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Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement
Issue 43July 1999Volume 4 - Number 8

Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.

The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:

Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062

Cat's Corner
Letters To The Editor

The following letter was received from Kelly Hearney, in reference to the article "Birds on the wire," written by Will Naeher, and published in Issue 41, May 1999, Volume 4 - Number 6, of the CANDOER News.


I would like to tell the "rest of the story" about the "Birds on the wire": At the time, I was CPO in Amman and reported the problem to the fourth floor, which no one seemed to believe. When Will and Bob Ribera (then the NEA Ops Officer) visited Amman about a year later, the story was confirmed as being true by "Blacky" Blackburn, King Hussin's communications chief, who Will knew from their days in the Agency.



The following letter was received from John Kennedy:


June's AARP BULLETIN states: To remove names from many direct mailing lists, write to:

Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service
P. O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9008

To stop telephone calls from marketers, write to:

DMA Telephone Mail Preference Service
P. O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9014

Lastly, if anyone needs a chuckle, they might/might catch a glimpse of me as an extra in the TNT movie, THE CSS HUNLEY (the first successful confederate submarine), scheduled for July 11. A dozen or so of us extras are dressed as local dignitaries with dark suits, period bow ties and top hats. Scenes I remember: in a funeral procession, hoovering behind a barrel during a bombardment, walking down a street (away from the camera) carrying a salvaged chair. Afterwards, in the crowd as Armand Assante spoke when seeking sub volunteers, and in the audience in the opera house when the bombing starts up again. Just before the audience panics, Donald Sutherland (Gen. Beaurogard) starts leading the audience in singing the Bonnie Blue Flag--we all join in instead of a panic. It should be a good rendition because we practiced singing for a day and a half!


/s/John K

The following e-mail message was received from David Diamond:


Just a little add-on to the excellent article on e-mail. You can use from anywhere in the world to get your e-mail from your ISP. Hotmail has a feature called POP. You set it up with your e-mail address and password, and it fetches your mail, just as if it had been addressed to your account at Hotmail in the first place. You don't even have to do it ahead of time. You can go to Hotmail, create an account (any name will do), then use POP to get your unread mail from (say) Erols, even if it is a week or two old. I don't know if it will work for AOL, but it will work for 'ordinary' ISPs. You can even set a parameter which governs whether the mail gets deleted from your ISP when you haul it into Hotmail, or continues to pile up (use delete if you are going to be using Hotmail more than once or twice on the trip - it keeps bringing in the same message, since you didn't delete).

While I've got the channel open here, I notice the CANDOER News pretty well represents the old OC crew, but doesn't seem to get much news from the guys who, in pre-IM days were called ISO. I would offer to write something myself about the early days before and after the arrival of the Wangs, but I have a horrible memory for names and I would not want to slight some of the truly remarkable folk I worked with. I am not sure that some of this stuff would be of interest, though I think it is good to remember that the merging of the two arms was a pretty fair success story of its own.

/s/ David Diamond

EDITORS NOTE: I am going to take this opportunity to again beg for articles for the Newsletter. A vast majority of the stories, about life in the service of the Department of State, has been from the "old OC" group. This has not been by design on my part. I publish EVERY story I receive that is not in some way derogatory toward others. At present, there are 190 people receiving the Newsletter, and I would guess, counting spouses and others, probably another 190 or more reading it. That is a lot of people to have only about a dozen of you contributing stories. Don't get me wrong. The stories I receive have been well written and are much appreciated but, it would be nice to get a point of view from others or hear other experiences. I ask again, please send me your stories for publication. I especially ask the spouses of members to contribute stories of their experiences as they traveled throughout the world.

You will note that this issue is only 14 pages, two pages shorter than usual. This is due to a lack of new authors to publish.

Retirement issues to watch

Windfall Elimination Provision

This well-hidden penalty reduces the earned Social Security benefit of people who also receive a civil service annuity. Government Pension Offset (GPO) -- also a surprise for many retiring, is the Government Pension Offset, which reduces or eliminates the spousal or survivor's Social Security benefit (that's based on the spouse's earnings) of a person drawing a civil service annuity. The 430,000-member National Association of Retired Federal Employees is pushing hard for bills that would eliminate or soften these two penalties. Here are three of its key allies on Capitol Hill: Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would allow federal employees and retirees to purchase long-term care insurance at rates lower than those available to individuals. The proposed group LTC insurance program also could be extended to the military community. The main sticking point is how such a program would be run, and by whom.

Pension Taxes

Federal civil service retirement benefits would be subject to the same tax treatment as Social Security benefits under legislation introduced by Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.). Currently, Uncle Sam taxes the entire amount of federal annuity payments. Social Security benefits, which tend to be lower, are tax-exempt up to $25,000 for single people and $32,000 for couples. Amounts over those levels are taxed at the regular rate for the individual's or couple's tax bracket.


The sculptor's attitude

The following was furnished by Jim Steeves.

I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes midnight. I have responsibilities to fulfil today. I am important. My job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have.

Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or ... I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today I can feel sad that I don't have more money or ... I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health or ... I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up or ... I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns or ... I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn my lack of friends or ... I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work or ... I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

Today I can complain because I have to go to school or ... eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework ... or I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body and soul.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.

What today will be like is up to me. I get to choose what kind of day I will have!

Have a GREAT DAY ... unless you have other plans.

Author unknown

ATS History

Traffic Research Section

by Will Naeher

After the ATS was activated, it occurred to me that we did a good job of servicing for missing telegrams or garbled telegrams between communications centers, but we had no mechanism for dealing with problems between the communications center and its customers. If someone had a problem, they would call a friend in the communications center and their problem was handled.

I established a "Traffic Research Section," under the supervision of Bill Callihan. When someone called their friend for help, they were instructed to take the information about the problem and then turn it over to the Traffic Research Section, who called the complainant for more information. If they had the answer to the callers problem, they would provide it to the caller and request that they call the Traffic Research Section, if they had any future problems. Soon, all problem calls were coming to this section. This worked very well and improved the service to our customers.

However, after examining the logs kept by Bill and his staff, we noticed that some bureaus were calling for an inordinate number of "no receipt" complaints. We assigned a Traffic Research staffer to the bureau's message center to try to find out what was happening. Almost immediately the complaints stopped.

As we suspected, bureaus would get a specified number of copies for each telegram. Sometimes the Bureau would need more copies and instead of reproducing the copies from their own machines, they would call Traffic Research for extra copies.

We sent a note to the bureau executive officers complaining that their message center personnel were using the communications center as a reproduction service. This put extra stress on the system and added to the normal processing times of traffic.

The Traffic Research Center was very successful under the leadership of Bill Callihan, Walt Abbott, and Dorothy Botts.

Luncheon Log

We had an outstanding turnout at the June CANDOER luncheon. A total of 21 members were in attendance. It started off with a big surprise, Joe Hazewski was the first to arrive (visiting the area from Kerens, Texas).

The following people were in attendance:

Bob Campopiano, Bob Catlin, Lou Correri, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Tom Forbes, Al Giovetti (attending his first luncheon since having a mini-stroke on April 12), Rey Grammo, Joe Hazewski, Charlie Hoffman, Rush Lantz, Mel Maples, Ed Peters, Tom Paolozzi, Rob Robinson (who is moving to Ashville, NC this month), Bob Scheller (attending his first luncheon since having by pass surgery on March 31), Val Taylor, Manny Valdez, and Tom Warren.

Attending their first luncheon, as retirees, we hope not their last, were Gary Bobbitt and Hank Reavy. A big CANDOER WELCOMEt o you both.

You will note, one of our regulars, Will Naeher was not in attendance. Doris and Will are at their condo in Ocean City for two weeks.

DEATH OF Shirley Rinker

It is with deep regret I inform you of the death of Joe Rinker's wife, Shirley, on June 10.

The preceding information was furnished by Bill Hempel.

Retiree's Report

On May 28, I talked with Grant Shaw. Grant has had a change of address. It may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue. Grant said he is recovering from his open heart surgery, slowly but surely.

On May 30, I received word from Paul Nugnes that he and Deborah are leaving Zimbabwe for the States. He said they will be moving to Florida and should arrive at their new address around the 15th of July. In the meantime, they are going to be doing some traveling through Southern Africa. His new address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue. Until further notice, he is without e-mail capability.

On June 3, I received an e-mail message from Keith Christie informing me of his new e-mail address. This address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the last page of this and every issue.

On June 7, I received an e-mail message from Dennis Starr informing me that he has moved to Frisco, Colorado. He will be moving again in August to Canon City, Colorado. His new, temporary address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and his new e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and every issue.

On June 8, Bob Scheller asked that I publish his e-mail address. Bob's e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and future issues.

At the luncheon on June 8, Al Giovetti asked me to pass his heartfelt thanks to the many of you who sent him cards, letters, and called. He said it was way too many for him to respond to individually and asked the use of this medium to convey his "Thanks"

On June 11, I received a telephone call from Jim Casey. Jim informed me that he had talked with Bob Bubniak, who is now working at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Bob indicated he was interested in joining the CANDOER Retirement Group. I sent Bob my canned e-mail message about the group.

On June 13, I received an e-mail message from Don Stewart indicating that he has a new e-mail address. This address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the last page of this and future issues.

On June 14, I received an e-mail message from Bob Bubniak. Bob has joined the CANDOERs. His bio information may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue along with his e-mail address, which may also be found on the last page of this and future issues.

On June 15, I received a phone call from Jim Casey, informing me that Paul Eickman was interested in becoming a member of the CANDOERs. I sent Paul my normal canned e-mail message about the Group. Paul's e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and future issues.

Military security
by Jim Steeves

There are some people who consider the term "military intelligence" to be an oxymoron but I submit that "military security", at least four decades ago, was little better. I'll describe here one of two experiences I had on the subject (the other is best forgotten) and let the reader decide about "military security."

During my youthful years as a Navy communicator, back in the 1950s, my country sent me to work in one of its communications centers far from the sea. Our communications officer, a Commander, and his two officer subordinates, had a TS clearance. The enlisted personnel were only cleared to the Secret level.

Most of our incoming traffic was Unclassified, though our occasional Confidential message had a cover sheet on each distributed copy and signatures were received for every single copy distributed. Was that good security or what? The old black monster chattered away all the time, churning out messages about ship movements and logistics. Several times a day, we would have to break out a one-time tape and load it into another machine in order to receive a classified message. By far, most of the classified messages were either Confidential or Secret, and since we all had a Secret clearance, no questions were asked about who manned our end of the circuit. Every now and then though, our relay station had a Top Secret message for us. We notified one of the officers and prepared the machine by positioning the tape in the TD and then all enlisted personnel cleared the room while the officer sat there and received the top secret message. The page copy was carefully torn off and taken somewhere for control and distribution.

When the officer had gone off with the Top Secret message, the rest of us were allowed back into the room where our first item of business was to read the reperforated tape!

My follow-on assignment took me to the real Navy where I had a Top Secret clearance but never saw anything of a higher classification than Confidential.

Interesting Internet sites
by John Kennedy

Here are three sites that might interest some (From SMART COMPUTING magazine): -- Although there's some doubt about the future of Social Security, you can view its current status, and read through the list of frequently asked questions about the SSA. You can also request a Personal Earnings & Benefits Estimate Statement to determine how much you have coming. -- The Consumer Law Page Alerts one to the quiet crime known as consumer fraud --- its causes, symptoms, and results of this social disease. Visitors can browse articles and brochures covering everything from defective products and toxic chemicals to fraudulent services and medical scams. Free consultations by e-mail and a lawyer referral service available. -- Nolo Press Self-help Law Center. Before you pay a lawyer to answer your legal questions, visit this site. This site, produced by a leading publisher of self-help law books, offers more than its share of quality legal advice and information--and it's free. Check out the Current Features, an assortment of essays that examine various areas of the law; the Legal Dictionary, an index of more than 200 clearly explained legal terms; and the Daily Tip, regular hints that can save you time and money. But the real gem here is the Legal Encyclopedia. This collection of in-depth essays and frequently asked questions helps you learn what to expect from a lawyer and the justice system.

Bob Lucas remembers Taiz, Yemen
by Graham Lobb

Bob Lucas, an OC retiree, who now resides at Melbourne, Florida, with his wife Thelma, recently recalled a trip he made to Taiz, Yemen, when assigned regional communications duties based in New Delhi in the 1960's.

Bob, a long-time traveler to remote parts of the globe, began as a Signal Corps code clerk in New Guinea. From there, he accompanied MacArthur's Leyete and Manila.

I recall when Bob was stationed on his first tour in Calcutta. He made several long trips across India and Pakistan and up to Kabul, abroad the Embassy "Green Hornet." Bob's visits were a welcomed relief from the isolation of Kabul. We gathered at the house of Jim "Red Sahib" Rhine, where Bob entertained us with his trip stories.

He visited the bazaar in pursuit of coins, stamps, and other items from Central Asia. Now let Bob Lucas tell the reader of Taiz, in his own words!


Listening to the news this morning on PBS Radio there as a story about the lack of water in the Yemen --- it's not just a matter of no rain, but the water has been used up and there is little or no storage planning, pipes rusted out, and general greed and stupidity has taken over. Worst hit by the lack of water is Taiz.

Back in 1960, when I was assigned to New Delhi, with regional responsibility, I visited Taiz, Aden, Jedda, Kathmandu, as well as our diplomatic posts in India and Pakistan. Well, getting to Taiz was quite an adventure, particularly if one drove up from Aden. At that time, Aden was a part of the British Empire and although only a volcano site, it was neat, efficient, and a busy free port. It was a coaling station in the old days and every ship coming or going through the Suez would stop at Aden.

The drive to Taiz from Aden rivaled the journey on the original road from Peshawar to Kabul. Sometimes, I took a flight from Aden to Asmara, Eritrea, and then on the Ethiopian Airlines to Taiz. It was to me the most primitive location I had ever seen--sand, camels, and mud/dung brick. I have photos to prove it! Somewhere along the line, in later years, the capital was moved from Taiz to Sanaa.

Anyway it seems to me that what is happening in the Yemen is just a forecast of what threatens an ever increasing world population --- we are using up the world's resources without much serious concern --- when I turn on the tap, take a shower or water the lawn, I think of our lavish use here and wonder how long can we have sprinklers (that turn on even with it is raining) and backyard pools.

EPILOGUE: We often recall Dean's Hotel in Peshawar or Falettis in Lahore, or even a British run boarding house in the Punjab capital.

Riding through the Khyber Pass or taking the Khyber Mail to Lahore are other memories of the sub-continent only a few years after partion when the British departed, having left their mark in Asia.


Mowing the lawn

by Herb Walden

I had originally intended to publish this poem in the May or June issue of the CANDOER News, but several events shoved it aside. Although a little late for spring, this poem, written by my high school classmate and good friend, Herb Walden, describes the thoughts of a lot of us retirees, as winter disappears and the chore of mowing the lawn returns.

Well, spring has sprung,
And winter is gone,
And once again
I'm moving the lawn.

Grass growing like crazy
Hither, thither, and yon.
Looks like a long summer
Just mowing the lawn.

Oh, I get some rest
From dusk until dawn,
But the rest of the time
I'll be mowing the lawn.

Sometimes I break
To go to the john,
But in a few minutes,
I'm back mowing the lawn.

My summer fishing
Is more off than on,
Since, I'm way too busy
Just mowing the lawn.

I'm getting real tired
And starting to yawn,
But I can't take a nap
‘Cause I'm mowing the lawn.

Lots of jobs
Seem to go on and on,
But they're nothing compared
To mowing the lawn.

By the end of the summer
I'll look old and drawn
‘Cause I've spent so much time
Mowing the lawn.

In the years that pass
Long after I'm gone,
I'll be remembered
For mowing the lawn.

"Here lies Herb Walden"
(My tombstone---engraved upon)
"He didn't do much
But he could mow lawn!"

Herb Walden - 1998

God bless to me tonight
by Will Naeher

One day, during the Vietnam War and a TET offensive, I received a telephone call from Dick Scott, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications at that time. He had just returned from a meeting, where he was informed that we were out of communications with Saigon. I told him I was unaware of this, but would check it out.

At the time, we had an unsecured circuit direct to the Embassy and a secure circuit through the military. The supervisor in the systems control area assured me that the circuit was up and that we had received no notice of any problem. I asked him to plug a roll around Teletype machine into the unsecured circuit so I could talk with them. After typing several rows of "CIP" (come in please), I received a reply, "God bless to me tonight we are being shelled." I immediately typed "take cover --- take cover"

I called Dick Scott and told him what I had learned. I assured him that the circuit was operational. He passed this information up the channels and I inform the operations center that the circuits to Saigon were operational and could receive any traffic they might have. Apparently, some one in the operations center tried to reach the embassy on the telephone and was unable to get through. I asked the operations center that in the future they contact me regarding any concerns they may have about communications circuits.

The next day, I received a "Communications Note" from the CRO in Saigon wanting to know, "Who the stupid guy was that called his local communicator to the circuit while they were under fire." I explained to him that it was me and the reason why. I asked him, "Who the stupid guy was that did not inform the Department that they were under fire so that we had to find it out from others"

I did not receive a reply.

The Vietnamese communicator had been under his desk for cover. When he heard the Teletype machine running, he crawled on his hands and knees to answer the call. This is in the best tradition of communicators everywhere!!!

When outhouses were in
received from Charlie Ditmeyer

The following story, from the Ihlen Area News, published December 17, 1998, was furnished by Charlie Ditmeyer, from his hometown newspaper, back in Minnesota.

When the first settlers came to Minnesota territory, they worked together putting up dwellings and the necessary farm buildings.

As time passed, saw mills appeared. Then the first log cabins. Later on, farmers and townspeople started to hire builders. One builder, we'll call him Sam, specialized in "houses of meditation." Little buildings that everyone needed.

Sam found as he was building for these good Minnesota farm families, that location was very important. The prevailing wind was a big factor. In fact, during July and August it was important that breezes from the houses of meditation didn't reach open bedroom windows. Farm families were all working hard; they wanted fresh air at night.

Another factor was connected to the fact that a housewife would go to the house of meditation about seven times a day. If wood piles were located between her house and the meditation house, she usually carried about seven sticks of wood per trip, that was 49 pieces of wood a day. Just about right for three big meals, plus two lunches.

Sam always had the door swing in so the person meditating could put his toe against the door to ensure privacy (or allow ventilation). In addition, the stars and moons had to be cut in a manner that allowed the occupant to see out while no one could see in.

For the growing family, there had to be seats of various sizes. Also some needed to be lower for the little ones. The complete outhouse required a shelf for the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, a box of Grandpa's corn cobs of two colors, red and white, then a nail to hang a roll of that new-fangled white stuff that young ladies of the family insisted on having.

Sam found that the desires of his customers were many and varied, but he was able to build as the people requested.

Most folks wanted those houses of medication fastened down so the Halloween boys couldn't have any fun, as some folks had been tipped over while meditating.

Sam figured he had built just about every style or size of house of meditation for just about any size family. He had worked hard. What Sam didn't know was that his skill had spread by word of mouth, far beyond his Minnesota area. He received a letter in the mail from the south. These folks wanted Sam to build a nice house of meditation over an abandoned oil well.

Well that was something new for sure. Sam thought about this for quite a spell. In fact, he even took a trip to the oil country to study this, as Sam was a man who had to study new things. After Sam returned, he wrote to the folks down south, telling them he didn't want to build that house of meditation for them. He told them why.

While he was on that trip, he heard of a man who died in a little house of meditation that had been placed over an abandoned oil well. Sam checked into the story. Yes, it was true.

Grandpa had gone out to the new house of meditation to try it. He was found dead on the meditation seat. An autopsy was performed. The only odd thing about Grandpa was, he was sitting bold upright. His lungs were full of air, but he was dead, stone cold.

That stumped everyone but Grandma. She knew what he had died from. She said Grandpa always held his breath until he heard it hit bottom. That dry oil well was 15,000 feet deep!

I thought this would amuse the older people that ever used outhouses.

The story of "Taps"
received from Jim Prosser

The following was received via email from Jim Prosser:

It all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.

During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay mortally wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention.

Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

The captain lit a lantern. Suddenly, he caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son.

The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, he enlisted in the Confederate Army.

The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.

His request was partially granted. The captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for the son at the funeral. That request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. Out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician.

The captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of his dead son's uniform.

This wish was granted. This music was the haunting melody we now know as "Taps" that is used at all military funerals.

In case you are interested, these are the words to "TAPS":

Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well.
Safely rest.
God is nigh.

Old commo lunch
by Vic (Godfather) Maffei

Back in '73, I was a CRO in Dakar, in the old Embassy building on Independence Square. There were many nice restaurants in the vicinity.

The Embassy did not have a snack bar, but going out to lunch daily became quite expensive and most of us were not too much into brown-bagging. What we wound up doing was going to a nearby market for some nice cold cuts and french-bread (baguettes) and fixed our lunch right there in the shop.

Once these goodies were consumed, we passed the rest of the lunch hour playing 500-rummy. We had great fun and at times the friendly bantering got quite animated. I remember one particular episode quite vividly; one that always brings a smile whenever I get around playing 500-rummy in my family: While a boisterous argument ensued among four of the five players, the fifth player, Frank Meyers, jettisoned himself out of his chair, threw his cards on the table and said quite loudly: "What the hell am I taking FS French for; if I'm to get anywhere in this game, I should be taking Italian lessons!

The other four players?: Vic Maffei, Jim Morfino, Al Cappelli and Tom Muollo.

He was right, we gumba's did pass quite a few "partner" signals in Italian dialects! And, in the heat of the moment, failed to appreciate the fact that Frank did not understand us!

Remembering Port-au-Prince, Haiti - 1960-1962
By Graham Lobb

Part One of Three

Our next assignment, after the Department of State (DC/T), was American Embassy Port-au-Prince, Haiti, between May 1960 and June 1962.

It marked our the Foreign Service and we were eager to go overseas again, Our son, David accompanied us. We departed New York City, on the Panama Lines, operated by the Panama Canal Company, aboard the SS Ancon, which ran between New York, Haiti, and the Canal Zone. In those days, the Panama Lines was U.S. Government owned and served the Company and its employees along with other government personnel and tourists.

The trip aboard the SS Ancon

It was a pleasant cruise along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., into the Caribbean, and through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba to Port-au-Prince.

We arrived on a hot day, as naked Haitian boys dove from boats into the bay for U.S. coins and other souvenirs. In the distance we could see the docks and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Nearby, was the white, doomed residence of Dictator Duvalier, President of Haiti.

Captain John Houston Crain, a U.S. Marine and Provost Marshall of Port-au-Prince, wrote of Haiti during its occupation between 1914 and 1934 by the U.S. Marines. His articles appeared in the National Geographic and he wrote: "A filthy, beautiful, glamorous, appalling city, capital of a unique and fascinating state"

The role of the Ancon in WW II

Years after, I learned the roll the Ancon played in D-Day off Normandy as a command communications vessel; and its presence at the peace signing in Tokyo Harbor when General MacArthur officially ended World War II.

Arrival at Port-au-Prince

As we left the ship, we said goodbye to passengers and the crew. It had been an intimate group of Baptist missionaries bound for northern Haiti; the Haitian Consul and his daughter returning from Chicago, and an adventurous couple Irving and Rose from New York City. There was a Panama Hat salesman, bound for the Canal Zone. Finally, a bearded Eastern Orthodox Bishop, en route to visit his flock in South America.

In a few years, the Panama Line would cease operation, forced out by the rival Grace Lines, who wanted Port-au-Prince as a port of call.

We descended the gang plank, as David carried a pet turtle in a plastic bowl, into a sea of black humanity pushing and shoving. From the crowd, a young well dressed Haitian introduced himself as "Fritz Racine," clerk at the Embassy. He then assisted us through passport and customs control.

Immediately, strange odors greater my nostrils! I told Roberta, it was the smells of Kabul, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and the Philippine Islands all over again!

Fritz took us in an embassy car to the Hotel Sans Souci, in the center of the capital, which was to be our home, until the household effects arrived from Washington.

En route we could not escape, the crowded streets, the open sewers, unpaved roads, honking cars, surrounded by wooden gingerbread Victorian houses which leaned in every direction amid some palm trees.

I recalled Craig had written of: "tropical perfumes mingled with hideous stenches"

The Hotel Sans Souci

At the Sans Souci, we were welcomed by the Haitian owner, Georges Hireaux and his Austrian Wife, Gerty. Then, at quite an early hour, we were treated to Haitian rhum punch, made from Barbencourt, which was triple distilled.

Previously, George Fir, a Foreign Service pouch clerk, had warned me of his experiences with the welcome rhum, for he never made the embassy after his arrival, until the next day!

However, Fritz Racine had prior instructions and I was to report to the embassy with Ambassador Drew's new coffee maker, which I had obtained at Woodies store in Washington.

The ambassador in a letter had requested me to bring a new coffee maker. Ambassador Drew was an old Haitian hand, having once served as third secretary at the post, in another era.

I was accompanied to the ambassador's office guarded by Vera Gallop, a secretary of unknown vintage, but who knew the ways of the Foreign Service protocol.

Leo Garvey, Administrative Officer, introduced me to Ambassador Drew, After A few words, I presented the coffee maker. Ambassador Drew, to my surprise, payed me in torn Haitian gourdes (local currency) and said: "Here, you'll have to get used to this money!"

Then I was taken to the communications, file, and pouch room and introduced to Maurice Brooks, an African American FS Clerk, who soon would be departing post.

Foreign Service staff

I made my rounds and met, as I recall after all those years: Harry Christie, Budget and Finance; James R. Connelly, General Services; Forrest Abeel, Political; Don Born, Commercial; Hugh Douglas, Consul; James Nelson, Vice Counsul; David Thomson, Economic; and, Phil Williams, DCM.

The secretaries were Gail Hargrove, Veral Gallop,and Beatrice Bosanoc. Nancy Hudson, a former Code Clerk, was in Visas.

The just completed American Embassy was on Harry Truman Boulevard, along the waterfront, which would be officially opened on May 30, 1960.

The air conditioning was still a problem and FBO had an engineer on site.

There was a Marine Security Guard detachment on duty.

Back at the hotel, we soon settled into a routine. Many new American arrivals, visitors, and people on TDY, stayed at the Sans Souci. The food was tolerable, especially the Creole buffet, which was held around an outdoor swimming pool.

The Embassy furnished transportation, until our family MG Sedan was released by Customs.


See you next month.

Issue Index    Issue 44