Home From Korea
The last few weeks before I was to be shipped back to the USA, I found it to be very sad to be saying goodbye to my wonderful students, but the thought of going home and seeing my son for the first time (he is now nine months old), was so exciting and overpowering that it was all that I could think about. Some of these students were: Lee Kuhn Hong, Ho Sang Lee (Korean Agricultural Bank), Keun Hong Lee, Ki Young Nam (editor of Chosun Ilbo Newspaper), Ho Sang Lee (Korean Agricultural Bank), Keun Hong Lee, Ki Chung Kim, Lee Kuhn Hong, Kim Chul Kim (ex minister of finance), Sung Yul Kim, Han Ock Young. There were others of course but these are the names that I have from their correspondence which we carried on for a few years. Sadly after a couple of years I unfortunately lost track of them. I would be leaving the “Land of the Morning Calm” which was founded well over 5,000 years ago and with it has a deep, long and often tragic history.
The trip back was on the SS Patrick Henry. This was one of the Liberty Ships built in 1941. By 1957 it was an old tub and I believe it was decommissioned shortly after my return. I managed to get a good job on the ship and had my own room the only problem being was that I was close to the fog horn. Due to the lousy weather it went off every 20 seconds or so. The blast was unbearable and to this day I can’t take loud noises except blues music and Jazz. Any excuse to get into the interior of the ship brought great relief. As we approached Adak, Alaska the sight of tremendous whales was truly unbelievable. I was never much at taking pictures so I missed out on some really great shots from Alaska to Vancouver. We stopped briefly as Adak, Alaska but we weren’t allowed to leave the ship. Since I was to be discharged in Ft. Hamilton, Brooklyn I was put on Capital Airlines (If I remember correctly) for a four stop, non-pressurized flight. If you have a sinus condition or excess mucous in your nasal cavity, when you take off and land the pain becomes excruciating. You keep swallowing in order to clear your ears but somehow it doesn’t work and for about an hour after you land you can’t hear a thing. So now from coast to coast with multiple take offs and landings in propeller planes going around 225 miles per hour we finally arrive at Idlewilde Airport which in around 1963 was to become JFK. Some years later Sylvia and I were looking for an address in Queens and since I have never gone anywhere without getting lost I took a road next to the airport and somehow there was an opening. Amazingly we ended up on the runway near a taxiing plane-don’t ask me how I did that?. Today of course that would not be possible to do.
Now, in those days you could walk on or near the runway and greet the arriving passengers. You can imagine the thrill when I departed the gangplank and there in front of me was my Mother, Father, my Wife with our nine month old son Lee, my sister Eleanor and her husband. Upon seeing me Lee starts to bawl like a baby (he was a baby!) I guess that I would cry too if I saw a 175 pound, 5 foot 10 inch monster coming at me to kiss and hug me. Off we go to Mama Leone’s Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan where we went the night before I had departed for Ft. Lewis, Washington, two years prior. The restaurant was known for hearty Italian pasta, tremendous portions at very reasonable prices. It was certainly more fun having dinner there the second time around. I had saved the menu which was very large in stature and it showed all of the various food items with their incredibly low 1950 prices. Some years later however I gave the old menu to Mama Leone’s granddaughter, who had a restaurant with the same name in Florida only to find out that she was on the outs with her family, especially her grandmother who she claimed was a mean witch.
After a brief stop at Fort Hamilton to process my discharge (Honorable) and now I was on my own. I was placed in the reserves for a few more years but for some reason I never had to go to any meetings or field trips. My parents still lived on Clarkson Avenue in Brooklyn and we eventually moved into a ground floor 2 story house just a few doors from their apartment building. The owners, the Caminelli’s were a lovely family. We had a garage in the rear and in the back yard in which we used to BBQ together along with their son and their daughter. We didn’t have a signed lease. When I met and sat with Mr. Caminelli we looked each other in the eye and mentioned simultaneously that we were “old school” and had learned from our parents that when you stood face to face and looked into someone’s eyes when you were going to do business with them, you could get a pretty good idea of their character. In this case we were right as in all the time that we were there neither of us had any kind of problem with the other. It certainly would be nice if things worked that way in today’s climate. Obviously you just can no longer rely on a simple handshake to do business. Also by this time Syl was getting used to Brooklyn, which was far from the country club style that she had been used to. In Brooklyn you carted a wire wagon down the street to the Flatbush Avenue shopping area where you did your shopping. The first time my mother presented Syl with the wire wagon, Syl wanted to know if she expected her to drag this down the street. My mother’s reply was that “Finer women that you have done this and therefore so will you”! (and she did sometimes running over the ankles of women’s on crowded Flatbush Avenue). There was a famous bakery by the name of Ebinger’s Bakery but the help was so intimidating and brusque in their New York accents that Syl was afraid to ask what anything was. For dessert we had Red Frosted cupcakes for weeks afterwards, until she finally had the nerve to ask for something else. We did get settled quickly however and I was now ready to go out into the working world.
Next: Finding a job.