Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Over the Top -- Chapter X -- September 30, 2015

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright.

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:
No Man's Land. The space between the hostile trenches called "No Man's Land" because no one owns it and no one wants to. In France you could not give it away.
Stand To. Order to mount the fire step. Given just as it begins to grow dark.

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations


I WAS fast learning that there is a regular routine about the work of the trenches, although it is badly upset at times by the Germans.

The real work in the fire trench commences at sundown. Tommy is like a burglar, he works at night.

Just as it begins to get dark the word "stand to" is passed from traverse to traverse, and the men get busy. The first relief, consisting of two men to a traverse, mount the fire step, one man looking over the top, while the other sits at his feet, ready to carry messages or to inform the platoon officer of any report made by the sentry as to his observations in No Man's Land. The sentry is not allowed to relax his watch for a second. If he is questioned from the trench or asked his orders, he replies without turning around or taking his eyes from the expanse of dirt in front of him. The remainder of the occupants of his traverse either sit on the fire step, with bayonets fixed, ready for any emergency, or if lucky, and a dugout happens to be in the near vicinity of the traverse, and if the night is quiet, they are permitted to go to same and try and snatch a few winks of sleep. Little sleeping is done; generally the men sit around, smoking fags and seeing who can tell the biggest lie. Some of them perhaps, with their feet in water, would write home sympathizing with the "governor" because he was laid up with a cold, contracted by getting his feet wet on his way to work in Woolwich Arsenal. If a man should manage to doze off, likely as not he would wake with a start as the clammy, cold feet of a rat passed over his face, or the next relief stepped on his stomach while stumbling on their way to relieve the sentries in the trench.

Just try to sleep with a belt full of ammunition around you, your rifle bolt biting into your ribs, entrenching tool handle sticking into the small of your back, with a tin hat for a pillow; and feeling very damp and cold, with "cooties" boring for oil in your arm pits, the air foul from the stench of grimy human bodies and smoke from a juicy pipe being whiffed into your nostrils, then you will not wonder why Tommy occasionally takes a turn in the trench for a rest.

While in a front-line trench orders forbid Tommy from removing his boots, puttees, clothing, or equipment. The "cooties" take advantage of this order and mobilize their forces, and Tommy swears vengeance on them and mutters to himself, "just wait until I hit rest billets and am able to get my own back."

Just before daylight the men "turn to" and tumble out of the dugouts, man the fire step until it gets light, or the welcome order "stand down" is given. Sometimes before "stand down" is ordered, the command "five rounds rapid" is passed along the trench. This means that each man must rest his rifle on the top and fire as rapidly as possible five shots aimed toward the German trenches, and then duck (with the emphasis on the "duck"). There is a great rivalry between the opposing forces to get their rapid fire off first, because the early bird, in this instance, catches the worm,—sort of gets the jump on the other fellow, catching him unawares.
We had a Sergeant in our battalion named Warren. He was on duty with his platoon in the fire trench one afternoon when orders came up from the rear that he had been granted seven days' leave for Blighty, and would be relieved at five o'clock to proceed to England.
He was tickled to death at these welcome tidings and regaled his more or less envious mates beside him on the fire step with the good times in store for him. He figured it out that in two days' time he would arrive at Waterloo Station, London, and then—seven days' bliss!
At about five minutes to five he started to fidget with his rifle, and then suddenly springing up on the fire step with a muttered, "I'll send over a couple of souvenirs to Fritz, so that he'll miss me when I leave," he stuck his rifle over the top and fired two shots, when "crack" went a bullet and he tumbled off the step, fell into the mud at the bottom of the trench, and lay still in a huddled heap with a bullet hole in his forehead.
At about the time he expected to arrive at Waterloo Station he was laid to rest in a little cemetery behind the lines. He had gone to Blighty.
In the trenches one can never tell,—it is not safe to plan very far ahead.
After "stand down" the men sit on the fire step or repair to their respective dugouts and wait for the "rum issue" to materialize. Immediately following the rum, comes breakfast, brought up from the rear. Sleeping is then in order unless some special work turns up.

Around 12.30 dinner shows up. When this is eaten the men try to amuse themselves until "tea" appears at about four o'clock, then "stand to" and they carry on as before.
While in rest billets Tommy gets up about six in the morning, washes up, answers roll call, is inspected by his platoon officer, and has breakfast. At 8.45 he parades (drills) with his company or goes on fatigue according to the orders which have been read out by the Orderly Sergeant the night previous.
Between 11.30 and noon he is dismissed, has his dinner, and is "on his own" for the remainder of the day, unless he has clicked for a digging or working party, and so it goes on from day to day, always "looping the loop" and looking forward to Peace and Blighty.
Sometimes, while engaged in a "cootie" hunt you think. Strange to say, but it is a fact, while Tommy is searching his shirty serious thoughts come to him. Many a time, when performing this operation, I have tried to figure out the outcome of the war and what will happen to me.

My thoughts generally ran in this channel: Will I emerge safely from the next attack? If I do, will I skin through the following one, and so on? While your mind is wandering into the future it is likely to be rudely brought to earth by a Tommy interrupting with, "What's good for rheumatism?"
Then you have something else to think of. Will you come out of this war crippled and tied into knots with rheumatism, caused by the wet and mud of trenches and dugouts? You give it up as a bad job and generally saunter over to the nearest estaminet to drown your moody forebodings in a glass of sickening French beer, or to try your luck at the always present game of "House." You can hear the sing-song voice of a Tommy droning out the numbers as he extracts the little squares of cardboard from the bag between his feet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Billy Strayhorn 100 -- September 29, 2015

100 years ago today, on 29-September-2015, American composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio.  He became interested in music very early in life.  When he met Duke Ellington after a show in 1938, he showed Duke how he would have arranged one of Ellington's compositions.  Ellington was impressed and invited him to join the band as composer, arranger, conductor and whatever else was needed. 

When I was a kid, I thought Duke Ellington had composed this theme song, "Take the 'A' Train."  It was composed by Billy Strayhorn. 

Billy's most famous song was "Lush Life."  It has been recorded by virtually everyone. 

Touring the world with Ellington gave Strayhorn a chance to live life as a gay man when it was illegal almost everywhere.  It also gave him opportunities to work for civil rights.  He died of cancer in 1967. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Muni Heritage Festival 2015 -- September 28, 2015

After the success of the  Muni Centennial Vintage Service in 2012, Muni and the Market Street Railway decided to make it an annual event. In 2015, they moved the event from November to September, hoping to get better weather.
Above we see car 578, built in 1896 for the original Market Street Railway, as it zips along the Embarcadero. People often call it a cable car.

Car 578 stops across from the MSR Museum on Don Chee Way. It will turn left on Steuart, left on Mission, and lrft on the Embarcadero. It will turn around on the loop in front of the Pier 39 garage. The ugly structure in the background was erected for a squash tournament. Who plays squash? 

The MSR Museum. A chart in front of the Wiley birdcage traffic light tells when vintage streetcars and buses will next depart.

In the MSR Museum, we looked at the new exhibit of car cards and admired this box, raising funds for preservation.

Unique original-condition California Street Cable Railroad O'Farrell-Jones-Hyde car 42 made a rare appearance. We did not get to ride it. S

Blackpool boat tram 233 stops on Don Chee Way to let passengers alight. 233 was acquired in 2013. This was the first Heritage Weekend where it operated. Note the pirate flag.

Blackpool boat tram 228 turns from the Embarcadero to Don Chee Way. We boarded it for a ride to Pier 39 and back.

Our motorman on Blackpool boat tram 228 wore a shirt congratulating Blackpool Transport on the 130th anniversary of eletric traction in Blackpool, which they were celebrating the same weekend.

A closer view of his shirt, designed and made by motorman Robert Parks.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Balclutha Was Short of Men -- September 27, 2015

San Francisco Call, 07-July-1900.

William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.   Balclutha is preserved at the San Francisco Maritime Museum at the Hyde Street Pier. 

Lively Times Over Stealing Sailors From the Ship Blackbraes.
The Balclutha Was Short of Men and the Blackbraes Loaned Her Some.
Runners Stole Them and the Fun Began.

There was trouble on the Hawaiian ship Baiclutha and the British ship Blackbraes a couple of days ago. One vessel loaned some men to the other to bend sails, and while they were at work they were stolen by the boarding masters. The mate of the vessel that lost the men made the round of the boarding houses and took his men aboard in spite of all resistance.  Then the boarding masters tried to rescue the sailors and there was a free fight in which many a skull was cracked and the runners got the worst of it.

The Blackbraes arrived here on May 24 after a passage that lasted nearly a year.  Not a man aboard has less than $300 coming to him and In consequence there were no desertions.

The Balclutha. will go to the Sound to load lumber fur Australia and was short of men. Captain Hatfield wanted his sails bent and being short-handed asked for the loan of a few men from the Blackbraes.

As soon as the men were at work on the Balclutha the runners appeared on board with several bottles of water front rye.  As soon as the whiskey got to work the men were ready for anything and willingly deserted when a run ashore was proposed.

When the mate of the Blackbraes heard that his men had been stolen he at once went ashore armed with a pistol. He made the round of the hoarding houses and inside of an hour had all of his sailors aboard the ship again. The next morning the boarding masters made a combined raid on the Blackbraes. but the mate and second mate, aided by the boatswain and carpenter, met them with belaying pins, and inside of three minutes the whole invading force was driven over the side, some of them much the worse for wear. Yesterday the Blackbraes went to Port Costa and there will be more trouble when she comes down. To-day the Balclutha will go to sea.

I took the photo of Balclutha on 19-October-2010.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Cat #23 -- September 25, 2015

I took this photo on 20-September-2015.

I took this bonus photo on 09-September-2015. 

News of the Week September 25, 1915 -- September 25, 2015

The 25-September-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels. 

"Japanese training naval ship anchors in San Francisco Harbor.  Copyright 1915, by Mutual Weekly."  Taisei Maru was a government training vessel which visited San Francisco for about a week in early September. 

"Demonstration of tractor plow at Bloomington, Ill.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I couldn't find anything about this, but several people were working on powered tractors. 

"Arabic's survivors reach New York on the liner St. Paul.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  On 19-August-1915 German submarine U-24 sank White Star liner Arabic.  44 passengers and crew, including 3 Americans, were killed.  American protests led Germany to promise to stop unlimited submarine warfare:

"Big attendance at Elks and Shriners ball game, Buffalo, N. Y.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I assume the two fraternal organizations were playing a ball game for charity.  The man with the "Peace" sign may be imitating former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. 

"Alligator farm near Los Angeles, Cal.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Who knows? 

"Prisoners of Ossining Prison welcome their warden.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Thomas Mott Osborne, a reformer, was warden of Sing Sing in 1915. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yogi Berra, RIP -- Septebmer 24, 2015

Rest ye well, Yogi.  A great catcher.  A great hitter.  A great veteran of the US Navy who was at D-Day.  A great manager.  A great baseball mind.  A great human being.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saint Junipero Serra -- September 23, 2015

Saint Junipero Serra was born on the island of Mallorca on 24-November-1713.  People accuse him of genocide, of murdering California native Americans.  I am pretty sure that he was not aware of germ theory, which was developed long after he died.  He thought he was doing the right thing. 

Today Pope Francis visited Washington DC.  During a mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, he canonized Junipero Serra.  This was the first canonization performed in the United States. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

1937 Mercedes-Benz Model 540K Special Roadster -- September 21, 2015

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.  The 1937 Mercedes-Benz Model 540K Special Roadster.  The body by Sindelfingen was attached at the Benz factory and the car was shipped to the US for sale.  I like the sweep of the fender.  (051/dsc_0106)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dick Tracy -- September 19, 2015

Feature Books started in 1937.  Each issue was devoted to a single comic strip character.  Chester Gould created Dick Tracy in 1931.  The stories became famous for colorful criminals and lots of violence.  By the time I read it in the San Francisco Chronicle, there were strange stories set on the Moon with all sorts of odd technology.  I remember a story about a mummified corpse that particularly disturbed me.  A room in a neighbor's attic reminded me of the setting of that episode. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

News of the Week September 18, 1915 -- September 18, 2015

The 18-September-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Yacht race at Panama-Pacific Fair for cup given by England's king.  Copyright 1915, by Mutual Weekly."  This is the first appearance in News of the Week As Shown in Films of the Mutual Weekly.  Yacht races were held around August 25-29 at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  If the is the six meter race on August 29, Nordug IV, defeated by King Christian of Denmark, defeated its only opponent, Lady Betty, which was built for the race because of the war inspired lack of entrants. 

"The Atlantic fleet arrives at Boston to be inspected.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  The Atlantic fleet was reviewed in Boston on 27-August-1915. 

"Torpedo boat destroyer Porter launched at Philadelphia.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  USS Porter (DD-59) was launched from the yard of William Cramp and Sons on 26-August-1915.  When the US entered the war, she served in a squadron that went to Europe to patrol the Western Approaches.  She attacked and damaged U-108.  In 1924, she was transferred to the Coast Guard to perform Prohibition patrols.  She was scrapped in 1934. 

"Business men wading to their offices in Galveston, Texas after flood.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Galveston, Texas had been nearly destroyed by a 1900 hurricane.  Thousands died.  A powerful hurricane in 1915 did not cause as much damage because of a new sea wall.  Only 53 died. 

"Ruins of sea wall at Galveston, Texas.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  See the previous item. 

"Texas rangers capture Mexican bandits at Norie, Texas.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Tension was building up along the border with Mexico.  I haven't found anything about this particular event in newspapers. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Colonial Family's Reaction to the Stamp Act -- September 17, 2015

Today I went to Good Shepherd School in Pacifica and talked to Junior High kids about "A Colonial Family's Reaction to the Stamp Act." They are participating in a DAR essay contest on the subject. I talked about the background of the French and Indian War and the Stamp Act.  I told them I couldn't talk about what people did about the Stamp Act, but I could give them a list of interesting names and terms that they could look up.  I gave them James Otis, Jr and boycott and Committees of Correspondence and things like those.  It was fun, and they asked good questions.  After, I was very tired. 

Pulp -- Fight Stories -- September 17 2015

The cover of this issue of Fight Stories advertised the "Battles of Jack Dempsey."  William Harrison Dempsey was born in Colorado.  Around 1914 he took the name Jack Dempsey, inspired by great Nineteenth Century middleweight champ Nonpariel Jack Dempsey:

During World War One, he worked in a San Francisco Bay Area shipyard and fought in the four round fights that were then legal in California.  He was accused of avoiding military service, but people later found evidence that he had tried to enlist in the army, but had been classified as 4-F. 

On 04-July1919, Dempsey defeated Jess Willard, the Pottawatamie Giant, and won the heavyweight championship.  Dempsey led a wild life during the 1920s and defended his title several times, finally losing it to Gene Tunney in 1926. 

Dempsey ran popular in restaurants in New York City for the rest of his life.  During World War Two, he taught physical fitness in the Coast Guard. 

I remember well when he was still alive.  He died in 1983. 

Film Daily, 06-October-1926

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sunset Limited -- September 15, 2015

Saint Martinville Louisiana Weekly Messenger, January 31, 1914
The Sunset Limited was the premiere passenger train from New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Southern Pacific Railroad's Sunset Route.  Southern Pacific operated it from 1894 to 1971.  Since 1971, Amtrak has run it. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lauren Bacall Blogathon -- Septembe 14, 2015
Over at my movie blog, The Big V Riot Squad (, I am participating in the Lauren Bacall Blogathon hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  "After the success of my Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, I’ve decided to host another blogathon dedicated to Lauren Bacall, the famed actress who was known for her husky voice, sultry beauty and her blossoming marriage to Humphrey Bogart that would make for the screens' most celebrated couple." 

My post is about Lauren Bacall and politics:
"Lauren Bacall -- You Do Not Have a Small Mind"

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Kellar -- Self Decaptation -- September 13, 2015

Harry Kellar was one of the great American magicians of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries.  I would love to see his Self Decapitation. 

From the Facebook Group Vintage Advertising and Poster Art

Salt Lake Herald, 29-November-1898
Kellar performed the Self Decapitation along with the Hindoo Clock and "Kellar's masterpiece, The Blue Room," at the Salt Lake Theater on 29-November-1898.  He was accompanied by Mrs Kellar. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

NFL Kickoff 2015 -- September 12, 2015

I rarely mention football in this blog, but Thursday I took a lunchtime walk towards the Ferry Building and found people setting up for NFL Kickoff 2015, which has something to do with the Super Bowl which will be held in Santa Clara.  The area in front of the fountain had a big stage where there was going to be music. 

I find it interesting that this is the 50th Super Bowl, but they are not going to identify it with a Roman numeral "L."  Instead, they are using Arabic numerals, as we see on the Ferry Building tower.  Using "L" would have improved kids' knowledge of  Roman numerals. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

News of the Week September 11, 1915 -- September 11, 2015

The 11-September-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Great sea wall saves Galveston in recent storm.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Galveston, Texas had been nearly destroyed by a 1900 hurricane.  Thousands died.  A powerful hurricane in 1915 did not cause as much damage because of a new sea wall.  Only 53 died. 

"Only zebra born in captivity at Central Park, New York.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  The baby zebra may have been the first born in the United States. 

"Oil tank of the Indiana Pipe Line Company struck by lightning at Whiting, Ind.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I haven't found anything about this fire. 

"Soldiers of ships of Atlantic fleet given strenuous practice.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  The Atlantic Fleet was preparing for a presidential review. 

"Armored motor train, first to cross the country, reaches Universal City.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  This appears to be the Davidson-Cadillac armored car, designed by Royal Page Davidson.  Davidson led a fleet of eight Cadillac military vehicles from Chicago to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. 

"General Hugh L. Scott conferring with Villa in Mexico.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  General Hugh L Scott, the Chief of Staff of the Army.  Pancho Villa led the  División del Norte.  Pressure had been growing between the US and Mexican revolutionaries. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gammeter Orthopter -- September 9, 2015

Scientific American, 12-October-1907.
The Gammeter Orthopter was an ornithopter, an aeroplane that was supposed to fly by flapping its wings.  My guess is that it didn't fly.  I wonder if the pontoons it sits on carry fuel.  HC Gammeter was from Cleveland, Ohio. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day, 2015 -- September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day, everyone.  Thank you to the San Francisco Postcard Club for the wonderful image. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

BART Closed -- September 5, 2015

There are signs and labels all over the BART stations advising riders that BART will be down again over Labor Day weekend, as it was on August 1-2.  They are replacing and repairing much of the 40 year old trackage.  I took this photo at Colma Station. 

I photographed this banner at Embarcadero Station. 

I photographed this sign by Gate B at the Ferry Building. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

News of the Week September 4, 1915 -- September 4, 2015

The 04-September-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Sand bags used in stability test on S. S. Christopher Columbus, at Chicago, Ill.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  SS Christopher Columbus was a unique whaleback excursion boat.  After SS Eastland, a conventional excursion boat, capsized on 24-July-1915, many passenger ships were tested for stability.  Columbus showed no problems. 

"Trapshooters hold big meeting in Chicago at Grant Park.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."   The annual meeting of the Interstate Association opened at Grant Park on 16-August-1915. 

"Raising the steamship Eastland in the Chicago River.  1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  SS Eastland was a tour boat in Chicago which rolled over while docked on 24-July-1915.  At least 844 passengers and crew died. 

"Loading floating mines for test in Boston Harbor.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Naval mines were used extensively during World War One. 

"Officers of the 'Wyoming' wind trophy presented by Vincent Astor.  Copyright 1915 Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."   USS Wyoming was a dreadnaught.  This must have been in Newport, Rhode Island. 

"Farewell services on steps of St. Paul's Cathedral on departure for front.   Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  These men were on their way to the Western Front.