Served in the Merchant Marine – Radio Officer Uncle John “Jack” Galatis [Glatis] Haines, Jr.


Jack jr

My grandmother Edith’s brother, John Galatis [or Glatis] “Jack” Haines Jr., was second of eight, born 11 Sept 1910 to John Galatis “Jack” Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil  in the Allston section of Boston.

Jack jr birth

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By Jack’s second birthday, the family had moved to Melrose, Massachusetts.  As the family grew, the Haines’ moved frequently between Melrose, Malden and for a short time to Saugus.

jack and EdithEde and jack

JACK PIC
Pictured: Edith (E), Jack (J) and Doris (D) Haines

In 1920, the family was living in Malden, Jack was a 9 year old student.

1920 jACK

There were some hard times in Jack’s young life.  The Depression had disrupted the family with a move to a less expensive house in a less expensive town. The children slept using winter coats in place of blankets; blankets being an unaffordable luxury.  One story tells of Jack’s dad, Jack Haines Sr. coming home after a very late trip through the city on Christmas Eve, carrying a floor to ceiling tree which he and my mother decorated while everyone else slept. Foreverafter they told the story of how he scouted the town for a marked-down tree but the only ones he could find had been abandoned hours earlier. As he picked one up and started for home with his cache, a policeman suddenly appeared and asked what he was doing. The truth of six children sleeping at home with nothing to look forward to except Christmas morning, prompted the policeman to turn his back and walk away as he shouted, “I didn’t see a thing! Merry Christmas!”

Although times were tough, through her poetry, Jack’s sister Natalie recalls a house filled with joy:

You’re Only Young Once

… A rhyming version of Depression days

Natalie Thomson

Depression Days were then at hand
(Financial woes throughout the land.)
A seventh child was added to
A family which grew and grew.

Their worries big, their money small,
Their laughter rang from hall to hall.
Each day brought on a new event
From buying shoes to paying rent.

They picked blueberries in the sun
And sang on rides ’til day was done.
The castles were all made of sand;
The water cool, the sunshine grand.

The root beer was, of course, homemade;
Each holiday, a new parade!
The bonfires bright, who can deny,
Were better than the last July.

The icy tunnels dug in snow;
The car would need a push to go.
The swan-boat rides meant trips “in town”.
The clothes were mostly hand-me-down.

The marks in school were of the best…
Such praise for every “A” in tests!
A photograph in groups, you know,
Would find them always in front row.

The house was clean, there was no clutter,
But, oh, “Go easy on the butter!!”
The Market on those weekend nights,
With pushcarts for their city sights.

Their visiting was done in groups,
But picnics called out all the troops!
A wink from Dad, a smile from Mum,
Would mean a happy time to come

With dishes washed and windows closed,
The bathroom busy, off they’d go!

Jack, a good-looking boy, graduated from Melrose High School in 1928 [A copy of the yearbook has not been located, but according to Melrose Library Staff, he is listed as a sophomore in the 1926 yearbook].

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In 1930, 20 year old Jack was living with the family in Melrose working as a bank messenger.

1930 jACK

At age 22 and a resident of Saugus, he became a Mason of the Mount Vernon Lodge, Malden, Massachusetts.

mason card

In 1940, 29-year-old Jack (who spoke directly with the census enumerator) had removed from the family homestead and was boarding at a home in Boston, paying $12/month, working as a bank clerk at First National Bank of Boston, making $1,160 annually, a large salary in comparison to fellow boarders and neighbors. His obituary further tells us he was employed by the Old Colony Bank and Trust, Boston for many years.

1940 jACK

Jack married Allene Day, born 28 June 1909, in Hartford, Michigan, to William and Katie (Rice) Day.  The pair likely met in Boston, where Allene attended Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing and attained a Registered Nursing degree in 1941. Their marriage was registered in Malden in 1942, just months before Jack’s father’s death, 10 days prior to Christmas. Did Jack come to the aid of his widowed mother who had lost everything in the Depression?  We don’t know.  Jack and Arlene soon relocated to Michigan where they likely had two sons born 1943 and 1945 [no births were located in the Massachusetts indices].  For reasons unknown, by 1947, Jack and Allene separated and Jack left Michigan and appears to have had no further contact with his children. Jack and Allene’s divorce was finalized on 3 Dec 1951 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and in 1965, Allene married second Porter Dent of Vicksburg, Michigan.

By 1947, Jack was serving in the Merchant Marine. He was a Radio Officer given the nickname “Sparks” (as were most others in his field).  It is worth noting that one serves in the Merchant Marine (never plural) someone who serves in the Merchant Marine is a sailor or a seaman or their rank (Captain, Mate, etc.) they are never referred to as a Merchant Marine.

It took a special personality to work as a Radio Officer, most were loners (some not by choice as  many got hooked by the “Well paid to see the world” publicity).  Jack was alone in the radio shack most of the time. Others crew members had the chance to interact and speak of projects they were working on.  No one understood the radio operator’s duties.  Few visited “the shack”, the noise of Morse code and static drove most away quickly.

Sparks

The school where Jack received his training in unknown, but we can surmise that all schools in that era had a similar program and philosophy.

The Radio Training Station on Gallups Island in Boston, in 1944, described the requirements for the position:

“As Radio Operators, we will be the voice and hearing of the ship. Upon our ears will fall the first warning signals of danger and upon our shoulders will be placed the responsibility of flashing the first call for help in the event of disaster. In short, the success or failure of a voyage may well depend upon our skill and knowledge.

So important will be our future duties that we are receiving a very practical technical course of training. It includes code, touch typing, operating procedure, radio laws, regulations, international conferences, radio theory, practical laboratory work, operating positions, construction of composite transmitting and receiving equipment, radio-frequency and audio-frequency amplifier systems and related subjects.

Code is, however, one of our more important studies, for once we are assigned to active sea duty we must be able to carryon as efficiently as if we had been constantly engaged in the work for some time and that means taking messages on typewriters as fast as they come over the earphones.

Learning code is a fairly simple task, consuming but a comparatively short time. Building up speed, however, is quite another story, for it takes practice and concentration to acquire the art of copying and sending at rates generally used in commercial work

Before we came here most of us thought of code only in terms of dots and dashes. The letter A, for example, was dot dash, while the letter D was dash dot dot. One of the first things they taught us when we got here, though, was to forget all about dots and dashes and to think of code in terms of dits and dahs.

Now, the letter A is dit-dah, while the letter D is dah-dit-dit. In the beginning code is shot to us at such a low rate of speed, that letters are easily distinguishable. It is more difficult, however, as trans- mission becomes more rapid, to distinguish between letters. Consequently, more than half of our school day is spent in practicing code.

Each man has his own individual equipment which consists of headphones, speed selector panel, a hand sending key and a typewriter. Code is sent by hand and automatically by code sending machines, which can be regulated to any speed by the instructor.

Before graduating we must be able to copy mixed Code Groups at the rate of 18 words per minute. The ability to do this enables most of us to make plain language copy at the rate of 24 or more words per minute. Before we can get to the point of taking messages on the typewriter we must become fairly efficient at typing. We are learning the touch systems in the best “secretarial” manner and before graduation are able to type at the rate of 35 words per minute which is sufficient for practical operating work. 

While code is one of our most important studies here, other subjects of equal or near equal consequence require a great deal of our attention. Take, for instance, radio theory. In order to thoroughly understand how to make necessary repairs we have to know why our equipment functions as it does. Fundamentals of electricity, which many of us studied in high school under the general heading of physics, have to be thoroughly understood. Ohm’s law, and others, have to be more than a series of memorized words.

Today’s radio equipment is much more complicated than it was during the days of the First World War, with the result that a good portion of our time is spent in the service laboratories learning how to repair receivers, transmitters, direction finding apparatus and other paraphernalia that we may be called upon to service in mid-ocean

Most interesting to all of us, perhaps, is the actual watch standing that we do. In this phase of our work, we take live messages from the air and learn through experience the routine of shipboard procedure.

Upon completion of our course here we take the usual Federal Communications Commission examinations which are given at the Custom House in Boston. In the first place, requirements for obtaining the coveted second class license [Jack held a first class license!] are that the applicant must send and receive code at the rate of 16 words per minute mixed code and successfully pass the required elements of the test covering the rules and regulations, basic and advanced radio theory and operating practice.

Strange as it may seem, we complete our work here in somewhat less than half the time required for a like course of study in recognized civilian schools. This is due in great measure to the fact that our curriculum was outlined and prepared by men who are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of radio work. We put in a full six hour day in class, lectures and laboratory work, and facilities are available for an additional three hours at night for those requiring extra study, or wishing to practice.

Then, of course, we have to work hard in order to keep abreast of the schedule that must be maintained. A good deal of outside study is required. Textbooks, especially prepared by members of the faculty, are used in our class work, while standard electrical textbooks and technical magazines are used for reference purposes and may be drawn from the more than 3,000 copies in the school library.

Add to these the fact that all of us who were admitted had to measure up to the educational standards set by the Maritime Service and you begin to see why this intensified course is so successful. Among other things, a high school education that included at least one year of algebra is necessary for admittance to the school. Physics, though not required, is a subject that should have been included in our high school work

At the conclusion of the war we’ll be members of a Merchant Marine that will be the queen of the seas – members who will enjoy the privileges and pay of specialists aboard ship.

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A rare look into the duties of a Radio Operator [click on any image to see a large version], examples include:

Keep emergency life boat transmitter battery charged.

Have an understanding with Master, Mate and Armed Guard CO as to procedure in time of distress.

Burn and destroy the ashes of any paper on which there is classified information.

Don’t break radio silence.

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Online records provide details of at least 26 voyages where Jack was stationed on the vessel Kyska (all-purpose cargo ship with 5 holds, 6,190 gross tons built in Mobile, Alabama).

Kyska

A 38-year-old Jack is first found, after having served one year, departing New York on 7 May 1948 arriving in Yokohama, Japan 18 Jul 1948.  He reports to be 5’10”, 165 pounds and of English descent.

jACk manifest 0

In the years that follow Jack travels to Kobe, Moji and Yokohama, Japan; Davao City, Philippines; Campbell River, British Columbia; New York; California; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

By 1953, a 5’11”, 185 pound Jack is reported as a radio officer who had served at sea for six long years. He is one of the few onboard without tattoos or scars.

He lands in Honolulu, Hawaii 10 Dec 1951, them on 24 January 1952 departs New Orleans, Louisiana where he lists his sister [my grandmother] Edith as a contact on a voyage headed to multiple ports.

jACk manifest 5

2 September 1952 he was engaged at San Francisco on a mission to Yokohama, Japan through 17 October 1952 when he landed in Seattle, Washington. Interestingly, he reports his race to be Welsh [he ancestry was approximately 25% Welsh, 68.75% English and 6.25% French].

jACk manifest 2

A day later, 18 October 1952 he again departed to Yokohama, arriving back in Seattle 11 December 1952.

jACk manifest 3

On 1 February 1953 he sailed from Portland to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 30 March 1953.

jACk manifest 4

Jack rarely had time off the ship.  A sampling of voyages in this time period included:

  • departed Los Angeles 6 April 1953 to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 27 May 1953
  • departed San Francisco 2 June 1953 to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 25 Jul 1953
  • departed Seattle 27 July 1953 to Pusan, South Korea via British Columbia, returning to Seattle 21 Sep 1953
  • departed Los Angeles 13 November 1953 to Muroran, Japan, returning to Seattle 2 Jan 1954
  • departed Seattle 24 April 1954 to Yawata, Japan, returning to Seattle 15 Jun 1954
There are a few books available on radio operators that are recommended reading by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Research Center:
Sparks at sea: the experiences of a ship’s radio offices
by Chandler, R. W.
From the high seas to low comedy : memoirs of radio man Monroe Upton.
by Upton, Monroe.
Wake of the wirelessman /
by Clemons, B. J.

 
In later years, Jack relocated to New York and for about 20 years was employed by RCA Global Communications. He retired a few years before his death and resided in North Tonawanda, New York.

RCAGlobal

Jack was a member of the American Contract Bridge League and won or placed in a number of local tournaments in Tonawanda as early as 1964.

bridge

He also belonged to the International Propeller Club of the United States, a business network dedicated to the promotion of the maritime industry, commerce and global trade.  The Propeller Club aggressively promotes the maritime industry through many of its programs and partnering with other similar organizations. Their goal is to educate legislators and the public as to the importance and necessity of all waterborne commerce.

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Jack’s youngest sister Natalie, describes this chapter of her eldest brother’s life.  She writes:

“My active involvement in the arrangements and decisions, which, of necessity, I had to make following his unexpected death, caused me in the days and weeks following it to do an enormous amount of reflection and in-depth contemplation about his life — as I knew him, as others knew him, and as he might have known and/or seen himself.  I am far from being the psychologist or the writer who could, at this point in time  accurately tell anyone about Jack.  But to answer the question, “What has he been doing?” over the last 35 years, I’ll address myself to that.

As I know it, he spent many years (I don’t know the exact number) after leaving Michigan, in a Merchant Marine as THE radio operator on ships that touched ports throughout the world, most often in Japan, whose culture he learned, respected and seemed to like very much.  He was extremely proud of holding a master radio operator’s license (no small feat), enjoyed being known by the traditional maritime nickname, “Sparks” while at sea, and felt comfortable with the Petty Officer rank he held aboard ship…a notch above seaman and a notch below officer.  He was capable of easily mingling with both groups.

In later years, when both his energies and the glamorous escape of the sea diminished, he worked on land, still as a communicator, for a company with large shipping interests on the Great Lakes and off the New England Coast [RCA Global Communications, New York].  He retired on Social Security a few years ago.  His pension ended upon his death.

Most of the time, while working in private industry, he lived in upper New York State, alone, as he seemed to prefer. He visited us often here in Malden whenever “the spirit moved him” and one of the ways in which I saw him was a man who wanted to be unencumbered, yet who couldn’t completely relinquish all of his family ties.

He was avidly interested in the keenness of playing bridge and was competitively active in the local club; good enough to often participate in their tournaments. He was equally proud of his membership in the Masons, keeping his dues up to date in the Malden Lodge until the end, although he had not actively participated in it for many years”.

Jack died suddenly 31 May 1979 in North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York and was buried Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose, Massachusetts alongside his parents. 

Jack jr death

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