended Andover’s program, which provided $155,000 plus in aid and scholarships.

My interview in1999 with Racquel was awkward. The conversation was one-way, a series of one-word answers. Twenty minutes into the interview, I asked her if she had any questions. A pause. “Mr. Rider, is it ok if I bring my hair dryer?” She aced her Andover Summer session and later entered Boston College as a major in Chemistry. This once shy young lady was now known as “Rocky.”

Working in a lab was not appealing. She reexamined herself and decided what she really wanted in life. Medicine combined her love of science and interaction with people.

Her first attempt at applying to medical school was unsuccessful. In preparation for reapplying, Rocky earned a Masters of Arts in Medical Sciences from Boston University School of Medicine, at the same time volunteering in Refugee Clinic Coordination at Boston Medical Center. She spent time at Genzyme, helping manage clinical trials. She also worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as a Research Coordinator.

When she reapplied to U Mass Medical, she was ready and – at long last – she was accepted. She began in 2012.

As Racquel delivered her heartfelt words at the graduation ceremony, she looked out and said, I’d like to thank one person. My mommy. Noreen raised Racquel and her sister Brittany alone, sometimes working three jobs. When Noreen and Brittany returned to Bay Shore after settling Racquel at Boston College her freshman year, she discovered that her landlord had cancelled their lease. Undaunted, Noreen and Brittany drove to Spartanburg, S. C. to stay with a close friend until they resettled. They never sought help. Brittany also attended Andover Summer Session and sang Gospel selections to over 1,000 students, faculty and guests. Andover made such an impression on the family that a younger cousin in Connecticut applied and attended on his own, with great results.

The young students are not the only ones who have benefited from the Andover Summer Session Program. For me, the opportunity to work with and get to know these wonderfully motivated youngsters and follow their progress has been and continues to be a dividend that I could never have imagined. Every Father’s Day the phone rings and one or more of them greet me, “Hi Mr. R, I was thinking about you!”

In May of 2009, I was honored by the Greater Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce at a dinner where I received the Bay Shore, Brightwaters Distinguished Citizen’s Award. Summer Session graduates: Rocky, Jemel Wilson, and Kelila Venson spoke. In 2011, I was one of seven Andover graduates to receive the Distinguished Service Award. Rocky joined us for the ceremony.

Racquel’s story stressed that the best part of the difficult medical school journey is that along the way, “We learned to embrace the mission of taking care of people. We started to think about the kind of physician we wanted to be. And we learned the significance of taking care of ourselves”.

Throughout her talk, she spoke of the valued mentors who guided and encouraged her at every turn.

Racquel began her residence in Internal Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio right after graduation. She wants not only to practice medicine, but to change medicine.

She closed her remarks, “Ladies and Gentleman of the class of 2016, My Crew. Take a picture with you heart. And congratulations, because Today is A Good Day!”

The will and magnificent talent were always there. The way was guided by a loving mother, sister and caring hands. I’m so proud of her and so proud to be a part of her triumphant story. Go, Rocky, go!

George S.K. Rider

 

St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy: Blizzard Four Dead 3/16/56

whale ship best

Whaleboat similar to the one used by the men of the USS Preston

 

I spent two of the best years of my life as a Navy Officer, aboard Fletcher Class Destroyers, an experience that nothing has matched in my 83 years.

Our rich military tradition has produced heroes of legendary proportion throughout our history. Many brave men and women perish in peacetime and training, their stories going almost unnoticed.

Through my work with Andover in the Military (affiliated with my alma mater Phillips Academy, Andover), I’ve had the honor of researching and writing many faculty and alumni who have served. Two Andover classmates perished in peacetime military flights. One classmate died in air combat over Korea, as well as my brother Ken’s classmate (one year behind me) who was our hockey teammate and my football teammate. He perished in France landing his jet fighter, after completing a long transatlantic flight during the Berlin Air Lift.

“The St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy” tells the story of the accident that occurred 3/16/1956 in Newport, R.I., harbor, witnessed by my good friend and fellow Andover grad Harry Flynn ‘48. Three sailors from the USS Preston (DD-795) perished trying to rescue a sailor from the USS Irwin (DD-794) who slipped and fell overboard in a blizzard. The events surrounding the initial accident and the heroism of the men who came to the rescue is a story that needs retelling.

No matter what you’re doing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, pause for a moment, think about all of our brave men and women who serve and have served and hoist a glass to those absent friends! God Bless this great country!

 ***

Some stories, buried in time, cry out to be told. “The St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy 1956” is one of them. Four brave sailors froze to death that night in a blinding blizzard.

In late October 2007, daughter Jenny and I were attending an Andover Alumni Council meeting. After dinner she arrived at my table with a young male friend in tow.

“Dad, meet Harry Flynn. I think you were in the Navy with his dad.”

Indeed I was. We were roommates aboard the USS Preston (DD 795) in 1955. I had not spoken with Harry Sr. in 52 years. The next morning, between meetings, Harry called his dad and handed me the phone. The years vanished as we caught up. What a warm feeling watching our kids talking as we spoke.

As a result of that chance encounter, we began to swap stories. One of his particularly caught my attention; “Safe Harbor – Not,” which described the harrowing events of St. Patrick’s Eve 1956 in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island.

Months earlier, another chance encounter at the 19th Hole of our golf club on Long Island, conversation turned to that same ill-fated day. Doctor Petit, a neighbor, had also been home ported in Newport. Doc, then a Medical Corpsman aboard the Destroyer Tender, Cascade (AD 16), added a gripping eyewitness account of the same terrifying events.

Their stories triggered my own memories. I couldn’t get them out of my head; how two old friends from different parts of my life had both been there, at the scene of the tragedy; how I had almost been there with them; why all three of us had been spared, while our fellow shipmates hadn’t been nearly as lucky. I spent days researching what happened, tracking down long forgotten newspaper articles from the Newport library and piecing together events.

* * *

Preston 4

Harry had been attached to the Commodore’s staff headquartered on the USS Picking (DD- 685), temporarily based in Newport in the early spring of 1956. That March night, Harry had the staff watch. “A lot of people had already left the ship on liberty,” he recalled. “We were nested together, four Fletcher-class destroyers, 21 hundred tons of seagoing greyhounds. I was waiting for my fiancée and her cousin to visit for supper, by launch, return and drive back to Boston.

“We had arrived from the Charleston Navy Shipyard in Boston after our overhaul. A ship just out of the yard is always in a state of flux. New people and old hands are getting familiar with or reviewing their duties. This time everything worked against us.” Adding to the problem, a number of senior officers were not aboard the ships at that time, leaving their junior counterparts in charge.

Harry said that the ship’s crew could tell a storm was coming, but storms in Newport in February weren’t exactly headline news. He describes his first encounter, “As we rounded Nantucket Light on the trip from Boston, the hatch above my bunk sprang open and water from the bow flooded the sleeping area. I leapt up and headed topside.”

On St. Patrick’s Eve, the storm came up quickly and violently. The winds howled, and snow turned into blizzard with 70 mile an hour winds overnight.

In Harry’s words: “Storms aren’t unusual, but never fun. We sent the liberty launch in at four o’clock (1600 hours). The wind had come up and the trip was very rough. When the boat crew returned for another trip, the 50-foot liberty launch landed between the sterns of the Preston and the Irwin. I went to the Commodore, my boss, and suggested that he decide when to cease boating. It was getting very rough out there. He said to stop them after the next boat returns. I went to the stern of the Irwin where the launch was tying up.”

Meanwhile, crewman Kenneth R. Kane, a fireman rate from New York City, was part of the crew manning the 50-foot motor launch that was being moved to a more sheltered position behind the nest of four destroyers tied together and moored to a buoy (Mike).

“A gust of wind ripped through the air, tossing the launch so high on the waves that its keel could be seen from the destroyer deck.

“As the launch neared the USS Preston, two of the boat crew jumped across to board the destroyer. When Kane tried to follow, he fell into the freezing water. The men aboard the ship yelled to throw him a line, but a rope could not be found. Suddenly, the launch heaved high on another huge wave and crashed down on Kane likely breaking his back. Crewmen from the Preston scrambled down and grabbed Kane by his life jacket, but he was torn from their grasp when a strap broke. He slipped through the jacket and disappeared into the churning water, leaving the sailors holding the empty jacket. The liberty launch drifted away.

Officers aboard the Preston, tied outboard in the 4 Destroyer nest, quickly ordered out a whaleboat to aid in the rescue, with five brave men aboard. Two of them, Lt., jg, Juergens and Reese B. Kingsmore, boarded the 50-foot motor launch, restarted its engine and returned to the Preston.

The others: Moore, Britton and Hutchinson stayed in the whaleboat and kept up a vain search for the missing Kane. Moore served as coxswain, although that was not his normal duty. Before he left the Preston, he told shipmates he was going along “to make sure everything went right.”

As Harry recalled: “The men set out into the now swirling snow. The wind had come up with a wild ferocity and the heavy snowfall limited vision to a few feet from the nest. I reported back to the Commodore who wanted me to stay on the situation and report to him. There wasn’t much to report for some time. I stayed in the Ward Room, with an Ensign I didn’t know too well and his girlfriend aboard for a visit. The storm was wicked that night and we were constantly worrying about the nest breaking up or drifting.”

Tragically, Harry was right to worry. My friend and bar mate from Long Island, Doc Petit, also in the harbor that night, witnessed the second, somber part of the story: “As dawn broke on St. Patrick’s Day, the three-man crew of the Cascade’s Gig (another whaleboat) and I got underway and started to search for the boat from the Preston.” Doc and his mates traveled down the bay, looking for the brave men who had willingly put their lives on the line for another.

One of Doc’s crew finally spotted the whaleboat, washed up on the shore of the Douglas Estate, on Ocean Drive, near the mouth of the harbor. As they approached, they found the bodies of Moore, Britton and Hutchinson, “their cherry red faces frozen, grotesquely contorted in death.” The three valiant sailors had died from exposure while searching for Kane. Their 26-footer was washed ashore, miles downstream. The Newport Daily News later reported it was the worst storm since possibly 1938.

* * *

“George! George! Wake up. Deanie Gilmore just called to see if you were all right.” She had heard on the radio that there had been a terrible accident aboard the Preston. Mother was standing next to my bed.

I woke up from a sound sleep at my parents’ house in Brightwaters Long Island. I was home on a 72-hour pass from my new ship, the USS Abbot (DD 629), having recently transferred from the USS Preston. Both ships had been undergoing updates and repairs at the Charleston Navy Ship Yard in Boston. The Preston and the three other ships in her Division were scheduled to leave for the West coast to join the 7th Fleet for assignment in the Pacific. The Abbot was part of the 6th Fleet and would remain in the Atlantic with the 3 remaining destroyers in our division, operating out of Newport, RI.

I knew instinctively that some of the men in my old division had to be involved. I spent most of the morning trying to contact the base for more information. The weather was God-awful. The Abbot was due to get underway from Boston early Monday. I couldn’t take the chance of getting stuck in Newport and decided against my first impulse to go there immediately. I sent a telegram to the Captain of the Preston offering my prayers and any help I could be, still not knowing the details of the tragedy.

As the day progressed, the story unfolded. Sketchy details began to appear on the radio and TV. I finally got through to the office of the Base Commander. The Duty Officer confirmed the loss of four Sailors, and the fact that, indeed, three of the four had perished in the Preston’s whaleboat, trying to rescue the Sailor from the Irwin.

Sometime in the early afternoon, the names of the Sailors were released. I tuned in to the news on the radio. My heart sank as the commentator read the names: Boatswain’s Mate 2, C. Robert C. Moore of Marked Tree, Ark, Seaman Donald Britton of Bayville, NJ, and Seaman Gary C. Hutchinson of Holland, Ohio. I had been their Division Officer.

I felt helpless. My thoughts turned to the three men aboard the whaleboat. I knew R.C. Moore the best. He was a rangy, easygoing southerner, with a great sense of humor, who took his responsibilities to heart. He was popular with officers and crew alike. R.C. had taken me under his wing when I reported aboard, as a young inexperienced Ensign.

I thought of Britton and Hutchison – two squared away seamen whose promise was yet to be fulfilled. The Deck Force is the training ground from which other activities aboard, staff their personnel. They were both headed for greater responsibilities.

The whaleboat in which the men perished had been my responsibility while I was aboard. During ASW exercises, we used that same boat to retrieve spent torpedoes and return them to the subs. I had been the Boat Officer.

It had been decades since I had thought of them, and their courage. Time has not diminished the memory of their heroics. I can’t help but think it’s no coincidence that I ran into Harry and Doc, and pieced together again the story of that night. For me, it’s a stark reminder of the need to honor and remember the sacrifice of those who give their lives for another, and a reminder of how important it is to make people aware of those four brave men.

As each of us readies for the St. Patty’s day celebration, take a moment to reflect on these brave men and all the other men and women who have served to make this great holiday possible. Raise a glass to absent friends.

Some stories, buried in history, cry out to be told. “The St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy 1956” is one of them.

George S.K. Rider

 

Preston 1

 

DESTROYER

Author Unknown

 

Over the green hills the bay lies, and after the harbor the sea,

And a grim, gray gaunt Destroyer is steaming there swiftly and free.

With a roll that strains her stanchions and a pitch that peels her paint

With a roaring red heat in her bowels that would make the devil faint

She backs on the crest of the billows, she washes her side in the trough

She ships twenty tons of ocean and then like a dog shakes it off

Her seamen cling tight to the lifelines, her black gang is gasping for air

From mess cook to skipper they curse her, but no outsider would dare

The smoke billows down on her taffrail, the white smoke unrolls in her wake

The hissing steam throbs in her boilers, but she has a speed run to make

She lurches and trembles and staggers, alive from antenna to keel

She reeks of burned oil and hot bearings and rings with the pulsing of steel

Wild winds lay symphonies topside, below crash the drums of the sea

And far to the west of the sunset, green isles call to her and to me

She is brine-caked and crowded, they call her a salty old can

But those aboard grin when they curse her and each one aboard is a man.

 

 

Stumped? Stymied? What to buy Grandma and Grandpa for the Holidays? Read On..!!!

The annual dilemma! What to buy Grandpa, Grandma, your nutty uncle and the other “seasoned” (aka old bag) loved ones in your life for Christmas? They’re usually the last ones you shop for and the toughest. I know, because I’ve been a proud, AARP-carrying card member for several decades. What gift can you get for the geriatrics in your life that they’ll actually want and use, and doesn’t look like you just grabbed it on your way to the check-out line at CVS? (Hint: Boxes of easy-to-chew, assorted cream chocolates is a dead give-away.)

On behalf of my fellow senior citizens, I’m here to tell families and friends alike that we know you dread shopping for us. Guess what? We get it – and, as much as we love you, we’re not so thrilled with the whole dog and pony show either. After all, how many desk calendars of scenic America, crocheted remote control holders and Sudoku books does one need? Here’s an idea! Take that money and buy little Suzy or Sammy an iPhone upgrade, whatever that is, instead.

Here’s what us old geezers really want: Your time! Clear the piles of old papers in our den, move the cranky cat aside, sit down to have a chat! Leave your various electronic gizmos at the door.

We want to lean back and relax and reminisce about holidays past. In my case: the Christmas my father and uncle dipped a bit too deep into the Christmas punch, and serenaded the clan with a very off-key rendition of “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” while clutching their dental bridges in one hand and bottles of rum in the other and soft shoeing across the living room. Or the time my young daughter pitched such a fit when Santa brought her big brother a blazing red jacket with the name of his “squirt” ice hockey team emblazoned on it. I had to beg the local rink owner to open up his pro shop on Christmas day to buy her one. Or the December night when I dressed up like Santa to surprise my grandchildren only to have the door slammed in my face by my six-year-old-going-on-forty grandson screaming: “You’re not Santa. Santa doesn’t wear topsiders.”(Smart kid!) Or the New Year’s Eve after my father died – how I could swear I heard the sounds of Lester Lanin, his favorite band, playing when I walked past the little apartment attached to our house where he lived in his last years.

We want to share these stories with you – our beloved kids, grandkids, extended family and old friends – because we want to remember them and, just for a few moments, be transported back to those days, when long gone loved ones were still with us, when our children were small and still under our roof, and Christmas morning was a cacophony of joyous cries and the occasional sibling punching match.

Just as important, we want you to remember these stories and tell them again and again in the years and decades ahead, so we can be with you, and laugh with you, and celebrate with you – if not in person, then through a life’s worth – our life’s worth – of memories.

At 83, sometimes I can’t remember what it is that I forgot or where it is that I was going when I got lost. I have to keep written count of the daily pills and eye-drops I take, and sometimes I can’t remember what I just had for lunch, but the details of holidays come tumbling back in sharp focus when I hear the first notes of “Jingle Bells.”

What was I prattling on about? Oh, yeah, holiday gifting. Back to the task at hand! Go ahead, shop till you drop – but not for me! I don’t deny that I need a new sweater. I have a bunch already, and I only wear the two that I like best over and over until my wife protests and hides them. I have plenty of hats. The red, multi-colored tam-o’-shanter that my father gave me is my winter cover. I own an array of baseball caps to don in warmer weather. I have all the mugs, pens, pencil holders that I can ever use. The antlers on the desk-sized wooden moose eyeglass holder that I got three years ago have fallen off and broken – just as well because the moment I take my glasses off my nose I forget where I put them anyway. Don’t spend your money on electronic gadgets that I’ll never figure out how to use, or the red reindeer socks with a light-up tie to match (I’m a geezer  not a geek!) What Grandpa and Grandma and Great Aunt Sally want is your company.

However, if you absolutely insist on buying me something – a magnum of Scotch, single malt would be nice. Don’t tell Grandma! (You can also buy my book, by the way… no pressure:)

George S. K. Rider is the author of The Rogue’s Road to Retirement: How I Got My Groove Back After 65 and How You Can Too – a humorous look at how to stay young by staying in touch with your inner bad boy or girl, and how to preserve your stories for future generations. He sold and published his first book at age 82. You can buy The Rogue’s Road at R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT, and online at:

http://www.amazon.com/Rogues-Road-Retirement-Groove-Sixty-Five/dp/1629147664/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-rogues-road-to-retirement-george-s-k-rider/1120667858

http://www.walmart.com/ip/39964311

Dad Tam

 

Health Care and How to Fix It (According to The Rogue!)

Do not let your eyes gloss over, damn it!! It’s a universal topic that gets jawboned ad nausea and sculpted, all to often, to fit a political objective.

On Tuesday evening, May 12th, Dorothy and I returned to R. J. Julia for a book event and discussion with Jonathan Bush (nephew of George Herbert Walker), author of “Where Does It Hurt?” Jonathan’s dad and I have been friends for 62 plus years. Quoting from the book jacket, “A Bold New Remedy For The Sprawling And Wasteful Health Care Industry,” the tome is an entrepreneur’s guide to fixing health care.

“Where Does It Hurt,” was number six on The New York Times Best Seller List 6/1/2014.

One of the blurbs, authored by Jeffrey Flier, MD, dean of Harvard Medical School, highlights the dilemma that confronts all of us!

Flier: “Health care has successfully resisted organizational innovation to the detriment of our health and our economy. In ‘Where Does It Hurt?’ Jonathan gives exciting accounts of current innovation, and irreverently imagines an attainable future in which a vibrant medical marketplace is driven by health entrepreneurs, of which he himself is a prime example. Patients, physicians, and policy wonks alike would be well served to take the provocative and illuminating tour.”

Jonathan is CEO and cofounder of Athenahealth, one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the country. He has worked in health care for two decades.

Aside from Jonathan’s remarks and the wonderful excerpts he read from his book, the health care discussion following his presentation proved to be enlightening and provocative with a great many in attendance joining in.

One memory that this 83-year-old will reflect upon fondly occurred as we took our seats. I’ve been distressed lately by the morass and quagmire that has overtaken this once proud country and pitted too many citizens against each other with little or no leadership from places and people vested with that responsibility. As we sat down, a broad shouldered, big, handsome curl-headed young man took his seat next to me and introduced himself. It was Ted Kennedy Jr. there to listen to his friend Jonathan and participate in the discussion that ensued. For me, seeing these two vibrant, accomplished, energetic young men – from dynasties at opposite ends of the political spectrum – engage in such productive dialogue gives me hope that their generation can help us stop the drift and avoid running aground, forever beached at ebb tide.

Returning to R.J. Julia five months after the launch of my book, “The Rogue’s Road To Retirement” in January was an added dividend to a remarkable evening. In the interim I’ve been busy, appearing on WTNH’s Connecticut Style show and speaking at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Essex, CT; Evergreen Woods, a retirement community in North Branford; the Enfield Senior Center; book signing events at Barnes and Noble in Fairfield and R.J. Julia in Madison; and signing books at a jam-packed street fair in my home town of Bay Shore, Long Island. This summer, I’ll be doing five events, leading off with a reading at Essex Meadows, a retirement community in Essex, CT. Daughter Jenny, my agent Anna Termine and my much better half Dorothy continue to be my chief cheerleaders and pit crew, with a big assist from our Staples store in Old Saybrook.

Writing has taken me in directions that I would never have imagined. I still believe that the best is yet to come. Stay well! Be sure to visit us – and the Griswold Inn Store in Essex (they’ve been very supportive of the book) – if you’re in Essex or on Fire Island. Keep writing!

George

Fun seeing old friends at the Fair in Bay Shore!

Rogue fair June 2015