Legacy of a "Georgia Cracker" Part I

OldBilly
At the beginning of the CareGiving journey with my parents over ten years ago, I considered one of the most important duties was that of the Legacy Guardian. Dad’s gone now but he left us with his words in the form of a genealogy history and an incomplete manuscript of his autobiography "The Georgia Cracker".

This month is a celebration of one of the parent’s milestones in their life. I’d like to share with you some excerpts from Dad’s auto biography that led up to that milestone. I hope through this series it can inspire other caregivers to become Legacy Guardians, too.

We begin in late June 1944 when Dad and his fellow officers and crew arrive at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago after completing basic training in Norfolk, Va., and Midshipmen school at Columbia University in NY…



We arrived at a train station in Chicago,Illinois, and all of the crew went to the huge Great Lakes Naval training center in Waukegan,Illinois for  gunnery training, and to await the completion of the construction of our LST in Evansville,Indiana. Our  seven officers went to Navy Pier to wait until our ship was ready for boarding. The Navy Pier billeting was not bad. It was even close enough for us young officer to walk to the downtown Chicago loop and business section.

However, there was no need to walk because the public transportation was free to all service men through the courtesy of the mayor of Chicago.  We had all heard that Chicago was the best liberty town in the entire world, and very soon we were all convinced.

We only experienced life at Navy Pier for a day or so. I asked our engineering officer, Sandy Lebow who was originally from Chicago, whether there were any nice hotels near by where the seven of us could stay for the almost three weeks that we had to wait for our LST to be completed in Evansville. After all, I was advised that, as stores and supply officer, we were on per diem which would pay for a hotel. I recall that Sandy said that the downtown loop area was completely over loaded with summer visitors.

I asked him whether there were any hotels that were close, but not necessarily in contention with the crowded downtown area. Sandy suggested the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel which was directly on the Lake Michigan shore on the near north side, but he hastily added that it was always booked months in advance. I decided to try it for size, and I did not really know exactly what I would say until I phoned, and was actually talking to an official of this very exclusive resort hotel. I recall vaguely that I told this person that I was an officer on Admiral Stoneham’s staff, and that the admiral had just experienced a rough time at Pearl Harbor, and was being reassigned to Atlantic duty. However, he and his staff would be arriving within a few hours here in Chicago, and I as an advance member of his staff was assigned to establish hotel quarters up until mid July of 1944.

It worked. The Edgewater Beach official confided to me that they always kept suites available just exactly for such conditions that I outlined. I was in luck because there were no other celebrities that out ranked mine making requests. Within an hour, our Captain Rapelyea, and all of his officers except the executive officer who had gone to his home in Butler, Indiana, were in a taxi heading for the Edgewater Beach. The six of us soon found ourselves in a suite of four bedrooms.

To be continued...

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