Note: T. (Spike) Zywicki died in 2003
A SPIKE OF LIFE
Friends, acquaintances and movement people have urged me
to write my life story.
Lost to my family at the age of 14 months because of a
hospital clerk's mistake, I was raised in orphanages in New York.
Jungles, of up to 1000 kids, formed me. No visitors, and always
hungry, I had to eat by hook or crook. The nuns prayed for my
Every job I got during the depression called for more
schooling so my education became a patchwork of advanced studies.
My sister found me when I was 18, already on my own.
When jobs disappeared, I joined the hordes on the road,
hitching rides on trains, trucks or whatever moved.
I harvested maple syrup in New York, sorted rags in New
Orleans, learned from the hoboes, drifters and the out-of-work
I was a CIO worker before it joined the AFL: the time of
the Dies Committee investigations.
World War II found me in the Navy Department in
Washington, where in my sparse spare time, I became part of the
early outdoor movement, blazing hiking trails and originating
canoe slalom. There I learned from politicians, professors, and
After 1O years I rejected the security of a government
job to see what makes this country tick.
Visited Trappist monasteries, tried to stay. But
Ten months and 16,000 miles later, I had the answer.
I spent five years in a Catholic Worker house near the
U.S. Capitol. Worked as a grip in Hollywood, then to Mexico as a
Papal Volunteer among the rich, the poor, and the disadvantaged,
who were my teachers.
Ten years in Mexico, watching, teaching, and fighting the
exploitation of the Mexicans by transnational corporations, many
of them American, convinced me that my job was to come back and
let the people of my country know what we were doing to the
My work now follows those lines.
I leaflet in the Washington area, attend Congressional
hearings, send out an occasional newsletter, participate in the
Human Rights movement.
This book is the history of a first generation North
American, born out of the great immigration of the 20th century.
It's a book that will appeal to all ages: the idealistic young,
those who remember, those who know and those who want to know.
I would be willing to travel to promote the book.
Sample chapters are available.
Note: Spike died in 2003.
Hyattsville MD 20782-2126
to Mr. T. Zywicki: 1809 Monroe Street NW Washington, D.C. 20010 Dear Mr. Zywickie: I received your letter of request for information dated 10-25-79. According to our records, Thomas Gewiski was admitted to St. John's Home on 8-8-18. Home address at time of this admission was 266 Chester Street, Brooklyn. Birthplace for Thomas also Brooklyn. Father, Tony, was deceased at time of admission and mother Frances Lucharia, were both born in Russia. One sister Annie, lived at home with mother. Our records show that you were baptized at St. John's Home on 12-18-18. You also made your First Holy Communion and Confirmation at St. John's Home, Confirmation name being Anthony. The names Thaddeus Zyicki or Samuel Ward do not appear anywhere in the case record. On June 4, 1921, you were discharged to Port Jefferson, L.I. Could this have been the location for St. Charles Hospital? Transfer back to St. John's from Port Jefferson took place on 10-20-23. On 10-12-28, Thomas Gewiski was discharged to St. Vincent's Home, 66 Boerum Place, Brooklyn. This is all the information our records contain. I would suggest that you try writing to St. Vincent's Home if you have not already done so. Perhaps they have more information on file. I hope this will be helpful to you in some way. Very truly yours, s/ Marie Bacalles Record Clerk ====================================================== I tried to get information from St. Charles; there was no record of me; nor was there in Angel Guardian Home where I thought I'd been as a baby. Then, too, what hospital? Was it Kings County Hospital of Brooklyn? New York Foundling Hospital? My sister thinks she remembers a foster home after the infantile paralysis hospital stay. But if that is so, did Brooklyn Hospital lose me? Catholic Guardian Society of Brooklyn records show that I was admitted to St. John's Home, a part of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society; that I had a sister and a brother - possibly my half brother Stanley, discovered when my sister found me; that I was entered from 266 Chester St., Brooklyn. But according to Ann, she and my mother were living in Philadelphia at that time. Could I have been placed from a foster home? It must have been during World War One that I remember being on a train and watching a military train go by, Soldiers on the open platform smiled and waved as they passed, possibly on their way to Camp Yaphank out on Long Island. So: No records, but a potpourri of memories of institutional care: Names of Angel Guardian Home, Syosset, L.I., Farmingdale, Port Jefferson and (my sister says) New York Foundling. I do remember being in St. Charles Hospital in critical condition during the influenza epidemic of the first World War. Sister Alfred told me years later that the sisters thought I was going to die. She reminded me how I tore the coif from her head as she carried me up some stairs and how strong I was for my size. St. Charles seems to have no record of me. But I clearly remember the place: The operations on my foot; the smell of ether; losing consciousness to the 12 Noon donging of the Angelus, the worldwide Catholic signal for prayer and, it seemed, the usual time for operations at St. Charles. Then the sick awakening with my mouth next to a small curved basin for my nauseated upchuck; on my right foot a plaster cast. When it was removed my foot was pegged at the ankle, a rigid substitute for the dragging foot which previously had had to be iron-braced. Now I was able to walk without dragging my right foot, albeit on my toes. St. Charles Hospital for the lame the halt and the blind, with a separate section for the mentally defective, became my prison in my seventh year. It wasn't all bad. The Daughters of Wisdom nuns who ran the place had a tandem-horse coach to make the trip to the railroad station at Port Jefferson, where the steam locomotive, with indrawn breaths, would ease out with a gathering succession of sneezes. Each Christmas, The Cheese Club, a group from the Brooklyn Knights of Columbus, came out on a special train. How we waited for the information that the train had arrived, and strained our ears for the cadenced marching sounds Santa Claus led the way the mile from the Long Island Railroad station. With him was the St. John's Orphanage Home band, the drummer beating out his time and the wind instruments choking as the saliva froze in the cold air. I'd be waiting at the turn of Belle Tierre Road as they rounded onto the Hospital entrance. The brass band, with children our own ages, brought loud applause. We settled in the recreation room where each child received his or her Christmas booty. I confess I did great business that night, separating money or watches or whatever of value from my companions. We put on the Hiawatha story for the Bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese and the Knights. I was such a small child that I was given the part of the deer, with hand-held wooden - sticks for front feet. I came stalking out on cue to be hunted with bow and arrow and finally carried off in triumph by Hiawatha, who made the "kill". It went over great and I was presented to the Bishop. Blind Joe Donahue was one of a group of three of U8 who stuck together at St. Charles. We prayed the Rosary and spoke of holy things. We made our childish promise in the heat of faith to come together again in future years to renew our friendship. Joe was deeply spiritual, but I was torn between the extremes of good and deviltry. He had an influence on me, especially in devotion to Mary. I still fall back on her. The discipline of the Sisters was the way they showed their love of God. I was a renegade and the rest of the children were warned about my evilness. I headed the "bad guys": stole food and tore the coif from the head of Sr. Alfred, the electrician and disciplinarian. I earned the maximum discipline: I was placed in a deep bath tub and a strong water spray forced onto my face so that I couldn't breathe. This is now a form of torture in some terrorist governments. My experience was about 1919. Finally, I could be managed no longer and was transferred to St. John's Home for Boys where there were special prefects for the one thousand inmates. It was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. St. John's - Jack's as it was known to those inside and those who had left, had its own camaradie and method of "live and let live". New guys were first placed in quarantine; walls within walls. The block-square brick-walled plant enclosed several operational units or which the quarantine section was one. It was separated from the "New Yard" which was the walled playground for 500 of the "old guys" while 500 "young guys" played in the old yard. The old guys and new guys were separated by a low wood fence. Boys out of quarantine on the other side could get over quite easily. It didn't make much sense to lose a precious ball just because someone on the other side might have some contagious disease, so there was a lot of fence-hopping. One day a sharp-faced Italian, John Pirano, climbed over to to see what I was about. I was a curiosity with a high cork shoe with built-up sole to give a lift and make up for the spinal curvature, the short right leg from polio and the pegged ankle which had me walking on my toes. It didn't take long for me to acquire the nickname of Corky. I was small, reticent, a new guy, lame and often the butt of derision after I passed out of quarantine to the "other side". Pirano and his buddy Nick Haytko, better known as Meatsy because of his roly-poly body and round face, became my protectores "Gimpy" and "Corky" became my calling names. When there was too much derision I fought, which put me on an especially friendly basis with Pirano and Meatsy. About this time I was tagged with another nickname: Jeddy, because during the two-week vacation at the Summer Home at Coney Island, I kept diving off the jetties. I loved the water. One summer I had to be pulled out of the surf by a Jewish lifeguard. Jews were kikes to us Catholic kids but we called him a good Jew. I was always hungry. Since I didn't have visitors on Visiting Sunday I was an expert in getting my hands and teeth on the "chuck" (food) brought by loving relatives and friends to other kids. I never had their problem. My name was never called. Each Sunday as the other children were called to see their relatives and friends, I hurt. Where were my relatives? Did I have any? The vagaries of religious faith were banked into my being in a hazy flux to supply all my needs. I proceeded to pray to see my relatives: at least one. It was more the desire to satisfy curiosity than to find the type of relationship I later found was part of "family" of blood line, of integrated body and spirit. Meatsy, John Pirano and I teamed up. As I gradually established my own right to be let alone I started thinking up how to get some of the chuck that came on Sunday. A broken-off spoon with the small bump at the spot broken from the ladle became a key. The bakery down in the bowels of the cellar could be reached by crawling through the steam tunnel from one building to another, a distance of perhaps 200 feet. We got many a burn in the journeys through to that bakery. There were some bloody fights in this jungle of kids. Meatsy had a terrific one with Potato Head with blood flowing freely. I let everybody know I was for Meatsy. Charley Pender was one of the toughest kids in the home. During fights our cries of "Kill him, kill him" would bring the male prefect on the run. We didn't care who was being "killed" as long as it wasn't us. The guilty might be sent to face a wall. Perhaps only for a day, perhaps for months during recreation time. Sometimes we'd have the back of our knuckles hit with a leaded stick. Some of mine are still knurled. To cry was to be a sissy: We developed a high degree of stoicism. Boys in the home wore short pants - knicker-type trousers to be a member of the peer group, one had to wear his trousers below the knees like the baseball players still do. "Sissies" wore theirs above the knees. Each table in the dining room seated eight and "ground rules" were quickly established after promotion, when most boys moved up a grade. Some tables had a modicum of order in passing the food, but if the table was agreed upon as a "grabbing table", then as soon as Grace was said, that table was cleared of food in a mad scramble, leaving the unlucky hungry to wait for the next meal and another chance. Some guys had it rough. A flashlight was a sign of sophistication, but the surest sign of superiority was being thrashed when mischief was discovered. After one raid we made on the bakery, we hid the pies under a folded mattress in the dormitory ready for an evening "kill" (a night-time feast) after lights out. Sister Saint Bernard, an agile wiry type, discovered them. Without any questioning she had me up for discipline. The stick and the ever handy whip were applied generously. I used to wet the bed. Those of us who thus indulged were placed in a special dormitory with the agile Sr. Bernard. "Berny" had me sleep right outside her cell, a control center with a peep window onto the dorm. The slightest noise in the quiet night roused her and she was out the door and flailing the whip at my bed whether I was in it or not; she did her duty. If I wasn't in it she was certain of my participation and I got the whip later. Berny was a baseball fan. From her fourth floor dormer window, she looked out on the Sunday ball games played by a semi- pro team which included former "boys" from the home. The adjacent block was a picket-fenced athletic field, divided into two parts for old guys and young guys. A grandstand flanked the old guys' baseball diamond where the semi-pro team played on Sundays. To one who received little, deprivation was the ultimate punishment. Physical pain was passed off with stoic stolidness - perhaps part of my Polish heritage. About a half dozen days a year, benefactors arranged for the children to participate in outings. We got to go to some of the old Brooklyn Dodgers' games at Ebbits Field. Ball players from that team visited us at Sack's. The Long Island Automobile Club, a group of people who owned automobiles, gave U5 a great outing each year. We were all agog in the early morning of Auto Day. Special Sunday clothes were given and we were lined up well in advance of the arrivals. The first years, we rode the Club members' cars, which gave us and them a closer relationship. In later years, we went by bus. As we rode down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island with police motorcycle sirens screaming and frightened horses rearing, we wound up an excited, shouting crowd. We were given tags to get us onto the rides at Luna Park. Chute-the-chutes, slides, food, the merry-go-round next to Feltman's restaurant were all part of the outing. "Steeplechase, The Funny Place - Go to It" was the advertisement of Steeplechase Park and George C. Tilyou was the owner. The wooden horse-race ride around the Park was its claim to fame. It completely circled the immense park and you could see all the excitement and other rides as you circled. The horses moved on tracks, the riders urging them on, just like a real race. After a few years we learned that the inside horse usually came in first. You staggered through a big rolling barrel, got shook up on a shaky bridge, centrifugal force flung you against the side of the Soup-bowl, air-holes in the floor blew skirts over women's' heads. This was a Coney Island Fun House. Some of the boys got money from their patrons, some found it at the topsy turvy rides where people rolled around losing pocket contents some stole it. Some who'd just gotten in, might take off and stay away. But generally most of us were just too happy eating and riding and shouting with excitement to do anything but enjoy . Getting back to our proper rides home was a problem. Sometimes some of the guys would "skip" - run away. It seldom took long before they were back. Where and how could a kid go, with no memory of the "outside"? That night became a working night for those of us adept at snitching money wrapped in a handkerchief and placed under a pillow or tied to a body. After marking the victims, we'd crawl around the floor at night, singly or in pairs. The slow reach under the pillow, taking advantage of a moving head, and withdrawal of the handkerchief or container without awakening the sleeper and returning the empty container was part of the process. Sometimes a razor blade was required to cut the handkerchief tied to a sleeping boy's genitals. Tricky but we did it. If the boy woke up there was the threat of a beating if he said anything. Bullying tactics on smaller or "sissy" boys often produced money after outings or Visiting Sundays. After Outing Days there was always an extra crowd going up to "the hospital" where the standard dose of salts was given, Castor oil was sometimes given for catharsis but more often for telling lies. I almost retch just thinking of those times I went through that experience. We accepted beatings as part of life. But deprivation was the most hurtful. We had little escape from rigid regime, so missing an outing was especially painful. Camp Jane Frances at Wyandanch, L.I., named after our Sister Superior "Janey", had just been established. In the upper grades now, I was slated to go with one of the first groups to help build the swimming pool. Charley Mayo, an ex-home boy, now a law student, was in charge. For weeks, I was set and eager to go, but I got caught in some malfeasance and my two weeks aborted. God! how I hated to miss those two weeks. Worse, having to wait a whole year to get the next vacation. There was no thought of the sisters expending love. We learned the Baltimore Catechism, which didn't make Sense to me until much later in life when certain parts of it did. St. John's Home received only boys. Female members of the same family - sisters or cousins - went to other institutions. Family visiting among siblings at different "homes" came but once a year. We called it Sisters' Day at Jack's. There was much shrieking and chasing in the hallways and stairways of boys and girls, but I was busy planning how I could circumvent the established order and get something to eat. Our order was to strict obedience; line up with the whistle, move with the whistle, stop with the whistle followed with an order, as in the dining room: "Go to your places." "Sit down". In the Roman rite, which we strictly followed, I was baptized conditionally as there was no record of my Baptism. The names on my card were for mother; Frances Lucharia, and mother, Anton Gewiski. I was christened Thomas Gewiski, the Thomas having come with my entrance to Jack's. The Anton of my father's name became Anthony in Confirmation. I managed to stay out of trouble long enough to go to camp that summer. An old fire engine with solid tires, a donation to the orphanage was the means of getting us to camp. I still thrill at the thought. We stood in the open truck, holding on to a center rod, swinging and swaying. One time, as we passed Ebbits Field on our way out to camp, pieces of a solid tire started flying over our head, spun into the air from the turning wheel. It was Saturday, everything was closed, and there was a problem of repair. Luck was with us. A workman gave his Saturday to get the orphans off to camp with a new tire. It was exhilarating to shout at passing cars. We were "free", and we sang and made a lot of noise along the way and no one fell off - but then, orphans are "specially protected" (by good spirits). Road traffic was left behind as we swung onto the quiet tree lined ruts leading to my dream world. Camp Jane Frances had a swimming pool - a mudhole dug in the path of a meandering stream. Building it was one of the joys of any mud-loving boy. The dirtier I got the better I felt. The route to the camp at Wyandanch was over a two-lane sometimes three-lane road, a main road. Motor Parkway, one of the first toll roads in the country, paralleled our route. Once in a while we heard the roar of the cars of "Society," which was in full force in those days, the early 1920s. The parkway was used by the socialites of the Hamptons and Westbury, where we sometimes got to go and watch the polo games. The camp buildings had once been a bottling plant for spring water. The ground was so muddy that boardwalks were our footpaths. A boxing ring was set up by our banjo playing director. We raided an old apple orchard and had missile fights with the fruit. An old barn became our fort. Once a few of us, 12 to 14 years old, went on an unsupervised hike, taking the camp dog with us. Mucking through the nearby swamp, we became lost and the mosquitoes nearly ate us alive. We finally got the dog to understand that we were lost, and he led us back to camp. The loose discipline at Camp Jane Frances gave us an inkling that there might be a different world out there. II As graduation from elementary school approached, I was given the part of a Red Cross soldier in the program that we rehearsed for a whole year ahead. A retired soldier, Major Bernstien, was our drillmaster. His troops - us - practiced and practiced the military terms and drills. I'd been one of the "sailors" before the idea of putting me in the hospital corps occurred to them. Among the memories, is the Irish songs we learned over the years, especially the one that begins "The minstrel boy to the war has gone." The grandstands were broken down and stored in a shed. During the year, they served as a hideout for us kids, who tunneled through them. These tunnels were the scene of our homosexual act-outs. The shed was also the route over the wall when a good movie was showing. I still bemoan missing Charley Chaplin in "The Gold Rush" when it played at the theater on Albany Avenue. We'd drop over and down the twelve-foot brick wall and get stale buns for a quarter from Mac's bakery, then have a kill (feast) during the show. We had movies at the orphanage maybe once a week. Every so often the celluloid film would flare up and burn. Tim, the night watchman, got regular workouts from U8 bedwetters in the special dorm: A pail of water balanced on a partially opened door fell on him; shouted insults from the darkness as he made his rounds through the dimly lit buildings, punching the clock; catcalls and whistles then sudden quiet as he searched for the culprits. Woe to the boy who could not control his snickering. Sudden painful justice by whip or stick fell at beds where covers moved. Muffled sounds were quickly silenced by sharp-eared and perceptive Tim. If regularly caught, the culprit was sent to reform school until he was twenty-one. It was risky. I was involved with the worst of the thousand kids in the orphanage. I was one of the big guys in spite of my small size. My reputation among my peers was excellent - my peers being those ready, willing and able to flout institutional rules. Stores in the neighborhood were fair game in our lifestyle and those selling food were prime targets. One night, an especially notorious group asked me to join them for an extra big robbery. For some reason I rejected the invitation. The group was caught and wound up in reform school. Years later, I heard that one of them was electrocuted at Sing Sing prison. Sr. Leander, a disciplinarian and prefect of no mean ability, swung on us with a strong left like a mother cat cuffing her kittens. She used to tie U8 to her apron 80 she could keep an eye on us. Sometimes she had four or five boys attached to that multi-umbilical cord and we moved around her on her tour of inspection, her eye glinting for infractions of law and order. When she found a boy skipping class or trying to sneak over the fence, she attached the new "prize" to her string. "Come here, chippie," was her warning that we were in trouble with her system that kept the pot of 1000 boys from boiling over. Sr. Leander, wide of girth, was forever feeding "skinny" guys from those voluminous pockets of the traditional sisters' garb. Sr. Mary de Sales, called Sudsy, was another who was infected with a loving soul. Her "pets" were the Orr brothers, Eddie and Allen. We called them her two oars. She was built in such a style that as we discerned her figure far down a corridor, her oval form seemed to be rolling like a boat, flanked by the two Oars. In spite of my robbing her food closet when I was a student in her class, she always gave me something to eat. Most lasting in my memory is that in my worst troublemaking years, she spoke up for me when I had worn out the patience of the other sisters. I was heavily in trouble by this time and Sudsy was getting all kinds of complaints about me. In a round table discussion, it was decided that I should be sent to the Reformatory where I'd be kept until I was 21 years old, All of the nuns were in favor excepting Sudsy. She suggested prayer. So I did not wind up in Dobbs Ferry at the dreaded Reformatory. I left Sudsy's class for the final one of Elementary School, where Sr. Placida and Sr. Columbo were in charge. We had some commercial subjects under Sr. Columbo, in which I learned a little typing, Morse code - to enable me to get a sit-down job as a telegrapher - and some Latin. I was still a troublemaker, but Columbo must have realized my need for food. She kept feeding me. I was still not yet sixteen - the age to leave the home - so they decided to send me to high school. Alexander Hamilton High was a couple of blocks away at Albany Avenue and Bergen Street. Mr. Sweeny, the special officer (policeman) for the home, escorted me to school each day to make sure I got there. He saw to it that I entered the door but did not follow me in, so he didn't see when I went out the door at the other end. Very often I did. There was much on the streets to interest a curious teenager getting a touch of freedom. The Bedford theater, where the Bergen Street trolley crossed Bedford Avenue, always showed a movie feature, news and six vaudeville acts. It kept me busy thieving at night to get money for the shows. At school, I badgered teachers and stole whenever I could. The sisters must have put a lot of trust in their prayers, because they still didn't send me away. After a year at high school with the teachers insisting that the Home take me out, the nuns complied and gave me a "charge" to help in the home's office, typing record cards for new boys and searching old records in answer to requests from outside the walls. I looked up my own record and learned that my father had died of pneumonia and that I had a mother and sister. My father's name was Anton and my mother's maiden name was Frances Lucharia. From then on my prayer became "Let me see my mother". Sundays, I was stationed at the reception desk and noted the visitors' names on cards. The women came on the second Sunday and the menfolk on the fourth Sunday of the month. Once in a while there'd be a real rhubarb when one parent would come on the wrong Sunday just to harass the other. The screaming in the hall was terrible at times. Other times, I received some of the chuck brought for other children. Frail Sister Mary Gertrude was in charge of the office. She was often out sick, which left me in complete charge. I acquired a sense of responsibility, answering requests for copies of baptismal certificates as official confirmation of birth places and dates. The armed services accepted enlistments on the basis of our records. Quite a few former boys came bringing a recruiter to get into the army or navy. The navy seemed to be the favorite. Most of the Sisters at the Home had come from Ireland or from Irish parents. That race was heavily into the politics of New York and Brooklyn. Each year the Emerald Society held a Ball, patronized mostly by the Irish and the politicians of Tammany Hall, a society dating back to Revolutionary days with the name of St. Tammany. This benevolent and charitable organization beside8 it8 politics, was a mainstay from the mid-nineteenth century, of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society, of which I was a ward. Most of these politicians, Irish and Catholic, followed the teaching of the Bible's Beatitudes: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, harbor the orphan. The Emerald Ball usually held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, still draws high level politicians, even the President of the United States. With such a plethora of Irish Sisters, March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, was a great day at the Home. The Home band serenaded the Mother Superior under her second floor window. In my time there, the sisters superiors, first Sister St. Mark and then Sister Jane Frances got serenaded. Sr. St. Mark was a really big woman in girth, and Jane Frances tall and wiry. I was brought to "Janey" for discipline one time. She put me over a chair and belted my ass. I'm not sure whether it was covered or uncovered, but I must have gone far beyond normal misbehavior to get the Mother Superior's personal discipline. Years later Jack Quinn, who came during my last three months at The Home, told me that after I left, whenever any of the children disobeyed the home rules the Sisters would warn them direly, "You'll wind up as bad as Gewiski." The next step in the dedicated sisters' plan for making me a useful citizen was to send me to work for Mr. Sheibler as office boy at the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society. Since I was 16 that October of 1927, I should have been discharged from the orphanage, but they were still doing their best to get me going in the world. An extra year was tacked onto my stay. The job made me a working man. It paid ten dollars a month, which went into the Brooklyn Savings Bank account I'd opened - under direct supervision. The reality of the outside world hit me. I was crestfallen. I discovered that Summer vacations were not universal but reserved for school students. That was a blow. I still lived at the home, but in a special category. In my later years, a number of boys were allowed to go out each day to high school. The smarter ones - "pets" - went to Catholic high schools; run-of-the-mill such as I went to public schools. Boys who had reached 16, the age limit, were put into some job and worked for a few months or so, saving their money and getting used to the city. I was in an in-between category since I stayed at the home for a year while I worked at the RCOA Society office. About this time, the message which had been beamed at me all those years - that I must get an education - zeroed in on my brain. What must Sr. Jane Frances' surprise have been when I asked permission to go to night school! After my day's work, I went by subway to Bay Ridge Evening High School on 65th Street. I took only those subjects that seemed interesting. Chemistry, biology and English were my favorites. In an English assignment to write poetry. My brainchild was returned with the notations; "Try chopping wood". I got thrown out of Spanish class when I found a girl's picture on the floor. Another boy claimed it was his and we went at it hammer and tongs while the students made room and the Latin teacher screamed. We were thrown out of class and continued our fight down on the hillside below the school, above the railroad tracks. I never did get a diploma. The sisters must have had to try real hard to get me a job. I finally went to the Spanish American Commercial Co. as office boy, at 89 Wall Street in the heart of the financial district of New York. On October 12, 1928 I was discharged from the Home to St. Vincent's Working Boys Home, a place set up to keep young boys out of rooming houses and help them save money, and to process us into the hurlyburly of the American system, St. Vincent's (we called it The Inn) developed out of the Old Newsboys' Home established at the turn of the Century. Street kids were sent to this Catholic institution founded by a Father Blake. Gradually it became larger and took in more and more. In my time it was headed by Monsignor Bracken, a tall, broadshouldered chunk of man who was also police chaplain for all of New York city. We handed in our salary each week and got five dollars for spending money or were given order slips to stores, usually in downtown Brooklyn. Five dollars was charged for room and board, the rest was deposited to our savings account. I had over a hundred dollars saved from my RCOAS job and this, with my salary of $12 a week, launched me on the great American fortune hunt. An avid reader of Horatio Alger stories, I felt that I was on my way. My job at the Spanish American Commercial Co. did not last long, but the few months I worked on Wall Street gave me an idea of the business world. Each area of lower Manhattan gave off the distinctive odor or its particular business. The early morning smoke and aroma over the coffee district reminded us that that area was operating. The exotic perfume district, the tawny smell of leather, the sea air at the fish market on Fulton Street, were fresh reminders of faraway places. The hustle and bustle of traffic, hand trucks, Wall Street runners, and ancient Western Union "boys" in uniform included brisk bankers and brokers in more formal attire. All in time became New Yorkers, with slight differences among the Bronxites, Brooklynites and Manhattanites. From the Inn, it was an easy half-mile walk to the Brooklyn Bridge, where we could see the Navy Yard with its complement of ships to be repaired: Sometimes a battleship, sometimes a destroyer. There was always plenty of work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, even during the Great Depression. Jobs lasted but a short time. As the 1929 crash worked its way through the economy, they became shorter and scarcer. Working for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co. on Gowanis Canal taught me to know the types of coal: Pea, nut, stove, dust and cannel - burned in open grates, cannel gave varicolored light and was expensive. Another job was with Motor Haulage Company. Then a one-day bookkeeper job with the YMCA, where I walked out in anger and and without collecting my day's pay, because the introduction was as busboy and dishwasher. Each morning I walked over Brooklyn Bridge with the crowds all looking for work. Down Park Row and then the rounds or the employment agencies. We marched up one street and down another, hunting in agency after agency. Jobs were not to be had. I looked for a clerk's job, assistant bookkeeper or typist. Nothing doing. The passing stranger became recognized, the recognized became familiar, and familiar faces gradually merged into listless groups of unemployed, knowing and acknowledging each other, dispiritedly looking for work. We were united in the desperate search, going back and forth in threes and fours to the employment agencies to get the usual answer: "Nothing today." The typing and bookkeeping I'd learned at Jack's finally got me a job as a typist-biller with the National Biscuit Co. in Brooklyn. I got eighteen dollars for a 44-hour week - five and a half days. The greatest benefit was that it gave me entree to the broken crackers - I ate my fill when the trucks came back from their daily rounds. The worry of job hunting over, I thought more and more of my mother and sister, I kept praying to see my mother. One day as I was typing in the office, Sister Leander came in. She was surprised to see me so respectable, after all the mischief I'd gotten into at Jack's. I took the elevated train back to The Inn for lunch, and one day, met a nice Italian girl who traveled at the same time. I had a few dates with her. I met other girls, but since I'd never had the opportunity of mixing with the opposite sex, not even family contacts like mother, sister, neighborhood girls - I was at a total loss in these relationships. I never could seem to get girls interested in me or at least understand what I was trying to say. Sundays, we played football at Park Circle against pickup teams. Early afternoon, we'd return to The Inn, bent and bruised, swearing off the sport. About Wednesday, we'd be okay again and start looking for another game. Some of the fellows had girl friends who came watch us play. My friend from Jack's - Larry Stahlnecker - his girl came. She was a Polish girl - her name comes to me loud and clears Stella Pietruszkiewicz - taught Larry and me to dance to the phonograph record, "Star Dust". One Spring day, as we were catching fungoes (high fly balls) in the outfield, Stella among us with a fielder'8 glove, one fly high in the air came in between her and the sun. "I got it, I got it" she called as she held up her glove to block out the light. Pong! right through the gloved hand fell the sizzling ball, smack onto her eye. What a beaut of a black-and-blue eye she got. We brought her for medical attention and they put a leech on her eye to suck out the blood and bring down the swelling. Bob Madan was a great guy. Aside from being prefect for the 150 kids and youths at The Inn, he was quite an athlete, and organized football and baseball games. Bob did other duty: Each morning, he cleared The Inn of the unemployed. Over the weekend, we didn't have to go out and jobhunt. We loved Coney Island. When the trains came in with the hordes of workers for downtown the barred iron gate was opened to facilitate their exit. There was just enough time to rush down the up escalator and through the gate before the crowd reached it. Although the fare was only five cents, we didn't have it. The train got us to Coney Island. We swam out to Steeplechase Pier, down another half mile to a tide pole and then onto the beach in front of Steeplechase Park. Coming and going, we passed Nathan's Famous stand that sold hot dogs, hamburgers and knishes. After an active day of swimming and playing on the beach, the seductive aroma of that food was really painful. To return, we'd climb up and around the barbed wire fence at Avenue X elevated station, giving fits to passers by. When I had a job I'd get a summer locker at McLachlin's Bath House, which had a swimming pool and handball courts facing the beach. I was a pretty good handball player and could do a few dives off the low board. The ten-foot board lost its charm when they told me it was only water and couldn't hurt. I dived, trying for a one-and-a-half gainer and came out with two black eyes. From then on it was simple jackknives and straight dives, with an occasional swan from the ten-foot board. A couple of poolrooms in the basement of the Inn were generally in use - no betting allowed. One Saturday, I was playing pool when someone came down and said Bob had sent him to tell me that my sister was upstairs. I said cut the kidding and refused to break up my game. Bob came down. "At least, see the woman," he said. I went up to the office, angry that my game had been interrupted, and ready to tell this woman off. In the office was a small, pleasant faced woman about my size, looking me quizzically in the eye as though saying; is this him? I felt it was her and asked, "How did you find me?t She told me she had gone to the hospitals and many other places and wound up at St. Vincents. I knew it was her. I asked where my mother was. A few days later, I went with her and met my mother. There was no emotion, only an intellectual curiosity to be satisfied. As I entered a small room, my mother rose from a rocking chair. She smiled, came forward and still smiling, hugged me. She was short, her steel-gray hair long. Her clothes simple. She hardly spoke English. My prayer, from then, was, "Teach me how to love." As I write this, I am weeping. My sister had been married at sixteen to a sailor who was a heavy drinker. She had several children. My mother had married again after being widowed shortly after my birth. Her second husband ran off, leaving her with two children. My first impulse was to help them, since I had a job. Father Bracken said no, because I was trying to get self-sufficient. I visited them from time to time as they increased in age and numbers. I was godfather to my sister Ann's fourth and last child, upon whom she lavished much love. I stayed on the job with National Biscuit Company for three years, and saved money by taking the Fulton Street elevated train back to St. Vincent's for lunch. Prohibition was still with us and Brooklyn was a great place for gang hang-out. Rumrunning was taken over by gangsters. Bob Madan had married a young woman whose father was a rumrunner, driving a truck with the "stuff" from Jersey. I had my first drink of hard liquor when a coworker took me down the street, gave a coded knock at a locked door with a peephole. We were admitted and I was initiated into the local speakeasy. We went to a speakeasy in Greenwich Village called the Village Barn, and I got drunk on bootleg liquor named Kentucky Snort. I'd saved a few hundred dollars at St. Vincent's and it was time to leave. I got room and board in a house in Maspeth, Long Island, where other teenagers from the Home8 were living. A big thrill was a ride in an open sports car going fifty miles an hour. The expression "He was going like fifty," was the ultimate in adjectives for speed. The unemployment lists got longer. I lost my job with National Biscuit Co. Groups who marched up and down the streets looking for jobs got smaller. We were discouraged, desperate and listless. The daily walk over the Greenpoint Bridge from Long Island City came less and less. When World Series time came it was easier to relax and lie on a couch at the house and listen to the pitch-by-pitch description of the game by radio. Babe Ruth, the home run king, had been raised in an orphanage - he'd been through the same scenario. The fans razzed him as he came to bat in this World Series game. The ball came over the plate for a called strike. He raised one finger for the count. Another strike sizzled past the postured Babe. He raised two fingers, turning to face the different stands or Yankee stadium. Then he pointed to the flagpole deep in center field. The pitch. Crack! went the bat on ball. Up and up it sailed, directly for his target, high over the flag and into the stands: A home run. A moment of stunned silence and then the thunderous applause of a public appreciative of genius. I was still without a job and the money I'd saved was almost gone. As so often in my life, circumstance triggered action on my part. A practical joker lurked among the teen- agers living at our boarding house. One night as the snow drifted outside, he suggested I get a snow shovel from down in the cellar. To get into the cellar, you had to go through the bedroom of the couple who owned the house. I tiptoed-through the room as they slept then suddenly the husband jumped up with a gun. I shot out out the bedroom a couple of steps ahead of him and out into the night. I ran to one of his relatives, who told me the man had been gassed in the first World War and was still emotionally unstable. I stayed there a couple of days, then figured it was time to hit the road and look for a job. My money was getting pretty low. The jobless were moving all over the land and the thought struck me that it was a good time to travel as so many were doing. Grafton Rolmes, who'd been a sailor and hobo excited me with his tales of travel and adventure. Although he was married and had two children, he wanted to come with me. His wife induced him otherwise. I bought a knapsack - my first - and some wool clothes for the late Autumn weather. The Pardellas and Holmeses, the two families I'd been friendly with, wished me luck. Grafton the ex- sailor, rode with me to the northern terminal of the Bronx subway and saw me off. As I trudged north past the Cloisters, a Medieval convent that Rockefeller had brought from Europe brick by brick and restored in upper Manhattan, I felt as romantic as an ancient pilgrim. Heading north on route 9W, I begged and borrowed my way in the November weather toward Wanakena, N.Y. Above Albany, snow was on the ground, cold in the air and warm clothing in my knapsack. The clear crunching sound underfoot as I trod the highway was restful. A man gave me a ride to Hudson Falls. The lowering afternoon sun warned me to look for a place to sleep. I asked to stay at a house for the night and the family there agreed to let me sleep in the basement. They had lost their money in a carpet factory. At the moment, they were Involved in Democratic party politics. Herbert Hoover had just lost the election and Franklin D. Roosevelt was now President of the nation in the depths of depression and despair. He'd ordered the banks closed. The only persons with cash were the poor who hadn't trusted the banks, and had kept their money under a mattress. The rich borrowed cash from their servants. III My boots squeegeed over the tire-flattened surface of the highway as I headed north by shank's mare. My late-teen agility puffed the steaming air from my mouth. In the lake region of Adirondack Park, in the beauty of the evergreen trees, in a small village, I found one of the men from St. John's Home who'd been a favorite of us kids. He said I should sleep with him. Another former Jack's guy lived there too. I awoke with my bedmate feeling for my crotch. I realized this guy was not really a friend of the boys, but one who probably had preyed on them. It could also explain the other ex-Jack's guy who lived with him. Then, when he played the organ for Sunday Mass I began to twitch in my mind as to what the hell goes on in this world. I got out of there as soon as possible and started heading back downstate, bearing south and west. At Jamestown, New York, I stopped at the Ottens', relatives of friends in Brooklyn. Mrs. Otten sent her teen- aged daughter with me down to the barn to teach me how to milk the the cow. The size of this beast challenged my confidence but the girl showed no fear. The smell of the barn and the pile of hay in the loft and the manure behind each cow introduced me to farm life. Getting the milk out of the cow called for a technique which pressed the milk down through the teat from top to bottom, softly punching the milk bag to keep the flow coming down. I learned to sit on the stool, let the cow know I was there. If she didn't feel ornery and kick a leg at me, I got a slow flow from Bossy. Once in a while I'd squirt some milk at the always present barn cats, rather than into the pail below her bag. I stayed through the Winter In the spring, we set out the maple buckets for the sap run. Maple sap is nature's new life moving up the tree in the spring. The tree is wounded and a small spigot inserted, with a bucket hung below to catch the liquid. The best sap season is one which alternates extremely cold followed by balmy days which cause the sap to "run." We went out in a sled with a large tank into which we dumped the colorless sap. When the tank was full we brought it to the evaporating pans. - A knowledgeable person had to be in charge of the four large pans - maybe a couple of yards long by a yard wide - with a roaring fire underneath and constant attention to consistency. As the consistency changed it was passed to a succeeding tank, beginning at the raw sap pan. The final pan was the most difficult; if it passed a certain liquidity it would suddenly change into maple sugar. For each forty gallons of maple sap, only one gallon of syrup is produced. One of the delights was to place a stick in the syrup and then thrust it into the snow which would immediately jell it. That was delicious. I stayed at the Ottens' till well into the Spring and then headed West into Ohio. Thousands of people were on the road. In each village the Salvation Army was always ready to give a bowl of soup. Some of the places were like medieval hospices for pilgrims. Support services for the wayfarer included shoe repair, barber, showers and double bunk beds. The depression was in full swing, and the Salvation Army and local groups were on the job. One night I could not find a barn or any other spot, so I had myself locked up in the town jail. In the morning the turnkey let me out. I'd figured out a rough route and had left word back in Brooklyn to let me know if there were any calls for jobs. The jobs normally came from employment agencies with the outside chance of friends coming through with personal knowledge of a job. Post Offices held mail for transients at the General Delivery window and I'd included a number of post offices on my route. At each town, with hope, I inquired for mail at such windows. No jobs. I finally made it to Chicago. There were so many on the road and so few rides that I decided to ride freight trains south. The railyard was a beehive of activity, loading cattle. Finding the outside limits for the southbound trains was a job. Finally, I found the yard limit. As I waited for a freight I'd been told was heading South, the long line of cars pulled out. Pacing it, I kept looking for a tank car with a running board. When one came alongside, it was so crowded it was impossible to catch onto any space. I had to let it go by. An open box car finally came, and I swung in - not too soon - the train was picking up speed. Inside were a few fellow travelers. It slowed to a stop outside the switching section of a small town. We could hear banging from the rear cars, coming closer and closer. It was the railroad detectives - bulls. "Everybody out!" was the cry when they came abreast of our car. We found ourselves among a group of like riders and then discovered the reason for this unusual emptying the train of its hobo load. One of the men had been dangling his feet outside the open boxcar and had smashed them against a low switch signal. We had to carry him to a local hospital. It was like a funeral procession as we carried him into town. We did not get back to the railroad right then. Trucks and cars, though not plentiful, were more open to giving lifts those days. One night in the south, I slept on the beautiful grounds of a mansion in Biloxi - or was it Cape Girardeaux? From there I sneaked on a passenger train and rode the "blinds" - that section between two cars where there was a bellows-like protection against the elements. I propped myself with my feet resting on the car in front and my back against the car behind. Sometimes I was kind of stretched out as we made a left turn and my side of the cars extended full distance. On right turns the distance accordioned to a pinch. On a one long flat stretch, we slowly halted in the middle of nowhere. I got curious and reached my right hand on the rail of the back car and my left on the rail of the car in front. As I put out my head to look, another hand came over mine followed by a round face under a conductor's cap. His surprise was as great as mine. I was soon on a dinky backwoods road. How I got back on the main road, I don't remember. New Orleans was a busy seaport with French flavor. I wound up at the Baptist Mission, sorting out clothes collected for the poor. The minister's son was the overseer. It was a dirty job. We got a dollar a day and a place to sleep and the evening meal. We were also forced to listen to the sermon that preceded the evening meal. In order to eat, we sorted the dirty rags reeking with urine and blood, grime and grease: Some for sale in bales and others to be washed and others perhaps retrievable for use. We were a dirty bunch that finished each day and the shower was a necessity. A French loaf filled with food was the Poor Boy sandwich in the French Market. It cost a nickel. We might also find some bruised or overripe fruit. A merchant might give us a handout. Telephone calls were a nickel, though I had no one to call. St. Louis Cathedral was the center of the French Quarter with its wrought iron balconies and narrow streets. Nearby were Absinthe Lane and the French Market, where Poor Boy sandwiches originated. So different from New York. Boats tooting in the harbor tugs nudging loaded freightships to wharves lined with cotton bales and the railroads chugging through gave movement and romance to the sleepy-looking, sleepy- paced city. Tree-lined Canal Street was wide of girth, with trolley cars centered on a broad grass ribbon that stretched from the wharves into the distance. In this New Orleans, in the dreary days of the Great Depression, sorting dirty rags reeking with urine and blood and grime, my daily trips to the Post Office general delivery window were fruitless. Even so, I decided to give up the sorting job and the devil-person who ran the warehouse. That gave me time to get to the Public Library, that boon to the homeless wayfarer. Aside from the luxury of sitting down, one could catch up on the news. As an avid reader of the New York Times, even in those days, I had a fair picture of what was happening in the country and in particular on The Street - the downtown workers' name for Wall street. A letter told me of a job call. From the 'bos I learned of a crack passenger train leaving each evening for New York. I decided to hide on it. As dusk fell, I made my way into the station and walked up the platform to the head of the train. The engineer, with an oil can, was going over the drive wheel bearings of the great steam locomotive. I eased out of the line of vision of any uniformed person and slipped between the coal car and the front of the mail car, hoisted myself onto the front door space of the mail car. As dark settled over the station and passengers noisily began boarding their sleepers, I crunched into the corner nearest the platform so I'd be out of sight. The bustle intensified, with sounds of trainmen banging their lanterns as they inspected brakes, and workmen with oil cans making their rounds. I heard men talking along the cars behind me and saw their lights reflected on the ties below. Closer and closer and brighter and brighter shone their lights. As the volume of their voices increased, I tensed. They drew abreast of the car where I had stashed myself. The light flashed between the cars. Up, down, around, but not quite reaching my pressed-back figure. They started off and I breathed more easily. A tail ender of the group came in between the cars and flashed his lantern back and up into my face. "Get the hell down!" he bellowed. The others quick-surrounded me as I got down and hobbled out from my cramped position. They booted me in the ass up the station platform with appropriate names for one who had almost outsmarted them. I was lucky not to be jailed. Hopping a passenger train was considered the most dangerous risk for hoboes. Railroad dicks gave short shrift to anyone found chancing it. Maybe they were satisfied just to boot me out of the station. I had to wend my way back by slower trains, trucks, cars and shank's mare. Back in New York, my job was gone. - Bob Fladan, prefect of boys at St. Vincent's, understood my situation and let me come back to The Inn. Ordinarily, we had to leave the home at twenty-one, when we were supposed to have saved enough money to get a start on the outside. I knew most of the crowd there, but there was a new gang. Focus had shifted from getting a job to getting an education. The home now had some college students. St. Francis of Brooklyn, Manhattan College and St. John's University all had "deprived" youths living at the Inn. These plus, the older age group now living there, gave some sense of maturity. Monsignor Bracken, took off each morning in his chauffeured Pierce Arrow, a figure of authority. As police chaplain for New York city, his license plate of 1 L-81 was known citywide, getting him the right-of-way from New York's Finest. When we had jobs, we handed in our salary each week and got five bucks back. But most of us who waited in line outside his office each Saturday mumbled, "Not working," and did a quick about face (learned at Jack's). Weeks became months and the cigarette butts smoked on the side steps became smaller as the stuck-in toothpicks passed from hand to mouth to hand to the last possible draw. The house rule of "No smoking on the steps" was another regulation crying to be broken. Monsignor Bracken, as Director of the Brooklyn Diocesan Choir, wanted to print a book of Gregorian chant. It could be done by offset printing which was beginning to replace the old set-type method. Set-type required setting a line of type by hand and then placing it on a circular drum for printing. The linotype, most advanced, with a typewriter-like keyboard, was used in the large print shops and newspaper offices. The photo offset process, particularly for small offices, was revolutionary and gave us today's almost instant printing. Harry Beale, secretary and treasurer of The Inn, was a photographer. Photographing was the first step of transferring from original copy to finished print in the Multilith process. St. Vincent's bought a Multilith. This was the new skill to which Bob Fladan introduced me. It cemented our friendship A photo lab, the offset press and a guillotine for cutting ream-size paper comprised the printing plant. A number of us were learning the process and there were headaches, but we managed. The Gregorian Chant book was finally finished and then we got out a newsletter for The Inn asking for upkeep donations with the usual promises of prayers. We waxed strong physically on the upstairs bandbox basketball court, on the handball courts in the yard where Monsignor Bracken would take on two of us at a time. Stickball on State Street had us running into the Bergen St. trolley cars from time to time. Charley Pender, our outstanding athlete, was always first-pick in the stickball games after meals. Each Sunday we went to Park Circle near Prospect Park. The Circle was a large field where any number of games were in progress simultaneously. During the baseball season you had to have four eyes to be able to keep track of the ball from your own game. During the football season we'd have a pickup team or choose two teams from our own members. We'd return to the Home a worn-out bunch, swearing off playing next week. By Wednesday we'd have recuperated sufficiently to begin looking forward to the following Sunday's game. Our return to the Home was usually after the midday dinner was over but we would fill up on quarts of milk. Rose Carthy, the ever patient Irish immigrant, would be there keeping "her boys" filled on whatever was left, even hiding some food so we wouldn't starve. Association with the young people gave me a chance for the first time to attend dances. My buddy Larry Stahlnecker and I squired Stella Pietruszkiewicz - you can see she made a great impression on me: I can still spell her name. The Inn had a night watchman. Doors locked at ten at night kept us out, no matter our excuse. We needed special permission to get in. Larry, who had been in Jack;s lived down the block 2t Pacific St. and Boerum Place and he would throw down the key at my whistle. He was a good basketball player and played on the St. vincent Eagles, which I coached. The competition was rough in the Junior Catholic League where he played. Traveling games were scheduled on the same card as the Senior Catholic League for a two-games-and-a-dance. The senior league players might get from ten to fifty dollars a game. It was the start of basketball as a professional sport. Ann Pardella, my friend from the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society, brought me into her family circle. It was my first experience of family. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family reunions gave me a new dimension. Once I wore a tuxedo to a ball, which ended up in a family brawl. One of the circle was Ann's friend Kenneth Carson. Ken, was chief inspector at the International Projector Corp., got me a job as an apprentice inspector for sixty cents an hour. A time-clock and punch card was the record kept for salary. We "punched the clock" coming and going, at work. Ken was president of our local union. An ex-officer from World War I, he carried an authoritavely quiet but firm manner. I joined the local of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a new direction in the U.S. labor movement. The AFL had organized among the craft unions, while the CIO picked up the unorganized industrial workers. Whirring wheels, lathes, jigs, grinders, screw-machines, turret lathes, plating and paint rooms were scattered through the various floors in the squat factory building at 90 Gold Street just south of New York City's Park Row, in the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge. I learned to use the various gauges, measuring as fine as ten thousandths of an inch. Ken assigned me to his final inspection department where he could teach me the business. I learned to read blueprints, find flaws in plating of cadmium and nickel, eccentricity of film rollers. Moving through the various floors of the plant with a blueprint in my hand as though on business, I learned other facets of machine shop work. Most important, I met - as through my lifetime - decent human people caught up in a system of dehumanization. I talked to several people I'd seen around the plant, stopwatch in hand, blue cards on clip boards. They studied movements of the body, especially the hands, of the workers. They marked the time of each movement on the card for production/profit/speed-up studies. I had little idea of the political significance of this time-study - the Beaudeaux system. This system squeezed more profit from labor and was detested by the machine workers. It tried to change workers into machines, by making them move to the tempo of a stop-watch. One day Ken was called to the office and returned carrying a cloth in which were wrapped some evidently delicate instruments. He unfolded the cloth carefully and inspected them with a newly arrived inspection gauge. They were part of the ultra-secret Norden bomb-sight. Pin- point destruction was possible with this instrument. This was probably the closest kept as well as newest military secret of the late nineteen thirties. Tolerance was plus or minus - zero. The specified dimension had to be perfect. The machine grinders were men who knew the tolerance could be changed merely by holding an object in the hand (body heat could expand it) or by placing it in a refrigerator (cold could contract it). We inspectors had to be alert. The movement of machines, the mystery of application from blueprint to finished product, the mathematic involvement of dimension and angle all intrigued me. I wanted to learn more. As I'd gone to St. John's University School of Commerce to learn more about National Biscuit Company's processes, so now I went to Pratt Institute of Science and Technology to understand this job. I had never finished the prescribed high school courses, so my studies were not for credit, but the application from theory to practice gave me a fuller appreciation and understanding of my job. It was a time of great unrest throughout our country. Hitler's troops had invaded Poland. The war was on in Europe but a lethargy seemed to grip the conflict. The Germans stayed put in front of the Maginot Line, a concrete wall of gun emplacements connected by underground tunnels, along the border between France and Germany. It was thought to be impregnable. Rep. Martin Dies of Texas was investigating un-American activities and Communist infiltration in the U.S., especially in labor unions. "Pinko" was the label used to brand those who got smeared in a Congressional investigation. Reputations were destroyed, jobs lost. The name of Lustig, our CIO organizer, was included in the Communist sympathizer list published each day through the Congressional Martin Dies Committee. The plant buzzed with the information, especially in our inspection department. It was a shock to find his name on the Dies list. Before the next union meeting, a few of us met and agreed that we should ask him point-blank at the regular meeting if he was a Communist. At the meeting, which was pretty rough, Ken asked the question. Lustig answered, "Yes" I am a Communist. Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism." The few of us not able to stomach this asked the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to form a local. We joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and formed our own local in the AFL fraternity. Monsignor Bracken was happy with my continued prosperity. His advice on job security was a strong influence on me. When I filed a Civil Service job application as a Multilith operator I thought there could not be much more security than a government job. The affirmative answer, coming in a few months, pleased Flons. Bracken and myself. The depression was still on and I had managed to get a government job! Now a member of that select group known as government workers, I hurried to report to the Navy Department in Washington. The job was an outgrowth of my printing training at St. Vincent's. My salary of S1440 a year came at a time when the Great Depression had still not been eliminated and jobs were scarce I reported to the Navy Department. The long, two-story cement buildings faced Constitution Avenue with the 67navy Bureau of Supplies and Accounts on the western end. An earthwork paralleling Constitution Avenue was a reminder of the flooding Potomoc which had covered the area with several feet of water. The levee protected the War Department buildings next door. Potomac Park trolley cars terminated their run in front of the nearby Department of Interior Building, as did the buses. In the machine room, the Multilith presses were busy running off contract specifications on Navy vessels and materiel. Contract bids were opened on certain dates for secret bidding and the contract usually went to the lowest bidder. My first week in Washington was at the YMCA, which had inexpensive rooms. I placed an ad in the paper for room and board with a Catholic family. It was answered by the Kramer family, with whom I stayed for the ten years I was in government service. Mrs. Kramer was a patient person, with two children still at home. Mrs. Kramer's German companions and especially her daughter Theresa, were instrumental in saving St. Mary's Church on Fifth Street when Cardinal O'Boyle wanted to sell it for a government Accounting Office Building site. It still stands, bordered by the building. Years later, this same tenacity made the Kramers one of the few families tO stay on in the neighborhood after the exodus of whites tO suburbia. From Kramers', the Georgia Avenue trolley car took me south to G Street where I changed for Potomac Park. As the war came nearer, express buses were run down Sixteenth Street from Underwood. I became a regular passenger on that line, and got to know the other regular riders. At one stage, I joined a contingent that played chess enroute. I soon dropped out - they were tournament class. Athletic activity had always been part of my life in the male environment of my childhood up and now I continued at the YMCA, swimming, playing basketball, jogging, using the rowing machine, and a short try at boxing. I'd sparred with some of the boys at The Inn and thought I'd have a go at it here and get some exercise while I was at it. One day, a gym master had a group of us sparring and paired me with a young sailor. The sailor bent over to avoid some of my jabs, I settled onto my left foot and smashed an uppercut onto his chin, The gym master and myself were startled as the sailor reeled dazedly. I realized I could have broken his neck. I have a good pair of shoulders and an excellent physique other than my atrophied right leg. I stopped boxing and gained a deeper respect for the locked-up violence inside me. I enjoyed the outdoor weekends. The hiking group gave me a liberal education. There were PhDs in various disciplines, as well as an international group. It was Socratic education as we wandered the trails. IV Life began Friday evening, traveled through Saturday and Sunday, and ended on Monday. Weekends, I established friendships in a sympathetic crowd who took to the outdoors and found refreshment in nature and each other's company. Small challenges made for fairly safe excitement. Crossing streams a little too wide for jumping made life livelier, away from the humdrum monotony of unsatisfying Civil Service jobs. Whitewater canoeing, with concentrated study of the waters ahead, cleared the mind of distractions. It was concentrate or smash the canoe and yourself. Water surfaces varied from ripples. riffles and waves to steep narrow rapids crashing into standup waves at the base of the drop. The Potomac Gorge, between Great Falls and Little Falls, is an enchanting area. Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side, is blazed with blue paint to guide hikers. It parallels the river over the pre-Cambrian rocks, carved eons ago when oceans covered this area and the seas broke through the mountains to make the gorge, with 50-foot cliffs on both sides, allowing a view of the swirling waters and at flood times, raging torrents. At Camp Wahkonda on Esopus Creek, Mt. Marion, N.Y., during my first vacation, I lay stretched out on the bottom of a canoe, admiring the beauty of the starlit sky when I felt the presence of God. As I gazed up in awe, I thought, if I see a falling star, I'll wish that all I ever did would be for the honor and glory of God. As "honor and glory of God" formed in my mind, a star streaked across the heavens and "out". Goose pimples poppeld up on my forearms. Years later, I told Father Bracken the story. He suggested, miracle? I had always believed in miracles, but as a far-off theoretical possibility. I had prayed for years to see my mother; then, I saw her. I pushed Father Bracken's thought out of my mind. But if a coincidence could be classified as a miracle, - amen. At first I rented canoes, then bought one and stored it at the Dempsey Canoe Livery boathouse. It was good to get on the water after a day's work and relax on the river. Dempsey's was just above Key Bridge, near where the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal crossed on leaded piers into Virginia. The piers were made with poured lead to bind the blocks, as are iron fences or prison bars. The blocks were bound and weighed down, secure against flood and human efforts. They stayed on the boat course until after the second World War. In Europe, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The work at Bureau of Supplies and Accounts - getting out contracts - was an important function in the Navy Department. New "temporary" buildings were thrown up behind the Reflecting Pool and our Bureau moved over. I was promoted to photographer, with a raise in salary. My small work area in the new building was comfortably private, made copier by a huge copying camera and platemaking equipment. New people were joining the office. Women were in the majority of clerk positions. I felt pressured by women a number of times. One married woman was particularly insistent with her attentions. It was difficult backing away from her as she was assistant director of the section and knew her way into the dark-room. My interest and energy zeroed in on competitive sport. When someone asked why I wasn't married, one of the women hikers said she doesn't stand still long enough n One of the reasons I didn't stand still long enough and my backing away was part of the Catholic traditional teaching on sex. When a companion said it was more interesting further up her leg, that remark froze me. When a woman friend interrupted my searching efforts with surprise in her voice, "In a canoe?!" I backed off. Social life in this new and exciting world of Washington was almost frantic. The Hiking Club, the YMCA, dances and parties kept me busy in this cross section of people gathered in this center of power. The Axis invaded Russia in June 1941, we started Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets. By December the Washington football season was in full swing, filling Griffith stadium each playing Sunday. One Sunday, one high-ranking officer after another was called on the public address system, and left the stadium. One after another, they left their seats and did not return. That night, President Roosevelt gave a radio talk telling of the Japanese sneak attacks at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam and Midway. The loss of life and damage to our fleet were shocking to our comfortable society. Fellow workers we'd thought were Civil Service employees came to work in uniforms which they'd probably not worn since graduation from the Naval Academy. They were required to have picture and number identification to enter the building. The sleepy Civil Service routine quickened. I put in a request for new equipment for the lab. Copying technique was elementary: It was a hand operation, through developing, stop-bath and fix solutions. The sheets were then squeegeed and heat-drum dried. When the original documents for replacing damaged parts of the fleet at Pearl Harbor had to be copied for reordering, my photo lab was the only one available. There was only one other photo lab in the Navy Department. I copied all day and all night, then fell asleep over the contact printer next day and was sent home. With a larger section for duplicating and photo, I ordered a behemoth of a machine which required gallons and gallons of chemicals and long exposure to mercury vapor lamps. Large sheets of paper passed through the tanks on a chain developing process. Junior grade officers from the business world began arriving. Newly-enlisted specialists showed up at the Bureau daily. All Civil Service employees in the Navy Department were asked if we wanted to enlist. To get enlisted benefits, it was only required that we report in the morning for muster. I, for some reason, refused. Perhaps it was the years of institutional care I was rejecting. Most of those with professional status got officer rank. Some professional people - engineers - refused, were pressured, and if they still didn't agree to sign up lost their status and were drafted at the lowest rank. During the war, boating was restricted to the river above Key Bridge, where a Coast Guard boat was stationed. With clearance from the Guard, we were permitted downstream. The Washington Canoe Club induced our clique from Dempsey's to form a racing club. We got Jack Hazzard, old river rat and exceptional outdoorsman, to coach us. We trained three or four times a week. I got rid of my two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I was thirty years old and the rest of our group of ten or so were in the same age bracket; pretty late starters for such a grueling sport. As a Red Cross volunteer First Aid instructor, then as a canoe instructor for the District of Colombia Chapter, I was involved with an ever widening circle of friends. The Hiking Club and the Canoe Club kept me in the open air. My photographer rating brought two co-workers, which gave me time and telephone resources for communication with club members. I joined the cave explorers club, but I got headaches from the carbide lantern gas and once, on rappel, its flame came too close to my safety rope. I dropped out after a couple of years Often, with the Coast Guard's okay, we floated and paddled down to the watergate concerts by moonlight. Just above the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, marble steps swept down, almost to water level. People sat on the steps and listened to symphony orchestras, folk bands and famous singers competed with the noise of airplanes coming in to land at National airport. When the rain was too heavy, pressure in the sewage system joined with the rainwater from the streets and forced open the ten foot hanging watergate at the Potomac river, permitting this effluent (sewage) mixture to enter the river, slightly up-river from where the people sat on the steps. Teenagers at the river wall who pushed to the front to see Frank Sinatra were sometimes pushed off and into the river, to be pulled out covered with the filth of the Watergate. In my early hiking days, Dorothy Davenport of the Capital Hiking Club thought I deserved a name other than my real one. The Club argued and politicked over such names as Butch and Chuck, until she said, "Let's call him Spike." So Spike was added to my litany of Corky, Jeddy, Hockeynose, Gimpy and Tom. I began hiking with another club - The Wanderbirds, a group which took longer hikes and overnight camping trips. A network of trolley lines gave ready access to the country. The Agriculture Experimental Station was moved to Beltsville, and the old site was bountiful with experimental plants and edible chestnuts. Hikers were invited in to help themselves. With the "Birds" I met Grant Conway, a quiet Export-Import Bank employee who, with his wife Ione, had come from Oregon. we became co-leaders of the group. The Baltimore and Ohio and Southern Railroads made special stops for us - we often rode in the baggage car, the trains were so crowded. Washington was a Mecca for knowledgeable persons during the Second World War and many of them were out hiking over week-ends. - For one who picked up his education as he went along, this was great. As we walked, I'd wonder aloud about a rock, plant, animal or insect. The answer usually came from a professional. Dr. Ulke, a botanist, was loaded with information. Walt Seelig and Bob Hackman were always willing to share their education. I almost accompanied Walt on his mapping of the oil find in Alaska, but could not get six months leave from my job at Navy. Cora Fulton Daly was a spark-plug, as was Shelly Osborn. Years later, Shelly reminded me of where I was with women at that time. She knew me well, and put her arm around me. I pulled away without realizing I had hurt her feelings. I wonder if it could have been my early Catholic training that made me react that way. Lieutenant Commander Franz Rathman, an intellectual giant, according to a co-worker at the Naval Research Lab, balanced that gift with a total lack of rhythm at our dances. He was with us on New Year's Eve at the Ritz Carlton. As the waiters started to clean up for closing, I'd had just enough liquor to whisk off the tablecloth, leaving the glasses and dishes standing on the bare table - like in the old vaudeville act I quickly whipped the cloth under my coat Cora used it until it was threadbare Muirkirk Lake, Maryland was a picturesque hiking area. Its ice-covered lake became the scene of our annual Christmas green- gathering and wine-mulling. I'd read about the English tradition of mulled wine for Christmas, searched out a recipe at the Library of Congress and started this Wanderbird tradition. Ice was skated, snow was balled and greens were gathered. The big coffee pot hung on a tripod over the roaring fire. Nutmeg, cloves, fresh fruit juices, kumquats, sugar and all the rest were carefully measured out and then still more carefully, the wine was poured in just before the tasting. This last, to preserve the alcoholic content. Mugs of steaming mulled wine washed down the Christmas cookies and cakes. As the afternoon shadows lenghthened, we brewed our final batch of wine and then brewed the final batch of coffee to get us safely home. Our younger men and then women started leaving for the war, but the Wanderbirds was a lodestone: Strangers coming in filled the spaces they had left, and became friends themselves. At the meeting of March 1943, it was voted that I send a monthly Bulletin to our hikers scattered about the world in the Armed Forces. For two and a half years, the paper went out with news of the club's activities. A copy is in the Washingtonia section of the District of Columbia Library. The sleepy Southern-type town that was Washington before World War II now took on the tension of wartime, but as the war wore on, we grew more relaxed in our jobs. It was difficult to keep before us the agony and suffering of war. Clarence Mann, supervisor of our section and a World War I civil service veteran, never forgot and was always pushing to hurry our work, saying things like, "Difficult things we do quickly, the impossible, a little longer." There was an incentive system of financial reward for beneficial suggestions. I got a fifty-dollar one for I forget what. Charter buses were eliminated, restaurants and night clubs were required to close at midnight. Food was rationed. In the early stages of the war, we at Navy worked seven days a week. It was hard to get to F1ass on Sundays, and being a Catholic, I was perturbed. I wrote a penny postcard to President Roosevelt quoting Shakespeare's, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." A few weeks after that I was called to the chief clerk's office of the Secretary of the Navy, shown the card and asked if I had sent it. When I answered affirmatively I was asked i# there were others in the department who felt the same way. Other Catholics had expressed similar feelings, so I said yes. I was told to get them. They refused to come with me for fear of losing their jobs. I told the chief clerk of their reticence. Shortly after that, we went into a six-day week. That got me back into the Sunday hike routine. Although we couldn't charter buses we could use the regular bus routes: City, interurban and the trains out of Union Station. All were crowded to the roof, sometimes literally. Once, I rode in the overhead baggage rack of a Greyhound bus. It called for a bit of agility but I squeezed in, making room for one more on the floor. GIs were all over the place, on the move from station to station, or on leave before going overseas. Trains were jammed, with the baggage cars filled with passengers. Union Station was a scene of continuous movement, mostly GIs toting or pillowing on duffel bags. Gas was rationed and we became adept at using public transportation. We took advantage of special train stops permitted for recreational activity, physical exercise being a recreative force for work. Harper's Ferry, a little over an hour out of Washington on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, became one of our favorite stops. Here the three states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet at the junction of the Shenandoah River and the Potomac. Grant Conway and I, co-leaders of many hikes, chose this picturesque setting more often than any other. A sleepy village visited only by history buffs and hikers, Harper's Ferry was a goldmine of historic and folk lore. It had been the gateway between the North and South in our Civil War. Up near the Maryland shore of the Potomac, John Brown had plotted to free the slaves, and was later captured there by Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, future commander of the Confederate Army. Here too were the Harper Rifle Works, the ruins now preserved by the National Park Service. Robert Harper started the ferry in 1735. George Washington founded a Canal Corporation to provide passage around the great falls of the Potomac with the idea of using a canal to link the tidewater with the Ohio River. It was well underway when the railroad was started from Baltimore to the West. A race went on to see which was completed first. The railroad won. On scouting trips, Grant and I took the train to Harper's Ferry on a Saturday night. We bedded down along the bank of the Shenandoah by the ruins of an old carpet mill. Driftwood for our supper fire and a sandy beach for our sleeping bags were gifts from nature. The boatman who ferried us across the Shenandoah was often drunk and crossing was an adventure. On one trip we had nine hikers in a boat which was only supposed to take five or six. The water was within two inches of the gunwales. About the worst that happened was that our boots got wet. The road from the B & O station wound up the hill past Storey College, past the graveyard and down to the town line at the edge of another small town named Bolivar. One of our favorite spots was Jefferson Rock, the view from which brought forth an exclamation from Thomas Jefferson that it was worth a trip across the ocean. From this eminence, just above the Catholic church, one could gaze up the Shenandoah as it riffled over flat rocks in summer and surged into roiling troughs in spring floods. The Potomac rolled in from the left and joined the Shenandoah to form a steep rapid at Horseshoe Falls. At Harper's Ferry, a hydroelectric plant was in operation. The river there had enough water to give canoeists a chance to shoot the dam rapids formed at high water, but a portage was necessary at low water. At John Brown's cave, spelunkers could crawl to a lower level where a transparent reflection gave the illusion of whallowness. Actually it was five or six feet of clear water. We figured there must be an outlet into the river, since our path had sloped down enough to get to river level. The entrance we found was on the side of the railroad tracks, some feet above the river. It was a muddy cave and soon we were out and into our trunks for a swim down the millrace to the gate of the Power Plant before we were ready to go home, At the railroad station we had to jostle in with a couple of hundred people waiting to squeeze onto the already crowded train coming in from Pittsburgh or Chicago. Brunswick, a stop on the B & O, was a switching yard where trains were broken up for different destinations. Steaming locomotives puffed in the yards and express trains whizzed through with plumes of steam streaming behind. The YMCA railroad cafeteria there is still famous for its good home-cooked food Many of our trips ended there just for that food. By the end of 1943, more than twenty of our hikers were in the service Though we got new members from the GIs stationed in Washington, we lost a number of our leaders, including my friend Grant Conway. He started off in Navy boot camp at Bainbridge, Maryland and wound up an Air Force captain in Morocco. It was difficult to understand the Services' manpower usage. Grant was an accountant and financial expert transferred out of the Navy, which could have used his talents. On the use of talents, I especially remember Mrs. Jackson, a black woman at the Grade 3 level of clerk. Her work as assistant to our section head was exceptional. I complimented her and said something about the need for people with her efficiency and her expertise in dealing with people. She finally confided in me that no matter what qualifications a black person had, this was the top of the pay scale for them. Later experience with Llewellyn Scott was to prove this point. A veteran of the first World War and a Howard University graduate, the highest he could go at the Pentagon was a low grade clerk. The women, white and black, were usually in clerical jobs, with men in all dominant positions. As the war continued and the Services opened up to women there was a small improvement - grudgingly made, if we go by the number advanced. The Wanderbirds kept busy with one-day hikes, weekend trips and moonlight hikes interspersed with dances and slide shows. Our moonlight hikes, planned for the time of the full moon, always drew a large crowd of young people. On July 15, 1943 Cora Daly and I led such a hike from the Chain Bridge streetcar stop to Little Falls, Virginia. There were seventy-five of us, mostly women, with such regulars as Catherine Johnson, and Rose Marie Smith. Rose Flarie was the embodiment of the song, Rose Marie, I love you. She was the soul of the Wanderbirds Club. Her spirit permeated and gave life to many who were sick and weary of their week's drudgery. The river was muddy from recent heavy rains. The rocks edging the river were rough on the feet. Because of the high water, we had to climb 'way up on a towering cliff overlooking the river. Below, dimmed-out Washington was beautifully illuminated by the full moon. We built a fire and roasted the few hot dogs some enterprising people had brought. Milk was the popular drink, maybe because so many of the GIs were just in from overseas where Cokes were plentiful but there was no fresh milk. From our position on the bluff we could view the marriage of the fresh upriver water with the salty tidal water at the base of Little Falls. Some canoeists paddled up against the strong current and joined us. A few of us stayed on, singing, after most of the others left. Then we got into the canoes and were paddled downstream. It was good floating downriver on the swift current in the still of night and bright moon. Our canoes' reflections intercepted each other; gliding through and past, we reached Dempsey's boathouse all too soon. The Dempsey Canoe Club was practicing regularly and getting into the local regattas. I was partner for a tandem team with Dick Handler, a high school student. Since he lived near me, we practiced together. We both went out for one-man single blade in the old "Peanut" style racing canoe. Someone took a Peanut to the David Taylor Model Basin for a scientific test. They measured boatlines against water resistance plus application of power and proved that a disproportionate amount of power was invested to move the craft as fast as it did; something like using a battleship engine to move a destroyer. The lines of the racing canoes were changed. Our small racing squad had a shed at Dempsey's boat house and three to five times a week, we were out on the river practicing. News began to come of friends lost in battle. Frank Nichols, drafted out of our office, was killed in France. Ed Sheridan of our St. Vincent Eagle team was lost in a plane crash. With no family members in Service, I was spared much of the sorrow all around. Air raid drills at the Navy Department were lackadaisical and it was hard for me to feel the emotion that must have been present in so many people. My intellectual awareness had little of the gut feeling I heard from my landlady, whose son was in the Marines. In New York, the Catholic Worker people refused to participate in air-raid drills and were going to jail for it. I had heard of Dorothy Day but not enough to understand what she was about. Now the Women's Army Corps was added to the uniformed services. WAVEs and WACs joined our hiking group with Lt. Eppie Quicksell, Flora Cathell, and a host of others shared the outdoor friendships we offered. Members from other countries came out with us, among them several from England. V Canoe competition continued. At Tibbets Brook, N.Y., Dick Handler, my tandem team partner in the single blade race, and I were pitted against racers in a class above us. We thought a race against the team of an Olympic and a National champion would give us more experience. It did. We were coming down the course somewhere back when suddenly a fishing line was cast across our bow. He swore in anger, then dug into the water with our paddles with such force that we came from behind the champs to win. One of our team, following the course of the race along the shore, couldn't believe we were overtaking them. We were junior racers who had never won in that class, but we were automatically moved into the senior class. That meant we would have to race above our class for the rest of the season. We lost the chance to get team points for winning junior races, but for met it was the most thrilling race of my canoeing years. We often camped overnight just upriver from Key Bridge on the Virginia shore. Sheltered by a forested bluff from the sight and sound of Arlington road traffic, we had many a cookout in an area that was accessible only by boat. Downriver we could see but not hear the streetcars running across Key Bridge to their turnaround in sleepy Rosslyn. One dark night, dark because the full moon we had figured on for our picnic was clouded over, four of us decided to stay overnight. Dick Handler, a schoolmate of his, myself and Andy Thomas arrived at dusk, set up a shelter-half and started the fire. The two teenagers decided to explore the trail upriver and took off with a flashlight. Andy and I lolled by the fire, enjoying the flickering flow of its light on the surrounding tree branches Suddenly there was a shouting and crackling of branches and the two teen-agers burst upon us. Dick was half-carrying his friend, who was pale and shaking. They were exploring a deserted shack and there, staring at them from a trap door in the floor, was a man's face, We returned to find a man hanging in the sloping cellar. Andy took off in the canoe with the frightened boy to notify the police. Dick and I built a roaring fire amidst the rustling autumn leaves, the groaning of the boughs, and the creaking of the deserted house. I could have sworn that the position of the mouth had changed by the time the Harbor Police arrived. As we watched, they cut the body down and for sure, the poor fellow was dead. The police said he was a local tramp. We returned to camp, rolled into our sleeping bags and talked away the rest of the night. As 1945 got underway the pressures on Germany began to show in their losses. The draft continued to suck in our youth. Dick finally reached the age of eighteen and sot the greetings dreaded by most in that age group. He was drafted, and his ebullient spirit was reflected in his letter, which I printed in the Wandering Birds' Monthly Bulletin: "On becoming a soldier--" "--when I was drafted the Marines looked me over, didn't believe it and said, "pass on." Then the Navy got hold of me and said, "by golly it's unbelievable." The Army though was very gracious and said "we take anything". Then to top it all off the army classifies me. They looks at me classification papers and out comes the final remarks, "Infantry." So here I am Detail Handler in the flesh. I still dont know why they haven't said fall out with foot-lockers yet? Although the Lieutenant did mention that when we fall out, all he wants to see is a cloud of dust and when the dust clears, a row of statues and that when he gives "eyes right" all he wants to hear is our eyeballs click. On GI hiking - I got to a point where I couldn't see except for seeing the man's heels in front of me. That was 100 yards before we pulled in and fell out. However when the chow line whistle blew I was the first in line as usual However I had to eat a plate of raw onions to give me some kind of strength. Even the onions tasted like sugar tonight. I felt awful 'till a couple of minutes ago but now that I had my pineapple juice, candy and cookies mom sent me, I'm improving. "On Women"-But I'll have to admit, I got quite a collection of women I write to in all parts of the country, and it's food cake from Illinois and a couple of weeks ago came a box of cookies from Pennsylvania. If you know of any good cooks especially cake bakers, forward their address to me immediately and I'll see that they're promptly awarded with a letter and maybe a picture of this handsome lad in Government dry-goods." The Billy Goat Trail got its name from the numerous boulders to scramble up and around on the towering heights, plus spots of mud at riverside that might slide an unsuspecting hiker into the water. One Sunday, our hike led along this blue-blazed trail. Just below the Navy Model Testing Basin at Carderock, we came upon a small group of rock-climbers in action. One of them, moving horizontally from point to point, suddenly let go, exhausted. As he swung dejectedly on his safety rope, the instructor asked if any of us would like to try. I accepted the offer. I knew how to tie a bowline knot from Red Cross class, but I could not now tie it into my safety rope. I was roped in and started up the rock face, an almost- smooth surface with scarcely visible tiny protrusions onto which to sink a fingernail. The more surface one could cover with the body, the more chance of surviving. The idea is to provide as much friction as possible between the surfaces of rock and body. Where there was a slight overhang the center of balance became precarious. I could hardly move a muscle without feeling pulled off balance. At times I could only follow directions from below and inch to a new position. I reached as advised; pulled myself by sheer shoulder strength nibbled my hiking boots into t tiny crevices and continued up. Then I started across with the agility of a dancer and the speed of a snail and got to the perpendicular face of the descent. Slowly, I backed down to the ground and stood there trembling from tension. I had to refuse to try the reverse in order to make it a round trip. Isabel Dolmage, who was hiking with us that day, wrote for our GI Bulletin, "He climbed nimbly and the experts could scarcely believe that it was his first attempt at rock climbing." Then she continued, "We will probably be hearing of Spike scaling some of the unexplored peaks of the Andes." My editorial comment was, "The hand was shaky, the sweat profuse and the old law of self-preservation put muscles in his fingernails. Lucky there was a safety rope attached to the victim." No Andes for me, even though I did make a few more rock climbs. Another time I received a thrill was by joining a "rope:" Three climbers tied into the same rope. That was during a hike on Old Rag mountain where we again ran into some rock-climbers. I joined them near the top in a spectacular face-crossing of a huge boulder split from the peak. Cave Exploring was another dimension of outdoor activity: outdoor as far as the camping part of it. The underground darkness, lit only by carbide lanterns on our miner's caps, reminded me of Hades. The lantern flames could have burned our ropes or our persons. Coming down on a rappel, once in a while we'd catch the smell of rope burning as the spurting acetylene flame touched it. Nor did I care for slimy footing at the edge of a black abyss whose depth could only be guessed at by the time it took a tossed rock to reach bottom. At times we had to feel our way through narrow passages where we had to squeeze through slowly. A moment of panic or other excitement causes the blood to circulate too rapidly, can cause body swelling and perhaps wedge you into the passage. Calming down, with the support of the spelunkers in front or behind, was sufficient all those times I was present. We seldom found ourselves in difficult positions underground. Sometimes we brought in an inflatable foldboat or rubber mattress to explore underground lakes. In one place, we found a plank boat. How it got there was a mystery. Life Magazine did a photo story on us. The same issue ran a story on a "bat-woman" scientist who captured the bats for research. We often disturbed the bats in our explorations, starting flights out of the caves. We were intrigued by their built-in radar systems which permitted them to fly safely in total darkness. Spelunker Bob Hackman camped regularly with us. He was one of the early topographers of the moon when the possibility of landing on it was almost incredible. He developed a system for mapping the moon and for a while was part of the lunacy pervading the country. We had heard of the Army's interest in caves as shelters for people and equipment. Some of the scientists in our Speliological Society started mapping the caves. Bill Davis, a founder of the national group, published a book of maps and descriptions of a number of caves. Several of us were in on the discoveries of hitherto unknown specimens of underground stream life. All of us, spelunkers, rock climbers, hikers, canoeists, rationalized our activities by speaking of how recreation improved our work, but in those days Booz-Allen, the efficiency experts from Chicago, were measuring our work output. Today, there's more awareness of the need for recreation. We did have some cooperation from the Recreation Division in our Bureau. They were right in the next office. Grant Conway and I decided to explore the waterways going north, since the Coast Guard took a dim view of going south. The trip up the Potomac started from Dempsey's. My canoe, "Puck" (Ione Conway had painted Puck's face on the craft) was a seventeen-foot canvas-covered Old Town. Always beautiful, those canoes were built on the lines of Indian canoes. They ranged from tiny shells to large freight craft, but all sizes were graceful and efficient. One of the famous "body-by-Fisher" brothers came to the Washington Canoe Club to study the lines. We paddled upriver to Fletcher's Cove, portaged over to the C&O Canal and paddled to the gate of the Feeder Canal. We carried around the lock into the feeder, paddled up it and into the swift intake above a rock dam. The narrow passage of the intake required that we paddle crosswise of the current, pushing toward the dam. A hundred yards of this and we were on flat water below Sycamore Island and slightly above Snake Island. A sandy beach and a lean-to made Cupid's Bower a popular spot with canoeists. We portaged down from the Canal and paddled over to the Bower. A tin-roofed wooden frame with six burlap hammocks leaned against the low cliff. aze built a fire in a cleft and camped for the night. Water gurgling over the rocks and the crackling of the dying fire sent us to sleep. Early awake, we started the fire, placed water for coffee on it and splashed into the fogbound river for a swim. This section of the river, with its curves and low water, was an area we could use to "climb" upstream on the eddies. Then back to the Canal and through Widewater, where a collection of springs filled part of the canal to great depths. A military guard was stationed at Great Falls, the main water supply for the city of Washington. We were finally permitted to pass through under the watchful eyes of the soldiers. After that, we had to get passes to go through. We continued upriver to the cottage of a hiking club member where we stayed overnight. Next day we started the lazy floating return trip. Lazy - until we came through Calico Rapids and Stubblefield Falls where, no matter what the seasonal water level, there is always a risk. Some scrapes on rocks, a short run and a small drop into the wave at Stubblefield were the day's thrills. Looking down the wide stretch of the Potomac at Cabin John, it reminds you of a flock of hens and chickens out in a field of water. Grant and I had been on this trip so often we knew that the safe route was to paddle close to the Maryland shore. The spring at Snake Hollow, now the home of the Central Intelligence Agency, with its wide expanse of flat water backed up by the dam was another inviting spot for a day of swimming The dam, broken through in spots, let cascades of water pour down the chutes. To sit under one of these chutes and let the water splash over one's shoulders was as refreshing as a body massage. Below the dam, the river narrowed into a swift boulder- strewn passage. The drop was so steep that in a space of a half mile, only the tops of the trees in the distance could be seen. This was Little Falls, the line where ocean meets stream. We paddled through the Feeder Canal, portaging at the locks into the C&O canal and at Fletcher's, into the Potomac for the final two miles to Dempsey's. As 1945 got underway, Germany began to show signs of weakening, and there were signs of an Allied victory in that sector. The Rhein River had been crossed, Frankfurt was taken and on the newspaper maps, the captured territory grew wider. An Associated Press map of March, 1945 was headed, THE BIG PARADE ON THE WEST FRONT." Letters from our Wandering Birds mentioned postwar plans, told how long ago and far away civilian life seemed. Others wanted to know if "this thing will ever get over." At home we celebrated the Wanderbirds' eleventh anniversary at the Blackstone hotel. Frankie Govan and his accordion supplied the music - orchestras were scarce and expensive. School had come as an interest, first, because people told me I must get an education. Then it came as support for my jobs. In Washington, the Dominican House of Studies had some courses for adult study of theology. Others, at St. Mary's Church were taught by Capuchin Father Sebastian, which I took at the suggestion of Dusty Rhodes, who liked to keep me on the straight and narrow. The Great Books groups were in vogue during these war years and I attended Gino Simi's group at the Petworth Library Branch. Later, Gino edited my Outdoor U.S.A. travel letter. At Mrs. Kramer's, where I lived, several priests used to come to relax by eating, drinking and playing cards. One later became a bishop in the diocese. During the ten years I lived there, the Kramer's son John and daughter Theresa married. Those years with that family were settling for me. My first and really only experience of living in a family unit, though not of it. I was comfortable in my independent way of living, the outdoor week-ends I planted a rose-bush and for years after I'd left, Mrs. Kramer remembered me by the beautiful roses which bloomed there. British and U.S. Armies pushed from Italy into Austria. The Russians captured cities in Czechoslovakia and north of Berlin. In Borneo the Dutch were doing a good job; the war ended in Europe when on May 7, 1945 Germany surrendered. Hitler was dead in the ruins of Berlin. Washington, ever a blase town, knew that we'd have to finish off the Japanese before we could celebrate. A brownout had been in effect for three months, and lights had been dimmed all over the city. Then, one night at dusk, as I as I waited for a streetcar on Pennsylvania Avenue near Fourteenth Street, the capitol was ablaze with light. What a thrill to see it fully illumined again! The brownout was lifted. Mothers' Day, May 13, was set aside by President Truman as a day of prayer and Thanksgiving. The war with Japan continued. Y1/C USNRW (Yeoman First Class, United States Navy Reserve Peserve women) Flora Cathell told of a Cabin John moonlight hike in the Birds' Bulletin of May 1945: "Meet at Stop 20 - If only there weren't so many people heading for Glen Echo maybe we'd have a chance of squeezing on one of these cars. We're safe - Hubert Walker (co-leader with Betty Parrette) is marooned on the same corner we are. Another trolley rounds the bend, I guess it'll pass us by too - no, it's slowing down - someone getting off - And zip, Spike's in the back door - and we push in the front. No way of telling how many Wanderbirds are aboard. At "20" we join the early "Birds" and are surprised to find several oldtimers back in the crowd. Howard Ball has been with us a little over a week now, biking and hiking, and here was Bill? too, the bus driver of our chartered buses of old, and Pete Paulos. Down the road and path to the Potomac, across the bridge fifty-two strong. Our leaders favored the safer inside trail, along we went, Indian style. Upon reaching the chosen spot, a huge supply of wood is gathered and we soon have a beacon burning brightly from the hill top. Though scarce, the hot dogs and marshmallows still find a way of adding to our campfire fun. Everyone is intent on the important business of eating when suddenly Spike, Cora, Carnot and Charlie burst from the bushes and darkness beyond the fire. Here come Jerry and Flartha too, seems Jerry has a heavy load. Yes, that load is to be the center of attraction all evening. Carefully following the instructions of "Kephart," author of our group's Bible on Camping and Woodcraft, Spike had packed several ears of corn in clay (C & O canal variety) and we're about to witness the elaborate process of roasting corn. After rolling the precious bundle under the center, more wood was piled on until the fire was red hot and the circle of spectators widened. Alternating between experimental pokes and more wood, the folks keep busy. Everyone else has completed their supper but the veterans wait. Several attempts are made to put the log Catherine Johnson is sitting on into the fire. We sing some of our favorites, chase burning paper that a breeze lifts off the fire, but finally the leaders decide it's time to take the main contingent back. We can hear them trail off through the woods as we continue our waiting. We gather more wood, build up the fire again, discuss "Kephart" in general and corn in particular. At last the moment arrives. We push the fire back and ease the split bundle out. The clay cracks and the ears emerge all ready to bite into. Cooked to a turn and so delicious." That was the night of the full moon, May 23, 1945. August 6, 1945 the atom bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Details were scarce. On the 9th another was dropped on Nagasaki. I got into discussions at work because of my Catholic stance on a Just war. They baited me a lot. They expected me to be against indiscriminate bombing. I had religiously read the papal encyclicals, but hardly understood them. To me, dropping the atomic bomb to obliterate a whole city rather than attempted selection of antagonists (soldiers) was wrong. I questioned the indiscriminate killing and destruction and found no support. The point being made as important was "bring the boys home." That was the justification Today we know much more of the ramifications. We are charged with having used the first atom bomb for the indiscriminate killing of a population, of having opened the Pandora's box of radiation. The city went wild in a bacchanalian scene, couples were lying all over Lafayette Park. A trio of Navy men passed a woman and one said he'd screw her if he saw her again. The junior officers at the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts were excited at the prospect of returning to their highly paid jobs in commerce. Some had come with a quick training period and were referred to as 90-day wonders. The total work force, uniformed and civilian, started to shrink; officers seemed to move out more quickly. In my work in photography, I'd realized that if there was but one extra copy made of a document there could be any number of copies made. Our lab was set up for speedy production rather than quality, so we often came up with slack time that we could use for special jobs. Our quick delivery stepped up demands for our services. Higher-ups in the Bureau were ordering copies of classified (confidential and secret) documents so much that I got concerned about security. There was such a lack of control that I tracked down with some difficulty the responsible security office in the Pentagon. This section was in the newly established Defense Department and, to an official there, I explained my concern. Soon I noticed people inspecting our laboratory from an adjoining wing. In a few weeks I was ordered to close the lab and report to the Pentagon. Since I already had clearance for handling secret documents and was being investigated for top secret, I was placed in the main photo section of the Pentagon. The photo lab in the Pentagon to which I was transferred was in the sub-basement and below sea-level. I felt oppressed. We were making large topographic maps of Korea and from the top of a ladder it was necessary to slosh the prints with a long paddle to chemically treat them. The odor was obnoxious if not unhealhful. It seemed we were getting ready for another war. Frustrated about that and our involvement once more in a far away country, I decided to get out of Civil Service and its touted job security which seemed to destroy initiative. I resigned after ten years service with the government. Other employees could not believe that one would give up such a job and I was introduced to strangers as an unusual type. The car I'd bought a few months earlier, a British Austin, now looked me in the face. It needed to be used. My pleasure in outdoor activity was a deciding factor. The financial security of a steady job advised by Msgr. Bracken was incomplete. I felt this incompleteness in my being; my spirit was not being satisfied. I decided on a look at these United States to see what made it tick, and bought an 8 x 10 wall tent; exchanged the heavy canvas canoe for a light plywood one; organized my camping gear. I withdrew my retirement money, cashed my war bonds, made arrangements to have fifty dollars a month sent me along the way and was ready to go. VI I gassed up and set the little Austin's odometer at zero, said goodbye to the Quinns on my way out. On to Philadelphia to stop in at my sister's. Her husband Mike, rigger par excellence, took a look at my knots and went to work securing the canoe ship-shape. More important, it was safe. One canoeist was killed when his rack flew off, canoe and all. The Jersey Turnpike was my route north. At a pullover, Chuck Barndt, Andy Thomas and Dick Handler, my old single blade partner, on their way to the national championships at Lake Sebago, saw me and ground to a halt, invited me to lunch at Aggie Thomas's place in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Aggie, a great cook, outdid herself for this gathering. With a full stomach, I continued on to New York. During the depression I'd gotten a job with a religious goods store on Barclay Street. Now I picked up some items, including rosaries, to sell along the way to supplement my income. There'd never been a machine invented to make rosaries: They all had to be done by hand. After a stop at the Bob Madans', I headed out to Hither Hills State Park on the tip of Long Island, where the island narrows, so that from the camp one can play in the ocean off Flontauk Point or in Long Island sound. The gruff old ocean was the challenge. The waves at that Point were high for a canoe and as I rushed the boat quickly out after a wave break, the next one lifted the bow high, pointing to the sky as I pushed it over the crest and swung in before the next, avoiding its moment of crash on the beach. Once past the breakers, it was great to just lie on the bottom of the canoe enjoying the blue sky, or glancing over the gunwales at the few bathers around. I swamped on one of my attempts, and the hundreds of pounds of water dumping in made me fear for my plywood canoe. I finally got it turned upside down, lifted one side and flipped it over. This was one of the first new postwar models. It weighed forty pounds. Aluminum canoes were starting to make their appearance, with all the accompanying noise as paddles clunked on their sides. The distance from Montauk Point to Bear Mountain State Park and Lake Sebago is 165 miles, but it's over some of the most traveled highways in the world. It took an hour and ten minutes just to pass, on one eight-mile-long section on Route 9W. I turned onto the small road marked with the ACA (American Canoe Association) sign and headed for the tent 2nd cabin locations. A voice from the wilderness shouted "Ahoy!" and there was Dusty Rhodes, bellowing with joy. Dusty, a bachelor like myself, was free to roam. He was a dedicated member of the ACA (American Canoe Association) as well as a perennial linchpin for the Washington Canoe Club. Our Dempsey CC and Washington raced against Yonkers, Sebago, both from New York, and Samoset from Boston. We made points at Lake Sebago, but not enough to win. The races were run before a hundred or so spectators, mostly racers themselves. The ACA, started in 1880, was originally limited to the wealthy but in the 1940s-1950s, it opened to a more general membership. I left my gear with the legendary Ernie Reidel, and took off with Dusty for the peninsula of Nova Scotia and the Sugar Island encampment. Dusty and I were willing to test the beers enroute north, especially in the Boston area with Bill Murphy, who'd been Dusty's wartime buddy in Australia. We left for the Maine coast, where we'd been told that the ocean view from the headland at Pemaquid Point was a must. While there, we talked to a fisherman who was a member of a newly formed cooperative. He told us how the price of lobster had gone up from 6 to 8 cents a pound and nov were selling at thirty cents a pound in the markets. We discussed the lobsterman's term, lobster pound; the derivation of the word pound, which perhaps came from the British monetary pound, or maybe, impound, as in dog pound. A lobster pound is a dike or dam built across an inlet to keep captive lobsters alive over the period of low prices. The pound must be large, as lobsters will not eat when they're aware that they're captive. We took a stroll and struck up a conversation with one of the women enjoying the view. She was from Washington and delighted to meet "neighbors". At her invitation, we followed her to the cottage where she, two beautiful daughters and a friend were staying. We got out of the cars for her to point out the view when suddenly, Dusty let out a cry and took off. His car was rolling down the hill, unattended, toward the river. With all our gear in it, it increased momentum and Dusty could only stand and watch as it crashed into the one tree along the brush-lined drop-off into the river. The front part disappeared into the branches and it stopped, the rear end sticking up in the air. It had stopped short of the boulder- strewn river bed, now almost dry at low water. We rushed down and thanked the Lord that about the only damage was to the radiator grill. It cost Dusty around $80 to get it back on level ground. No sweat camping for three days at this beautiful spot, except that we had to cut out our trip through Nova Scotia, In the morning we'd gooseflesh out of our tents at dawn and plop into the freezing water. We were isolated, so had all the pleasure of skinny-dipping. It was more of an e-go trip than enjoyment - my body was numb with cold until I discovered that Dusty was going in at dawn because he didn't want to chicken out. He didn't know that I was doing the same thing. Our hostess, her two daughters and friend joined us for a rockbound Coast-of-Maine beach party. We built a fire on a rocky level above the tide. "Boil in sea water for 15 minutes," the lobster man had said. That's what we did. We also had corn on the cob, in the husks, dipped in sea water, wrapped in seaweed and roasted over the open fire. With constant turning, the steam gathers in the husks and actually boils the corn. The silent site, the great sunset, good company, the right alcoholic beverage ... Ah people! it were paradise indeed. With the car fixed, we took off to Sugar Island. The car ran fine. We crossed the Thousand Island Bridge into Canada. Gananoque was the nearest town for supplies, which for us, consisted mostly of ale. We parked the car at Chisholm Point, loaded the canoe to the gunwales, then ploughed the delicately balanced craft safely across the mile of open water to Sugar Island. The river water was pure, and used for drinking, swimming and racing. We set up our tent and settled down to enjoy the great Canadian ale, the beautfiul scenery, and say hello to members coming from around the country. Then began the partying, cruising and lounging in the informal atmosphere that only outdoors can bring. International canoe and swim races followed by the Commodore's Ball under a huge tent and the full moon, closed the two week encampment. We returned to Lake Sebago, where I picked up my car and drove forth again at a more leisurely pace. I stopped at the Quineboquin Canoe Club on the Charles River near Boston and used it as a base for exploring that historic area. My host, Al West, was a noted criminal lawyer. He worked with young people and - maybe thinking about the Devil and idle hands - made the canoe club a center of activity. On the road map, it looked as though Boston was an island. I set out to verify this. Three of the young men in training for the national canoe championships asked to come along, so we took two canoes. I let my man paddle so much he wound up as junior national champion. There were about ten portages, each one filthier than the other as they skirted old mills. Some of the mills were operating but most had closed or moved away. Boston is an island, cut off from the mainland by creeks and canals. Even though many of them were dry and full of rubbish and smelly, it was an island. He saw more chemicals and sewage dumped into streams than we thought possible. One bright spot was the Newton Dance Hall, where couples danced on a floor set on pilings over the shallow Charles river. Lexington, Concord, Sudbury Inn, Walden Pond instrumental in formation of the American soul, conjured visions of our early history and literature. At Peabody Museum of Harvard University, detailed reproductions of plants sketched colored cross-sections enlarged many times. The glass ferns could hardly be distinguished from natural ones. An Austrian family was the sole producer of this type of art, and the secret of their methods died out with the family. I roamed the beaches of New England at Swampscott, Magnolia and Marblehead, the last a white curving beach with sky blue water. At Gloucester, there was some shipbuilding going on. A carpenter told me that the shaping of wooden ribs takes an hour of steaming for each inch of thickness. Acadia National Park and Mt. Desert Isle had just gone through a forest fire and the gaunt blackened trunks were a tragedy to behold. Great Head, the highest headland on the U.S. Atlantic Coast, is 140 feet high with a great thunderhole where the ocean rushes in and roars way inside before sloughing back. Wandering around Bar Harbor, I met a Washington Canoe Club member. We took off on a round of canoeing, cave-exploring and climbing on Mt. Cadillac, which rises 1500 feet. 57e were joined by a couple of cave-explorers from the neighborhood. An archaeologist from the Abee Museum of Suer de Flont Springs on FIt. Desert came looking for us. Maine has few genuine caves, but he had information on one and wanted us to check it out. It turned out to be hardly more than a fallback in a cliff, which, from a distance, could be taken for a cave. A news reporter from the Bangor Commercial did a four-column article about us. Our picture included two young women we had met in Bar Harbor. The reporter asked them, "Are you interested in caves?" "No," they replied in unison, looking at me and my month's growth of scraggly red, brown and black beard, "Only cave men." I continued north. I wanted to make a complete run, the full length of U.S. Route l. I finally got to the northernmost point of Maine: Magdawaska and a convent of the Daughters of Wisdom, the same order which staffed St. Charles Hospital of my early days on Long Island. Some of the nuns had been at St. Charles. At one point, the border was so badly marked that after I drove across a little wooden bridge, I was chased by a car which turned out to be Canadian customs. Not ready to tour that country, I headed back into the U.S.A., turning down toward the White Mountain' Educational Forest in New Hampshire and specifically the Dolly Copp Camp. It was Columbus Day, 1950. Nate Peterson and E. I. Woodward, both from Boston, the latter an Adirondack Mountain Club member, showed me some of the country in an eight-mile trip to a fire tower. At the peak of a mountain, a beautifully designed marble bench memorialized a Wellesley graduate of 1890. How7 they packed it up so near the peak is a mystery. Pete and Woody knew I wanted to climb Mt. Washington. Saturday, although the weather looked bad, we took off, stopping at the Tuckerman Ravine shelter where Willie Evans, the caretaker, told us that it was pretty rough above We took the Lion's Head trail, a semi-protected route to the timber line. As we climbed, we met some folks in their early twenties coming down. They told us it was too rough for them, but that it was worth going around the corner to look at the peak. As we rounded the corner we stepped into a wind that almost knocked us over. Frost feathers - blown snow that forms on horizontal objects and looks like feathers in the wind - bedecked the cairns. Two or three inches of snow underfoot chilled our spirits; we could lean at quite an angle into the wind, which was gusting between 60 and 80 miles an hour; a few feet of that was plenty. As soon as Pete said that his sinus was clear, we turned back. At the picnic shelter we used for a camp, a half dozen from nearby camps had gathered and we had a pleasant evening of singing. Sunday was a glorious day. Starting late, about 10 a.m., I made good time to the Tuckerman Ravine shelter. Willie said that any trail was good on such a fine day, and right through the middle would be the shortest though the steepest, over the headwall and lip of the ravine. The melting snows made the trail a stream; I soon lost the white paint markers and wound up climbing a rock slide: Slightly rougher, but more direct. When I made the top, snow was everywhere, but the wind was a mere 20 mph, where one time had been registered a record of 231 mph. Frost feathers outside the observation tower were a foot into the blind at the topmost point. Shadows were lengthening but the view was excellent on this clear day. There's snow every month of the year here at this place called the cradle of bad Weather. I got back to the Tuckerman shelter at 3:15 p.m. and found Willie and four other fellows hurriedly packing gear and giving last minute instructions to a girl sitting at the stove. A rock climber had fallen and cracked his head. The group was starting up to get him out of the headwall near the lip of Huntington Ravine, the worst and roughest trail on Mt. Washington. I followed as Willie Evans took off like a deer, bounding along the trail from rock to rock, a Davey wire- basket stretcher tied upright on his packboard. It was about three and a half miles in and up the ravine. As we climbed, Bob and Wilgus, skiers up from Boston, murmured that it would be crazy to try and get an injured man down this trail. We turned off the trail and started straight up a cut where, on the contour maps four lines of 100 foot intervals merge into one solid at two places. We went right up to the top, over spots that would try a person on a regular hike; down rocks, huge boulders, an occasional cul-de-sac, and finally found the injured man. Blood was coming from his ears and a gory hand looked as if it could be a compound fracture. At 4:30 he was tied into the stretcher, covered as warmly as possible, and we started back down, passing the stretcher from hand to hand, rock to rock, sliding here and there as the shadows lengthened into dusk. There were drop- offs, rock to rock sliding, with many a drop where the stretcher was lowered on the safety rope in a vertical position. We made slow progress. One spot evoked nothing but consternation: A lip of rock jutted out a foot from its wall and to a sheer drop of 50 feet. I was the last of the group. The few handholds of stunted growth at head level had been pretty well loosened before me. I'll always remember with a prayer of thanks sTill's reaching hand grasping my wrist as I inched to safety. Darkness fell. We had one regular flashlight plus my tiny key light. Down at Pinkham notch, they saw the glimmers and knew we were descending rather than ascending. We slid, crawled, fell and stumbled on, with the victim lapsing from conscious to unconscious, groaning in pain over especially rough spots and spitting blood. Swampy, chief of the Ski Patrol, was one of the ten in the rescue party. He drove us, even as we petered out. "Keep the poor bastard moving!" was his cry to us. "Are you with us, Jocko?" was his cry to the injured man when it looked as if "Jocko" was not with us. Then, on closer inspection, we could see his chest rising and falling. Two of the group took off with my key light to get more carriers. The one light left was weakening, but a clear starlit night was welcome as the cold breeze swept down the cascade chimney we were descending. Snow and ice made footholds precarious. Grunts of the bearers and frantic grabs as they slid part way into crevasses were intermingled with apologies. A man would put his foot against the back of the man in front to brace himself, thinking it a rock, only to find it give as he put on pressure. Handholds swayed and gave as the owner pulled away an arm or leg. Luckiest of the group, I had twelve-inch shoe pacs and dry socks in my knap-sack to change into after we had plodded through icy streams. There was hardly a change in footing when we hit the trail. When we saw the first welcome white X, the lead man with the red flashlight picked up a kerosene lantern. It was full, and we lost no time in lighting it. Cameras, packboards, ropes, and other impedimenta had been discarded along the way, but this was worth its weight in gold at this stage. It was just short of a miracle to find it. Relief men showed up: Big men, and they were aces. Swampy took off down the trail retching in the darkness, a victim of his own goodwill. The two Harvard boys, companions of the injured man, kept bleating about new ropes, exams tomorrow, and packs at the Harvard cabin. One of them told me about the fall. The injured man had a 30-foot lead around a bend because he could find no solid rock for a piton through which to pass a safety rope. He realized his mistake, and alas trying to come back when he fell. A 30-foot lead is technically wrong in rock climbing. Curses had been mixed with prayers, but when we hit the fire road, all I heard was "Thank God". Relief men came in droves. We practically ran the last two mites to Pinkham Notch, arriving at midnight. The victim was loaded into a waiting truck as we sat down to a supper supplied by Joe Dodge, who ran the Adirondack Mountain Huts along the trail. At 1:30 a.m. we drove back to camp under the exhilarating blue-green rays of the Northern Lights. A few days after, we heard that the victim was still in serious condition, with a fractured skull. The camp was quiet in the clear Fall weather. A group of graduate students from Knoxville, Tennessee pulled into camp. They were in the atomic business down there. They knew of Cosby Hollow down in the Smokies, famous as the moonshine center of the world. I made camp in Green Mountain National Forest for a week, and explored some sections of the Long Trail in Vermont. In the middle of the mountains I found a bronze plaque; "Daniel Webster spoke to about 15,000 people here in 1840". Today you can hardly drive up the mountain road leading to the deserted spot. I got back with a fair beard to Washington. My hiking and camping friends were happy to see me. Cora helped me get my notes together and shortly after Thanksgiving, I was off again heading South, still pointing along Route 1 toward Key West at the tip of Florida. VII Father Tom Monahan, former Jack's guy and now a Josephite priest working in North Carolina, welcomed me with food and overnight lodging. Next morning he suggested that I visit a new Trappist foundation in Monck's Corner, South Carolina A few miles out of Charleston, I started asking directions. The red clay roads tapered into tall thin pines. An occasional shack broke the pine line and finally I began to get answers about the location of the monastery. A long winding road led from the country lane, past gigantic oaks festooned with Spanish moss. A lone bent figure plodded ahead. I stopped and picked the man up He was a worker at the place and told me that guests were not being accepted yet. I was having trouble with the car and asked if he thought I might be able to stay while the car was being checked. He led me to a monk who brought me to the superior of the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of Mepkin. There was no problem. They had a good mechanic and would have him check out the motor and electrical circuit. Meanwhile, I could work in the chicken coop. Selling chickens was to be their way of earning their keep, following their own dictum of "work and pray". Arthur was a layman who'd had a drinking problem. I was his assistant, since I had asked to work for food and shelter. I slept in the long building where the chickens were housed and my job was to weigh the eggs for classification. These traditionaists used scientific methods for egg production. Silence is their rule; communication is by hand signs A pat on the stomach means "good"; another pat plus a point to the open eye means "good morning". The father superior and the prior talked with me, others gestured their communications. The prior, a Baltimorean, was interested in my canoe. He had rowed with his college team. The monastery bell brought the monks to pray and I prayed with them. With downcast eyes, slow measured walk and low sweeping bows to Christ, they were impressive. The Salve Regina was the traditional vesper hymn. Filing out of the chapel after services, Arthur and I were sprinkled with holy water 2S we filed out behind the monks. I prayed my Rosary more intensely there. Christmas was near, and the excitement was manifest. The monks moved with a more determined air. Even the chickens seemed to produce more rapidly, and the eggs sold in large quantities. Packages began arriving. The biblical phrases increased in depth and perception. for me. I hardly understood the Latin but there was an English translation on the facing pages. More food arrived. helped defeather a turkey being readied for the feast. The finely manicured grounds of the abbey were part of an estate belonging to Clare Booth Luce. I heard that she rented it to the monks at a dollar a year for 99 years. A local couple and their children lived on the monastery grounds and helped with the farming. After the Midnight Mass, Arthur and the couple asked me to take them somewhere. As I drove along the dirt road, there was a terrible commotion in the rear seat. Arthur and the woman's husband were fighting. I stopped the car, opened the door and let them tumble out onto the deserted highway; a couple of flailing, grunting, punching foes. The man accused Arthur of having made advances to his wife in the crowded little Austin. I couldn't separate them. I loaded the wife into the car and brought her back to their house. If the two wanted to fight, let them fight! I went to the chicken house and went to bed. I couldn't sleep, thinking of this Christmas episode. I got up and headed back. It was three or four in the morning when the headlights picked up the two figures in the distance, wending their weary way back to the monastery. The fight was all out of them and I turned the car around, allowing them to catch up and enter for a silent trip back. I went to bed but not to sleep. The thought of the night's happenings swirled through my mind far into the morning. At the Mass of Daybreak I became lost, thinking about the night. As usual, I prayed that what I did would be for the honor and glory of God. I became overwhelmed with the atmosphere of piety, prayer and simplicity. Intelligence, emotion and will were drowned in tears. After several weeks helping Arthur I decided to try this kind of life. I was tasting love. Father Anthony, the superior I'd spoken to after the Christmas episode, listened and gave me permission to join in their life of prayer. A brother was assigned as an "angel" to teach me the sign language and the routine of the community. We rose at two o'clock in the morning, worked in the barn, the dormitory, or wherever we were told to. The traditional "hours" - times of prayer - were present. After two days I was tense. Father Anthony said I was trying too hard. My third day of living among the monks, we celebrated an outdoor Benediction. I became so emotionally involved in the worship that I wept unrestrainedly. The place was too much for me, or I was too much for myself. That night, I got my stuff together, tore out of the monastery shouting up to heaven, "Father! Father!" I was beside myself. Emotion outstripped intelligence. I drove into the night until I found a spot to sling my army hanmock between two trees and rest. Next morning, I was up, refreshed and hungry. A weathered shack on a river bank advertised fresh shad roe. It was a delicious breakfast, fried with eggs and served with hush puppies and syrupy coffee laced with cream. I was still hooked on religion. In the Trappist life was a closeness to God that I wanted. I drove to Gethsemani, the first Trappist monastery in the New World. I asked to camp and instead was taken in as a guest. The huge red brick building was as austere as the regime of the monks, with the early hour rising and the praying of the hours in ancient style. The farm was beautiful. A tent in the area housed the heavy influx of postulants following the second world war. War had sensitized many of the soldiers to the emptiness of a world which put important values on things and none on the spirit. They were here - looking, seeking - and many found the values not found in a war-wracked world where death and misery and superficiality ruled. This was the home monastery of writer Thomas Merton who was probably novice master then. Several guests were on retreat and I joined them in the presentations. One priest's definition of love was "the balance between intelligence and will." Emotion fitted in there or fits in there somewhere. I get the idea that it is the imbalance of these extremes which brings us to tears. On one occasion, I saw a woman weeping. Before I knew it, I was weeping with her. I didn't stay. I was given several loaves of the wonderful whole-wheat bread and headed South again. VIII I decided to visit Jim Kearney, a canoeist from Jamestown, Mew York, now building a large sailboat near Jacksonville, Florida. He and other Seminole Canoe Club members suggested that I take a canoe trip from Ichtucknee Springs, down the Suwanee river. Florida has many clear bubbling springs where one can look down into the clear water and see the escaping current rising to the surface in aerated streams. Such was Ichtucknee Spring, the source of water for the stream I would follow. I'd seen such a spring only once before: On a slanderbird hike to Big Spring in Pennsylvania. It was late afternoon when I pitched camp beside the spring. A monstrous water tank-truck hauled up beside the small tent I'd pitched. A ranger and his assistant hurriedly began pumping water from the spring into the tank. They said they were fighting an 80-acre fire started by ranchers burning off scrub grass, and the fire had gotten out of control. They said I could help, and under the ranger's expert advice we soon had the fire out. They returned me to my camp to eat my supper and turn in, lulled to sleep by the insect symphony. I was up at crack of dawn for a quick dip in the 50-lO0 foot deep spring. Then coffee and oatmeal. I set the canoe into the spring, loaded the gear and paddled into the jungle. Twists and turns through overhanging growth required great care. Sometimes it was necessary to move backward to disengage from the heavy tangle at the bow. Fish, overshadowed by the canoe, darted into the underwater fronds of eelgrass. As I glided past, frogs and turtles sunning themselves on floating logs splashed into the water and slid into the depths. I could look 30 or 40 feet into the clear water. Seven-mile-long Ichtucknee Creek emptied into the wider and more leisurely Santa Fe river. I proceeded down the Santa Fe which, translated, is "Holy Faith". My faith was rewarded: It emptied into the Suwanee River made famous by Stephen Foster, who spelled it Swanee. I floated, paddled and coasted with the tail breeze, down over 80 miles of its 120-mile length. Along the whole reach were but four scattered cabins. The four-day trip brought me to the Gulf of Mexico. The closer I came to this great body the faster the current flowed. I found myself among large floating islands of growing vegetation rising and falling in a choppy sea. The tide was running out. I was carried with it into the Gulf of Mexico. The floating islands were everywhere. Warm moist air dampened my face as the swift current swept me out to sea. I managed to turn the canoe around and struggled against the tide which ebbed faster and faster until I was hardly moving. I'd asked directions from some sports fishermen in a motorboat. Now heading back, they saw my plight. They took my line and towed me back to Salt City where they invited me to join in their fish-fry. A cooling tropical downpour did not lessen the celebration. The hush puppies remain, a lasting memory, They were driving toward High Springs, my starting point of almost a week ago, and gave me a lift to my car. One of the priests who'd visited Mrs. Kramer in Washington was at St. Leo's Benedictine Abbey near Miami. I located the Abbey in Dade County. Like the Trappists, the Benedictines are contemplatives, though not regulated to silence. Founded in 529, the original monastery in Italy was demolished from time to time, including its bombing during the second World War. Due to misinformation that it was being used as a Nazi operations center, it was flattened by Allied bombers. It has been rebuilt. St. Leo's Abbey in Florida included schools and 20 acres planted in oranges and grapefruit. Its 800 acres were well kept. Brother Leo, who had worked and prayed here for fifty years, took me on a tour. I picked up a luscious looking grapefruit from the ground. It was bitter. Brother picked one from a tree and handed it to me; it was sweeter than an orange. He explained that the sugar in a fallen grapefruit turns to acid. A boarding school housed 150 boys and nearby was an academy for girls. Forty cows, 5000 chickens, a printshop and an apiary in a beautiful setting landscaped by one of the brothers made it a modern setting in a modern world. Brother Leo told me how modern agricultural methods have decimated birds and insects. Their farming belief is, "You can't improve on the original plans of God." Wally Claussen, old Mr. Canoeist himself, heard I was in the area of Silver Springs, the most famous of the Florida springs. He abandoned his breakfast to catch up with me and brought me to the home of Ross Allen: Wrestler of alligators, hunter, and owner of a snakefarm where poisonous snakes were milked of their venom, to be used in antitoxins. I watched Ross milk the snakes. He held them firmly just behind the head and pressed the poisonous channeled fangs on the edge of a water class. The yellowish liquid slid down the inside of the glass. Ross also wrestled an alligator, to show me how it was done. He walked out and with a quick grab took hold of the jaws of the reptile, keeping them closed. The strength of the jaws is in the muscles that close the lower jaws in a snapping motion. There is very little strength in the opening muscle of the jaw. Very simple, was his explanation as he sat down with the rigid reptile. He told me the bull alligator in the mating season is the most dangerous of the species. A quick trip to Miami Beach gave me a chance to see the famous resort. An interesting island south of the city looked like a good spot to camp. I unlashed the canoe, loaded it with my camp gear and headed out. A passing Coast Guard patrol boat intercepted me and permitted me to camp on the small island near their headquarters. They gave me a couple of plastic water bags which served me for thousands of car and hundreds of canoe miles. I continued South over the Florida Keys with a special stop at Key Lime and tasted the lime pies. Then over the bridges connecting the keys to the end of Route 1 at Key Nest. I was short of money and decided to sell my small portable typewriter. I stopped in a hock-shop to see what cash I could get. This was the first time I'd ever hocked anything and I was nervous. Perhaps the owner thought I had stolen it, because soon there were a couple of policemen in the place. They asked several questions on ownership and identity and when I said the typewriter had been mine for some time they asked me to sit down and type something. Some of my identification included my old Navy Department badge with number and my picture. Now, as I sat at typewriter all shook up, the only sentence that came to mind was, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." It wasn't till later that I thought of the connective ideas for the quick release as they told me to get out of town. The road map showed Everglades National Park. I had read of the unconquered Indians in that area and decided to visit. At the Ranger Station, where I stopped to check the-camping potential, Dan Beard, Jr. son of the founder of Scouting, was in charge. We had a good rap on the outdoor situation, in particular about U.S. government participation in and promotion of camping and outdoor recreation When I arrived at the campsite ll miles away, I got a cool welcome from a group of Interior Department rangers. Everglades National Park was the most recently established park in the system. Carelessly attended campfires had wrought havoc in the area. The last thing they wanted to see was another camper. They checked my camp gear. My Primus stove, a rare item at that time, got their admiration and I got my certification as a camper who knows what he was about. Chief Ranger Russ Alexander and aide Dave Bogart explained that future plans included canoe trails and official camp-sites. Because the 270,000 acres was almost one-third water, the canoe trails and facilities would get special attention. In the glades are the finest and tallest cypress trees in the world. Manatees (sea cows), mammals leftover from the Pelagic or Sea age are rumored to be in these waters, but no I didn't see one. An ornithologist from the Audubon bird station guided fee- paying bird-lovers on airboat tours through the glades. How many birds stayed put through the racket, I didn't have the money to find out. natives warned that there were two crocodiles in the area. They had been imported from Egypt and turned loose; Lord knows why, because they're man-eaters. Paddling in these waters, the horizon of grass and water is broken only by occasional groups of trees on humps of land called hammocks, rising only slightly higher than eye level. They seem timeless, spaceless surroundings, completely unidentifiable with civilization or geographical labels. In Summer, when water covers the roads, the feeling of isolation must be overwhelming. The rangers said that in certain seasons, the mosquitoes are so thick and vicious that an unprotected person could survive only a few days. Ten Thousand Islands was a name that intrigued me. I was told it was easy to get lost among them. I drove north then took a sandy one-lane road toward the Gulf. At a white sloping beach, I put in and paddled out toward a channel marker. There must have been thousands of islands, most having just a bit of eel grass and a few with trees. The silence was incessant. Buoys marked this quietly reflective water course toward Indian Key and the Gulf of Mexico. After a few hours, two passing fishermen assured me I was going the right way. They gave me a crab and two fish before waving goodbye. Long rolling swells bounced my canoe toward a white shell beach, the last before the limitless expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, where blue water rose to the horizon. After beaching the canoe, I made a driftwood fire and cooked the fish and crab between two pieces of screen. The stars popped out as the sun set. During the night, some creature tried to enter my one-man tent, but gave up. I found no animals on the island, but could have subsisted there for days. Fat juicy clams dotted the mud flats. But I had to be on my way back to the Austin and my search for what makes this country tick. The Monastery, the silence of God were heavy onto me and the answer was sinking deeply. I paddled back to the car to find another quiet campsite. In the middle of a forest preserve I found a bee keeper. He had 500 hives and produced 250,000 pounds of honey a year. Honey always had a biblical and gastronomical attraction for me, and here I was: right in the middle of production. The keeper took me on a complete tour of all the hives. A stout, electrically- charged fence kept the bears out. The honey from the tupelo tree, he said, is prized by gourmets and gets top prices. He pulled out a tray of honey and handed it to me. It wasn't long before I felt a bee crawling up my leg inside my trousers. "What shall I do?". His answer, "Swat it," came too late. They tell me bee sting is good for arthritis. Continuing west along the Gulf of Mexico, I took a swing north into Alabama to visit a friend, the pastor of a black Parish. A policeman told me that blacks were no better than monkeys. It was a shock to hear this opinion. It was a worse shock when I visited another priest friend. He said to sleep with him. I did and discovered that besides being a heavy drinker he was also homosexual. I was finding out about sex the hard way. The highway skirted the Gulf of Mexico. The blue water of the distant horizon seemed higher than the sand-skirted road I was traveling. I passed the Louisiana state line and was soon rolling into New Orleans. The sights were familiar. The iron balconies and French Market reminded me of the great depression and my experiences of those days. I went on through, into Evangeline territory. I couldn't resist putting my canoe into one of the bayous and paddling through the narrow water lanes, here and there flanked by houseboats. I was invited onto one. This floating home, though cramped, was sufficient for the basic home life of a family. I did get a terrific bump on my head climbing down the ladder into the kitchen. As I left, the silence of the waterway was broken by the redwinged blackbirds cheeping their "Loreleis", the only sounds. Bayous are made by the mud deposited at the entrance to the gulf by the Mississippi River. A millennium went into the building of this ever-changing system of channels and islands. As I paddled into Houma a large metal tank was dumping oysters at a cannery beside the bayou. Counties in this area are called parishes. In Terrebone Parish I planned to make a large circle to paddle back onto the Intercostal Waterway, that ribbon of water that-goes from New York south and around Florida to the Mississippi I'd paddled on various strips of that ribbon. The Bayous de Large, Theriot, and Minors Canals, had swampy lowlands - impossible to camp on. The mosquitoes at dusk rose in clouds with an almost deafening hum. A campsite seemed impossible, when a two-foot hammock popped into sight. I pitched my tent hurriedly, popped in and soon had my Primus burner making some soup. The mosquitoes zumzummed hungrily outside. The tent was mosquito-proof, and with the deep of night they disappeared. Lake Decade's choppy waters made rough going and at evening I discovered a trapper's cabin on shore and made myself at home. Two youngsters trailing twelve-foot poles were snagging turtles. The night before, they'd gotten two fifty pounders. Turtle meat brought them eight cents a pound. At Falgout canal I made campsite on an eight foot hammock. A sleek car pulled up at the end of the road some distance away. Two uniformed men with pistols swinging at their hips swaggered toward me. They asked for identification. I showed them my driver's license and other credentials. They'd had a report of this stranger in the bayous and had been trying to catch up with me for twenty four hours. They were satisfied. I had been on the road for nine months and had traveled thousands of miles. The tensions had been pressing, mostly to keep the car running on fifty dollars a month. Then there was the worry about whether the money Jack Quinn sent would be at the General Delivery windows of the Post Offices. I was ready to head back to Washington. I loaded my gear and turned northeast into Alabama in time for the springtime azalea trail of beautiful flowers. At Birmingham, there was a continual movement of small coal trucks. Vulcan, the blacksmith god of ancient Greece, was depicted on the city's welcome sign. The tune "Birmingham Jail" kept running through my mind. I was in an area where slavery existed, in fact if not in theory. A mountain of tomatoes outside the park where I camped reminded me of our national waste. The sandy soil, as I drove, changed to the slippery red clay of southern U.S.A. The surface was almost completely red. It was St. Patrick's Day - as a former New Yorker I remembered what was taking place in that part of the country. In Alabama, the saint was ignored. I had become so adept at overnight camping that it was short work to get out my tent and Primus stove, to have a quick supper and get early to bed. The bed was a V shaped set of aluminum rods with a taut canvas sheet, on which I placed my sleeping-bag. Outside Nashville, Tennessee, I saw a sign that read "Maryland Farms". It reminded me of my hikes with the Wanderbirds. I stopped in, thinking of Maryland hospitality. A half-mile winding drive led me in the dusk to what seemed to be a magnificent mansion. At the door, I realized it was a stable! I hallooed and out came J.H McHenry, 30 years a stud farm operator. This stable belonged to a famous horse breeder H. Truman Ward, the owner of the horse, American Ace. The poverty I'd been seeing and this use of money for horses sunk heavily into my mind. McHenry told me a new colt can stand up 30 minutes after it's born and run and jump in two hours. He also told me, grimly, how his dad had been tied up by two white men, placed against a tree and used for target practice until he was dead. McHenry abruptly changed the subject, showing me a hackney, a small horse not unlike a Shetland pony. In Kentucky I stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park but not before the "come-ons" had beckoned me into the tourist traps. They were dressed as Department of Interior employees. I passed them up after one interview then I did a quickie into national monument Mammoth Cave's miles and miles of underground routes and rivers, its huge stalagmites and stalactites On a visit to Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, cars from many states were parked in the lot near the log cabin. The simple lifestyle they led and the modern abuse of nature's gift of water was brought into focus by the sign at the spring his family used: "This water is unfit for drinking". Looking at the exhibits made me reflect how our lives have become so complex that only when I became jobless did I realize the basic importance of food and shelter. At the beginning of my peregrination, I had hiked the northern part of the 2,000 mile long Appalachian Trail at Mt. Kathadin in Maine. Now I was in an area of the southern terminus of the trail at hIt. Ogelthorpe, Georgia. I headed for it. In Conyers, Georgia was still another Trappist Monastery and a short visit there impressed the spirit animating me more deeply. I arrived at Mt. Ogelthorpe in a driving rain, over a slippery red clay road. The Austin slipped and sidled as we climbed the narrow mountain road. When I stopped for directions, natives advised re against going up on the treacherous road. I stubbornly inched up. Branches brushed against the sides of the car and canoe. I had dreamed of reaching both ends of the Appalachian Trail. I slipped sideways toward dangerous drop- off edges. The wheels sunk to the hubs but I managed to get the car out. Finally stubbornness gave way to reason. A blacktopped side strip permitted me to turn around without getting mired again. I skidded and slipped down and down and down to the long ribbon of road leading back to the District of Columbia. I discovered myself going in the wrong direction. The overpasses all looked alike. Hadn't I driven by this sign a little ways back? Confusion overwhelmed me. I pulled into a station and called Jack Quinn in Washington. "Have you enough money to get back?" he asked. I had. "Take the bus and leave the car," he said. I did. (end chapter 8) IX My trip of ten months had covered 16,000 miles on land and Lord knows how many on water. It had deepened my religiosity almost to a breaking point. There was no doubt that God made this country tick. The beauty of nature had been overwhelming Its abuse rankled. I'd had the same questions asked of me time after time at gas stations: "Are you doing any fishing?" or on my beard, "Do you sleep with it under or over the cover?" Such conversation had been repetitious to boredom. And the injustice: Some young black men were at the back of a bus, on their way to Spring baseball practice in Florida. I joined them to protest their segregation. The driver eyed me in his mirror as though recognizing my protest. The man who picked me up in his mule-drawn cart as I hitch- hiked to a gas station. Now I silently watched the scenery we passed. It was good not to be in the driver's seat. I had gotten the travel bug out of my system and felt all washed out. Jack Quinn was waiting at the depot and soon I was being greeted by his wife, Margaret, at their home in Cheverly, Maryland. It took me a few weeks to get out of the mental mess I'd gotten into. Nightmares were frequent, the first nights. Gradually, with Margaret's care and good cooking I slowly re- entered the life style I'd been away from. I'd known Marge and Jack since before their marriage. He'd gotten a basketball scholarship to St. Francis College of Brooklyn, met Marge in a school play and they married. Now, with four boys and a girl, they added me to their family circle. Jack was the one who told me that after I left St. John's Home, when children were bad, they'd be warned by the Sisters, if they got any worse they'd be like "Jeddy". As a member of the Washington Canoe Club and through Dusty's good graces, I moved to the Club House on the bank of the Potomac. There I cooked on the club stove, slept in the up-river tower. In summer, several bachelors also lived there. Members of the crew who came were mostly younger racers. I'd paddled against some of them while with the Dempsey Canoe Club before I left on my pilgrimage. At the Club I watched the daily practice, the distant traffic on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and at rush hours listened to the traffic on Key Bridge or Canal Road behind the club. Most of the year I was alone, living in retreat, an anchorite. Each morning I left the boathouse and walked the short length of the quiet Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, climbed the steps to K Street, saluted the "river people" who slept under the Key Bridge and were just stirring at this hour. Up the steep stairway I went, to Trinity Church, which was staffed by Jesuits as was Georgetown University around the corner. The spirit of beauty and goodness found at the Trappists' was intensified by the quiet Potomac. A cold winter froze the river. Frank Havens, practicing for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, needed an ice-free lane. The Coast Guard obliged. The smooth glaring surface by day became a shiny light- reflecting mirror by night. At Christmas, we ran strings of yellow lights up the two towers of the club in the form of candles. A huge lighted star was centered at the front. Seen from the Virginia side, the reflection on the ice against the dark background of Georgetown, was outstanding. The up-river tower was freezing at night and I snuggled in my double-down feather sleeping bag, a GI surplus buy for ten dollars. In the morning there might be frost near my mouth, or driven snow over my bag, but I slept warmly. Below the ladder to the tower was a second floor where I carried on my work as National Cruising Chairman of the American Canoe Association. Each year, lives are lost in the Little Falls of the Potomac. Boating safety regulations were not yet in effect. As national cruising chairman of the American Canoe Association, I decided to try the Little Falls. I put my light plywood canoe into the water at the head of the drop; a backwater against a lip over which the water slowly passes below one's vision. Tips of trees a half mile downstream were at the spot where the river met ocean tidewater. I slid over the lip: Down, down into curling, slashing white foamed waves. They became larger and larger, finally curling into the boat as I shot down thru the gorge. Control was impossible. I thought I was going to tip when the canoe was caught by an eddy at a cliff corner. It stranded on a flat rock, leaving me in a calm haven as the rapids crashed to my left. Stepping onto the rock, I emptied the canoe, stepped in and slid back into the rapids. There was no place else to go. The bottom of the chute was split into a "V" by a large boulder. I'd been warned which channel to take. The ride finished in breathtaking smashes on the bottom of the canoe as I hit the final curlers. Friends waiting to pick me up thought I had capsized, and cheered roundly at the finale. Once was enough. Wally van-Claussen, National Director of Canoeing and Water Safety for the American Red Cross explained the danger: Large rocks are hurled in a whirling mass as the bottom currents grind the granite boulders into rocks, pebbles, or specks of sand - a mortar and pestle effect. He added that some lost canoeists probably are ground in this cement effect, leaving no trace. At the boathouse, we knew that most bodies would appear in about three days, so we kept a regular lookout below this spot where the Potomac is 90 feet deep. The Georgetown bank of the river at Key Bridge was a gathering place for homeless street people. Sometimes they were pretty noisy, especially during the Summer. As they got to know me they greeted me and exchanged a few words. Mine was an outdoor lifestyle unimaginable in the nation's capital. People used to kid me about Walden, but it was only later, when I visited Walden Pond, that I got an idea of what they were talking about. I continued my canoe trips, bemoaning the filth in the river. Once I wrote the Navy captain in command of Carderock, where nasty-smelling fluids ran into the Potomac. I asked if it were possible to do something about cleaning it up. His answer sounded as though I was reaching for the moon. Since then, they're doing it. Washington Canoe Club members came out in force at the seasonal float-moving time. In the fall we floated them to Roosevelt Island to protect them from the winter ice, and floated them back again in Spring. Those were beer occasions. Club membership was restricted to males, in line with the times. Members' wives often camped upriver all summer and each day, the men paddled downriver to their jobs. In my pilgrimage I'd seen the abuse of our natural heritage in fields, streams, and forests. I began to write to the companies or persons, wherever I'd seen the evidence of abuse. I continued the Outdoor U.S.A newsletter as part of an educational process. In the spring of 1953, pollution of air, fields and streams had aroused outdoor clubs and conservation groups. A meeting was called in Washington at the home of Mrs. Gifford Pinchot, widow of the conservationist governor of Pennsylvania. Ira Barnes of the D.C. Audubon society chaired the meeting. Concerned organizations included representatives of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Wilderness Society, the National Conservancy the Appalachian Trail Conference, the Audubon Society, The National Park Service. A gentleman at my side introduced himself as representing the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). I sat in as cruising chairman of the American Canoe Association, for Dusty Rhodes of the Washington Canoe Club and for Hubert Walker, president of the Wanderbirds' Hiking Club. Jones, of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, remarked that I was wearing a lot of hats. Little did we dream that we were sparking a movement which has brought the world to an awareness of the damage industrialization has caused. At the time we had no idea of the problem of disposal of nuclear waste. The three-sided window of the second floor of the tower gave a great view of the river; up, down and across. Upriver was Three Sisters' Islands which, according to legend, appeared after three Indian maids disobeyed their parents and went dating. The~t were caught in a whirlpool and drowned. Next morning three islands appeared. The spot is now used to start boat races. The ACA annual meeting in 1953 was held in New York. Swirling snow fell in Washington as I took the six o'clock train from Union Station. The snow had forced closing of air traffic and the station was as jammed as it was in wartime. A card game was in operation on the train. It was like a scene from an O. Henry story: Slick card players vs. country bumpkins. When the conductor came into the car to collect tickets, the sharks fled through the far exit. "Any suckers taken in?" the conductor murmured as he punched my ticket I laughed. Penn station, with great space and people, flowing was a dynamic center as I walked to the Independent Rapid Transit (IRT). Subway fares had gone from five to fifteen cents. The American Canoe Association had retained a hard core of devotees over the years. Flat water racing, canoe sailing and cruising were the three areas of the sport. After seventy years, the sport still retained some diehards but needed new blood. I'd arranged a preliminary meeting of regional cruising coordinators Lawrence Grinnell, Jim Kearney, Laurie Wallace and Bob McNair at Luchow's which was famous for beer and cheer, especially at the Christmas Season. I"d been sending letters to canoeists and outdoors people - ACA members or not - on river pollution, as well as on the sport. To become viable, we needed to interest young people. Bob, the youngest at Luchovz's, did not have much faith in organizations and his ACA membership was more a personal favor to me than any real interest in the organization. He was interested in white water, the water of swift moving streams with foam flecked tops rushing over rocks, thru gorges to the sea. Because of my official capacity with the ACA, the U.S. Olympic Committee at Helsinki had listed me as a member of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Tourism Committee. It sounded important but no one in the U.S. knew what it involved. I wrote to canoeists in Europe. Information started coming in on standardization of canoe cruising symbols, mapping details of canoe routes and canoeing publications. The final and most interesting contact was with the President of the Federation of Canoeing at Merano, Italy. He wanted the U.S.A. to send a team to Merano to participate in a canoe slalom. The brochure advertising the event was calculated to arouse the most indolent paddler. Cruising, camping, sightseeing and other attractions made this world championship slalom more than a casual event. Volunteers translating some of the foreign languages kept me from being overwhelmed with the paper work. I didn't even know what was entailed in a canoe slalom much less if any of our few known canoe cruisers would be interested. Information on cruisers in the ACA made the possibility of our country getting up a team to go to Italy look mighty slim. It was a challenge. That's when I thought of Bob McNair of the Buck Ridge Ski Club. Ski slalom; canoe slalom; rang a bell. Bob's practical nature, drive with a capital D, and a dedicated interest in canoeing, made him accept the job of organizing the sport of amateur canoe slalom in the United States. It didn't take him long to set the first race. Jim Kearney, Ted Fisk and I left Baltimore in Jim's car for the first canoe slalom on Brandywine Creek, below the dam at Rockland, Del. The tiny town was jammed with visitors' cars. Men and women in shorts scurried back and forth on a narrow bridge carrying slalom equipment; painted gate numbers, poles painted with alternating green and white stripes or red and white stripes, ropes, lifesaving buoys and other paraphenalia. I leaned over the bridge, checking stream speed. The quarter-mile course was a pretty sight as I gazed upstream. Numbered pairs of six-foot poles were strung across the creek, suspended to within a a few inches of the surface. Jack Heckleman and Don Rupp were in charge of a work detail of 29 people. They shoved me a map of the project, and then the setting-up was completed. We were ready to try the first U.S. amateur canoe slalom. At a whistle signal, the run was made against time, starting at a gate just wide enough to paddle through. The contestant continued through successively numbered gates with just enough distance between gates to pass through and meet the challenge of some aspect of whitewater canoeing. Touching a pole with bow, stern, paddle or body varied the number of points to a penalty. If the technique was sufficiently poor, the course had to be rerun. Jim Kearney and I tried it. Jim was a powerful six-footer with a fighting spirit. We heaved that canoe around the course. Three poles in a row at the second gate made for tight turning in the fast current. At a red pole, we did a complete turn to port. Poles were passed as in navigation; red to port and green to starboard. A suspended half-green, half-white pole meant 180-degree turn to port. Our progress and faults were relayed to the chief judge with flags, varicolored square wooden plaques, and whistles. I'd known the excitement of racing neck and neck with a competitor in flatwater straightaway, and thought that racing against a stopwatch would be a dull affair. At mid-course, I could feel myself getting weaker as the competitive spirit took over and forced me to extend myself. Paddling with the current - against the current - bow turning - - backward - sideways - draw and cross-bow strokes and some strokes with no official names, were invented for the moment. The tenth and final gate of the quarter-mile course was a lulu. As we approached, we had to turn the canoe around, head upstream, reversing our direction. We "climbed" upstream through a three-foot-wide gate, cut across the current to avoid a barrier just below the cross-current, then tried to squeeze through another gate to finish the run. Years later, a member of the U.S. Canoe Slalom Team placed third in the 1972 Olympics. We had really made progress: Bob McNair had done his work well. Even the Navy's David Taylor Model Basin had been used for research of canoe lines and practice. I continued my daily Mass and Rosary and was pretty certain of a happy death with all my First Fridays. I became interested in a young woman and we visited a priest friend at Trinity church a few times, then drifted apart. We never mentioned marriage. A Sunday sermon about parishioners participating in the work of the parish spurred me to print up forms inviting Holy Trinity parishioners to join in parish work by centering on the parish as our community. I hand-delivered the invitations to many parishioners in Georgetown. My priest friend asked me for a copy, saying, "Bishop O'Boyle wants to see it." I read the local Catholic paper, said my Rosaries and lived in my world apart from the bustling traffic. As I put out the flag each morning, I was welcomed by Pemmy, the WCC handyman. One day, Dusty and I heard Pemmy was sick and went to visit him. The woman downstairs said to go up to his room. We found him stretched out unconscious. We called the ambulance. By the time it got there, he was dead. Pemmy had worked many years at the Club. He must have suffered, as a black person. One day I caught him spitting a glob of phlegm into the oyster stew we were cooking for the Club. Now, he must be feelinq as the words on Martin Luther King's tombstone jubilate, "Free at Last, free at last - Thank God almighty - I'm free at last." A number of us attended Pemmy's funeral. In the Catholic Standard I read about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and wanted to visit this miracle of Our Lady in Mexico city. I had a strong urge to make a pilgrimage there, to ask for the spiritual guidance necessary for my life work. As I had prayed to God, "Teach me love," and felt the lesson too much to bear at the Trappist Monastery in Mepkin, so now I wanted to learn my slot in life. It was the Marian year - a happy coincidence, I thought. Too, there might be some canoeing down there and maybe cave- explorinq. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was noted for its hospitable service. The round trip ticket between Washington and Mexico City cave a new feeling of adventure. I was excited as I swung into Union Station, hurrying through the busy waiting room, ignoring the curious stares at my knapsack. Knapsacks were only carried by a few oddball outdoors people. I hurried through the train shed with its record area of covered space, scurried through the gate as the conductor called, "Where to?" "Mexico", I sang out. My knapsack was heavy with a three-day food supply, enough to feed me all the way to Mexico City. A hostess checked my ticket as awe moved along: Silver Spring...Harper's Ferry...Cumberland... Cincinnati were soon far behind. Sleeping was a little difficult the first night on the National Limited, but sleep I did, hunched up in my seat. A layover in St. Louis gave me a chance to look in on Fr. Dempsey's Hospitality House, which gave shelter to both men and women at a small price. "Go west, young man, go west," rang in my mind. Back on the train we rode the Missouri Pacific through the Southwest to Laredo. The Cowboy lament rang in ny ears: "... the Streets of Laredo ... " At the International Bridge, a few Americans and a like number of Mexicans were crossing the frontier. A uniformed Mexican Customs woman went through our luggage. There was some financial manipulation - the only way these civil servants could live: The mordido - the bite. An American told me that the customs woman had received a gift from a Mexican in the car with us. Almost three decades later, President Portillo was still trying to cut down on this custom by increasing salaries. The Mexican National Railroad hooked its engine onto our coach and we rattled across a rickety trestle. We were in Mexico. The row-on-row of neat orderly housing and paved streets gave way to individualistic houses, no two of identical design. We picked up speed. One novelty was the shower in the washroom of one of the cars picked up when we hooked onto the Mexican train. (end of chapter 9) X Gradually we climbed the central plateau, the backbone of Mexico. Passengers gathered on the platform and spoke softly with each other in the vestibule. Not understanding Spanish, I went back to my seat and soon dozed off. I woke up with the train in Monterrey. It's more an industrial town than the romantic one of song and story. The train went right through the city streets; no gates, no guards, no accidents. Tattered children streamed thru the cars like termites when ate stopped. Small mountain towns and short stops gave an opportunity to see the richly rural picture. Relatives came out with the products of their family industries - usually food - in baskets carried on their heads or arms. Most of their business was done in the second class coaches - wooden seated- affairs which looked mighty uncomfortable, packed with poor people. There was one first class coach and our Premium Special, outclassed only by Pullman. A young woman student of the National University of Mexico (UNAM) sat with me while as we struggled to understand each other's English. Children gathered under the windows, begging for coins. I save food. Low conversation, lights off and a full moon brought on sleep. It was dark when we arrived in Mexico city. Hearing the- foreign language piqued me and I wondered how I would operate. The passengers hurried off. I approached a policeman and asked directions to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He shrugged his shoulders. In my first-year High School Spanish, I spoke to a bystander, using the English pronunciation of Guadalupe which has a hard "G" (You should swallow it). Even with the correct pronunciation, many Mexicans use the Indian name Tepeyac, the name of the hill where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego over four hundred years ago. At a line of taxis, I asked a driver to take me to the shrine. He shrugged his shoulders for me to wait and went off for what might have been a drink, to judge by his gesture when he returned. We got in the cab. Over the dashboard was a small lighted statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, apparently the proper ornamentation for all cars in Mexico. He raced through a wide boulevard past a policeman waving at us to stop. The driver waved back as the speedometer registered sixty. Learning later that speedometers were calibrated in kilometers and not miles per hour was no comfort at the time. In the distance, as we raced along, I began to hear the sound of firecrackers. The outline of a blue-lit rounded dome came into view. We screeched to a halt at a large plaza in front of an immense church, tilted at an acute angle. Teeming crowds were in constant motion, entering and leaving the church. It was the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the date when all Mexico renders homage to their Morenita (little dark one). A million people would visit in veneration the next day, December 12th. Knapsack on my back, I joined the crowd entering the basilica. A mystical sense of something beyond me and this earth enveloped me, an emotion of spirit from and to those about me. We were unified in that spirit. All attention was on a picture far ahead, over the main alter, of an Indian princess cloaked in blue, crowned with gold, her foot on a crescent moon, benignly looking down over the slowly moving scene. I thanked God and Mary for this experience. I knew I was in that presence. I came out of the great church, edified, and knew that I would find a place to stay, even at this late hour. Down the Calzada de Guadalupe, the main avenue to the Basilica, I found a hotel. They gave me a room with a double bed and bath for 75 cents (American) per night. Next morning, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, excellent coffee and pan dulce (sweet roll) made my breakfast. Few understood my English, but there were always friendly souls ready to help the "gringo who was making a pilgrimage to Tepeyac. There seemed to be little tourist traffic. The natives left no doubt by their numbers that it was an important Mexican holiday; by their devotion, its importance as a holy day. In the Spanish colonial search for gold and riches, Cortez had conquered the Aztecs and the Indians were enslaved. Their king had been imprisoned and tortured and his people dehumanized by the conquers. The Indians, throughout their history, had believed that their god would come to them through a white race. The Spaniards, who had cone for gold, used that belief for their own ends. Montezuma, king of the Aztecs, had been captured and tortured by Cortez. Brought out to try and stop the native uprising, he was hit by several slingshot stones, and in a few days, died. The natives were in misery despite the pleadings of Bishop Zumarraga for their welfare. Juan Diego, an Indian on his way to religious instruction, walked toward what is today The Plaza of Three Cultures, and on his way, passed a hill called Tepeyac. "Juanito, called a dulcet voice from amid a chorus of sweet tones that seemed to come from the sky. Juan was surprised at the affectionate nickname and looked around. Again came the gentle voice: "Juanito." Juan climbed the hill and saw a beautiful young girl. She told him to ask the bishop to build on that hill a church where the people could come to pray. "No way," Juan probably thought, "This is for the birds." He haggled with the lady but finally, after he had explained that he was but a poor man and the "grand" bishop would hardly listen to him and after a few more attempts to avoid the chore, he weakened. Juan went to the Bishop and became the intermediary. The Bishop had asked for a sign. The Lady told Juan to come next day for it, This time, Juan's uncle was dying and wanted a priest and Juan decided to avoid the spot where he'd been talking to the young lady. Besides, it looked like she was going to have her way. No luck! she was waiting for him on his escape route. Juan tried to explain that he was on his way to get e priest for his dying uncle. "Forget it," she told him, "your uncle is OK." The bishop had asked for a sign from this lady, and now she told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather the roses he would find there. Juan Diego knew his own country and what should be growing on that hill that time of year. Roses? Not in this season, he thought. "Go and bring them to me," she said. At the top of the hill, the astounded Juan took his tilma, the cloth he wore for a cloak and gathered the flowers. When the tilma was filled to overflowing with roses, he returned to the lady. She reached in among the roses, rearranged them, and told him to take them to the bishop. When Juan Diego approached the bishop's residence, the servants gave him the usual underdog treatment and hassled him. Then, seeing that he was carrying something in his tilma, they grabbed at it. Juan rebuffed their attempts, though they managed to get a glimpse of the rosy color inside. Finally, he was allowed into the bishop's presence. Juan let the bottom edges of the tilma drop and the roses cascaded to the floor. The bishop, astounded, dropped to his knees. He and his attendants stared at the tilma instead of the roses on the floor. When Juan looked down, there on his tilma was a picture of the lady he'd been meeting on the hill. The Bishop had the picture placed in the Obispado. The Indians pleaded that a place of worship be built as the lady had asked. Had she not said "Tell the Bishop to build a place of worship at this site...so all the people of this land in their troubles come and pray for surcease...for an I not the mother of the true God?" As Mary supported the apostles so did she now support her oppressed poor. Pope Paul III ordered the picture brought to Rome, but it didn't stay long. It went back to Mexico where it belonged. A small chapel was built and the Indians held a great celebration. The picture had clarified their search for the ultimate good and they were being baptized by the hundreds of thousands. Now at the return of Juan Diego's picture, an immense throng gathered. In the narrow causeways over the swamp that was Mexico city and over the sluggish waters, they came on foot and canoe. They shot arrows into the air as part of their celebration. In the shower of arrows in her honor, an Indian was wounded. He was brought before the picture, as though dead, and arose healed. Juan Diego became the first caretaker of the chapel. The picture on the tilma is graphically presented, and the Indians understood. The sun is blocked out by the greater figure, as shown by the rays around her. She is cloaked with the blue of the starry sky and her foot rests on a crescent moon supported by an angel. The young lady appears pregnant. Her dress is figured with an intricate design. This was the image to which I directed my pilgrimage; not for the picture, but to the site which, for the Americas, is a center of petition. My need was to find out the why of my existence. I'd gotten the security of a Civil Service job, obeying my spiritual director, and my spirit was not satisfied. I'd found the fullness and overflow of Love in nature and monasteries. I felt deeply my need for participation in good works. Natives poured into the plaza like morning sunshine, removing the woolen scarves they'd worn over their mouths to keep out the damp night air. Bundles were unslung from shoulders and merchandise arranged in front of squatting figures who assumed a couple of feet of street space to show their wares The long steps up to the top of the hill where Juan had found the roses were lined with sellers' booths photographers were legion. There seemed no system of control Blankets, crockery, foodstuffs, woolen and cotton garments in beautiful colors punctuated the festive scene. I bought a blanket after a great haggle. Bands played, native people danced, in rhythnic cadenced motion to the beat of arums, maracas or cymbals Pastoral stories of good and evil were acted out in dance, as they'd been taught by missionaries of long ago when natives could neither read nor write Spanish. The festive mood, accentuated by firecrackers, continued all day and into the night. Nuclear family groups sang their farewells in the Basilica. The plaintive Indian tones keened. An endless wave of flower-bearing people, bobbing black heads and babies carried in shawls moved up the aisles. Leather- sandaled feet scraped their way forward on tiny grains of soil from all Mexico. We were answering the request of the beautiful young woman who appeared to Juanito over four hundred years ago. We were here with joy for her presence and the unburdening of our sorrow, perhaps fulfilling a promise made upon receipt of a favor, or, as in my case, petitioning her spirit through Christ. Family groups came the length of the Calzada on their knees. The crowds in the plaza and the church made way for such groups as they inched along. Masses, confessions, vigil lights, constant passing of collection baskets, perpetual swishing of long cleaning cloths were all going on simultaneously. I wound my way up the crowded aisle to the souvenir areas at the exit. An elderly woman stood in a small store at the church exit. Helen Behrens had dedicated herself to the promotion among the English speaking of this unique place. I visited with her and net her co-workers. She was of a noble German family and her son and daughter-in-law were working with her. Of the numerous "miracles" recorded there, Helen claimed her recovery was due to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe when she was promised nothing but a quick death from her doctor. A few years later, shortly before she died, I spent some time working with her. I helped get out educational information. Helen Behrens died among the sisters in the Carmelite convent on top of Tepeyac Hill. Helen's friends, an eye doctor and a photographer, had proven that the reflections discovered in photographic enlargements of the eye were those of humans. They found that human figures were reflected in the eyes of the image. One figure is claimed to be that of Juan Diego, another, that of Hernando Cortez. I came I saw and I prayed. I write these words on the eve of her feast in the year 1980, when the violence in the Americas calls us our respond to her command to Juan Diego. As I headed back to Washington and a continuation of my life on the river, I was filled with the knowledge and love of God. (end chapter 10) XI The spiritual dimensions that were deepened by the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, daily Mass, the silent flow of the river - all called for more action on my part. The natural environment enveloped me, compressed my humanity, making it cry for expression. The world of whirring wheels on the newly built Virginia extension of the George Washington Memorial shore road served to remind me of the need for preservation of the God-given beauty up-river. A threat to this preservation triggered a coalition of kindred souls. The Washington Post, heavily into nature preservation, helped whip up opposition to a proposed upriver dam on the Potomac. Hikers, canoeists and nature lovers coalesced to undertake a hike from Cumberland, W. Va., down to Georgetown, to publicize the beauty of the Potomac valley and the necessity of preserving it. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and Grant Conway, my camping companion, were among those who made the trip. During the week's hike, Grant's wife Ione, and I drove up to bring them supplies. I stayed on for a day's hike. A fast eighteen miles was plenty for me. It was Friday and we had buffalo steaks for supper. I said I was Catholic and could not eat meat that day. Justice Douglas spoke up for my religious beliefs. They found me some fish. I showed the Justice a map of the Potomac valley hiking trails, and explained how great it would be to preserve the area for recreation. He said he was very busy. I insisted that he was in a leader's position and could be of much help. He was silent After an evening in front of the fireplace, we spread ourselves around outside in our sleeping bags. I searched for a calm corner on the breezy porch and wound up on the leeward side of a sleeping hulk. Next morning I discovered it was Justice Douglas. Back in Washington, I was part of the throng which met the hikers a few days later at the District of Columbia and Maryland line to accompany the hikers on the last leg of their trip. Songs and speeches were the order of celebration at the C & O terminal in Georgetown. The American Canoe Association celebrated its 75th year and Dusty Rhodes, now Commodore, invited me to Sugar Island. The trip was highlighted at the Thousand Island bridge when the Canadian customs officers asked if we had any firearms. We threw them into a dither by answering politely that yes, we did have a cannon. We were invited to take it out of the trunk. We then demonstrated its use by placing it on the bridge pavement, aiming it at the U.S. side and shooting a blank cartridge. We all had a laugh at the small but loud signal gun. The Washington Canoe Club came in full force to support their member, Dusty, heading up the ACA. One day I mixed a batch of sourdough. Due to the many activities I was not able to get to the souring batter early enough. After a week, small flies had taken over. I insisted on making the pancakes. The texture was of leather. Frank Havens, winner of the 10,000 meter canoe race at the Helsinki Olympics, replaced his Olympic medal with one of my pancakes strung on his neck. Soon, other youths of the WCC were doing the same. It was to this camp that Eddie McEvoy set out from Gananoque, Canada, to ski miles, over treacherous river ice. He'd been told the ice was especially treacherous that year, but he insisted on his annual Winter visit to Sugar Island. He never came back. I decided to try out the old folk tradition of floating a lighted candle on the water to bring up the body of a drowned person. A terrific lightening storm came up. A lightning bolt struck a rock outcrop of the island. Next day a body came floating by the island. It was McEvoy's Back in Washington, I continued reading the Catholic Standard and attended courses at the Dominican House of Studies where Father Mariner Smith was my spiritual advisor. I was over- scrupulous, but through him and other Smiths who succeeded him I was freed of this perversion. Scrupulosity is an aberration of the mental process so that an over-sensitized person feels he or she is committing a serious offense, no matter how small the offense actually is. I was told it is one of the most difficult faults to correct. I found a job in a small print shop. Visits to the Trappist Monastery at Berryville, Virginia extended my spiritual growth. The experience of God in Mexico city was heavy with me. I continued my daily Mass, rosaries, and search for more to do in the line of my traditional upbringing. I had heard of the Catholic Worker movement and of Dorothy Day, its co-founder. The movement acted out the corporal works of mercy: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the poor. It was pro-labor and anti-war. A Catholic Standard story about Llewellyn Scott, a Pentagon clerk who used his salary to finance a Catholic Worker house of hospitality, excited me. He'd been told not to come back to a soup line at a Washington Mission because he was black. He opened a mission in a black neighborhood with the help of his nephew, Roy Foster, and some street people. They carried on the Catholic Worker tradition. I telephoned Scott. This World War I veteran, (he'd been a military messenger in France) a Howard University, graduate, this small quiet man with a spirit far beyond his body, listened to my story and said, "Come and try." The Blessed Martin de Porres Hospice was named after the illegitimate son of a black Peruvian slave woman and a Spanish official. Located at 38 Eye St. N.E., down the street from St. Aloysius Church, Catholic Worker and Friendship Houses held the seedlings of the radical Catholic lay movement exemplified by Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Catherine de Hueck, Mr. Scott and others. Catholic lay people were taking initiatives. Dorothy Day and her Worker House people refused to enter shelters during the air-raid drills of the Second World War and were jailed. Dorothy was disarmingly low key in her talks but they were full of wisdom and understanding. Her knack of getting to fundamentals was a lesson in simplicity. The movement took seriously Christ's teaching on corporal works of mercy, setting up secular communities for implementing these works. Catholic Worker and friendship houses multiplied, in a movement considered radical. The peace movement picked up on the idea of basic communities which generated a form of U.S. theology with, on occasion, liturgies peculiar to the group. At a Communist convention in New York, the only reporter allowed in was from the Catholic Worker. Dorothy was called "Communist", even though she had converted from Communism to Roman Catholicism. Mr. Scott, his nephew Roy and I, attended daily Mass. During the day, I worked as a Multilith operator and turned my salary over to Mr. Scott. I scanned many of the print jobs and learned what moved the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Education Association and many organizations whose print jobs provided me with a broad contemporary education. One night, Mr. Scott suggested that I set out the spots where the men were to sit or lie for the night. This was to forestall friction, which easily developed into fights. The poor, hungry and homeless are extra-sensitive. Those who helped at the hospice or those just in off the road got beds. Extra beds were assigned to the neediest. Then we set floor space for as many bodies as possible and assigned each step on the stairs of the three-story house to a man. Here they huddled up, chin in hand, and tried to sleep. In summertime, most of them slept in the parks. One time, I brought a copy of a print job to Fr. Raphael Simon at Berryville. It explained how a machine could, with certain input, respond like a human. Loaded with the idea that it is intellect and will that make us human, I was perturbed. The story was about a computer and I'm using one now to write this book. Mr. Scott and Roy were late risers. Those early mornings at Jack's now served me well at the Hospice. I was up at 6 00 a.m. and Mr. Scott was happy that I made the coffee and oatmeal for the men who then went out to look for work or to hang out somewhere. I was the only Caucasian in this community of blacks. I still thrill when I remember the day, talking among ourselves, someone made a disparaging reference to "white man". Suddenly looking at me, he stammered, "I - I didn't know you were here." Gradually more whiteys came but never in any great numbers. The first ones had to break through the color barrier. The men who came were mostly street people, but some were stranded between trains or buses, others had car trouble or had been robbed. Mr. Scott tried to keep these gentler persons out of the mainstream of street characters roosting for the night. Some of them stayed on and helped with the work. I was saturated with the fervor of St. Francis of Assissi. The gentle saint inspired me once when the men were overly noisy. I went from the kitchen with a wash-rag to clean off the table and someone had vomited onto it. I almost retched too, but managed to clean the table for the next sitting. The men started congregating in the yard of the Hospice about five each evening, while Charlie the cook got the big pot of stew or soup going. Liquor was forbidden and drunks tried earnestly to look sober. Sometimes there was a fight for any or no reason. Each response had to fit the occasion. The best advice from wise Mr. Scott was, "Never send both men out on the street together. Let one stay in the house." I forgot that once, and there was a bloody mess down near St. Aloysius'. The smashed jagged end of a wine bottle was the weapon. Mr. Scott's fame spread. The nation-wide TV program "This is Your Life" featured his story. It was a great show I had a little twinge of disappointment at not being included in the plane trip to Hollywood. But the publicity resulted in help that took the form of people, food and money. Doors were locked at 10 p.m. and no one could get in after that. That made for some rough times when drunks tried to break down the door. When he laid into them, Mr. Scott had one of the most cutting vocabularies I've ever heard. His four-foot-five body compressed a lot of energy. Roy worked at the National Institute of Health nights and by day did the driving to pick up donations of food and clothing. He was also the person who stopped most of the fights. Re took away any wine that got sneaked in - dangerous when someone's only solace or courage is in the bottle. The hospice came more and more to people's notice. One night, a little after ten, pounding at the door disturbed us. Mr. Scott gave his usual, "Go away, the door is locked." The pounding continued. He decided to give one of his famous tongue lashings and opened the door. It was O'Boyle, the Catholic bishop of Washington, He'd been driving past and decided to stop in. An announcement in the Catholic Standard spoke o# the need for Catechism teachers and moved me to attend the training course. Too, it could provide a deeper insight into my Faith. When I came home one night after class, every light in the House was on. Mr. Scott and Roy were out. Plainclothes policemen were all over the place. Charley the cook had seen a man lying in the street outside the hospice fence. Thinking the man was drunk, Charley pulled him in to keep the police from picking him up. Re saw blood on his hands and discovered that the man had been stabbed. He was dead. The police felt that the murderer was among our men. One of our regular step-sleepers was pretty cantankerous. As I listened to the story, I spotted him on the bottom step. If anybody here did it, I thought, he'd be the one. Next morning, after the police had been back questioning everyone and left again, this fellow stayed on. He kept a low profile but managed to get some bottles of wine. I spoke to Mr. Scott, who put him out. He walked directly to the spot where the victim had been stabbed, A few days later, a neighbor fingered him. He had asked a passer-by for a quarter. The passer-by, a pretty tough character himself, said he had no money for winos. Our man then slipped the knife into him and joined the crowd on the stairs inside the house. According to rumor, the police were not unhappy with the dead man out of the way. He'd been a tough character and gave them trouble. The murderer, I heard, was advised to get out of town or the dead man's brothers would undoubtedly kill him. That was the last I heard of the incident. One other person, when he was sober, was beautiful. But in his cups, was he rough! I crossed him one night when he'd been drinking. Be was making a scene on the top floor and I asked him to quiet down. He shouted and ranted and suddenly let fly with his foot into my stomach, putting me out of the action. Somehow, they got him calmed down and the next time he came to us he was as good as ever. When Mr. Scott retired from the Pentagon he went full time at the hospice. For a long time, I'd been thinking that total immersion was the only true way to participate. I quit my job and went full time,too. I grew in patience and wisdom with Mr. Scott. He moved deliberately and would ever remind me to slow down. I worked well with the men but he decided that the children were the ones who looked to me. He had bought the adjacent building at number 40. The second floor was devoted to the children, with games, a piano, and books suitable for pre-teens. I joined evening groups studying theology at the Dominican House of Studies and learned that spiritual direction is only a temporary phase in the steps toward independently creative Christian life. Absorbed in writing or reading in my cubby-hole office off the children's recreation room, time would slip by until school let out. Then bedlam broke loose: the piano got banged, pool balls clunked and skidded across the floor, children chased each other around the room, letting me know what parents must bear. I took them to the playground to let off steam. We'd take off with me leading, a raggle taggle group of kids skittering along behind. These were the kids who taught me how to ride a bicycle. A half dozen ran along holding up the bike as they directed me to "Pedal!" "Steer!" "Keep 'er going!" and "Straighten up!" One day, I made a precarious solo trip along North Capitol Street with staying on the car-tracks as the test. I count that my graduation day. The kids were real proud of "Mr. Spike." People brought so many donations that Mr. Scott opened a secondhand store around the corner. Someone gave us a needed freezer. Back of "38" was a whorehouse. The noise of that place on week-ends drove me insane. I would say rosary after rosary trying to get to sleep. You can imagine the distraction when, one violent night, a woman shrieked above the din, "We're married! We're married!" Well, maybe she was. I once saw the fellow who ran the place, walking down the street with this beautiful young girl maybe 12 or 13 years of age. During the day I often heard a lovely voice singing, coming from the area of the night activity. I liked to think that the young girl was the owner of the voice. Father Horace McKenna was known to all the street people as a mark - a soft touch. Whatever change was in his pocket was soon gone as they "touched" him along the way. One day he showed me a letter he was writing to the Jesuit superior general in Rome. He asked in the letter if it wasn't more important to pay attention to the poor than to the other projects the Jesuits were involved in. He asked what I thought of it. My respone was "Great!" The next I heard, Fr. McKenna was transferred to a school in Philadelphia. The Redevelopment Land Agency (RDA) was established to restore rundown slum areas. Our area - the old First Police Precinct, the worst in Washington - was selected. I'd heard there were to be public hearings on neighborhoods involved in the changes. I decided to arrange a meeting at the parish and contacted the local and agency people and then went to the pastor, with some trepidation. Blacks were still being segregated in that neighborhood. Mr. Scott said that when he first came, an usher at St. Aloysius Church ordered him to "go among your people". Mr. Scott didn't see any of his relatives among the segregated blacks, said so, and threatened to raise a rumpus during the consecration if any force was used on him. They didn't bother him after that. So, talking to this pastor, I was careful. I mentioned the titles of some of the RDA people who would be there. The pastor finally agreed to let us meet there. He opened the meeting and then took off for more important chores. But it was okay. We got the people to discuss their relocation. We had several other meetings, one in the Zion AME Church which was a thrill to attend. It was a black congregation. Here, at last was a small step toward interracial dialogue. The church, at the corner of North Capitol and g Streets, was scheduled to be torn down. The people that night, white and black, wanted to preserve it. It's still there. Blessed Martin Hospice was a half block from Union Station and heavily traveled North Capitol Street, in a type of basin. One morning, the fumes were particularly noxious. I'd read about air pollution and reported this instance to the District government. In a few days an inspector was around in answer to this unique (in those days) complaint. Terrible Terry, another whitey, came to offer his help. He'd been five years in a Trappist monastery, hadn't found his solution there, but knew he wanted to serve God in Christ. Mr. Scott assigned him to the recently acquired men'8 recreation room, where he acquired his title of "Terrible". Drinking was forbidden, as was the possession of bottles. Terry fearlessly took bottles away and dumped the contents into the toilet bowl. He was well able to do it. Some men lived elsewhere but came to the hospice for food. One, Uncle Sam, was a regular. A quiet, deeply spiritual person, he was an excellent gardener. His fire in our back yard was more often than not a tippling place. His Eye Street room was another place for drinking congregations. Uncle Sam showed me how to strain Sterno - canned heat - through bread in order to drink it. He was always a pleasant person, even when drunk. Whenever a regular didn't show up for a while, we checked on him. When we noticed that Uncle Sam was absent, we began inquiries. Someone mentioned an unidentified body in the morgue. He'd heard the man had died in jail and thought it might be our Uncle Sam. It was. His stomach and liver had been in bad shape which gave me some understanding of his continual drinking - but maybe the drinking caused the other ailments - who's to judge? To me, who felt so much goodness in him, the assumed name was his refusal to admit the ignominy he felt at being jailed. One of the men gave us a lead and we were able to notify his relatives fOr the funeral. We were getting more and more whiteys to help. Seminarians learned of our work. They came down on their days off. Like myself, they felt the need to be closely related to the corporal works of mercy. Bill Toohey, a Holy Cross father, who later was campus minister at Notre Dame, was one of the regular seminarians. Representative Elayne Hayes of Ohio came in one evening to see what we were doing. Abbe Pierre, who organized the ragpickers of France, visited the hospice and said that our work was similar to his in Europe. Dorothy Day visited and I learned how Mr. Scott had gotten underway with the Hospice. The Hospice idea originated in early Christian times for pilgrims who needed a place to sleep or rest on their way. Mr. Scott had attended a talk like the one Dorothy was giving at Blessed Martin's. Afterward, he told her of his desire to start a Catholic Worker house. Dorothy opened her pocketbook and gave him a five-dollar bill. "Here's a start," she said. One morning a man came in to say someone in the space under the stairs was groaning. He'd been sleeping there for a few days without our knowledge. Roy and I crawled under. The smell of urine was overwhelming. We got him out and Roy realized that he was terribly sick. We changed his clothes and called the ambulance. That afternoon the hospital called. Anyone who had handled the man should come for an X-ray check. Be had died that day of tuberculosis. The work in which we were involved was its own reward. At moments of stress the prayers of childhood - especially the rosary - eased me. Finances were better since the "This is Your Life" program. Though Mr. Scott had retired and I had quit my print job to be at the the hospice full time, Roy stayed on at NIH, each morning, Terry scurried across the street for a job at the Mackey Company. It was five years since I'd come to the hospice was beginning to feel restless. An article in the Catholic Standard was about the Los Angeles Lay Mission Helpers. I decided to go there and be a foreign missionary - to Africa. (end chapter 11) XII I said my goodbyes and the bus brought me to the West Coast. I hadn't realized that Los Angeles includes Hollywood. That was a real surprise. I headed down Los Angeles Street toward the spires of St. Joseph's church on 12th Street. It was surrounded by parking lots and small lofts, clothing manufacturing buildings where Mexicans did cheap sweatshop labor. The workers were a steady supply of clients for the Franciscan Church. I found a room across the street. Monsignor Brouwer, director of the Lay Mission Helpers, told me the requirements for the African mission, which included a psychological test as well as a year of study in their Sunday program. I was welcome to attend their sessions. Through Monsignor Brouwer, I got a job with Father Patrick Peyton at Family Theater. Peyton's fame and his saintliness were in the slogan, "The Family That Prays Together Stays Together." The Rosary was his big theme. In order to promote its recitation he had filmed the fifteen mysteries - episodes in the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The film was being edited from the original, shot in Spain. The Family Theater was in an old building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. I did general office work, including inspection of film returned from TV stations, churches and interested groups. I also learned a little of the technique of film editing. It was interesting enough to make me take a night course on film editing at the University of Southern California. Family Theater at lunchtime usually had visitors from the Hollywood scene. Movie gossip and ideas were bandied about-among these highly creative people. I worked under the stairs in the basement. One day a member of the Raskob Foundation family - a brother, I think - showed up to look the place over and see what our needs were. I projected a film for him - from under the stairs. Shortly after, we heard that the foundation was financing a new building for us. We moved to a temporary office on Santa Monica Boulevard, across from Beverly Hills. Monsignor Brouwers called me in and told me that according to my psychological profile, I was excluded from missionary work overseas. I felt lousy, disappointed in my shortcomings. At St. Joseph's Church, I came to know the Franciscan priests who staffed The Hour of St. Francis radio program. Fathers Tom Noonan and Karl Holtsnider worked on the first floor of the empty St. Joseph's Elementary School. I volunteered my evenings and weekends to do their office chores. My Family Theater salary (minimum wage scale) was enough to pay for my food and rent. I was heavy into Catholic action, even to leafleting the St. Joseph's Sunday Bulletin at MacArthur Park. I figured if the Watchtower people were leafleting on the street, why couldn't us Catholics do the same? The Angelus rang and clanged me out of bed each morning and in five minutes I was over at the church across the street in time for the six o'clock Mass. Soon I was on speaking terms with some of the older people who attended this early Mass. One widow recounted her travail as the wife of a Freemason. Re abused her because of her Catholicism, she told me. Retired folk of limited means homed to this semi-tropical climate to end their years in comfort. A main center for this group was MacArthur Park. On week-ends an old piano appeared from the underground garage. Older folks quickly gathered at the tinkling notes and then began such a sing-song of revival hymns that must have warmed the hearts of the nearest grave dwellers. The park also drew the liberals of the day, not unlike New York's Union Square. The Hour of St. Francis priests began to think seriously about a TV program and soon we were involved in getting the top floor of the old St. Joseph's Elementary school auditorium cleared of the first rows of benches and the stage soundproofed as much as possible. Bill di Diego,a young dedicated cameraman, script-writer, author, stage designer and craftsman joined The Hour. He was a marvel: spiritually motivated and dedicated to the art. The first production was a vocation film. We spent all one night in the main church with the organ playing the Prayer of St. Francis, with take after take before we came up satisfied. I was a grip, - the one who grabs things as they're needed, moves sets around, turns lamps on and off or whatever else the director of our free-wheeling style demanded. One story, "Brother Juniper's Christmas" told of a friar who fed the beggars rather than his brother monks. The films, made on limited budgets, used whatever talent they could get free or at cost. I was one of the beggars in this film and am proud of inadvertently using a technique called "wipe" to finish a scene before beginning another. After we had eaten the Christmas repast prepared for the monks, Brother Juniper hurried us out before the monks could arrive to discover their food had been eaten by the poor. I was the last to leave the table and the scene was wiped (finished) by me wiping my food-sodden mouth with the ragged edge of my sleeve, finishing the scene with a classic "wipe." Anyone who happened to be around when extra bodies were needed was drafted. I was an extra in a number of those movies. I am naturally left-handed and although the sisters taught us that the devil was on our left and they moved my handwriting from left to right hand, as an extra in a gambling sequence I was to roll the dice. I threw with my left. My roll of the dice stood out like a sore thumb in the final picture. I was barred from another because Fr. Noonan said my face was too outstanding. The star in that story, set in the Los Angeles Examiner newsroom, was a young beginner, Al Pacino. Be, like Helen Hayes, Bing Crosby, and Pat O'Brien, among others, often donated their time and talent to this service of God. From time to time I stayed overnight at the Family Theater to do some quiet reading and reflection and cleaning up. The Holy Cross priests who ran Family Theater lived at Immaculate Heart College, a progressive school run by the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) nuns. Sister Corita, an art instructor, had developed a reputation for her serigraphs. The college was getting a reputation as "avant-garde radical". It was et this college where I was surprised to see nuns swimming in one-piece bathing suits. It was the first time since my childhood at Jack's, where the nuns went swimming in layered black petticoats which must have hampered their movements. One did drown, as she tried to rescue a drowning child. Many IRMs discarded their inefficient, unsanitary and hot clothes to wear modern outfits. People, they said, confused the uniform with the person. Sisters wanted to be recognized as Christians by the love in their life-style. Cardinal McIntyre insisted on their wearing the traditional habits. They split, and many have since moved into smaller groups and living spaces to get closer to the people, especially the poor, as in the Gospel. Some retain the traditional format and habit. I was still open for a missionary try. When I heard of of a need in Mexico, I lost little time in looking into it. (end of chapter 12) XIII A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, an old Secular Institute of the Franciscans, told me of the need of help in two missionary areas. I wrote to the priest in Santiago, Baja California, Mexico, telling of my desire to spend my two-week vacation with him, to see how I might relate to his need. "Come spend your vacation with me," he wrote in answer. There were a number of ways to go: a long bus trip down the Mexican mainland and then across to La Paz, on the Pacific, or through deserts and arroyos on unmarked routes - quite a trip for experienced truck drivers; the only practical way for me, going for the first time, was by plane. As the Los Angeles plane came in low over Baja, the bleak desert was broken here and there by oases of palm trees surrounded by thatched huts. Narrow trails through arroyos and across the desert connected them. Jagged mountains thrust themselves up at the plane. Herds of goats ran fleeing, or crowded under us. Some settlements had a few cattle. It takes more than 50 desert plants to supply enough nourishment for a cow to survive while foraging freely on the desert. The plane swung low over a spaced-out town and we dropped down onto the airport of La Paz. I had been dismissed from Spanish class at Bay Ridge. Making myself understood was a problem as I searched for public transportation to Santiago on the lower half of the California peninsula. I finally found an old bus which made the run. The fairly wide and smooth highway past the airport narrowed into a ribbon of bumpy graveled road. The rocky hills in Baja sometimes required that outside tires of double rear wheels be removed in order to be able to squeeze up and thru the narrow passages. The alternating step-up of each rear wheel reminded me of the hip movement of a buxom woman. The road snaked up and down over dry arroyos where if you dug several feet, you'd hit enough life-giving water for a small settlement. We passed San Antonio, the site of an old deserted mine, with its heaped-up rubble. The bus rattled and jounced alongside the Pacific entrance to the Gulf of Cortez, then west. On a sandy knoll, it stopped. The few passengers looked at each other as the driver climbed under the vehicle. After some noises from underneath, the driver came out and spoke in Spanish to the women. One of them produced a hairpin. He crawled back under and after a few more sounds of activity, he came out to try the result. The bus moved forward and we continued our journey. I am still amazed at the ingenuity of Mexicans, who can do so much with so few tools. At last we arrived in Santiago and the driver dropped me off at a small church across from the public school. Father Luis Ruggero, a member of an Italian congregation of missionaries staffed this mission. Father Luis welcomed me in broken English which bridged our language barrier. He spoke of his dream to build a boarding school or home for the aged, whichever the people wanted, on the side of his small church. The school could enable ranch children from the oases to live in the village while being educated. A small garden provided papaya, lemons, oranges, corn, mangoes and bananas. A kerosene refrigerator kept fresh his milk and cheese and meat. Town butchering was twice a week and the meat usually had to be eaten immediately. Each night the electric plant, operated by the government, was turned on for a few hours. The signal for outage was the current flickering at ten o'clock, to give people time to get candles lit. Radio was limited by the power supply and town isolation. The Democratic Convention was taking place in the U.S.A. John F. Kennedy was a candidate for nomination. I was intensely interested. It had been many years since I had worn my A1 Smith for President button and now another Catholic might run. The radio reception was terrible. I could get the convention, but there was so much static I could only understand a word here and there. I didn't learn that Kennedy had been nominated until I returned to Los Angeles. I went with Father Luis on his mission visits to ranchitos, (small ranches), many near beautiful beaches on the Pacific. The feast of Santiago (St. James), the patron of the village, was the great celebration of the year. The Apostolic Prefect, Monsignor Juan Giordani came to officiate at baptisms, confirmations and marriages. Msgr. Giordani asked me to stay and help him, as there was no English speaking person among his assistants. With his limited English and my limited Spanish, we managed to communicate with facial expressions and gestures. I told him I was committed to Family Theater, said goodbye and returned to Los Angeles. I was back only a month when Msgr. Giordani wrote, inviting me again to join in the work of the Church. I felt the Spirit call and accepted. At Family Theater there was much discussion of my move. Mexico, they said, was a land of revolution. But Father Higgins, a Holy Cross priest, said that if there was a revolution, the workers would gather round to protect me. A problem developed in carrying out my first project. Msgr. Giordani had written about a woman who was dying in the tuberculosis hospital in La Paz. She had two children In Tiajuana. Could I bring them down with me? It was nothing simple to get the proper papers from Mexican immigration for this gringo to take children from the village. The Church seal on the letter of request did the trick. We boarded the small coastwise boat, found a spot under the captain's ladder and made camp. This was a small commercial boat and we had special permission from the owners so I could bring the children down. Our week's supply of food would carry us to La Paz. On our way, the waters were as calm as the ocean's name. It was a beautiful voyage in tropical blue waters. Past Cabo San Lucas, the tip of the peninsula where pirates used to lie in wait for gold-bearing Spanish galleons, our ship turned and headed north. Fifty miles into the Bay of Cortez was the low-lying city of La Paz, capital of this Mexican Territory, not yet ready for statehood. The Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Paz stretched its spires to the sky. We docked at a small pier near a number of American yachts. Msgr. Giordani was waiting and took charge of the children and set me up in an empty room of Boys' Town. This orphanage was an attraction for natives and tourists. Abandoned children were taken in and taught a trade, A large field reminded me of "Jack's." The priest in charge showed me the shops in the buildings: Carpentry, printing and automobile repair were among the trades taught. My duty was to accompany Monsignor on his episcopal tours into the country to administer baptism, communion, confirmation and marriage - and occasionally, extreme unction (now called sacrament of the sick). The old Jeep I drove was as cantankerous as a burro, stopping in the middle of the narrow passages through mountains or digging deep into the sand of the desert. It was amazing how, in the middle of nowhere, we'd be stuck and along would come someone walking solo or with burro to give us needed help - usually a push. If necessary, he would disappear and come back with more help, maybe a mechanic. The monsignor was a firm believer in prayer. I'm sure he did it well on an early trip when he directed me down a steep, long, winding descent. As we gathered momentum, he kept shouting, "Freno! Freno!" I didn't understand that he was hollering, "Brake! Brake!" The jeep slowed enough for me to slip into second gear. Spanish or English, that old jeep didn't have much brake. The power of prayer stayed with us. Once, out on a boulder- strewn one-lane pair of ruts we got a flat tire. I got out the tools and proceeded to get the lugs off. All but one, which wouldn't budge. The monsignor took a turn, then we both got onto the lug wrench; no result. He took his little prayer book and walked out of sight. I struggled on with no success. In an hour, he returned and we tried again. The lug came loose, we changed the tire and took off. We received AID Food for Peace to distribute among the widely scattered desert hovels. We moved over the desert among piles of cattle bones. The animals had died from drought. There was no forage. At a three-house settlement, we dropped off a fair share of the load of dried milk and flour. We drove down into a depression where a woman stood at a waterhole. Monsignor gave her a few packages of the food and I wondered aloud why he was so stingy with her. "She's a bad woman" he said. I was aroused and spoke of the woman at the well, which she was. As we drove back, he ordered me to stop at the first house, where we left more food to be given to "The woman at the well." In my experiences with clergy I was often confused by the contrast between what I'd been taught and the realities of Catholicism. Father Ruggero had told me of a priest who lived a married life in the Santiago area. The ruffle of drums from the Army Barracks broke each morning's dawn, reminding me of the French Foreign Legion. With daily morning Mass at Boy's Town, I re-lived my orphanage days, except that now I was eating at the priests' table and the food was picante (hot) with lots of beans. Sunday evenings after Mass, there was a bazaar of Mexican delicacies and a movie to raise money for Boys' Town. In the spirit of Catholicism, plans for a Seminary were in the works. After a year, the Monsignor was ready to go, especially after hearing from Jack Fisher, a mission-minded, hard-work oriented road builder and construction specialist. Every six months I had to return to the States to renew my Mexican visa. I met Jack in Los Angeles and he bought a flat-bed truck for the construction jobs. We loaded it with food, clothes, tools and an offset press to replace the old line slug system being used in Boys' Town. We tied the load down and took off. Mexican customs agents passed us through because of the orphans, but not without some haggling. At a military post on the border between the state and the territory of Baja, we didn't want to stop because we were running late over that Godforsaken rudiment of a road. We hurried through, with the soldiers waving to us as we threw off cigarettes and candy as we passed. We didn't know until much later about the stiff rules on importing printing presses and automobiles (our truck, egad!) into the country. We slept under the stars a few nights along the route which was to become the Baja 500 - advertised as the worst road under the sun. La Paz was ready to build a Seminary. The bishop, the architect, Jack and I stood in the middle of a large sandy plot of ground. Jack leaned on a shovel as we discussed various aspects of the job, including changing the angle of the building to take advantage of summer shade. The Bishop said go. Jack started the foundation by turning over the first shovelful of sand. The rest of us took off in other pursuits. Jack worked solo for months, until a Brother with some construction experience was sent from some foreign mission where he had been working at his specialty, building! The process was long. Before it was finished, boys from La Paz and outlying ranches hundreds of miles away were brought in to study for the priesthood. I jeeped with the Monsignor to the small villages where he interviewed the youngsters. At the camping spots I would boil and boil the water as per my old first aid instructions but at one arroyo, no matter how long I boiled, I always got diarrhea. Six months later on my visa renewal trip, I felt real draggy on the bobbing boat to Topolobampo en route to Los Angeles. When I arrived at the St. Francis Communication Center (my legal voting residence - I slept under the piano on the sound stage). Fr. Tom Noonan stared at me as I drooped over a desk and said I didn't look well and it might be good to see a doctor. I wound up in Our Lady Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles. I had the missionary's badge of service: Hepatitis. Bing Crosby's wife was studying nursing there. She also taught Catechism at Las Cruces, the Crosby ranch on the lower Peninsula. I had a chance to ride with Bing in his plane to a Mass there. For my three week stay at the hospital there was no charge - I think because of Kathleen, Bing's wife. A mission fund paid for my three weeks in bed. On leaving, I was told that I needed three more weeks of bed rest. Back in La Paz, Monsignor Giordani had me placed in the Sisters' hospital in San Jose del Cabo for some of the most enjoyable weeks of my life, with a view out the window onto the wide blue stretches of the Pacific. A woman screaming in childbirth gave me an inkling of what women go through in this function of their humanity. The woman's recuperation was amazing. All of us came out of our ordeals in great shape. La Paz, a jewel on the lower California Peninsula, was a typical tourist town. The airport, a few miles out, brought North American tourists, mostly from Los Angeles. The hotels were geared to that trade. A couple of hostels gave middle class Mexicans a chance to enjoy this, their own beach. At one time the Bay of Cortez had provided black pearls, but now they were gone. The long mudflat of Bahia de La Paz was still rich with shellfish. The local packing plant bought all the fish from the ever coming and going fleet. The catch was for U.S. sale and consumption. Abalone, another delicacy, went the same route via a packing plant at a village hundreds of miles north. To reach that community for their annual saint's day celebration, we jeeped for three days over deserts, arroyos and rocky ruts. On the way, Monsignor told me about the lobsters in this area. I told him about the Maine lobsterman and when we arrived, asked if we might not have one for dinner. They were not in season, the fishermen told him. Then commotion started up as word spread that the bishop wanted a lobster. In a half hour they produced one of a size that would make a Maine lobsterperson jealous. Best of all, it was unforgettably delicious. Jack and I lived in the Cathedral storeroom. At night, we ate after the evening Mass. The food was set out before the Mass by the cook, who then took off, leaving the appetizing dishes open to roaches. Lights-on in the dining room sent them scurrying. One night, as we talked, a jeep screeched to a halt in the yard. A messenger from Todos Santos mission rushed in. Padre Luis Corsini, a Verona missionary, had been away all day and people who'd expected him for evening service worried into the night and searched the place where he'd gone fishing. They found his fishing pole and searched the tide-filled depths nearby. His body was brought up. Talk of foul play began. He had been evangelizing among the poor. It was whispered that local cattle owners were agitated and might have done him in. Monsignor Giordani said to bury the body and offered the funeral Mass. Next day, the people made such a furor that the governor ordered the body exhumed for an autopsy. The bones of the throat had been broken by strangling. Padre Luis Corsini had been dead before he was in the water. "Murdered," is what the people said. Perhaps Father Luis was one of the first, in that decade of the l960s, to pay the price for preaching human dignity among the poor. I was a neophyte at politics and didn't realize the implications of such a death. Reading the Papal Encyclical on Atheistic Communism - that it was intrinsically evil - made me perturbed at the "Communist" movement which I saw in Latin America. I wrote Gino Simi, who'd edited Outdoor U.S.A., telling him that someone there should get off his fat rear and do something about it. Gino showed the letter to the apostolic delegate in Washington. I still wonder if it ever got to Rome before Vatican II, when the plight of the poor was brought into focus. My experience at Blessed Martin Hospice in Washington helped me understand these people who also were deprived - of the freedom to acquire the basic necessities of food and shelter. As driver for the bishop, I was given a Mexican drivers' license, not usual for someone on a tourist visa. The Italian bishop was on a tourist visa, too. Each six months, he had to renew. I was with him once when he paid the immigration officer his mordido. The heat of La Paz in Spring was hardly bearable. A siesta was a midday necessity. Clouds would gather for days and sometimes we could see rain falling, only it dried up before touching the ground. A wide, gently sloping arroyo became a village because it was near the capital. A decade later there was a chubasco - deluge - and over a thousand lives were lost. The young mechanics of Boys' Town kept the Bishop's ancient Jeep running well enough that we were able to take off into the desert for annual feasts of the villages. baptisms, confirmations and marriage rites were annual events. The Jeep served until The Propagation of The Faith office in Los Angeles got us a new one. I visited Family Theater in the new one and proudly rode up Sunset and down Hollywood Boulevards flipping the new-fangled turn signals. There wasn't enough money to get the canvas covering. I drove from Los Angeles down the coast of Mexico, almost losing the Jeep in a muddy stream near Mazatlan. To board the ship there, I had to drive the Jeep over two planks onto the deck, and the same getting off in La Paz. Cars did sometimes fall into the water. I was nervous! Back in La Paz, I showed movies at the TB hospital, helped Jack build a darkroom and taught offset printing in Boys' Town. Each morning I wakened to the sound of the army snare drums. I learned a few rules of soccer and became a fanatic. Bees worked a hive in the East wall of the cathedral, The Masonic Lodge in La Paz was strong. Priests told me that some of the sacrilegious acts, such as sanctified hosts thrown into the Bay of La Paz and the murder of Fr. Luis, were part of the rite. When I went to the Veracruz side of Mexico, I was told that at the time of the U.S. Marines landing in Veracruz, Masonry came in with the Marines, I explained that U.S. Masonry was a method for business promotion, in my country, not a political strong-arm. Religious in Mexico are non-persons, with neither voting rights nor permission to work, least of all to teach. Foreigners have an extremely difficult time getting residential permits. Money was the method of getting around the rules, and those with money were a distinct class. In the U.S., blacks were not allowed certain places, money or not. In the Mexican social structure, if you had money, there was total entree. Native Indians usually had short shrift, without money. I joined a Cursillo for a weekend of intense Christian teaching in an atmosphere where emotions surfaced. I'd been rejected for such a class in Washington, because the selection of candidates was elitist. In Mexico, I got in because I was unofficially part of the hierarchy; the rest were businessmen. Pope John XXIII, big, portly and human, called a Vatican Council of all the Bishops of the world. I went to New York with Monsignor Giordani, who was invited to the Council although he was not a full bishop. We waited in LaGuardia airport for a special planeload of South American Bishops on their way to Rome. Old friend Bob Madan drove us out to meet them, We took a trio of Mexican bishops on a quick tour during the few hours' layover. In the car were Bishops Arturo Szymanski of San Andreas Tuxtla, Ernesto Corripio of Tampico and Padilla of Veracruz. As the plane filled with Latin America Bishops took off for Rome, I couldn't help thinking of how imprudent it was to chance their total loss. Thunderbolts came from Vatican Council II. The plight of the poor in the modern world was exposed. The beginning of spiritual retooling was started. It was a theory of revolution. The Roman Curia was unhappy with Pope John XXIII. On his return from Rome, Monsignor Giordani and I stopped at the Peter Maurin Catholic Worker farm on Staten Island for Mass. Bob Madan had arranged airplane reservations for us to the West Coast. A terrific snowstorm in the area brought an awful tie-up at the airport. We never found the plane and went west by train. I stayed another year in La Paz and then decided I wanted to return to New York and the Catholic Worker, where I'd spent short lengths of time from the Blessed Martin house in D.C. Bishop Szymanski heard of my plan and sent word asking if I would come and work with him in San Andres Tuxtla on Mexico's East coast. I made arrangements to meet Bishop Szymanski before he went to the second part of the Vatican Council. He told me of his interest in cooperatives and so I went to the University of Wisconsin Extension School for coops, where I was "Whitey" in a class of Nigerian students. On the way from Wisconsin to New York, I found myself in Chicago at the office of Papal Volunteers, a program started in answer to Pope John's request for U.S. Catholics to get into active lay missionary work. Fr. Mike Lies signed me in. It gave me a monthly income and a title, which impressed Bishop Szymanski so that he often introduced me as "Voluntario del Papa." It became embarrassing: Not only to me, but to others in the work. But now, thanks to the salary, I could have my morning coffee and good Mexican beer. I broke precedent by eating with the priests and the bishop. After daily Mass, my thanksgiving was to go out the front door of the cathedral and admire the vista. It was impossible to admire that beauty and not feel the presence of God. This awareness was also the thanksgiving I felt. The upright corn on the steep hills that looked like a 60-degree angle, must have been sown by a mountain climber. Each succeeding row was three to five feet higher than the preceding one. I got to San Andres Tuxtla in the state of Veracruz on the day Bishop Szymanski returned from Vatican Council II. The streets were decorated with paper entwined in curious designs, a special art form in Veracruz. Paper cutouts were everywhere: hung in doorways and over windows. We set out to meet our bishop at a bridge which divided his diocese from Bishop Padilla's of Veracruz. The car finally came into view. The crowd waved palm branches, exploded firecrackers, shouted their joy and ran alongside the slowly-moving car. Children pounded on its sides in exuberance. With my Yanqui fetish for order I assumed the role of policeman, trying to keep them away from the vehicle. We stopped at each small town along the route so the welcoming contingents could make their speeches. When we finally arrived at the cathedral, it exploded into bedlam, with immense bells ringing and people shouting, cheering and the ever- exploding firecrackers. San Andres Tuxtla, the Switzerland of Mexico, was the seat of Olmec culture and mammoth stone heads are still being discovered. Springs and flowing streams serve the town. A few coffee houses on the square are the center of upper class life most of the day, I took cafe Americano each morning. Cafe Americano takes two pulls of the steam control of the Espresso machine rather than the one pull for Espresso. San Andres Tuxtla buzzed with tales of witchcraft. Brujos - witch doctors - held a meeting on the first Friday of each March at the cave of Laguna Encantada - Enchanted Lake - and on the hill of Mono Blanco - White Monkey, near Lake Catemaco. Lake Catemaco was fed by carbonated spring water which was bottled and sold. The nearby volcano, San Martin, rises in densely vegetated heights with sulphurous steam rising out of the top. Roca-partido is a cleft rock further north on the Gulf of Mexico. Once, not so long ago, ashes spewed upwards from it for hundreds of feet. These are used today in road paving. The Olmec culture which thrived in this area disappeared suddenly, but recent discoveries have unearthed huge granite warrior heads up to 15 feet in diameter. One of the members of the Caja Popular Montini, the credit union in San Andres, had facial features exactly like these heads. He was exceptionally intelligent and of an unusually large physique. I was tempted to take his picture but I'd learned not to offend the dignity of the native people. I was the only gringo in town. Only an occasional tourist came to this beautiful Switzerland of Mexico. El mercado - the market - was typical of the area. Sheets were spread overhead against the hot midday sun. Produce was brought in each morning by the women, balancing baskets on their heads and chickens crotched under their arms. Corn was the staple food, with bananas, papayas and coffee. Up in the mountains, in the rain forest, they grew rice. The Indians hand-threshed sheaves of rice to separate the grains. Meat was a rare luxury for these poor. We could reach some areas only on horseback. Animals were the sensible means of transportation for many of the isolated settlements. Their narrow trails crisscrossed the countryside. The Colonial Rotel, up the street from the Cathedral, was one of my coffee stops. A refugee from the Spanish Civil war, Carlos, was maitre d' and spoke English. One day Carlos introduced me to a student from the University of Wisconsin who was working toward his doctorate. On a Rockefeller Foundation grant, he was gathering information on the resources and commerce of the area. Be spent days taking photos and family histories and documenting agricultural techniques and topography. A few years later I met his department head, who said the student had never finished the project. He'd had to do it himself. Pangas (ferry boats) were the usual river crossing. Rains kept the rivers flowing. In the rainy season these placid streams became surging, tree trunk- laden, foul smelling, bronco style leaping forces. Natives with bundles of produce looked on helplessly as they gauged the possibility of daring to cross. (end chapter 13) XIV Bishop Szymanski took me on his trips through the diocese, which included some of the choicest land in the state of Veracruz. t went, as friend and companion, but he always managed to keep me at a respectful distance, not permitting a too- familiar relationship to develop. I'm still not sure if it was his doing or mine. The land was rich and the natives poor. Acayucan was a center for cattle ranchers. Generally, the Indians were very poor but there was one colony in Cosoleakaque where the income was such that a few natives lighted cigars with paper money as a sign of their wealth. Nearby was Minatitlan with an oil refinery and a deepwater port for tankers. In Coatzacoalcos, a petrochemical plant and a phosphorus mining operation were in production. The bishop visited large and small towns. We not only traveled in the diocese, but all over Mexico for consecrations of bishops and for conferences. Bishop Szymanski told me he preferred being driven in order to arrive fresh at the meetings he was required to attend. Part of his job was splitting up Dioceses. It required enormous tact: No human being likes to give up money-generating operations. Caja Popular Montini, a credit union, had been organized to help the campesinos to form a pool of money from their small regular savings. This pool enabled them to borrow through their Credit committee, elected by themselves. Mutual trust is the basis of a Credit Union. It was with surprise and some anger when I discovered that most of the money had been loaned to a local business man, president of the Union and the local church prayer group, comprised mostly of poor and generally illiterate peasants. The pastor had been Instrumental in permitting this loan which took up almost all the savings. The financial condition of the man's business had been desperate. Authority represented by the church had been the guarantee. Members were torn between withdrawing their money or saving their movement. I was presented to the members and tried to re-establish a bit of confidence. The members had some idea of the philosophy and I taught a young woman enough bookkeeping to make a monthly balance sheet. Some priests and I opened accounts in order to increase capital. By the time I left, even though a civil suit was brought against the president, there had been no restitution. The Caja Popular stumbled along. Members of the Credit Union became my friends. I felt especially close to Mr.& Mrs. Roman Villegas. They were taller than other natives, perhaps from French blood or better nutrition. Their earth-floored hut was always open to me. Lord knows, Roman was among the poorest of the poor. He had a piece of land up the mountain, the very last parcel before the jungle closed in. Daily, he and his family made a three-hour trek to work the lend. They sowed corn and prayed for a harvest. They burned wood for charcoal which they carried down the mountain in sacks balanced on their heads. They walked abreast rather than the single-file-with-man-ahead usually affected by the natives. I loved them. I suggested that Roman build a hut there to avoid the six- hour round trip. A small lean-to was built and some of the family stayed up there for spells during the working season. When I accepted Roman's invitation to go up there, he borrowed a burro for me to ride and led me up the mountainside. I thought of Christ entering Jerusalem but the roles here were reversed. Christ, in this case, was leading the burro. The breathtaking views were of eternity. A campesino's life is to survive; beauty is built into their souls. They remain hungry. Mexican ejido land tenure is of Roman tradition, carried to Spain and then to the new land with the conquistadors. It is a type of cooperative that does not give land title - only use. When children are grown, there's no way to divide land for them. Roman held the land until the soldiers came and arrested him. He went to jail for defending his "finca" (plot) with gunfire. Though he had ownership papers, the ejiditarios had political clout and they claimed the land. Land transfers in Mexico are so complicated, with generation after generation losing or confusing tracts, that justice seems impossible of attainment. Stories like Roman's were common except that in most cases it was a politician or landed gentry who forced out the campesino family. North American business interests were often hidden under Spanish names. But the natives knew. In Catemaco the natives showed me an American who was studying the qualities of Barbasco root. This root had been proscribed by early Franciscan Missionaries with the simple statement that this plant was not to be chewed by good Christians. Earlier natives had discovered that it would prevent childbirth. Now, modern science would retrieve the information. We now know of "The Pill". Barbasco is one of its main ingredients and its popular worldwide use, sometimes has cancerous results. The campesinos brought the root from the hills above Veracruz and Oaxaca, where it grows. They dried it in the sun until it became such a moneymaker and artificial drying vats were developed. Along the Calzada de Tlalpan in Mexico city are seen some of the Transnational corporations which buy up this cash product of the poor. The poor who collect the root get a very small price and remain poor while the rich get richer as they buy, serving as middle man to the large corporations. Felipe Acosta, one of our Credit Union members, collected the barbasco root and his son vouches for the low price. There was an uncommonly large number of deaf mutes in the San Andres area. One was the cathedral bellringer. He used to sit up in the bell tower long before time to ring the bells. He said he could feel the vibrations in his head. His father, myself and Ramon Villegas used to sit outside the thatched home of the deaf mute. The three of us carried on long discussions, seated on chairs brought from inside the hut. The swept earth was our parlor. We talked of the young idealist whose statue just up the road told of his death by soldiers in one of many uprisings. The search for justice was strong in that violent era. Today, natives wait patiently through many injustices because of such past futile efforts. Perhaps a limit's being reached as we see the struggles in many Latin American countries. From the time of Cortez, natives had been dominated in a system designed to obtain control: Through arms, threats or the church. Control was and is still used for the acquisition of material goods. I thought of an early movie where the victim was buried with only his head above ground; then the horse cavalry rode over the spot. Nothing showed above ground at the end of the scene. I taught English at the Catholic academy and Commercial high school. Mexico required English as a second language in all high schools. I was not a professional teacher but did pretty well in correcting cultural mouth, tongue and lip positions used in Spanish but not in English. I recognized my former English students by their Brooklyn accents. During the student riots of 1968, one accosted me in the Mexico city Metro. He was the only bearded youth in the subway. For a time I had no watch. The children advised me when the period was over; that is, until the principal got after me for letting the students out early. After I got a watch, they convinced me that it was not registering the correct time. Lake Catemaco, with its springs, was great for swimming. Students liked my swimming style; a crawl stroke, head under water to breathe and a flutter kick. With a little explanation, the kids copied. At the Seminary where I taught English, it was the same. The bus I rode the eight miles from San Andres to Catemaco had floor sections missing. You could watch the blur of the roadway passing underneath. Chickens often provided soft foot- rests. Loading or unloading a squealing pig on the bus roof was better than a circus performance. All hands helped. Campesinos slung a grass mat hand-bag on their shoulder called a morral. I found them convenient and still use one, jamming my books and papers into it. They asked Bishop Szymanski. "What is this gringo with the morral, doing?" I used the morral as a reminder and sign of affinity with the poor. Bishop Ruiz Garcia of Chiapas, noted for his work among the poor, noticed it years later at a meeting in Texas, and reminded me in an aside, "This sign of the poor." In over a decade, the only threat I had was from a campesino who tried to grab my watch. We had been walking together on a lonely road at night. I shouted and he ran. I was angry and threw stones after him. From noon I could shower with hot water but only hot water. Our water supply came through cement or asbestos tanks on the roof. The sun did the heating, sometimes unbearably. We had no cold water. The cathedral at San Andres was crowded at all Masses on Sunday. The few rich were easily distinguished from the poor by their clothes. The intricate patches of the poor on their well worn garments were works of art. Occasionally, a stray dog slowly checked out the posts supporting the altar but never did I see an untoward event To me they added dignity, in the order of goodness. The president of Mexico can only serve one term: Six years. He picks his successor. He does this by visiting beforehand, the political entities of power: Labor, business and the church, getting their views and then announcing his choice. The Partido Revolucionario Independente (PRI), of which he is a member, has the voting tied up. Mexicans, with their subtle sense of humor, have many jokes about their elections. All the outward trimmings of an election: meetings, banners, hoopla, may serve some purpose but this is not discernible. PRI always wins. "With all your rapid communication", I was told, "You still must wait until all the results are in before you know who has been elected President. Here in Mexico we know six months in advance who our next President will be." I'd thought I was finished with canoeing when I went to Mexico in 1960. Now, in 1968, the Olympic games were to be held there. Club Antares was a rowing club, composed originally of members of German extraction. A few of the members had kayaks. One of these persons had been appointed Chairman of Canoeing for the games. Two Olympic racing canoes were gathering dust on the Club racks. No one knew how to use them. I volunteered to teach the technique. Racing canoes were always tippy but these new ones were lighter and tippier than the old style "Peanut" with which I was familiar. I managed to stay upright for the only two Club members interested in learning, the Alvarado brothers. They learned the correct racing position and some of the Jack Hazzard style of canoe racing. I became a frequent visitor to their home. Falling into the waters of Xochimilco was a terrifying experience. Advertised as floating gardens, the flower-festooned tourist boats glide on sewage water from the many stables of the islets among which they are poled. The Alvarados fell in a few times. The narrow canals at Xochimilco were too small for the Olympics, so specifications for a huge rowing basin were drawn and dredging carried on at an amazing pace. A European coach was brought in at a fat salary to train canoe candidates. I continued working with the natives of Xochimilco. The Mexican army and navy set up their own teams for the events. Money was poured like water into the preparation. Stands and dressing rooms were installed. Student protests at the large expenditures increased. There were some newspaper observations in the subtly controlled press. Government control of paper allotment was a way of censure. Mexico was at fever pitch to get the preparations finished in time. We were happy when one of my proteges made the Olympic team. I was still politically and economically naive. I remembered the days when the AFL and CIO were separate groups and battling each other before they united. I had followed the Dies Committee congressional investigation of Communist influence in the U.S.; I'd dropped out of the CIO when our organizer was named as a Communist. Now, in Mexico, wrapped up in my Roman Catholic world it seemed the students wanted some type of excitement. Their use of the plight of the poor did not strike me as genuine. I was perplexed. The Papal Volunteers had an apartment on Avenida Insurgentes in Mexico City, where we could stay when we came from our work base. Late one night, there was a loud commotion on the nearby cross street. A long column of chanting people carrying banners passed below our apartment. It was a demonstration by students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Demonstrations increased. One day, near the interstate bus depot (ADO), a squad of these people, arms locked, marched up the center of Madero St. toward the Monument of the Revolution. I'd just left a meeting of students there. Now this squad marched toward the same place. That week, scores of young people were killed at Tlatleloco, Plaza of Three Cultures. The cardboard barrios (settlements) were finding their champions in the ever-present young idealists. World instability, typified by the war in Vietnam, was spilling over. The Olympic buildings were finished and the games begun. At the canoe course I opted to work with the international press. Uniformed armed sailors lent a military flavor. A reporter taking pictures in a roped off area was pushed back with a rifle. Several of us rushed and got the sailor away. It was the tension of violence. Students continued agitating. Back in San Andres Tuxtla, at a supper party, a mother told how an unmarked van had stopped on the street and her student son disappeared in it. He'd been gone several days and she was sure it was the secret police, who were reportedly picking up student suspects. I suggested that she tell the story to the local paper, whose personnel knew her son well. Shortly after, her son showed up. He'd been at a student meeting in Vera Cruz. For years I'd been on a personal "strike" against Coca Cola. Not for an in depth understanding of Transnational Corporations, but perhaps just an intuitive feeling of power's corruptive force. On doctor's orders, Bishop Szymanski was not allowed to drink the stuff. He jokingly referred to participating with me in the "strike". Coca Cola was so well advertised that people would deprive themselves of food in order to buy it. The natural carbonated beverage of the nation was superior, with a natural flavor. As I refused instant coffee, Bishop Szymanski said, "Nescafe no es cafe". He knew me well. When he saw me struggling to remember something by crossing my fingers, he'd raise his palm to stop the conversation and remark "Tadeo has something to say." On his way to the second part of the Vatican Council we all swirled in the Mexico city airport: Apostolic delegate, bishops and we who were seeing them off. One of the bishops introduced himself to me. I drew a blank. For the life of me, I could not remember my own name. I bent to Bishop S. and he told me, with a disgusted look on his face. I'd always been forgetful, but not that much. One of the Alvarado brothers had recently graduated as an engineer and was now teaching. In an underdeveloped country, with little production of its own, teaching was the usual outlet for an educated person. I suggested a job with a U.S. firm, explaining the ritual of job hunting. He wound up in a consortium of builders with American financing and control. Mexican law required that at least 51% of a Corporation be owned by nationals. Shortly, Alvarado got a job with Kodak and its U.S. philosophy of strict accountability of time and effort. I joked that he'd soon be punching a time clock. He told me he already was. My years at San Andres Tuxtla continued, with the work of the Credit Unions, teaching at the Colegio in Catemaco, swimming in the mineral waters of the lake and eating its snails. In between, I rode with the bishop on visits through the diocese and nation. With him I attended many priests' and Social Action conferences. We swan in the new pool of the seminary at Santiago Tuxtla. I'd thought that a waste until I read of a religious order finding therapeutic value in the exercise of swimming. In Acayucan a huge church, the dream of an artistic pastor, was an eyesore. No work had been done for years. A huge pile of building materials littered the site. Bishop Szymanski said "Put it up or clear it off." Still not quite finished, it is never crowded. In Coatzacoalcos the Cursillistas wanted to build a large church and dedicate it to Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the priests argued for - and got - a much smaller and simpler thatch- roofed chapel as a place of worship. In San Andres, the Colegio built a more substantial building and moved out of the rented home they had been using. A free medical clinic was opened and staffed with local doctors. The area, with its Olmec culture background, became a study center. Bishop Corripio, a seminary classmate of Bishop Szymanski, was transferred from Tampico to Oaxaca. Bishop Szymanski was to take his place in Tampico. Re invited me to go with him. I accepted. Bishop S. an I got along fine. We were both athletically inclined. The bishop was always on the jump he'd been offered a spot on a professional soccer team while he was in the seminary and refused. The Jesuits thought he was good material for their order. He accepted their offer. He was ready to board the plane to Panama and their seminary when the legendary saintly Bishop of Tampico, Bishop Amora, seeing him off at the airport, wished him the best of luck, - and mentioned the shortage of vocations in the Diocese. Arturo Szymanski stopped right there and then to remain for the Diocese. He did his studying at the Seminary of Montezuma in New Mexico, set up by the U.S. Bishops for the seminarians of Mexico during the religious persecution in that country. "Who'd ever think of me becoming a bishop?" he told me. He kept me posted on the sports programs on TV, especially soccer. On his long trips, for which he had a chauffeur, he would say his three Rosaries and congratulate me when I managed to stay awake for a complete one. In my early days riding with him on a long trip, in the middle of nowhere he'd suddenly say. "Stop! I've got to sign some papers." Off he'd go into the brush to answer nature's call. Rest rooms were scarce. We were both aware of outside influences from the United States government and businesses. Re was a rapid reader and we enjoyed Excelsior, the Mexican daily. We speculated about the new business-oriented Heraldo being CIA-funded. Re liked the technical know-how and exactitude of North Americans. His impatience matched mine. I was taken for a member of his family, because I looked a bit like him. Tampico boasted of itself as the city without chimneys, but the petroleum works at nearby Ciudad Madero provided the roil that goes with oil. The Mexican petroleum industry (PEMEX) was nationalized from British and U.S. interests early in the 20th Century, The workers are well paid and the union is, as with most movements in Mexico, government controlled. Infrequent wildcat or runaway strikes are quickly put down. Railroad work seems to breed upstarts. One of the leaders was in and out of jail numberless times. A poorly educated but intellectually brilliant man was the labor leader of the oil workers in Ciudad Madero. His leadership gave those workers influence at the national level. Also in Tampico was UAT - the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas. A Catholic student group at UAT became one of my contact points with the University. Another was with the librarian. Thru a friend at the U.S. Embassy, I was able to get many technical books for the school. Years later this friend obtained an AID grant for an education project in Panama. The person thru whom I was to write her there, was listed by a counter-intelligence group in Washington as a CIA agent. As a northamerican I was suspect. The reputation of U.S. infiltration finally isolated me from the meetings of the social service agencies operating throughout the Mexican Dioceses. At student meetings, the illogical logic of youth shone forth. One anti-Yanqui student meeting was replete with American popular songs. The fiery speakers about Yankee imperialism whipped blood temperatures to high levels, causing a few dirty looks at me, the minority, At Intermission, I joined the milling crowd for a soft drink, thinking of Mexico's delicious mineral water. All they had was Coca Cola. I warmly enjoyed their illogic. The darling of the university students was Sergio Mendez Arceo, The "Red Bishop" of Cuernavaca. He was the most radical Catholic Bishop of Mexico. He spoke strongly for the working person and the poor. He was loved by the students, anathema to the businessmen. The UAT students invited him there to speak. I went to the meeting. Right behind me was one of the more vociferous students. During his talk, which I taped, Mendez Arceo referred to the elders with youthful hearts who looked for change. I felt good. At the question and answer period, the man behind me opened his remarks by reminding them of the opportunist in the auditorium. All eyes turned toward me (el gringo) as I taped. At a labor meeting I reminded members of the inconsistency of having Coca Colas served to the speakers after extremely forceful diatribes against transnational imperialism. As usual, I was the only gringo. My Brooklynese-Spanish brought a hushed silence; a realization of what I was saying, then thunderous applause. Father Carlos Gonzalez Salas was a teacher and writer of the the social doctrines of the Church. We worked together at the Secretariado Social Mexicano de Tampico, which wrestled with the social and political injustices of the area. Bishop Szymanski had told me that the class difference in Mexico was between rich and poor rather than by birth as in the aristocracy of Europe. I asked him if a Mexican Indian would be able to go to plush hotels. He said yes, as long as the Indian had money. In thinking this through, I remembered Benito Juarez, ex-seminarian, Indian from Oaxaca who appropriated all Church property to the Mexican government. Those laws are still in effect. Priests have no rights of citizenship. They are legally forbidden to wear Roman collars; Sisters may not wear their religious habits. As to enforcement, it is pretty well disregarded. The students loved Father Carlos, who also loved them. As we moved through the city, they involved him in political conversations We set up work trips among the campesinos for them. Politicians discussed the latest happenings with him. My education progressed. As the only norteamericano in the diocese, I stood out like a sore thumb. The Church was a sesame for acceptance. The Bishop and I were avid readers of Mexico City's Excelsior. On long trips thru the country we would digest its contents and exchange views. I clipped out items of social interest - particularly about injustices. Many of these items could be used to raise the people's consciousness, to awareness of their position in the economics and politics of their country. I used the Cathedral's glass-fronted bulletin board behind the notary parroquial, the official who keeps official Church records such as baptisms, confirmations and weddings. The people congregated there in huge numbers on Sunday, milling around in front of the bulletin board, waiting their turn to be recorded and pay their stipend. The board had been empty 'till I came along. The notices I put up were about land tenure, agricultural news, police brutality, war pictures, etc., pasted up in a photo- montage of news clips to educate the people on local and global realities. I began to hear of remarks made about "this foreigner" by some of the merchants about town. About six months later, the clippings started disappearing. The bishop suggested a padlock. I locked the glass front with one. The padlock was broken and the montage removed. One of the merchants wrote the bishop a letter, telling him I was a Communist. The bishop showed me the letter and told the man that he knew me for years and I was not a Communist. I wrote the man of the Church's interest in the poor and of the changes taking place following Vatican II. I reminded him of Latin American Bishops' documents of Medellin, written in 1968 that spoke of the injustice to the poor and the need for change. He replied that he was going to have me run out of the country as an undesirable alien. The Bishop suggested the man was a little out of his head, but that didn't help me. A fishing cooperative in its infancy wanted our advice about keeping correct "books". As with all co-ops, good bookkeeping was important and they wanted help in getting their accounts straight. Father Carlos found someone who became their accountant. We became involved with members of their barrio on the banks of the Tamesi River. Each spring, the river overflowed its banks, sometimes covering their thatched huts. For generations these families had fished the area, plying the river in dugout canoes, some of them powered with outboard motors. The long sleek hollowed logs were poled or paddled through the rushes that edged Laguna Carpintero and the Gulf of Mexico. Waving rushes looked like dancing islands as a pole traced against the sky like a pendulum. Then there glided into view a long freight canoe with the strong arms and torso of a man moving in rhythmic beauty. A quick glimpse of a strongly molded face, shadowed by a paca (straw) hat, then the vision silently glided past. Red-winged blackbirds swung and sang in the rushes of the laguna as they did in Louisiana - "Lorelei, Lorelei". Club Pirata, a natural name for attracting kids, was operated by Prof. Pontfiane and his family. A former Olympic pole vaulter, the professor now worked with young people. His small boat landing and dressing room had attracted generations of kids and a few oldsters like myself. Again The kids were interested in my crawl swim-stroke. It was a wedge for starting dialogues on the float. There was a certain section of the Gulf where the fishermen of the co-op would not go. Members told me that chemicals dumped into a stream feeding into the Gulf of Mexico had polluted the area. I asked around and was told it was an American firm. There were no fish in that area at all. Bishop Szymanski had a letter from a U.S. mining company in Hueyhuetla complaining that one of his priests was inciting the natives toward dissatisfaction with their jobs with the mining company. To check it out, I wrote the president of Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania and got a telephone call from the local manager, inviting me for lunch and a visit to the mine. Bethlehem was a part owner of the plant which was run by computer with a few engineers and local Indians. The dust from the manganese formed infinitesimal stiletto- shaped crystals which, when breathed, entered the bloodstream and, the native doctor at the mine said, injured the brain. It was something about the metal interfering with the electrical impulses which trigger brain action. The priest had complained of the dehumanizing life local employees had to lead. The company-built town looked much like early mining towns of the U.S. The surrounding hills were dotted with thatched huts. Down in the valley, amid the machinery and giant shovels, a long chimney spewed smoke into the clear blue sky. A road built for the mine led into Tampico. The uncovered long trailers bumped their dusty way, thirty miles in to the port, dusting the highway and the people enroute. Trucks carrying 60 tons traveled over routes built to take no more than 40 tons. The baches - potholes - were numerous. Poor road building plus overloading compounded the mess. Truck repair must have been high on the list of company costs. A doctor at the government health center said that the environmental rules were not enforced because of the mordido - bribery or graft. (end chapter 14) XV Every six months I had to cross the border to get a new tourist visa. Every six months it became a question of potential for bureaucratic trouble. I never did look much like a moneyspending tourist. Several times !'d been stopped because of not having enough money. It'd been a long time since I bought new clothes. At the Mexican immigration office in Matamoros, an official recognized me as coming in regularly and questioned me closely as to exact amount of money I had on me. I explained I had a check book and friends in Mexico. No use. Back to the U.S. I was sent. Sympathetic Mexicans advised me to come back next day when another "migracion" official would be at the desk. They knew this hardnose. Mexican Faith is something else again. Ancient rituals are mixed with Christian rites, yet the campesino has a depth of participation that is mystical if not magical. Ramon Villegas and a couple of others in the religious group which stayed up all night praying before the blessed Sacrament were also brujos. Ramon explained that they needed the abracadabra to go along with the real healing qualities of the herbs they used. Guadalajara is a choice diocese, second in importance, spiritually and economically, only to Mexico City. It included the great religious center of San Juan de los Lagos. Bishop Szymanski had obtained the necessary approvals to set up San Juan de los Lagos as a separate Diocese. On the way to the ceremony, we stopped overnight at San Luis Potosi and started off early next morning. We stopped at a monastery for breakfast. He went inside to check it out and I meandered around next to the car. A car sped by, stopped and turned around. It was Bishop Silva of Guadalajara who said that as soon as he saw me he knew that Bishop Szymanski must be close by. When we went on, we passed Bishop Padilla's home town. Mons, Padilla of Vera Cruz had been one of the Bishops I squired in Brooklyn. I then saw a great church in the valley. It was San Juan de los Lagos - next to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited shrine in all Mexico. We had to stop a few blocks from the main church because the crowds filled the streets. It was slow progress. Bishop Szymanski would have made a good American football player, the way he strode interference through the streets, trying to get to the ceremony on time. Stands with hand made articles of wood, straw, wool and cotton vied with the food stands of bread, meat and fruit piled all over the place. The sellers hawked their wares in song and shout. Here and there groups of musicians played; a solo singer took his stand at a strategic spot. We struggled our way to the center and then up a side alley where a small door opened into the cavernous depths of the church. The Gregorian chant was already underway as I helped the bishop into his vestments and got the information about where we were to stay and when we were to leave. Then he was off with quick greetings to right and left. I was recognized as "being with Szymanski," by most clergy and sacristans of many Cathedrals in Mexico. My office, the Secretariado Social Mexicano de Tampico, was on the second floor. One of the stained glass windows of the cathedral was part of my inside wall. I often opened this window to join in the service or listen in. The quiet of late afternoon was often pierced by the Oriental keening of Indian prayer. In one of the Mexican revolutions, the corner building of the Cathedral had been confiscated by the government. It was now Police headquarters. My outside wall was a meter from the secret police office. I could hear them talking through our open windows. Often I could hear blows followed by screams, then gruff authoritative questions. Sometimes I heard splashing, followed by choked gurgling. Then questions and more questions. I didn't know what to do but finally wrote to The Catholic Worker paper in New York. It was printed. Shortly after, the sounds of torture were heard from the rear of the building, right in the area where the sisters did the cooking. Were they unhappy! One morning at 7:00 A.M. Mass in the cathedral, there was a a great tinny crash from the area of my office. Soon there were police moving around the aisles, A prisoner had jumped off the Police Department roof. They caught him in the Cathedral. Sanctuary may be valid in Europe, but it didn't work there. From my first pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe I was hooked on that devotion, as are most Mexicans. Every time I went to Mexico city with Bishop Szymanski the shrine was usually our first stop, where I served his Mass. I did feel a little embarrassed as a gringo on the main altar of this shrine dedicated "to all people of this land." In Mexico, each 12th of the month is dedicated to the Lady of Guadalupe. Each December 12th, a million of her clients come to pay homage to La Morenita. Every diocese is assigned a certain annual date for its pilgrimage. Some pilgrims walk all the way. The Diocese of Tampico pilgrimage is always August 5th. Pilgrims travel according to their means. Tampico is an hour away from Mexico city by plane, five hours by car or eight hours by bus. The train takes 24 hours, but the fare is exceptionally cheap on the Mexican National Railroad System. I liked the train and tried both; first and second class. The train station in Tampico is next to the port. Long webs of rails weave alongside the dock. Two special trains, one first class and the other second, carried the pilgrims to Mexico city. Families slept outside the station, inside the station, wherever they could find space. I left my bed at the seminary early, to be at trainside to catch some of the atmosphere and a seat on the 2nd class train I was taking. Chaos reigned among the pilgrims at the market, the third interesting facet of dockside: Some had no tickets, others looked for lost children, found them; some looked for friends, found them and greeted each other as only Mexicans can. One group decorated the front of the diesel engines with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The green, white and red colors of Mexico were draped along the sides of the engines and long lettered signs with Diocese of Tampico Pilgrimage to Tepeyac, hung along the cars. Passengers started scurrying to get aboard and excitement attained a new pitch. "All aboard" must be an expression of sense as it sounded just the same as in English. We started to move and those left on the platform waved us on our way. Youths stood on the steps of the train, calling out names of friends along the platform. we rolled past the poor barrios close to the tracks, crowded with the poor who could not come with us. We clackety-clacked past rickety shacks on stumps above pools of mosquito-breeding water. Now and then we caught a shouted message: Someone wanted to be remembered at Tepeyac. Many of us carried written messages, to be laid at the feet of La Virgen. we proceeded to set up "camp" for the twenty-four hour trip. People from a barrio where we helped with a Credit Union were with us on the second class train. A group of dancers planned to dance in the plaza at Guadalupe as their ancestors did, in traditional garb, to tambourines and drums, they took up a collection to help pay their way. The train was expected, and people in the scattered settlements along the way were there to wave us on in this exciting annual event. Some stolidly followed us with their eyes as we picked up speed in passing. The information on the banners, informative enough for those who could read, was soon passed on to those who couldn't. Hands - of old, of young, of little naked children, waved to us as the populace rushed out to greet the Pilgrims to Tepeyac. The very mention of this princess - that is how she was dressed - inspired reverence from these people. In all the revolutions which shook and tore Mexico, never once was this shrine molested. Soon the smell of food and drink and the sound of animated conversation filled the train. The conductor, taking tickets, remembered me from previous pilgrimages - as usual, the only gringo. We made a traditional stop at a town several hours along the way. Sandwiches, fruit and drinks were sold to benefit the church in that town. Slowly, we climbed in winding curves from sea level, through a lush rain forest. We could look back at the 15 cars dragging up the mountain with railroad workers standing to their crowbars. This section had been washed out recently and at the work area, we were switched to the other track as the washed out roadbed was filled in. We looked back at the canefields below. as we snailed to the top, then the train's pace quickened slightly. We rolled down, paralleling a rushing mountain stream) wild and beautiful. Signs of cattle - a green field, then a small settlement. We speeded up as we settled on the central plateau to San Luis Potosi. As night fell, we doubled up or bent over to get some sleep as some of the already dim lights were switched off. The darkening car slowly blurred the shadowy outlines of the sleeping figures. The only sounds besides the clackety rattle of the train were a few muffled coughs now and then as blanketed figures stretched out or crouched in their spaces. San Luis Potosi, a division point for changing crews and locomotives, gave us a chance to rush the long train length to the wonderful coffee and food at the terminal. We'd made it safely to this right angle of the triangular railroad route from Tampico to Mexico City. Now we would head directly south. We removed the pilgrimage decorations to save them for the following year. I'd been briefed about how fast we must move to save the decorations at the division point. They'd lost some locomotive decorations on a previous pilgrimage. North Americans had owned the Mexican railroad system and perhaps there was a trace of U.S. railroad tradition among the workers. Perhaps it was the rigidly high cap with badge, and dress coat. Few if any riders wore suit coats. A number of ticket collectors did. The lantern swinging at slow road curves and at large stations reminded me of Union Station in Washington. We sped South toward the bustling city of Mexico, a mile high on the central altiplano. The brightening dawn stirred the human figures to motion, to the bathroom. Families broke out their breakfasts. They might be in a train but the family was intact. The scenery changed from increasingly large farms with cattle to signs of industry on the outskirts of towns. In a few hours we started seeing American corporation names on chimneys and walls. Train tracks in ever increasing pairs appeared; we were in the yards. Traffic flowed on the adjacent streets where folks knew another pilgrimage was coming in to Tepeyac. Slowly we pulled into the railroad station at Buena Vista in the heart of Mexico city. Soon the groups were dispersing toward the city buses or peseros, special automobiles for cheap group-riding. I went with friends to the House of the Pilgrim, a four- story building like a series of lofts, with no furniture - just large open rooms, maybe 100 by 50 feet. There were plenty of toilets on each floor. Small cooking niches were on the ground floor. We climbed the stairs, scurrying to stake out our space by placing our blankets on the floor. I tied my hammock onto a fire escape and placed my knapsack in it. Families chattered away as they got organized on the outspread blankets marking their territory. Most of us went right away to pay our respects to La Virgen. Tomorrow, the bishop and most of the priests of the diocese would concelebrate Mass. Some people had come early and would meet us for the procession to the shrine. Next day we gathered at 8:30 A.M. at the Peravilla, a traffic circle south of the Basilica. The people in their Sunday best came armed with flowers. Some literally had their arms full. Mexico is noted for its flowers and tons of them each day are brought to the Shrine. Friends saluted each other as we lined up under the direction of marshals who would maintain traffic control and see to it that we arrived at ten o'clock. Our line became longer and longer as latecomers came and stepped into their places. Calzada de Guadalupe is a wide avenue with a center mall on which the pilgrims walk or even kneel their way to the Basilica. Pilgrims often go on their knees in fulfillment of a promise or to ask a favor of of La Virgencita. Family or friends of the people going on their knees hurry ahead with cloths or blankets to ease the torture on the knees of the supplicant. North Americans are often shocked by these demonstrations of faith. Bishop Szymanski and the priests of the diocese were waiting just inside the great gates of the basilica. We all crowded in, entered the great doors and moved up the center aisle to the front to toss our flowers high up on the mountain of those previously thrown. Our eyes were fixed on the picture high over the main altar, of the beautiful, pregnant young woman. The cincture high on her bodice denotes the person "en cincta" or pregnant. The picture is about five by three feet, framed in gold. The Indians over four hundred years ago recognized the symbols. An Indian princess wore a blue star-studded sky for a cloak. She was so great that she blocked out the sun whose golden rays streamed from the edges of her cloak. Under her feet an angel, holding a banner suggesting the colors of Mexico, peers out. A crescent moon is at the base of the figure. A small cross is at the neck. A goddess of the natives and a sign of the Christian were here presented in the painting. I've insisted over the years to Bishop Szymanski that the golden rays of the Sun which stream from behind La Morenita are losing their luster. He says not. The scraping of feet, the small voices of children and the constant moving about for better positions continued during the Mass. Each year I was there I reminded the bishop of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of our nation's especial need of prayer for our culpability. Often he mentioned the anniversary in the sermon or petitions. Many of the Tampiquenos stayed over for sightseeing, but most of us returned that evening to Tampico. The Mexico City railroad station is immense. Large groups of pilgrims gathered there to wait for their train back home. No one bothered people for sleeping at the station. We returned on a regularly scheduled train. I took a first class, which has cushioned seats. The cars looked like they came from the States. I'd been in Mexico for more than ten years and became more and more aware of the connotations of the word gringo. Various stories suggest its derivation: Green uniforms, the Green mining company but most likely, the song the U.S. soldiers sang under General Winfield Scott during the storming of the Halls of Montezuma (Chapultepec Castle) in Mexico city: "Green grow the lilacs..." This was probably the source of the "gringo", ejaculation. - Our U.S.A. presence is everywhere in a type of subtle cultural arrogance. A civic benefit such as named streets might be through Coca or Pepsi Cola and so advertised at each intersection. A movie on fishing cooperatives announced in the Tampico paper, turned out to be a Caterpillar marine motor promotional affair. I attended, as did an official of our fishing cooperative. A movie on agriculture obtained from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico showed immense grain elevators and full freight cars. The final sequence showed thousands of tons of wheat spewing forth through a large funnel into a ship's hold. It was beyond the comprehension of these campesinos, who were subsistence farmers. The Hollywood films had some of their blonde, blue-eyed heroes mouthing Spanish through the dubbing process. The U.S. culture was being exported. I stopped obtaining films. I didn't realize just how anxious economic interests were to have U.S. textbooks donated to the University of Tamaulipas in our nation's AID program. Billboards, radio and television carried the United States message. Coca Cola replaced milk for the few pennies campesinos could collect. For years, that company had promised a nutritious addition to their line. I called their main office once, while in New York. "Not yet," was their answer. There's a rumor they've finally made the product - decades later. I checked company names on soap wrappers in the main drug store across from Sears Roebuck in Tampico. Of the more than fifteen names I checked, only three were Mexican. The rest had recognizable U.S. company names. The part our nation was playing in the development of our economic policy at the expense of the welfare of international relations was a story that I felt must be told. I did not know how. I had no systematic analysis but intuitively felt something was wrong. I felt compelled to do something, to tell of my experiences and the misery of those campesinos caught in the web of international commercialism. I decided to go to the Catholic Worker House in New York and establish contact with Spanish-speaking representatives, at the Pope John XXIII Center near the United Nations. I'd been there a couple of times, knew the librarian, and the location was strategic. Little by little, I separated my small bundle of "treasures", the file cards of the many people I'd grown to like and from whom I'd learned: Bishops, priests, workers, campesinos. The serape I bought on my original pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe 15 years before was tucked into the valise with the hammock of henequen - or was it corn-stalk string? Into the bag went the guayaberras bought at a sale in Monterrey. I'd worn them for a couple of years as the most functional formal summer wear - made of cotton, with lots of pockets. In over a decade in Mexico I had developed new friends. My education had certainly improved but now I must move and integrate this into an outreach for my neighbors. The word got around in Tampico that I was leaving and questions kept coming as to what I would be doing in the States. Reverse missionary was difficult to explain. The message that our economic policy was destroying native cultures and substituting material values at the expense of human, needed exposition. From Los Angeles in 1960 I'd passed through Tiajuana to La Paz. There I stayed four years, then to San Andres Tuxtla for another four, then to Tampico. I wanted to say good bye to my friends, route I came. I planned to start by going to the meeting in Mexico city with Bishop Szymanski and meet Mons. Giordani, go on with him to La Paz. When the time came for the Bishops' meeting, we drove to Mexico City along the narrow curving road built for the American mining company a few years before. We bounced ideas off each other and discussed current events at all levels - local, national and international. The bishop's chauffeur and I were put up at a convent while the Bishop joined his cohorts at the Seminary of the Misionarios Guadalupano. Bishop S. said that the trips were too exhausting for him to drive, but that he did enjoy traveling through the country with stops to see his many friends. I also enjoyed these experiences. Giordani was still Apostolic Prefect of La Paz, which was shortly to become a diocese instead of mission territory He still had the Jeep my mission-minded friends had given him years ago. He said he'd be glad to have me return with him. We headed for the ferry at Mazatlan, which was now a streamlined tourist-attractive boat. It had stretch-out seats for low-paying passengers, plus staterooms for the more affluent, a cafeteria and a game-playing salon. We had come a long way from the Rufo brothers' tinny boats. I stood on this fancy deck, remembering the time a propane tank started sizzling from a leak at the valve and we had to heave it overboard before it exploded. Tourists, Mexican and North American, filled the ship; cars winding their way aboard tipped the boat and rocked it. Trucks, loaded with beer and other commodities which had to be hauled from the mainland, rumbled aboard. Heading into the Pacific, out past the Mazatlan breakwater, we gathered to watch the setting sun and white foam from the twin screws of the modern ship, the Diaz Ordaz. The sounds from the the polyglot mixture of tourists were a cacophony from the Mexican states, Anglo types descended from pirates marooned on the Baja coast, and numerous mainland Indians; seasonal workers for the cotton harvest in the valley of Santo Domingo. Gradually, noises subsided, lights dimmed, heavy breathing and a few scattered snores announced sleep in the chair salon. Cabin parties continued and in the cafeteria games of dominoes and cards were quietly played. A few promenaded, others stretched out on deck, covering themselves with serapes. Younger ones rolled out sleeping bags. The knapsack had come to Mexico but the morral was still the favorite for packing one's belongings. In the dawn, the shapes of the Baja mountains topped the distant mist. I could picture the road I'd so often traveled to San Jose del Cabo via Santiago. We plowed through the sea, past Las Cruces, where Bing Crosby and Senor Gonzales were partners in a hotel that was so isolated it could be reached only by small plane or strong Jeep. Around the point we went, past the gas tanks built at a safe distance from La Paz. We pulled alongside the new dock some distance from town and soon were with the Sisters who had come to meet the Monsignor. These were the hospital sisters who had taken over the old TB hospital until the danger of contagion was past. Then it was taken over by the government. We drove along the winding road at the foot of the low hills skirting the bay and soon, rising above the town of La Paz, we saw the familiar steeples of the cathedral. The Sisters told me they were now in the process of building their own hospital. As with most building projects in Mexico it was taking years and years. Cement walls were framed up and hardened, then the plumbers came and broke the walls down to put in the pipes. A North American once showed me plans and explained that this was the first time many of his workmen had ever seen a complete plan of a building with walls, plumbing, electrical outlets all clearly marked before work commenced. We stopped at the cathedral and then went on to the seminary. The angling of the building kept the place remarkably cool in the heat of Summer. The Sisters of a contemplative order had a building off to one side. One of them had asked and obtained permission to pursue a more active life style and was out evangelizing at Kilometer 110. The goodbyes went on: The Cursillistas; the young lady and her brother, whom I'd brought down on the boat from Tiajuana twelve years ago. The new highway was now complete all the way to Tiajuana. The road out of La Paz circled past the red light district and then up the heights, winding to R100 and then to K llO where my friend was doing her evangelizing, The nuns of her congregation accepted her life style among the poor campesinos. A living cactus fence kept animals out of her mission. The sleepy half-dozen families had not changed and the water was carted from a pit dug into the dry arroyo. Jack Fisher had said that no one need die of thirst in this desert. Dry arroyos have water at varying depths. Too, the barrel cacti, if de-spined and broken open, could provide enough water for survival. Jack's wayside shrine of a white, cement, organ cactus was still on the long woodsy stretch of road to Villa Constitucion. If you can imagine a desert having a drought, this had one when I first came. The bones of their few cattle which had died then were still whitening in the sun. Here was the arroyo which, upon digging, would supply virulent water guaranteed to give me the "runs" no matter how long I boiled it. It didn't seem to effect Mons. Giordani. Back on the bus, I stared out the window at memories. The corduroy road which Had bounced our jeep on many a trip. Wheat waving in the irrigated fields. The town of one-story stucco and adobe buildings along an avenue planned for thriving businesses which were just now arriving. Cotton was an export product here, and the farmers had to carry their cotton to the old gin across from the seminary in La Paz. La Purisima, with its tall palms, bunches of dates and fruit gardens was a village the Franciscans under Fr. Junipero Serra must have dreamed for the future as they wended their way from Loretta to San Francisco in Upper California. The best memory of La Purisima was wine from grape pressings aged in goatskins: Delicious! The faith of Rome had been strongly planted in the natives of Mexico. Revolutions had not destroyed it. In an early 20th century revolution, the Sinarquistas (Catholic Fascists) were herded and transplanted to the desert of Baja California between Villa Constitucion and La Purisima. As we sped along, I craned my neck and could just make out some of the adobe huts and thought of the depths of faith of so many who suffer and die for love of God. The bus continued North. I pondered on a system that permitted, if not promoted inequity between the preaching 2nd practice of Christianity. The misery I'd seen, from Blessed Martin de Porres Hospice in the shadow of our nation's Capitol to the tin and cardboard hovels of Mexico, was inhuman. Though I'd been concentrating on the Corporal works of mercy, I'd gradually realized there was a political dimension to be considered. The basic needs for food and shelter are as common to the poor in Mexico as in the United States of America. The very letters of the nations showed the proprietary attitude of our country. Only recently have we started to add the letter "A" to U.S. How to activate my concern was vague, but my spiritual intention was strong: To tell people of my country how resources and cultures were being devoured by an insensate transnational economic system. The bus stopped at Ensenada and in a couple of hours we were in Tiajuana. The bus terminal was its usual bedlam, with hawkers bearing down on U.S.A. tourists. In my economic situation, I refused the offers of coche (taxi) and walked the few blocks to the border. One last time as a Papal Volunteer, I went through customs and passed from the dusty roads of Mexico to the clean roads of the U.S.A. The spick and span order; the nearly empty bus to San Diego emphasized the differerences between the two countries. The quiet of the people as they moved within the quiet of their privacy penetrated me as I rode the bus to Los Angeles. I was beginning another stage of my life. (end chapter 15) END BOOK ONE
--- no other books were finshed before Spike died in 2003 ---
During the latter years of his life Spike shaved once a year. He was a short, stout, but not fat, man with snowy white hair and beard. He often wore suspenders to hold up his trousers. He had twinkling blue/grey eyes and often looked like a mischevious elf. He shaved on New Years day, and let the beard grow out all year until the following New Years. By Christmas each year he looked the part of Santa Claus, or at least one of Santas elves.