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The National Association of educational broadcasters presents America's African heritage recorded in Africa by Skip Westfall program three glimpses into the life of a seaman. And here is Skip Westfall. I'm speaking to you today from my cabin on the good ship the African Patriot were filed in mid Atlantic about halfway between New York and Munroe via Liberia. This morning I was talking to one of the ship's officers up on the bridge near the pilot room. I asked him about where we were located pointing to a spot on the map he replied. That's where we are right in the middle of nowhere. So my voice is coming to you today from aboard ship right in the middle of nowhere. I'm sorry to have to report to you that this is not been a smooth voyage back in the States I rather enjoy rock and roll but I don't like the kind of rock'n'roll we've been getting on this voyage. It's been rough. I'll have to admit it took me several days to get my sea legs. I haven't been violently seasick but on the verge of it several times and I can testify to the fact that it's a rather uncomfortable
feeling. However today is a beautiful day. The dark blue of the oceans stretching as far as the eye can see white fleecy clouds drifting across the blue of the sky. It's beautiful sailing weather just a kind of a day for roaming about the ship and visiting with members of the crew. As I've indicated in previous broadcasts one of the purposes in making this trip is to get some behind the scenes information concerning the products from Africa which played such an important part in our everyday living. But thousands of ships which sail the seas to the far corners of the world are like a huge bridge which brings to our country the materials we use every day of our lives. Toilet soaps lipsticks the perfume the automobiles the television sets and scores of other items we could mention. So we were interested in the seamen who sail e ships the hardships and sacrifices they must make as members of the United States Merchant Marine not the least of these difficulties is the
weather. If you've ever gone aboard a ship in New York Harbor on a cold winter's day you have some idea of the kind of conditions under which the men are forced to work. Stand there for just a few minutes out on the pier with the bitter wind in your face chilling you to the bone. And watch those fellows out on the deck chipping ice from the cables and you'll decide that the life of a sailor is anything but pleasant. Then go with that Seaman across the ocean into the state fleeing heat of those West African ports and you will wish you were back with the Wind In The Snow in New York Harbor. I've been to Africa before so I know what to expect from the miserable heat of those African waterfronts. I was reminded of it this morning at the breakfast table when Mr Woods the third mate aboard the ship described the port of maternity in the Belgian Congo maternity he explained is surrounded by hills and the merciless heat settles down in that hollow along the waterfront so that you're hardly able
to breathe. That is true especially at this time of the year the scorching sun beats down so hot upon the deck that you're unable to stand on one spot without burning the soles of your feet. The only consolation for the seamen is that after several days of this misery the ship will take to sea again and the weather will be more bearable. There is another aspect of the weather which the man of the sea must contend with stormy weather during the voyage. Sea sickness is not much of a problem with the hardened sailor but there are always those who are susceptible to that miserable experience. I heard recently of a sea captain who always gets seasick when the weather gets rough. Even those wonderful seasick pills are of no help to him at all. Last night I spent about an hour chatting with Theodore Lee Jr. chief engineer on the ship. He gave me a little glimpse into some of the ordeals of the men in the engine room when the ship runs into a bad storm. The chief told me that during one terrific storm he didn't get a wink of sleep for
72 hours. He spent practically all of that time in the engine room trying to keep his engine from breaking up. Once in the North Atlantic off the coast of Norway his ship the George W. Alder ran into a storm a terrific wave hit the ship and drove one of the lifeboats right through the wall into the radio operators room. On another voyage out on the Pacific three days out of Japan his ship the SS were Costa took such a beating during a storm that all of her life boats were washed overboard. It wasn't only during the days of the old sailing ships that life at sea was rough and tough it has its hair raising moments even during these days of modern navigation. But of all the jobs on the ship's crew during a bad storm I should think that the work of the cook would be the most difficult. I've been at sea on several occasions when the ship was lurching and plunging so wildly that it was physically impossible for me to walk along the hallway to the dining room without clinging to the hand-rail every step of the way.
And yet in the galley the cook has to stand before a hot stove handling pots and kettles of food trying to keep his footing on a floor often made slippery with the grease build from frying pans. It's a mystery to me how those boys can do it when the going is rough the cook puts up a rail around the top of the stove to keep those huge kettles from sliding off. But sometimes the ship gives such a lurch that it spills the soup all over the floor. The cooks have a rug on the ceiling over the stove which they grip with one hand or they would never be able to keep on their feet. And the waiter just to me it's nothing short of miraculous how and when the ship is rolling and tossing they're able to walk across a heaving floor carrying trays of food without spilling it. Sometimes I wonder of all of those boys I haven't had training in. Circus is tight rope walkers. No I don't want to give the impression that life at
sea is always as rough as I have just described it. There are times of course when a ship will make an ocean crossing was perfect sailing weather or it may make several consecutive crossings without any serious difficulty. But for those who follow the sea for years as many of them do there are times when it takes real courage to ride out one of those terrific storms and then sign up for a return voyage. Now I think it might be a good idea to go below and see if we can't get some of the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle that goes on in the kitchen aboard a ship. The next sound you will hear will be the clattering of the pans and the dishes and the ship's galley. I'm not able to get an interview with cookies just a bit timid about this microphone. Furthermore he speaks such poor English we'd probably have a little difficulty in understanding him. But over in the
dining room adjoining the galley is my cabin boy Jean Gibbons who also works as a waiter. I'm sure we can get Jean to say a few words. Let's move over into the dining room where we can get away from the noise gallery. Would you mind stepping over here man. Yes it would Vulcan to do point. But I'm always interested in knowing what state a man comes from. What's yours. A San Francisco California way out on the West Coast yes. I don't know if you're going to see Jean Paul VI 30 to 40 years off and on. That's quite right a little stretch isn't it yes it is. Do you like the job of being a waiter on board ship. Well not particularly I usually sail the edge of the planet or this is something rather new to you. Yes it is. I often wonder are you fellows can keep your balance when the ship is pitching in Reeling and you're trying to carry those trays of food. Well it's difficult sometimes but you get used to it. I suppose you've not used anything yet. Yes sir. If you
ever have the experience of spending you soup down the captain the neck nose or not yet and I hope not to have it by the way what's that picture you were showing the cook a moment ago it's a picture of my 20. Or 20 yesterday I had today's her birthday a year old today. What do you know a year old. Do you mind if I look at a picture of me. Yes are proud of them too and they are cute little tykes a new venue they certainly have reason to be proud of. I bet you'd like to be at home today celebrating when I was home today. Well I hope on their next birthday you will be able to be at home with your family. I hope so too. Thanks a lot. There you have one of the most difficult experiences in the life of a seaman. A necessity of being away from his family for such long periods of time on this ship the average seaman has only two and a half days out of two months to be at home with his family. Now let's move on down the hall to the crew's quarters and listen for a moment to the
conversation of the deck hands. Perhaps we can get in a word or two with one of the men from the engine room. Oh. I get. It. On one of the lower bunks is a seaman by the name of Charlie Land. What would you say Charlie is one of the most difficult experiences about the life of a saint. Well you're away from your people almost all the time really don't have any home life seems like by confining it is confining what Dad what do you usually do in your spare time during a boy call read write letters play cards some of them have hobbies like carving making leather goods. Some have pets some of them have pets if you've ever had a pet. Yes I had a monkey for about six months. I'm thinking why are you getting ready I wanted when
there were two cartons of cigarettes. Why did you keep him in your own. No I made a hammock on the after deck and I used to keep her back there actually from the stem of avocado. What did you do with her during bad weather. Oh I pepper in a place where we keep our stored how you said you had the monkey six months why did you have to get rid of it. Well chicken became an awful nuisance to get into the men's rooms or socks or to hide them climb up on the sinks. There is little to look at herself in the mirror. Dirty up the sinks. All I can see are monkey would be quite a nuisance aboard ship is this ship often transport wild animals from Africa to America. Well this is my first trip on the ship but I have been on ships transported with other gracious large. We had a lot of monkeys. How many monkeys. We had about 500 monkeys on there some snakes some snakes. None of those snakes got out of their cages are all the members of the monkeys did. What happened then. Well we got into a bad storm and
lighter cages got scratched up on the monkey escaped he was running loose on the ship it was impossible to capture them or just jump from one place to another to match from across the street. Cross the line and monkeys all over the ship. Monkeys all over the ship. That must have broken the monotony of the voyage. Shortage. What finally happened to the monkey. Well we pulled into Hoboken New Jersey we put our minds to the docks and the next thing we know the monkeys are running down the line. About 100 of them escaped 100 have got off the ship before we could stop them and there were monkeys all over all over. That must have been a sight to see all those monkeys climbing down the ropes and swarming all over the dock I was sure that there was excitement in that night and assured excitement in Hoboken. Kids all over town chasing monkeys. I want to take the cats and I understood it took a lot too much effort. Right well I wish we had the time to chat with you for about an hour Charlie and hear more of the other interesting stories that we've almost come to the end of this tape. Perhaps we can talk with you again later on.
Boy one of the most interesting experiences of an ocean crossing is the opportunity to talk with the men who work at the job of running the ship. They're the men who scaled the mast high above the deck to repair the pulleys or the cables and to work at the paint job which seemed to be a never ending task. And they're the men far below decks in the engine room like Charlie Ladd the man whose voice you just heard. I spent about 15 minutes down there in the engine room this morning and when I emerged from that stifling oven my clothes were wept with sweat and I was panting prayer. The engineer says that the temperature down there sometimes gets over one hundred and twenty degrees and brother that's hot. I wish we could take more time to talk with the members of the crew for they all have some very interesting stories to tell but our time has just about run out. I just about 10 seconds remaining just time enough to say that this concludes our broadcast from aboard the African patriot. If all goes well we will be speaking to you again after the ship docks in Monrovia Liberia on the west coast of Africa.
This has been programmed three of Americas African heritage. These programs feature recordings made by world traveler skip Westfall on a recent trip to Africa. The series is made possible by a grant in aid to radio station WOIO a state college from the educational television and radio center production is under the direction of Norman B clere. And this is reggae speaking for the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network. The National Association of educational broadcasters braze and Americas African heritage recorded in Africa by Skip Westfall program for Monrovia Liberia. First port of call. Here is Kip Westfall.
This broadcast is coming to you from the board of the SS African aid headed from Monrovia Liberia. Before arriving at the West Coast port I would like to do one more break if you live in that regard. We're sitting at the moment in the ship's radio room the radio officer in Mr. our story has kindly consented to answer a few questions. Let's begin this question. Just what exactly are the functions of the ship's radio operator. Close to us. Well to begin with the routine duties would be to send receive messages between into the ship's movements and conquer and to send and receive weather divisions and important duty of the video so as to maintain the electronic equipment and the storage batteries connected with the main emergency radio Telegraph installations. However the most important function of the video is to keep and only watch on five hundred dollars. International distress victims in the
event the ship phones or something you need to send out the signal we all view to hear and S.O.S. I was beginning to wonder the other day if our ship would be sending out an S.O.S. Another big wave struck the bow was such as that did almost knock you off your chair in that burning heart only here when the waves like the kiln plates were such a terrific force it could break the ship until then that should be possible news that was full but then a modern merchant ship is both a vine and still not know what it would take a lot of fun to break into if it does break into I suppose our hands aboard with me well not necessarily. There have been cases with broken ships and made it safe but without any assistance you need to say that a half of a ship could come into work under its own power. Really it happened seven years ago. Swedish liner that was caught in a severe storm of these new cars that you
and I picked up of S.O.S reporting that about our section was sinking but all of the passengers and crew members have safe we've been moved to the aft part. Well how is that possible. Why didn't the after part sent to the ships are designed constructed into water tank compartments which enable them which enable even a section of the ship to keep it up. Were you able to give this Swedish ship any help as much as we wanted to. Unfortunately we couldn't. Why weren't you able to help. We want to point the breaking up ourselves we were on the same stone all of that even in that night rolling from side to side to such an extent that most of us thought I was sure would be over at any moment. The main reason however that we're not tones of aid was that two United States military transports had arrived in front of this to assume and had already assumed charge is for the broken ship which actually proceeded on the phone on our own. Us into going into Tokyo.
Me I must have been an unusual experience for the people aboard that vessel to be fighting the waves in a terrific storm. One half of the ship I'm quite sure they'll never forget that trip I'm sure they want me there. Now getting back to your function as a radio operator sometimes the ship's urgency does not involve danger to the vessel. But the onus of passengers or crew. What procedure do you follow if someone aboard becomes ill. We would send a message to the nearest hospital show request the medical advice I save But suppose the patient is dangerously ill and is in desperate need of medical attention. What do you do in that case neck case the news that was folded some 62 warships in the area to determine which one has a doctor going along the roadway or taking out their many ships with dock. There's a board member for a night in the Greyhound ceilings we Leo to London. There are scores of ships carrying doctors aboard the luxury liners on this route to Africa there are actually very few ships and it probably would take a
considerable length of time to contact one with a dumb phone. All I can say is I'm glad we're approaching the African coast and that none of us has been in need of a doctor to continue your description of the procedure you usually follow. Now suppose there is a doctor in the area. What is your next step. Then we would request medical advice from him if he orders it. The patient would be transferred to his ship. Suppose the ships are traveling in opposite directions. The captains would turn the ships around to make it going to be no question at all about race sharing to know that even in this modern age the old traditions of the brotherhood of the sea are still what has been most interesting talking to you Mr. R. Terry I imagine you had enough experiences as a same and to write a book. That's true of all cities and since you just in my arm maybe you'd like to hear about the book I just finished.
Always say you have read the book. It's about the sea and magic or is it about Africa by any chance. Oh we'll leave Africa to. I don't think I'm sure you do a better job with the naive since I've traveled to the Far East more than traffic in my novels. About that part of the world in fact the title The Last of all desire was taken from an Oriental home which is 2500 years old. It's interesting if you found a publisher for your book. Well I hope my fiance has found when she and I submitted it just a day or two before we sailed from New York and we didn't know if he did so well. Here's hoping you do get that book published Mr Yuri. Perhaps one day you will be another Joseph Conrad thank you very nice of you to think some was that was all encouraging too. Thank you for your good wishes and I hope that you have a very very interesting trip and thank you I'm sure I will. Just a short while after concluding that interview with Mr. R. Terry we had a rather frightening
experience aboard ship. I crawled into my bunk to enjoy a good night's sleep it was about 12:30 in the morning when suddenly the fire alarm sounded that would have been a most uncomfortable thought on any ocean crossing. But it was especially disturbing in view of the fact that I knew there was stowed away below decks three hundred seventy tons of dynamite enough to blow the African patriot to kingdom come. For a moment all that could be heard was the wild jingling of the bells. Then there was the sound of the hoarse shouts of the men banging at doors and hurrying feet scurrying up and down the deck. This couldn't be a routine fire drill. Whoever heard of a fire drill being ordered at such an unearthly hour. Evidently the ship was on fire. I was about to get into my life preserver and prepare for the worst. Some of the passengers already had when the commotion began to quiet down a bit and we soon learned that it had been a false alarm. All of the excitement had been caused by a short in the fire alarm mechanism.
You may be sure every man aboard was greatly relieved to know that there was no fire. After all one thing is sure there have been few dull moments on this ocean voyage. Speaking of sea adventures just a few moments ago Mr. R. Terry handed me a copy of the fair Aline's news carrying an account of a dramatic rescue operation at sea which took place recently on the Farah Lyons passenger ship the African endeavor. A seaman aboard the ride Darien freighter had been stricken with meningitis. There was no doctor aboard the freighter and the captain had sent an emergency request for medical aid. To answer this urgent call the Endeavor turned about and steamed over 300 miles from her normal route to make the mid-ocean run. The patient Gregory Peck's in the US a Greek sailor was transferred to the Endeavor treated by the ship's doctor and he recovered. You will recall it in our interview with the ship's radio officer Mr. R. touré referred to the fact that a ship's captain
would never hesitate to sail off his course to go to the aid of a sick or injured seaman if the situation required it. Here was an incident and every sent one where this kind of an errand of mercy was carried out and a life was saved. We have now arrived at the port in Monrovia. Our ship has been tied up at the Pierre and the dock workers are beginning the job of unloading the night. It's a scorching hot day as most of the days are this time of the year here in propping
Liberia. I see one group of longshoremen unloading sacks of cement another group of Africans most of them barefoot or they're lifting and tugging those cases of dynamite stacking them in an open freight car on a side track near the pier. A moment ago I inquired of an African policeman who was standing guard at the top of the gangplank as to how much the library and dock workers received. He replied seven cents an hour. We had no chains on our wrists but we worked like slaves. We wonder how it is possible for these men to support themselves and their families on 56 cents a day. The question naturally arises why aren't these men paid better wages. Some of the American shipping concerns I understand it educated for higher pay for the long form but without success. Why would it mean that the men on the rubber plantations would flock to the docks to get the better wages. Would it upset the economy of the whole country. I want to attempt to answer that question. We'll leave that to the financial experts who probably don't know the answer to either
one of my fellow passengers on this ship suggested that it would be on way to even mention the low wages of these dock workers. Our country wants to have friendly relations with Liberia she said and talk about seven times in our wages. Only cause trouble and bitter feelings between two countries. But that idea is correct then we're saying that Americans should be kept in the dark about some of the conditions which exist in other parts of the world. Our schoolchildren friends should be kept ignorant about the fact that many people in foreign lands work for extremely low wages. To me that doesn't quite make sense. After all the purpose of this trip to Africa is to try to get something of the story behind the manganese in the rubber and the many other products which are shipped to our country from Africa. And certainly a part of that story is this before the manganese in the rubber reaches our factories in America. It must go through the hands of these African dock workers and the fact that these men toil eight hours a day under the blistering sun for a few
pennies NRA is something we ought to know about. That's a part of the story of the hardship and the suffering that goes into the steel. And the rubber. That. Make our fine automobiles. Americans and other gadgets which are so much of a. Part. Of our daily lives are marching forward to one of the family. Do these boys ever sing while we were. At this time of the day he said. It's too hot to say. When the sun goes down and the air is a little cooler. You will hear them sing. So we'll conclude this broadcast along tortie to see if we can't record it of the song. And now it is evening. Darkness is settling down on the busy scene here at the pier.
But the work goes on. We have our recorder set up near one of these freight cars or about 50 men they're busy at work backing up those cables. Right now it looks like the foreman was right. They are beginning to thing as the sun goes down. Let's listen to their song. This has been program for America's African heritage. These programs we do recordings made by world traveler skip Westfall on a recent trip to Africa this eries is made possible by a grant in aid to radio station WOIO Iowa State College from the educational television and radio center production is under the direction
of Norman B Clary. This is reggae speaking for the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
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America's African heritage
Episode Number
3 And 4
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Race and Ethnicity
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 4894 (University of Maryland)
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