It was interesting to find photos from the actual commissioning ceremony of the USS Gherardi. I looked to see if I could find Lester among the faces, but wasn’t able to identify him. He does say that the ship is very crowded, so it is likely that only part of the crew is visible in the photos. The ceremony took place September 15, 1942, which was the 17th birthday of Lester’s little brother. No wonder Wallace didn’t hear from him for his birthday.
September 17, 1942
I received your letter today and am glad to hear from you. Thanks for sending the addresses, I will probably go to Washington on my first week-end. I didn’t know that Alice and Irene were there. I came out on liberty tonight, partially because I would have had to work if I had stayed on board ship.
We are living on the ship now as we moved on at four this afternoon, immediately after the commissioning ceremonies. There wasn’t much to that. We marched on board, the flag was raised, the anthem played, a short speech by an admiral, another speech by our captain, the guard was posted and it was finished. You have no idea how crowded it is but I guess we will get along okay.
We had to eat chow at the station as they didn’t have things ready for us in the galley. I put on a clean suit of whites then got drafted to carry some stores down in the hold so I missed out on chow. We were supposed to get some sandwiches on board but I didn’t stay for them. I left as soon as possible as I rated liberty and wasn’t supposed to have duty today. I wouldn’t have minded the work if I’d had on dungarees but I got my whites all dirty. I’m wearing my blues tonight and they are pretty warm.
I met a buddy on the street up town so we came over to the “y” for a swim and to write some letters. My address remains the same for awhile I guess.
I had a nice time over the week-end, or rather on Sunday as I didn’t go out til Sunday. I went over to Camden, New Jersey as I hadn’t been in NJ yet. As I was coming back just about noon I saw a friend “Jerry” on the sidewalk so I got off the bus and we ate dinner together. We were in school together but are on different ships now. We decided to come back to Philly to go on a tour of the historic places but Jerry had some friends that he wanted to see so he went to see them while I saw some more of the town.
We had agreed to meet at a certain corner and while I was standing there waiting for him, a couple of girls came up, inquired who I was amd invited me to go to their home. They were in the family that Jerry had gone to see and he offered to eat his hat if they could get me to come back with them. He didn’t eat his hat but they certainly didn’t let him forget his promise. We had a very good dinner then the mister took the two girls, Jerry and myself to the War show. It was supposed to be very good but we were disappointed in it. After we got back to their house about midnight we had waffles for supper. Boy were they good. She was a swell cook. All of them were nice and a lot of fun. We stayed and visited until two o’clock Monday morning!
It was three when I got back to the station. We had a terrible time getting on the bus because of the crowd. It was more like a bunch of animals than people. The bus driver had to separate two women who started to fight after one had crowded the other in getting on the bus. What a time.
Thanks for the clipping, mom. I had read it somewhere before and I thought it very good. Wallace, I thought about your birthday though I didn’t get to send you anything but I’ll say best wishes and many more happy birthdays.
Paul why don’t you write and tell me about your train ride? I’ll bet that it was fun. Every time I come to town I ride on the street car that wobbles from side to side. In Camden I rode on an electric bus. It was on rubber and was steered but got its power from a trolley line. Mom, there just aren’t any rocks in town back here and I don’t get a chance to go out in the country but I’ll keep trying.
Love to all
Quote printed on lower edge of the USO stationary: “Idle Gossip Sinks Ships”