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Notes To Mother

copyright © Jeff Berry 2016

Author: Jeff Berry

Publisher: Rutherford Press

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part, materially or digitally, including photocopying, without the express written permission of the author or publisher.

For information, contact:

Rutherford Press,

Richmond, BC, Canada

Printed in the United States of America and Canada

ISBN (paperback) # 978-0-9951743-0-6

ISBN (ebook) # 978-0-9951743-1-3

Illustrations by Loreena M. Lee

Book design and cover by George Opacic

Notes To Mother


Jeff Berry

Edited by

George Opacic

Illustrations by

Loreena M. Lee

Cover art and design by

George Opacic

copyright©Jeff Berry 2016

Notes To Mother

by Jeff Berry


  1. Ferris Milton Berry: An Appreciation

  2. In Love With Suzie

  3. The Tiger’s Treasure

  4. And Behind Me, the Crook

  5. The Sunken Horde

  6. Tremors from the Other Side

  7. How Not To Kill Mosquitoes

  8. Striding for JFK

  9. El ChePe

  10. Hijack!

  11. Little Grey Elephant

  12. Forever Hope

  13. Navy Discipline

  14. Naval Ranks

  15. Yuurei Maru

  16. Surviving In Paradise

  17. Tiger Lady and the Circus

  18. Crazy George

  19. Green Bananas

  20. Bomber and the PM

  21. Kaptain Krunch

  22. The Sally Anne

  23. Rambling in Burma and Cambodia

  24. Flying LANICA


Mother, I never told you this about my life

I was thinking that this work should have been titled "Jeff Berry's First Folio", since it is a collection of tales and experiences I had from childhood through the present. The thread that holds it together is my thoughts about how Mother would react if she only knew what I was up to.

When my mother's health failed in her ninety-third year, I wanted to come clean – to fill her in on her some of the touchy situations I’d been in. Mother would not have approved about so many of them, had she known about them. In the same vein, my sister would tut-tut disapprovingly. Maybe, despite what I think my sister would say, these stories may be added to the more remarkable lives that were led by my father and his father, as a saga of the Berrys.

From my journalism days, I well knew that if one does not write it down, the story is lost. For example, Dad told wonderful tales of his adventures as a lad in Montana and later as young soldier during World War II. He deftly wove his riveting adventures but never wrote a line about them. Thus, we lost his enriching experiences that could have been passed to his descendants.

Father found himself up to his armpits, too often, in situations where he was wise not to tell Mother (neither his nor mine). He told my brothers and me of his early years as a gold miner; his working in the aviation industry in California, and his childhood where it all began in the new state of Montana. He loved adventures, but had always been tied to his family responsibilities, being the sole breadwinner most of the time for both his parents and his own growing family. We now call that the “sandwich generation”. He just couldn't responsibly drop everything and go off to Australia, or the South Seas, since he had four offspring, a wife, and for part of the time, older family members.

Mother, on the other hand, always seemed to have a nagging fear that the Great Depression would return and throw us all out onto the street. That had happened to her, her parents and her sister. Therefore, in Mother’s eyes, she wanted absolutely stable, professional careers for her children. Mother did all she could to kill my youthful ambition of becoming a sailing ship captain. Working at a conventional city bank or the electric company was safer and less risky, she thought. In spite of her pressure (or, perhaps because of it?) I eventually realised my sailing ship ambition.

I figured out early on that if you asked permission from Mom to do anything out of the ordinary, she would say no. The answer was to not ask her and then to do it anyway. Also, it seemed to me that if I did the deed and was caught, I could always claim ignorance. I humbly ask you to read further to see if that worked out well.

I never told Mother about the many weird and wonderful things that happened to me. Added to those, you will find here some true sea stories from my U.S Navy days. Once safely, I thought, out of the Navy, I found the South Seas and Asia beckoning me. How I survived till now is a mystery.

These tales have been arranged in more or less chronological order. They are as I remember them, mistakes and all. All errors (and old spelling) are mine alone.


Jeff Berry,

Olympia, Washington

April 2016

Ferris Milton Berry:

An Appreciation

As the years pass, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate facts about my father, Ferris Milton Berry's early life, from family legend. Fortunately, my sister, Jennifer Berry Jones, discovered some of Grandfather William Sanford Berry's business and private correspondence in a furniture drawer where it had been cached long ago. It covered the year 1915 and later, which were helpful.

Ferris Milton Berry was born near Yellowstone National Park, in Livingston City, Montana, in 1912. His father, William Sanford Berry, was at various times a butcher, a game warden at Sully's Hill, Montana in the Indian Sector of Fort Totten. and a park photographer.

He was not the official photographer; that was a civil servant named F.J. Haynes.

W. S. Berry took photos of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt at a whistle-stop near the North Gate of Yellowstone Park. Grandfather cut up cows and game for the table, took wedding pictures and made breathtakingly stunning landscape photos on glass negative plates. Family legend says he was TR's hunting companion whenever the ex-president visited. There is not any documentary proof of this fact, however. How good a friend he was of TR's, or if he was indeed a friend, is unknown.

Young Ferris was an only child. His parents had been married for eighteen years when he surprisingly appeared on the scene.

In Gardiner, Ferris had a pet rooster named Petty Boy, which met its fate under the hooves of a horse-drawn stage coach. The stage coach would rumble into town daily, full of citizens and tourists from all over. Gardiner was possibly the last town in the country to receive inter-city bus service. Hence, the stage coaches pulled by six horses or mules. His father took a picture of Ferris sitting with his fowl in the driver's box of the coach.

The family moved from Gardiner to Fort Totten, North Dakota, where his father worked as a game warden. North Dakota conditions were more primitive and certainly colder in the winter. In Gardiner the Berry family had electricity and indoor plumbing. At Fort Totten it was back to oil lamps, etc. Ferris was home-schooled by his mother in the winter of 1919, since it was too cold to walk to school.

I recall hearing from Father only a few incidents of note during his younger years. My grandfather used to take Ferris to meet the Indians on various business. During one of these, a tribal elder, I think, proposed an arranged marriage. He suggested that Ferris and his daughter, whom my sister thinks was named Annie Two Bears, both of whom were then about 8 years old, tie the knot. Grandfather called Ferris aside and solemnly asked him if he wanted to marry young Annie.

“No,” my father replied.

Why not, son?”

“Her nose runs all the time,” Dad replied. And that is why I did not end up half Native American.

Another family legend has it that my grandfather was interested in conserving the last of the American bison. About two hundred remained near Fort Totten from the millions that had roamed the prairie. Indians has the right to kill them for food. In fact, it was a matter of survival for the natives. On the other hand, there were no Government rules then in effect protecting the animals. So my grandfather, in the winter of 1916-17 bought a small herd of cattle with his own money and gave them to the Indians, with their promise that the local buffalo would be left alone that year. They were and the comprehensive U.S. Government law was eventually passed. The species survived for a time. A nice tale and I think partially true; however, I have heard that buffalo also survived in parts of Texas and in Canada. Nice to know that his heart was in the right place.

Sometime after that Ferris appropriated some kitchen matches. What better way to spend the day then to watch them sparkle and flare. He made his way to a swamp near the Fort Totten area. Whether by canoe or by foot, I don't know. Well, his experiments went awry when he accidentally set the swamp grass alight!

Father fled back home and did not tell anyone about the accident.

A month later he and his father went bird shooting in that same swamp.

Willy Berry was surprised to see the swamp blackened.

“This must have been quite a fire, son. Did you hear about it?”

Eyes in the air, seven-year-old Ferris solemnly assured his father, “Gee Pa, I don't know anything about it. Honest.”

Perhaps I inherited that reluctance to tell my parents everything.

As Dad grew up, his parents became more dependent upon him. By his teens Ferris was almost totally supporting them. They moved to Pomona, California in the early 1920s into a comfortable house at 10201 West Center Street, Pomona, with a barn/carriage house in the rear, in which Grandfather set up his darkroom. There was room below for the Model T they owned. Grandpa made some money painting houses with Ferris assisting him. Ferris also helped in the darkroom of his father's studio.

Somehow, he found himself a sailor aboard a steam schooner for a few weeks. He also became a milkman with a white suit and bow tie, and a horse that knew the route much better than him, to pull its milk wagon.

Dad kept that job until he had an accident, slipping on a sidewalk one rare icy winter's morning. He cut his hand to the bone, severing several tendons from a broken milk bottle. It was a difficult recovery. The restricted movement of his hand pained him, quietly, for the rest of his life.

Ghosts Clearly In the Moonlight

When his income became sufficient that he could take time off to enjoy himself, he took up geology and prospecting for gold. These days we might buy lottery tickets, while in California of the 1930s, they would slip on a pair of sturdy boots, strap a small pick-axe and a pan to a back-pack, and head off into the hills.

At the start of the depression he was making just enough panning for gold to feed his parents. While out there, many a rabbit fell to his deadeye for the stew pot at home. My brother David and I would sit before him enthralled at his detailed descriptions of what he saw and how he survived in the hills. He credited Grandpa with showing him the technique for tracking rabbits, finding wild food and water, and how to think like gold being carried down a stream, to find the bends and eddies where the heavier grains will settle.

A few other strands of stories float around now that I think about it. He went into Mexico early in this time, with his Model T Ford. He said that the hills around us were being trod by everybody, now, so he wanted to find wilder territory.

Dad found the wilder side. Days away from civilisation, he was captured by an outlaw gang that had previously been allied with the notorious Pancho Villa. How that happened I don't remember.

He was held for ransom by the gang, but neither he nor anyone in the family had any money. He did, however, speak Castilian-flavoured Spanish, which impressed his captors.

Oddly enough, whenever he had discussed mechanical things in Spanish, Dad’s accent became German. It seems that he had been taught engineering by a German who also taught Spanish. Speaking politely with the gang’s leader, he gave him some mechanical advice about equipment that no longer worked. Soon the bandits let him go and he scurried back north of the border.

Dad was wined and dined by Death Valley Scotty, noted self-promoting conman who had built a ranch (he called it a castle) that still exists in Death Valley.

All his life Dad loved travelling through the American Southwest and Mexico. The attraction of a frontier land drew him, he said, “Because you must live by your wits and skills, alone. There is none other to help, but for your fortunate upbringing.”

He went prospecting around the Superstition Mountains in Death Valley around this time. This area has legends and strange stories of lost mines and the fabled Ship of the Desert, which, five hundred years ago, was supposed to have been a sailing ship whose commander followed the Salton Sea from the Gulf of California, then was stranded when the water dried up. It was supposed to be full of gold or jewels.

He told me a strange story of one of his gold prospecting expeditions. The Model T had burnt out a bearing, so our ever-resourceful Dad had cut up his belt; he greased it to take the place of a Babbitt bearing. This emergency repair took him two days, he told me. He was camped near to one of the old Butterfield Stagecoach remount stations, which by then had been reduced to a ruined pile of adobe bricks next to a rutted track.

Well, Dad was tucked up close to his campfire dozing, when he heard something coming down the old coach road toward him. The rising crescendo of sound was the whinny of horses and the clatter of metal-rimmed wheels and hooves striking rocks. His back-hair was rising with the approaching sound. Suddenly a stagecoach appeared from around the bend, pulled by a team of horses and driven by a ghostly driver with a shotgun-toting guard. They showed no light, Dad said, but he could hear them and see them clearly in the moonlight. The figures in the driving box ignored Dad. The coach started to turn into the old Butterfield Station, then quickly swerved out, back onto the road and rumbled out of view around the corner of the track. Soon it was quiet again, with only the normal sounds of the desert at night. The spectral visit was over.

Dad told me he was at the same time frightened and excited by what he saw. He could feel the hairs on the back of his head standing out stiffly from his neck, but he couldn’t turn away.

Dad knew his history and was aware that the Butterfield route had ended in 1861, with the start of the Civil War. So what was this coach doing thundering along? He walked out onto the rutted road and assures me that he found fresh wagon tracks, apparently made by the spectral coach. He took a bucket and upended it over the tracks, to protect some of the best hoof prints and wheel marks from any rain. Then he went back to try to sleep.

Later, he was awakened by a noisy cloudburst that deluged upon him just before sunrise. It washed away all traces of the phantom stagecoach – except what Dad had preserved with the bucket. However, not having a camera with him, the only proof he had was memories. This remained one of his favourite stories of the strange things that can happen in Death Valley. I don't think he ever returned to that spot. Sometimes I wonder if it happened at all, but then Fathers don't exaggerate to their children, do they?

Reagan, Rooney and Ketchikan

Soon after the desert expedition, exactly when I'm not certain, Dad managed to get a Government job commanding a company of young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC). In this capacity, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, serial number 0-345362, in the U.S. Army Reserve.

I think he accomplished this by force of his character, since he never was able to earn a college degree. I believe I was the first Berry to be awarded a degree. Dad was sent to build roads at the great Boulder Dam construction site. At that time, it was the greatest piece of engineering the USA had ever done, outside of the Panama Canal.

Always trying to make a buck, he joined the CMTC, Citizens Military Training Camp, in 1928. CMTC was an ROTC-type government training program for future officers. I think the same year he also joined the California National Guard, in the Cavalry, as a private. His first job was shovelling out the stables. On-the-Job-Training for life, it was.

Around that time he got a job as a tinsmith at Consolidated Vultee (later renamed Convair). As such, he helped build the first PBY Catalina flying boat for the US Navy. I think that was 1936. He also worked on several other notable aircraft of the era.

His oddest job, however, was with Howard Hughes. Briefly he worked with Hughes' staff trying to develop a modern steam car. It was a failure, since they could not figure out how to keep from scalding to death the passengers if the car was ever broadsided.

Dad was called to active duty with the Army Reserve in 1940. He was one of the first in the eventual massive American build-up. At that time he had six years experience building airplanes, so was a natural to go into the Army Air Corps. The Army, in its wisdom, sent him to the Military Police. He became an MP and hated it, but it was his duty and he got to wear his jodhpurs, high boots with spurs, a Sam Browne belt upon which to hang his dress sabre, and also a campaign hat and all that cool World War I-style uniform that the Army used then.

He also got a new roommate for a short while at the BOQ – Bachelor Officer Quarters. One Ronald Wilson Reagan, who was a B-grade film actor and sports announcer. This happened, I think he said, at Fort Mason, in San Francisco. He told me about this in his later years, in the 1950s, when Reagan was fronting for General Electric on television. They apparently got on pretty well. Dad taught him how to soldier for real and Ronnie brought in the babes on weekends. This didn't help father’s moral disposition since he was married by then.

My mother, Jean Riley, had met him at a wedding where they both were attendants. She had lived in Westwood, next door to Walter Pigeon, the famous character actor. As a child she had roles as an extra in comedic shorts – at least until she grew up and was fired for the sin of not being youthfully cute any more. She did extra work at RKO and Warner's studios.

Mother had gone to University High, and was a classmate with Mickey Rooney, who then was the highest paid actor in Hollywood. He was a sometime student there and not well thought of, as he was fond of trolling through the University High's coeds. Besides being the same cocky young fellow of film as in real life, Mickey was extremely wealthy and brash. She had a date with Werner Klemperer (later, T.V.'s Colonel Klink in Hogan's Heroes). He had hair then. The future Col. Klink was the son of Otto Klemperer, chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

However, Mother never made it big in films, to her great disappointment – though not to her parents’. They considered the Hollywood culture declassee to the extreme. Mother's grandmother Gould occasionally sewed costumes for the film studios on her foot-treadle Singer sewing machine. So many threads…

My father and mother married on 24th April, 1941. This date was exactly forty-seven years to the day after his father, William Sanford Berry, had wed Aurinda Sophronia Ferris, in Fulton County, Illinois. Prior to his wedding, Dad had taken up duties on the Al-Can Highway project in British Columbia and Alaska.

After the wedding, he returned to the north with his new bride, Jean, to honeymoon in Ketchikan, Alaska Territory, where he was working on the highway that linked Alaska through Canada to the Lower Forty-eight States. This road has since been renamed the Alaska Highway.

He took Mother on a dirty, rundown, freight steamer up the west coast’s Inside Passage to Ketchikan. Mother remembers that their fellow passengers were 111 men and 2 women aboard, that trip. They made it to the same town that is now infamous for its (never built) Bridge to Nowhere. I was conceived during this time.

Mother described Ketchikan as being a pretty rough and ready frontier town with wooden sidewalks above the mud streets. She admitted that the sheriff had told her to be off the streets on Wednesday afternoons. This seemed to her to be a stupid, arbitrary rule, so she forgot or ignored it. (I wonder if I inherited that particular trait from her?)

Entering the town one Wednesday afternoon to go for a medical appointment, she went to the clinic and found it full of the town's working women of the night, present for their monthly VD inspection.

Mother was promptly hustled back to her little home by the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol. They bawled her out for going on the street, and also bawled out father for letting her go. He didn't know she was headed into town in any case, and hadn't known about any such ruling.

Mother blamed her new husband. “Why didn’t you tell me what goes on Wednesday evenings?”

It seemed that Wednesdays had been set aside for the local prostitutes to do their shopping without the embarrassment of meeting proper, less sinful ladies of the town.

A Crappy Tub of a Ship

After his stint building roads, the Army looked into their records and saw that Ferris Berry had been a seaman when he was a teenager. In the mind of the Army brass, that made him a natural for command of a ship. (So, I guess I have an honest propensity for audaciously jumping, completely unqualified, into command positions. It is in my DNA.)

He was assigned to a former Great Lakes steamship, the Conners, which had been fitted out to be a machine shop ship to repair small engines, cars, diesel boat engines, outboard motors, etc. Not big stuff.

After the attack at Pearl Harbor, when the Pacific war grew in earnest, his ship was ordered, along with just about anything they had that would float, to head for the South Pacific to support our Army and Marines there.

The Conners was old and tired at the beginning of the war and didn't get much better in the salt water. She staggered to Hawaii, and then by stages across the Pacific, always managing to miss several invasion dates en route. A safe passage, but not done on purpose.

She was just a crappy tub of a ship. Dad got her to New Guinea and then to the Philippines and somewhere along the line he developed lesions on his feet. These turned into jungle rot, which was considered extremely serious at the time. He was relieved and sent home. Dad was expected to die.

They put him on a medical evacuation flying boat, to hurry him home. It took about a week for Dad to make it to a hospital in California. During the flight home, half the other patients died. Dad told me that he didn't feel that bad, but everyone was telling him that he was not long for the world. He lost all his bodily hair and most of his surface skin.

After some time, being ministered by Army doctors and nurses, he did recover.

I distinctly remember seeing my father for the first time in early 1945. I would have been about three years old. Actually, my Baby Book has pictures of him holding me at birth, but I don't remember that, of course.

Coming out of hospital, he was the New Man in Mother's life, in my eyes.

Imagine this first, startling sight: “Dad” was hairless and had most of his epidermal skin layer gone. He was also purple from head to foot, having been heavily swabbed with gentian violet anti-fungicidal solution. When he was finally released and came home, can you imagine, I did not like it one bit. I was moved out of Mother's bed and this strange partly purple man took over and locked the bedroom door.

I soon got over it, however.


VE and then VJ Day came, which I remember vaguely. I also remember listening to FDR's funeral on the radio, when my grandmother shed a few tears, although I did not realise the full significance of the event.

Soon a baby was born to Mother, but died within a few hours of its birth. Later, in 1947, my sister Jennifer was born. She was the only civilian child in the Berry family. The rest of us were born while Father was in uniform.

The war was over and millions were rushing to don civilian clothes. My dad was no exception. He had been in uniform more than five years. I suspect that he had saved a bit of cash while overseas. I know that Mother used to fret when he sent her surprise tranches of cash through the mail. I didn’t know what caused her the anxiety. Later, I found out that he was apparently lucky with the bones and cards amongst his fellow officers. I do not appear to have been given that particular gene.

Once he was mustered out of the Army and the hospitals, he decided to build us a new house in Arlington, California, near my mother's parent's place. This took him the better part of a year, since he had to compete for materials. Building materials were still rationed from the war. I remember riding with him in his old Model T truck, up a hill with a load of bricks or sacks of cement. Most of the manual labour was done by men who were then called Wetbacks. Today they would be called illegal immigrants. As so often today, they were indispensable, being the only building staff he could find. Dad designed and drafted the complete house. It was in what is called California Ranch style, with open beams in each room, brick and concrete block walls, and had ornamental glass blocks surrounding the main entrance door. I remember that much ado was made over the fact that he installed indirect lighting running completely around the living room perimeter.

Of course building a house with a GI Bill loan was one thing, but it still didn't put food on the table. He entered into a partnership with Bill Modes, a chum he had gone to high school with in Pomona. Modes had kept busy with defence jobs, usually in the aircraft industry, throughout the war years. He also had developed and patented a design for building sand and cement roofing tiles that interlocked. They could be made in several different hues and were apparently cheaper than red Spanish style roofing tiles.

Ferris and Bill formed BerMo Products. They had a shoestring of cash and one semi-large contract – to roof an immense dairy barn. They rented a modest commercial factory building and were in business. Of course, reality set in quickly. Neither of them had run a business before and it soon was apparent that they were under-financed. Also, being the smallest fish in the industry, they had trouble procuring rationed cement, the right sand, and other materials. As a result, after the dairy contract was successfully completed, Dad and his school buddy decided to dissolve the company and go back to working for someone else. It had been hard to meet the weekly payroll. The struggle had been too great and they didn't have the temperament for that type of commerce. BerMo Products had lasted only about 18 months.

I remember that Dad then got antsy about the Recession of 1947, which was making it hard for returning veterans to find paying jobs. He jumped at the chance to work as a maintenance engineer at the Hazel-Atlas Glass Works. They made millions of glass bottles and other containers each year, each hallmarked with a trademarked HA design on the bottom.

Dad was with them for only a short while. I remember his shock when he found that the company had no fixed retirement policy, but told him, “Buddy, when you get too old, there’s always a push-broom you could swing.”

He quit HA and decided to seek safety, again, in uniform. He went back into active duty in the Army Reserve. My mother was relieved, since it was a steady job with a pension at the end of it. Dad was thankful that he could pay for his expanding family and expenses.

Cars, Automobiles and Bugs

I should elaborate a bit about cars in the Berry family. When Dad was a teenager, his father had given him a Model T Ford touring car, a 1925 model. I think that vehicle was the first car that any in the immediate Berry family had ever owned. Horses and buggies, yes, but not horseless carriages.

He took it into his high school shop class, cut it in half behind the seats and lengthened it enough to stuff in a second two-speed gearbox. Since the Ford had a two-speed transmission, it then had two more speeds he could use for either ultra slow speed or blindingly rapid highway speeds. In this case, the high velocity was a breath-taking 50 miles an hour.

Dad kept this car for years, from 1925 to 1947. He had stored it with his parents in Pomona during the war years. He gave it away to a man at a garage sale of his parents' possessions when they died. I think it went for less than $50, probably $25. (Ouch!)

While he had worked at the aircraft factory, and as a young officer, he bought his first factory new car. It was a specially ordered 1940 Ford V8 Station Wagon. Today it is called a "Woody" – this would be worth a fortune. It had a radio with hidden antenna in the roof. He sanded and varnished the wooden body every couple of months. He was so proud of that car. Dad even had five natural India rubber tyres! He loved being mistaken for being a movie star when he cruised into a filling station.

When he went overseas, he left the Ford Woody with Mom. She didn't know how to drive. In a moment of patriotic fervour, she donated the vehicle to the American Red Cross. Not lent, but she gave it lock, stock and pink slip to them.

Then Dad heard about it. He later told me that it almost caused a breakup in their marriage, except, apparently, my presence held them together.

I recall that Mother wanted to learn how to drive after that fiasco, so her best girlfriend, Ruby Modes, tried to teach her.

Preparing for the adventure, I was secured in my baby's seat between the driver and front passenger. Ruby explained to Mother how to shift the gears and what the controls did. I thought this was funny, so was contributing no doubt to Mother's nervousness with cries of, “Let me touch! Please!”

Off we went down the road, with Mother riding the clutch, then making the car lunge forward and stall the engine. This happened several times. The lesson ended abruptly when mother took a hard turn off the road, through a hedge of shrubbery. I remember thinking this so much fun! “Again!”

Mother, looking at the scratched sides of the car, shouted at me. "Shut up, baby!"

When Dad returned, new cars were not obtainable, since they had not been built for civilians after 1941 and new car production had not started in full. Dad finally managed to get a well-worn 1936 Ford V8 2-door sedan. This was a fine rakish car and ran well. That is, until Dad carelessly left the key in the ignition in front of his parents' West Center Street house and it was nicked by two juveniles who had broken out from reform school and were on the run. They stole our car.

Dad reported it missing to the Pomona Police, who put out an APB. The Ford was located and a chase ensued. The thieves took Dad's car up to 90 miles an hour. High centred vehicles like that don't corner well at that speed and the escapees rolled it. End of chase.

Dad got the car back, with the roof lowered about two feet. The insurance company gave him the minimum because the keys had been left in it, however Dad talked them into giving him the wreck to go with it. He took it back to the high school shop class for some free work by the class. About two months later it was returned. It never had the new car smell or look, and it had many pounds of lead filler to smooth out the roof, but it did work. Dad kept the car for another couple of years.

He needed another car to commute to Hazel-Atlas, so bought an old Chevrolet Coupe with rumble seat. About a '32 model. It had a rotted-out radiator, I remember. Dad had to stop every few miles to fill it up again. He soon divested himself of that rolling junk pile.

When we moved to New York City I remember going with him to scope out the fantastic 1948 Tucker Torpedo – a rear-engined, three head-lighted sedan that was promoted as the car of the future. That never happened, and the Tucker Motor Company folded in 1949 under mysterious financial circumstances. However, there was still a tremendous car hunger in the country after the War and Dad was determined to get some new wheels.

Which led him to the Volkswagen Beetle. While on assignment in Germany, Dad bought a new, 1947 model VW Beetle from the factory in Wolfsburg, Allied Occupied Germany. If he couldn't get a new car in America, he could buy one in defeated Germany. So he purchased a Type I Volkswagen Beetle. He was able to have it hoisted onto his ship and two weeks later, lowered safely onto the dock in Manhattan.

I have been told that it was the first one to make it to New York City. It was not universally popular in our neighbourhood. We were living in an apartment in the Brooklyn district of Benson Hurst. Population demographics being what they were, we were the only non-Jewish family to occupy the apartment building. Hitler's People's Car must have been a jarring addition to our end of town.

I remember Dad being stopped by the police several times, wanting to see the car and telling war stories about the late conflict. As for the car, it was noisy, with no insulation anywhere in it. It had a tiny split window in the back and a non-synchromesh gearbox. This meant that the engine speeds and gears had to be lined up correctly, especially when shifting down. The silliest design features on our Beetle were the two things Dad translated from the German slang as ”which-way sticks". These were electro-mechanical turn indicators that worked about half the time. Like the British “semaphore” indicators, they were little flags that popped up and glowed orange in the dark to tell other drivers that you were about to move out of the lane.

But it was new and did run, albeit noisily. In those days middle class New Yorkers aspired to own a new automatic washing machine, a black-and-white television set, a new car and, for the very few, an air conditioner in the bedroom window. We didn't have a TV or air conditioning, but we did have a Peoples' Car, in spite of its unpopular brand history.

Two stories stand out concerning our VW. After a few months, something went wrong with the engine. Of course, being a German automobile a long way from the Fatherland, there were no parts or mechanics to repair it. I remember Dad covering our living room floor with four layers of newspaper, then borrowing my little red wagon. He went downstairs, removed the engine from the Beetle and placed it onto my wagon. He then took it up in the elevator to our 8th floor apartment, where he tore the engine down and found what was wrong. Mother by this time was reconciled that she had married an eccentric of the first water, so held her peace, at least when we children were around.

On his next voyage, Dad went to Wolfsburg, to the partly bombed out Volkswagen factory and there placed his order for repair parts.

While he was waiting to be served, a company official invited him to meet the general manager of VW. The GM was one Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. The same Dr. Porsche who had designed the VW Beetle, the Porsche sports car, the Mercedes-Benz SSJ/SSK luxury automobiles and the feared Tiger Tanks, Marks I and II, which had given the American Army so much trouble during the last great European unpleasantness.

Dr. Porsche asked Dad if he was interested in becoming the American distributer of the VW Beetle. Dad told Porsche he would consult with his wife Jean and get back to him.

He did, and Mother told him that the VW car had no future in the States. None at all, in her opinion. So, the offer was declined.

For years after, when my parents argued, which was not often, sometimes Dad would mutter "What about the Volkswagen affair? We could have been millionaires by now." That usually ended the squabble.

Mother was interested in Dad getting his Government pension, not in trusting in the vagaries of the marketplace.

I don't remember exactly what happened to the VW. Possibly Dad traded it in at the Mercury dealer when he got the forest green coloured bathtub 2-door sedan.

His first new post-war American car was a 1948 Mercury 2-door sedan. It was forest green, big and a typically bloated American design for that time.

The Merc was the car Father proudly drove out of New York when we were transferred to California. Mother kept it going, while he was in Japan, in spite of my help. I remember accidentally breaking off the radio antenna once while washing the car. In all, the Merc went a long way and give little trouble. On our trip across the country from New York State to California, I still remember us finding a snapping turtle beside the road and putting it on the floor of the backseat. It became the Pet from Hell. It was not cuddly like the ones for sale in the NYC pet shops. The terrapin proceeded to demolish the plastic upholstery. We kept it for the span of about two states then kicked it out some place along Route 66, where there was lots of grass and creeks for it to play in. Father was not happy about having the rear seats recovered. Also, the reptile had a single-minded desire to bite off our toes given the chance. No father wants offspring sans digits on their pedals. Wouldn’t have liked it, myself.

We took the behemoth Merc to Japan with us. It went well with the narrow Japanese roads (n0t!). Ultimately, the Merc ended up serving as a taxicab in Yokohama. Wrong-side drive and too large, but the Japanese would buy anything they could get their hands on then.

The Berry clan spent the years of 1952 through 1955 in Japan or en route to or from those islands. We fell in love with the country and it has moulded us all to this day. We travelled extensively throughout the islands, by potholed, bumpy roads. We visited historic sites and even climbed Mount Fuji. I was said to have been the youngest foreign child to ascend that peak in 1953. I remember gritting my teeth and spending two days forcing myself to the summit of the volcano. One step at a time. The view was wonderful, the feeling was stupendous and I was exhausted; but the descent was even worse. Going down the mountain was far harder, because we don't normally build up our leg muscles for descent.

Trunks of Cash

Dad's next duty station was in Charleston, South Carolina. We arrived in the Holy City, as it is called by its natives, in a used 1952 green Pontiac station wagon. I never liked that car too much, since it was the first car we had that was fitted with an automatic transmission. Even at an early age, I considered shifting gears proactive and using an automatic transmission vehicle as somehow cheating. Today, I don't think that there are any American cars available with a manual transmission.

As we drove into Charleston we were surprised by what we found. Row upon row of ancient wooden and brick two and three storey buildings stood, after a fashion. in the city centre.

The interesting thing that I noticed, besides the obvious fact that their porches ran along one side of the house or the other, and never across the front as I would have put them, was that they were so old that they leant one against the other. I thought if the end domino was removed, then every building on the block would fall against the next and the whole section would be razed. That indeed happened once, I found out later.

Charleston, as well as other southern cities that had not been extensively destroyed by the War Between the States (as Charlestonians called it), had been so painfully poor after the surrender of the Confederacy and subsequent occupation by the blue-clad Union forces, that not much rebuilding had been done. Hence, pre-that-war buildings abounded, and many were pre-Revolutionary War as well. This was all right if they were built of stone or brick, but few wooden houses last for more than a century. The wooden houses in Charleston were mostly old, tired and rotting from the ground up. Regarding old Charleston critically, it was an urban slum – historic to be sure, but still a slum.

I don't remember where we lodged when first we moved to Charleston. I think it was in a cramped apartment in North Charleston, and then later we were assigned suitable officer's quarters on the military base. Dad and Mother started shopping around with the intent of buying a house of our own. Mother, especially, fell under the spell of historic Old Charleston, so it was there that we went to search for our dream house. We never found it at a price we wanted to pay, but we saw some interesting old piles of bricks and mortar.

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