Great Jobs: Chapter 11 -- Back To New Orleans
And On From There
After that Christmas of ’43, it was time to get back to work.
“Well, I wondered, how do I get back to New Orleans”?
That turned out to be pretty simple. The Union Hall in Saint Louis seemed to know somehow, that I was home. Could have been that demned draft board, trying to catch me for not being on active duty. By now they were ready to draft anybody, even if they had to stick them at a desk out at JB. Anyway the agent called a couple of days after New Year, and asked if I wanted a trip back to New Orleans.
“Well, yes, maybe, and no, what’s the deal”?
“We need a fireman aboard the Huck Finn, and they are pushing a hull down to New Orleans to the shipyards. They will finish it there and you can stay on as a part of a skeleton engine crew. They will need some power while it is being worked on.”
“That’s a good deal, will save me some trip money. When do they leave”?
“Probably as soon as you get there. They are just waiting for a fireman and you will be on the 6 to 12 watch”.
“Yeah, more of that 6 on and 6 off bit, but the 'Finn' is pretty new so it shouldn’t be too long getting’ to New Orleans. Tell them I will be there in the next couple of hours”, I offered.
“That’s great, Leo (wondered how they got my new name), and sure glad you were around even if you did sneak home for the holidays”.
So there it was, my transportation back to New Orleans. A quick goodbye to the family and another quick trip to Missouri Baptist Hospital, and a goodbye kiss from Doris. And I was on my way.
Back in New Orleans, I checked in with the Union Hall to find out about how I was to be paid on a day job in port. Well, they figured out that I was going to be paid at a Junior Engineers rate, in those days it was 150 bucks a month, plus subsistence of 25 bucks a day for meals and lodging. Not too bad, for the times. I did, however, find a crew bunk room aboard and used that. Also found the shipyard workers shower room and I could use that, so the only thing I had to spend any money on was meals. Good deal there. Should be able to make a few bucks here. And the job was easy. Just had to start the diesel electric generator every morning for power and check things out in the engine room routinely, real simple job.
After about a couple of months that job got to be boring and then I found out that if I stayed aboard, that this reefer ship was scheduled to be part of a convoy to Murmansk, Russia. I sure as hell didn’t want any part of the North Sea in March, nor for that matter did I want too much to do with the North Atlantic. Still a lot of U boats out there knockin’ off all those convoys. However, I had signed on, and more or less was forced to take at least one trip. Well, that first trip happened to be the ‘shake down cruise’ (a check-out trip for a newly built ship) and that was from New Orleans to Philadelphia to load up some supplies and cargo and back to New Orleans for final outfitting and signing on the rest of the crew.
That’s where I signed off.
Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the November issue.
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