November 27, 2012

Pee Wee

Pee Wee

Pee Wee is the sailor on the far left of the front row. My father is the second sailor in from the left poking through the railing. This was taken on the deck of the USS General W.C. Langfitt. 

Pee Wee is not a fictional character. Pee Wee was a real life sailor who sailed aboard the USS General W.C. Langfitt with my father during WWII. My father, Pee Wee and their unit spent time stationed in Adak, Alaska. While I was sitting at the foot of my father’s hospital bed one evening just before he passed away, he began talking in his sleep. The conversation was as clear as a bell and if you had been listening from around the corner, you would have thought he was telling this story to a group of visiting friends. In retrospect he probably was. Dad had reminisced fondly of his fellow sailors and their varied personalities in the past, but this story was new. He was grinning from ear to ear as he slept and recanted this anecdote about Pee Wee. I tried my best to write this down as dad told it. It is as accurate as I can remember. 

Pee Wee was from Arkansas, a real backwoods hillbilly who grew up hunting squirrels, birds, and rabbits. Pee Wee’s father shook him out of bed one morning and told him to go out and get a squirrel for breakfast. Because they were dirt poor, they had little money for extravagant things like ammunition. They would manage without bullets by throwing stones to hunt small game. Following his father's orders Pee Wee pulled on his britches and headed for the cabin door. As he sauntered down the dirt path and into the woods, and with his face beaming with confidence, he bellowed back toward the cabin, “Don’t worry Pa, I’ll throw left handed so’s not to mash up the meat.” 


Dad passed away 2/27/09.  I dedicate this anecdote to his memory. 

I wrote down the piece above  just a few days before dad passed. He loved hearing and sharing these types of stories. I can't explain in words the feeling I had listening to my father tell this story in his sleep. I knew he was failing. There was nothing left to do but absorb every last bit of him in his final days. He loved to share anecdotes, a cold draft and sometimes a shot of brandy or two with his friends. I miss his stories dearly. I miss the man who told them more. 

This is my father Ralph and my Grandmother Frances in the back yard of their home at #176 East Ave. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
circa. 1942


  1. Can relate to your story of your father and his stories. My Irish father was a story teller and could tell one after another for hours. My kids loved to listen to him when they were growing up. I too miss the stories and him dearly. Your story made me tear up a bit -- for the fondness of my father. -- barbara

    1. I have several that could bring tears of laughter too. Humm, now that you mention it.

  2. Great story John. I think everyone who watched a parent failing, can really relate. My dad too was a great story teller. He never did talk a lot of his time in the service. (Now I really wish he had) Towards his end, he was moving his hands all around like he was fixing something. (Dad was one of those old school dads, who could fix anything). But we all watched as he went about repairing something, all while nodding and making expressions, like he knew what he was doing.
    But thanks for sharing this story, it sure made me smile and think about dad.

  3. i loved this story -- reminded me of my dad, too -- it's hard to let go -- you brought him back for a brief time -- thanks for sharing!

  4. Love the story - sounds like one of my characters! Also love that your father was enjoying this story even in his last days . . .

  5. Enjoyed the story AND the pictures! Those were definitely the 'good old days.'

  6. Wonderful! What a handsome group of men, and your dad especially in his sailor uniform! The love you shared is evident in your telling of him.