ReturnThe Captain and Kit

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Table of Contents

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Chapter 1 Affirmed
Chapter 2 Anchors Aweigh
Chapter 3 Plebe
Chapter 4 Those Hazing Days of Summer
Chapter 5 Aground
Chapter 6 The Big Game
Chapter 7 Incident at the True Blue Saloon
Chapter 8 Ol' Man River
Chapter 9 Under the Gun
Chapter 10 Fort Petrel
Chapter 11 Shanghai Breezes
Chapter 12 Flag Secretary
Chapter 13 May Day
Chapter 14 Let the Siege Begin
Chapter 15 Scenic Way Home
Chapter 16 Glory Days
Chapter 17 Under the Seas
Chapter 18 Going Through the Emotions
Chapter 19 To Battle A Demon
Chapter 20 A Fresh Start
Chapter 21 About Kit
Chapter 22 The Odyssey
Chapter 23 Mrs. Bill
Chapter 24 A Perfect Match
Chapter 25 Three Heads Are Best
Chapter 26 Blockbusters
Chapter 27 Hear the Bear Growl
Chapter 28 Doldrums
Chapter 29 New Deal
Chapter 30 A Sound of Taps
  Endnotes

 

Views of   Chapter 1  Affirmed - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The toes of the fourteen-year-old’s recently shined shoes barely touched the floor. Nervously, he incessantly tapped his fingers on the arm of the rickety oak chair where he sat. A chair that long ago ceased to be an object of anyone’s attention and care. Seated next to Harry Handly Caldwell was his mother, Emilie, who gave a disapproving nod as she gently placed her hand over her son’s, to quiet the tapping. At Emilies insistence, the two arrived early at their destination and before long the small room where they sat was filled and overflowed to the hallway with more adults and boys. Emilie’s whispered comment to Harry about being able to have a seat only because they came early, was met with rolling eyes and a whatever you say Mother expression. Harry recognized a half-dozen of the boys as upper classmen at the Franklin public school he attended in Quincy, Illinois. The attendees were present on this day and appointed hour in the outer office of Quincy’s Hon. George Anderson, U. S. congressman for the state’s 12th district. They all had a common goal.

Less than a month earlier, U. S. Secretary of the Navy Whitney had notified Anderson’s office about an opening in his Illinois district to nominate one young man to become a cadet at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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Emilie’s short but intensely satisfying night’s sleep on the living room chaise abruptly ended. Harry burst through the front door just ahead of the rising sun with the sound and fury of an elephant, waving a newspaper in his hand. He trumpeted the news that he was selected as Congressman Anderson’s next naval academy cadet. The whole family joyously celebrated the wonderful news knowing that two hurdles still remained. Harry needed to grow nearly an inch over the next five months and he still faced another rigorous admittance exam when he arrived at the academy. return

Views of  Chapter 2  Anchors Aweigh - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Joe described the beautiful academy setting on the banks of the Severn River to the east and on the west by the quaint town of Annapolis, the capital of Maryland. The location was once the army post, Fort Severn, given to the Navy in 1845 for use as the new site of its official military school. Emilie hid her worrisome anxiety and Harry seemed excited when Joe described the 15+ hour days, six days a week. Each day began with a bugle-blasting reveille at 6:00 in the morning, and the rest of the day crammed with classroom, recitation, and physical fitness activities. Joe told them that taps and lights out at 9:30 in the evening marked for many cadets the beginning of hush-hush candle lit study usually lasting until well past midnight. He spoke glowingly about the terrific meals and the chance after Sunday’s chapel services to meet with the bold young ladies of Annapolis and neighboring St. John’s College. These members of the fairer sex were enamored with the opportunity for a leisurely chatter-filled stroll on lover’s lane, arm-in-arm with a handsome naval cadet; Harry frowned with disinterest.

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Suitcase in hand, Harry stepped down from the carriage and stood for a moment gazing through the USNA Nain Gateopen gate at the long tree-lined road leading to his future. It was not the gaze of an overwhelmed fourteen-year-old boy. It was the gaze of a young man prepared to take full advantage of whatever opportunity that future would bring. He firmly shook Jack’s extended hand, thanked his cousin for everything he had done, and strode confidently through the gate. Jack wasted little time in finding the nearest telegraph office. He sent a telegram informing Emilie that her son could not be in better health and spirits and that he was now the ward of the United States Navy. He promised he would send another telegram to her as soon as his friend at the academy let him know how Harry fared on his admission and physical exam. return

 

Views of  Chapter 3  Plebe - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The successful naval cadet in 1887 needed to complete four years of a rigorous mental and physical curriculum followed by two years of service as a midshipman on the high seas. At the end of that time, if there were an opening in the ranks, the young man would be commissioned an officer, ensign in the Navy or second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. If not, with an extra year’s pay in his pocket, he would be unceremoniously sent home, though carrying a diploma signifying an achievement that would be the envy of any prospective employer. The number of obstacles along this six-year journey would have seemed insurmountable to any young man who could somehow have had forehand knowledge of them.

Harry met his very first obstacle two days after he passed through the main gate. He had just breezed through an oral and written examination he found much easier than in Quincy. He then walked to the other end of the room where he met the academy’s thirty-eight-year-old Virginia-born surgeon, Dr. Henry Tucker Percy. ... Harry unsuccessfully masked his apprehension in response to the doctor’s last comment. He dutifully followed the instruction to stand as tall as he could with his back to the wall next to a vertically attached measure. He resisted his most fervent desire to stand on the tip of his toes. Harry nearly lost his composure when the frowning doctor exhaled an audible hmmm after looking at the measure. The doctor then began a careful perusal of Harry’s records. After what seemed to Harry like an eternity, the USNA Roomdoctor finally looked up. His frown turned to a gentle smile. He told the young applicant he was not about to dash the promising future of a bright young man over a mere three-quarters of one inch and could he please stand up and up a bit taller no matter the method he used; Harry complied. Dr. Percy congratulated the academy’s newest cadet on meeting the standard for height and handed him a handkerchief with a suggestion he wipe the perspiration from his brow and the tears from his eyes. Harry managed to mutter thank you, sir, twice in rapid succession and left the room. The doctor smiled when he heard a hurrah! echoing in the hall just outside the door.

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Harry uncharacteristically indulged in the practice of nail biting during the posting of the results for his first full year at the academy.... He thought to himself if only he had the aptitude and interest in algebra and geometry he had for the other subjects he might earn an immediate promotion to admiral. At any rate, he would participate in the summer cruise and join his class for the upcoming academic year; an accomplishment he, and when his mother heard the news, would both call a job well done! return

Views of  Chapter 4  Those Hazing Days of Summer - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The boatswain piped all hands aboard ship. One by one the cadets, each with a duffle packed full of clothing and other necessaries for the two-month summer cruise, climbed in to a small boat that took them to their anchored vessel. After the short oared jaunt, they climbed out of the boat, up the rope ladder on the ships side, and stepped foot on the spar deck of the U. S. S. Constellation. For our cadet, this voyage marked his first time at sea. Though many times he had been a passenger on a Mississippi steamer, this vessel would take him on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond to the high seas of the Atlantic. He was excited about all the adventures he just knew awaited him.

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Known to everyone on board the Constellation from the captain to the lowest enlisted seamen and everyone in between, the cruise marked a rite of passage... the new plebes rite of passage from cit to cadet, an age-old practice known as hazing. The year before, Harry and his classmates had been on the receiving end of this annual ritual. Now, it was the turn of the tide and the more rambunctious members of Harry’s third class set their bully sights on the helpless, though fully expectant, plebes.

The affair brought spectators from all corners of the ship to watch plebe’s head-standing, hammock swinging, jackass braying, soap, rope, and candle chewing, vinegar drinking, and the dastardly deed of eating pristine toilet paper. Normally this event provided a fun and harmless break from the grueling schedule of shipboard life for the givers, receivers, and spectators, though not this particular year. Unknown to a majority of the crew, the master-at-arms made a decision to report a single case of hazing to Captain Harrington. Should the captain decide to take action, by statute, the offenders would be court-martialed and likely dismissed from the academy.

The hazing incident could likely have been kept in-house among academy personnel had it not Fortress Monroebeen for the power of the press. Too often wielded for paper-selling contrived sensationalism, a headline appeared front-page center of the New York Times on July 4, 1888. From that date and for the next 30 days, the Times, and therefore most major papers in country, followed every detail of the Annapolis courts-martial. The papers editorialized a condemning crusade to rid the Navy of this demon deed once and for all. In the end, nine cadets were found guilty of hazing and their dismissal from the academy was commuted by none other than President Grover Cleveland.

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The usual summer cruise is along the North Atlantic coast, where, after a run at sea, hauling ropes and making sail as seamen and petty officers, the naval cadets doff their working clothes and put on their handsome uniforms and sail into some seaside resort, where they are the social lions of the hour. return

Views of   Chapter 5  Aground - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Harry returned from his leave in Quincy renewed and ready to attack his remaining three years at the academy with gusto. He knew it would take much more than gusto to gain the coveted 2.5 grade in the new subjects of chemistry and physics, known by the alias of somewhat foggy derivation, skinny. Trigonometry and mechanical drawing completed the dreaded academic triad of the year. His first year taught him the favorite hiding places of room dust that never seemed to escape the inspector’s all-seeing eye and he planned to reduce his demerits in that category accordingly. Harry quickly discovered his new roommate, Henry Hough, though from his demeanor the obvious recipient of a silver spoon upbringing, would be a plus in helping with his academic endeavors. They soon became fast friends, a friendship destined to last far beyond their years together at the academy.

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On the 14th of June, 1889, anchor was once again hoisted, sails were unfurled, and the course was set for the usual destination, Fortress Monroe. Bright sunshine and fair winds accompanied the Constellation to Hampton Roads and for the leave the cadets were granted for a day’s outing at the fort. On the morning of the 18th, shortly after the ship set sail for the capes and on to the open Atlantic, dark clouds began to roll in that signaled the arrival of a forecasted squall. Captain Harrington ordered the sails to be struck until the front passed through.           

A dense fog preceded the rain-filled rolling clouds and suddenly a ferocious wind arrived. At that moment, all hands from the captain on down immediately knew the ship was in deep trouble. The gale force nor’easter drove the ship ever closer to shore just west of Cape Henry. There was nothing to do but go below deck, tie down anything that could move, including a sailor’s body, hold on tight, and earnestly pray the storm intended to show some mercy.

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It is to be noticed that the study of the classic languages finds no place here… the necessary studies so completely absorb the time as to preclude the possibility of such subjects as philology [humanities], metaphysics or political economy desirable in a broad education… Particular attention is given to the practical work… too much stress cannot be laid upon the fact,-- this is essentially a school of application, and its graduates are proficient in more than theory. return


Views of  Chapter 6  The Big Game - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The 45 year-old gymnasium, a completely refurbished circular building that served as the armory and primary fortification for old Fort Severn, was the classroom for physiology. In the three previous years it was the place where Harry struggled for hours to add muscle to his pencil thin frame and where he learned to waltz on-a-par with the grandest duke. Now he studied charts of human anatomy with the focus on how best to take the life of an enemy or, on the other end of the scale, how to save the life of a wounded shipmate.

The news arrived and it spread across campus like wildfire. Much to the absolute delight of the officers and a majority of the cadets, Navy’s 1890 football schedule was to have one more game added to the end of the season. In addition to the scrumptious feast laid before the cadets on the fourth Thursday in November there was now another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving. This first-ever game between Army and Navy would be played on the Plain at West Point, New York, on Saturday, the 29th, two days following the national holiday. Harry and his first class mates would attend!

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The stage was set. The first class cadets were in their sharp navy blue uniforms on the sidelines of the gridiron on the West Point Plain. Picturesque scenery surrounded the field. The limestone buildings of West Point a1890 Navy Football Teamnd the sunlit late fall grandeur of the Hudson River Valley was magnificent. Circling the field of gladiators were over 260 Army cadets dressed in their long gray coats who had each been assessed $0.53 to pay half the cost of the midshipmen’s trip to the Plain. Spotted among the crowd of over 1,500, were the Army gray and Navy blue uniforms of officers with their polished brass buttons and prominent rank insignia, many of them accompanied by their wives.

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Army appeared somewhat better prepared for the Navy tactics in the second half, though the Navy countered with renewed intensity. By the time the game ended at 4:30 o’clock, Navy had scored two more touchdowns and goal kicks, and the final score was 24 to 0. All of the players were bent and bloody but not broken. Navy’s team captain,   Emerich, scored four of Navy’s five touchdowns and succeeded on two goal kicks. Army’s quarterback, Walker, was knocked unconscious three times during the game and near the end of play he was finally carried from the field to the hospital where he was later reported in good condition...

The conquering heroes of the day returned to the academy accompanied by the first class cadets and officers who, though unrecognized at the time, had witnessed arguably the greatest event in college football history. The players were hoisted on the shoulders of their fellow cadets and paraded around the academy grounds. That evening, a special dinner feting the bandaged warriors of the gridiron battle was held in the cadet quarters mess hall. return

Views of  Chapter 7  Incident at the True Blue Saloon  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Thus began Harrys two-year assignment aboard ship that would, after that time, be followed by yet another examination at the naval academy to determine his fitness to be commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy; Cadet Caldwell was stoked to be at his new duty post...

The ship’s home port for the next five months was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, across the East River from lower Manhattan. Harry took 5 days of leave in September to experience the sights and sounds of the country’s largest metropolis. He delighted in taking the various modes of public transportation. The brand new electric streetcar on Coney Avenue in Brooklyn, a cable car ride across the Brooklyn Bridge, and the horse drawn streetcars and taxis in New York. He toured the art galleries, museums, libraries, and examined the shelves of what seemed like nearly every bookstore in the city’s limits. He took particular interest in a visit to the world’s tallest structure, the Pulitzer Building, topped by its gleaming dome Harry saw daily from the shipyard. The building was home to Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper. Harry mailed a postcard he wrote in the building’s lobby to his friends at the Quincy Herald describing the elabUSS Concord Portsorate structure and closing with the words, now, this is the way to run a newspaper...

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The reason the Concord was sailing under sealed orders to the Caribbean was not immediately known to the crew until they were well out to sea. At a meeting of the officers and naval cadets, Captain Batcheller laid out the specifics as far as they were known to him. The primary purpose for their voyage was based on an incident that occurred in the port town of Valparaiso, Chile on the 16th of the previous month.

On the 22nd we crossed the equator or line as it is called in nautical parlance… The [cadets] and officers… did not undergo a course of this treatment, but we were required to pay Neptune a forfeit of half-a-dozen bottles of beer, and in return, received a diploma signed by Nep himself, stating that [we] had been received into [the king’s] royal domain… When [it] was over, Neptune and his court disappeared apparently into the sea for they were never again seen on the voyage. return

Views of  Chapter 8  Ol' Man River  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Before leaving Barbados, tall tales became the headlining subject of scuttlebutt, and the latter became the honest truth. The captain announced that the Concord had been personally chosen by the Secretary of the Navy Tracy to be present at the dedication and grand opening of the new Mississippi River railroad bridge at Memphis, Tennessee. The 15-foot draft of the Concord would make for a tricky river voyage, though the Secretary, who also planned to be present, believed the public relations stunt was well worth the risk...

There was one parting shot of humor about the Concord in the Times-Picayune of the 29th.

 

The United States cruiser Concord will weigh the anchor this morning and proceed upstream. The anchor has been twenty-four hours in the mud at the bottom of the river and no one can tell exactly what it will weigh.Memphis Bridge Dedication

The Wichita [Kansas] Beacon newspaper ran an advertisement selling round trip train tickets for $8 each to the Memphis bridge opening touted as one of the greatest events that has taken place in the South. Newspapers across the country carried day-by-day coverage of the ship’s progress toward Memphis. Meanwhile, unaware of the media blitz that was feeding the frenzy, the morale of the Concord’s crew was as high as a kite as they relished the opportunity to show off their home to a large number of unexpected and enthusiastic guests. The sight of such a spectacular ship on the Mississippi attracted as much interest as any one of the seven wonders of the modern world especially to the riverfront residents and those that traveled hundreds of miles to the scene...

A crowd estimated by newspaper accounts to be 50,000 formed a four-mile-long procession and walked from downtown Memphis to the waterfront. At mid-day, the governors of Arkansas and Tennessee met at the middle of the bridge followed by a twenty-one gun salute from the Concord.

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The level of the river did not cooperate with the plans for the Concord to continue on to St. Louis. A local newspaper reported on a story about two of the finer ladies of the night at a fashionable parlor in St. Louis. Apparently, the two friends became separated and when one of the women finally found her friend, she asked why the other had left when there were so many handsome men eager for her company.

I know, replied the other, I left for just a moment to plan my campaign if the Concord comes.

 

Oh! Exclaimed the friend, won’t it be delightful?

 

Well, I don’t exactly know, said the other. I was talking to quite a regular friend of mine the other evening and he told me that every inch the Mississippi rises, costs him a thousand dollars. I just can’t decide whether I ought to hope for the river to go down or the Concord to come up. return

Views of  Chapter 9 Under the Gun  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Much like a father watches from a distance, occasionally offering gentle words of encouragement, as his youngster masters the skill of riding a bicycle, so was the posture of United States diplomacy toward Venezuela. However, when the country’s democracy, like the bicycle rider, makes a wrong turn and heads in a dangerous direction, it is time to intervene.

Shortly after the Concord arrived, she steamed west about 80 miles to Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, where trouble was reported ashore. When the Concord arrived, a rag-tag group of drunken revolutionaries decided they could take on a U. S. warship and though the ship was well out of range, they began shooting in the vessel’s direction. Captain White decided it was an opportune time to make sure the enemy had a complete grasp of the battlefield situation.

All hands were piped to battle stations. The captain personally went to the port side six-inch gun and ordered a round to be fired about 100 yards in front of the miscreants. When the shell exploded at the precise location it was targeted, looking through his binoculars, Cadet Caldwell reported the result. The would-be attackers were seen immediately dropping their rifles where they stood. In a manner much like that of a herd of long-tailed cats scurrying to leave a room full of rocking chairs, they scampered at best speed to what they hoped would be the safety of a nearby dilapidateConcord in NYd beach front hacienda. The crew patiently waited for the next maneuver by the enemy. Five minutes later, about a dozen horsemen galloped from town to the back of the hacienda and a few seconds later they were again seen, this time with two men to a horse, riding in a cloud of dust toward the mountains. Harry could not contain his laughter nor could those near him when he made his last report.

The captain’s wry smile as he made his way back to the bridge and ordered the crew to stand down from general quarters spoke volumes about the affair. When word got around that on the bridge the straight-faced captain uttered Admiral Perry’s famous words, we have met the enemy and they are ours, the crew’s vivid memory of his action that day was assured.

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On the 27th of April, though postponed for three hours to allow a frog-strangling downpour to make way for sunny skies, an impressive parade of tall ships made their way to the upper harbor and the Hudson River. Thousands of cheering spectators lined the shoreline from Battery Park and on to the north of Manhattan Island as far as the eye could see. A countless number of smaller vessels carrying VIPs, including President and Mrs. Cleveland and other affluent spectators, were careful to keep a clear path in the harbor for the warships. Bunting, draped from the ships’ bow to stern, created a spectacle of fluttering color in the breeze. Large gun salutes ranging from seven to twenty-one volleys thundered from each ship as they passed the Battery. The billowing white smoke from the salutes coupled with the smoke and steam from the ships’ boilers formed an eerie fog that, until the wind caught hold, occasionally made the ships barely visible from shore. return

Views of  Chapter 10  Fort Petrel  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Before the red-tape cleared the Washington bureaucrats, newly elected President Cleveland took office. He wanted no part of the previous administration’s foreign policy toward Hawaii. As a result, the whole overthrow and annexation business was in complete disarray. The queen was still being held under house arrest in the palace, and the American marines, by direct order from Washington, had returned to the Boston, their tails firmly tucked between their legs. The six ensigns had no idea when they arrived at Honolulu whether they would be jailed or asked to ride on a float through the streets of Honolulu extolling the virtues of annexation. Neither would turn out to be true.

ellipsisFort Petrel

For the next four months at Mare Island, Ensign Caldwell had time on his hands, his primary activity was serving on the panel of two court-martial proceedings. In February of 1894, he described in a letter to his mother that he and several of his friends joined him in celebrating his attaining the age of majority and, at 21 years, he was glad to be socially free to do as he pleased. Despite his general opinion of the fairer sex, he found girls to be a delusion and a snare, though he did not hesitate to escort them on several occasions to various San Francisco theatre venues.

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The presence of the Petrel in Newchwang during the winter of 1894-1895 was a mission well accomplished, though the ship’s guns were never fired in battle. As the Japanese slowly but surely gained the inevitable victory over their enemy, the unrest among the Chinese people could have led to mass rioting and general chaos; it did not. The missionaries who temporarily fled their posts to the safety of the city could have been a deadly target of the angry Chinese; they were not. The invading Japanese could have slaughtered the city’s Chinese officials and, in collateral damage, innocent citizens; they dared not. Consequently, countless lives were saved. The Petrel left its Chinese wallowing in the mud dock on April 24th, 1895, and, once again, became a mud-caked and no longer gleaming white ship of the Asiatic fleet. return

Views of Chapter 11 Shanghai Breezes  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The Petrel’s destination from Newchwang was Nagasaki, though due to berth shortages, last minute orders diverted her to Shanghai. Unknown to the crew at the time of their departure from the mud dock, Japan and China ended their conflict on April 17, 1895. The Petrel arrived in the warmth and gentle breezes of old Shanghai on the April 28th for what was to be a stay of over a month. The ship would be the object of a much needed make over from her winter in the mud.

The ship finally returned to Japanese waters, first to Nagasaki on July 2, 1895 and then to Yokohama on the 9th where she would stay for over two months. It was from Yokohama, as promised by the Japanese Emperor, that the crew of the Petrel was escorted triumphantly to Tokyo where they were splendidly feted.

Harry described the whole affair to Emilie in a letter dated July 31, 1895.

We [the officers] were taken to a nice Japanese teahouse [in the Ginza] and we had dinner of about twenty courses, a good many of them uneatable. They also had European dishes for those who didn’t like Japanese food. While we were eating they had geishas, or dancing girls give their performance, which was very fine. There were lots of speeches and the thing wound up by their tossing us all up to the ceiling, which was meant for a special mark of friendship.

In early October, Korea’s empress, Myeongseong, was assassinated in her palace by men supposedly acting on behalf of the Japanese government. Though the Japanese emperor let it be widely known that the event had not been ordered from the Imperial Palace, the rest of the world did not agree. The U. S. foreign policy gurus decided, once again, that American interests might be in danger, this time on the Korean peninsula. The Petrel immediately steamed for Chemulpo [Inchon/Incheon] on the East China Sea, 40 miles from the Korean capital of Seoul.

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The ship stayed in port until March 16th when word quickly spread aboard that after over two years of duty in the Bering Sea and the far China station, the Petrel was homeward bound!

At last we have started our voyage home. At one o’clock on the 16th [March, 1896], the boatswain’s mate called ALL HANDS UP ANCHOR FOR HOME, the anchor was roused up with a jump, we hoisted a Homeward Bound Pennant 280 feet long, at the end of which was a toy balloon with the inscription, In God We Trust – Frisco or Bust, and we steamed out of Nagasaki Harbor. The harbor was full of warships… and each, as we passed, gave us three rousing cheers....

While Harry languished in the Great Lakes in the summer of 1897, events in the nation’s capital were taking place that would have a dramatic impact on Ensign Caldwell’s naval career. return

Views of Chapter 12  Flag Secretary  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

In the particular instance eventually affecting Harry, the position sought was the commander of the navy’s Asiatic fleet, soon to be vacated by the retiring incumbent. In light of the alarming disagreements with Spain, the Asiatic fleet might well be called on for action putting its leader in the spotlight. There were two sides involved in this fray. Those deciding who should fill the position, the fillers, and the fillees. The highest-ranking member of the former was newly elected president, William McKinley. Following, in food chain order, was navy secretary John Long, assistant secretary Theodore Roosevelt, and the navy’s Rear-Admiral Crowninshield, the chairman of the navy’s internal decide everything important, Bureau of Navigation. Just two fillees were in contention, Commodores John Howell and George Dewey...

Dewey Satff on the OlympiaJust exactly what would Ensign Caldwell be doing as a flag secretary? From a definition of the duty, the secretary would manage all official communications between the commodore and every person who was not the commodore. This included written correspondence, telegrams, ship-to-ship flag signaling, and notes written on a napkin. The secretary was expected to be present at all official meetings involving the commodore and would act primarily as a witness to the event. Afterward, if there was any disagreement as to what was said or done, the commodore would have an officer to agree with his version of what happened.

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On February 4th, Harry wrote from Yokohama to Emilie about the audience with the Japanese royalty.

I have just gotten back from the audience with the Emperor… We [Dewey, Brumby, and Caldwell], drove to the palace, a large building, very handsomely furnished in half-Japanese and half-foreign-style. We were met at the door by the Master of Ceremonies… He took us into a large room where we waited for about half-an-hour and then walked through a long corridor to the entrance of the room where the Emperor was… The Emperor spoke a few words in Japanese to the Commodore who replied in English and then introduced each of us personally. We bowed and the Emperor bowed and then we backed out. He was dressed in the uniform of a general and was positively the worst looking Japanese I have seen.

 

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The latest revolutionary uprising in Cuba came in January of 1898 against the newly formed autonomous Cuban government in Havana, raising fears for American citizen’s safety. The American response, as usual lately, a show of U. S. naval force, and the nearly brand spanking new U. S. S. Maine was ordered to steam to Cuban waters. On January 25th, with an oversized old glory waving in the breeze from her stern and her polished six-inch guns gleaming in the sunlight, she anchored in Havana harbor. On the evening of February 15, a bright light followed by two thunderous explosions sunk the Maine. The explosions left 266 sailors and marines dead and the ship a twisted pile of nickel-plated steel barely visible above the harbor’s surface. Worldwide headlines screamed the news of the disaster and the blame game began. return

 Views of Chapter 13  May Day  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

While at anchor in Hong Kong’s Victoria harbor, Commodore Dewey received the following dispatch, read jointly in Dewey’s stateroom by the commodore, Lt. Brumby, and Ensign Caldwell.

Washington, April 21, 1898

Dewey, Hong Kong:

The Naval force on the North Atlantic Station are blockading Cuba. War has not yet been declared. War may be declared at any moment. I will inform you. Await orders.

Harry had two valuable items when he was greeted by Dewey at the Olympia, President McKinley’s official declaration of war with Spain and a man whose head was filled with recent intelligence about the goings on in Manila. Dewey jokingly promised Ensign Caldwell the Navy Cross after he heard about Harry’s heroic efforts to reach the Olympia the previous day.

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All lookouts had their glasses trained toward Manila where at first light they expected to see the Ships firing at Manila Bayoutline of the Spanish fleet. They did not. With more daylight, the enemy was finally sighted at Cavite on the south end of the bay. The Olympia immediately turned toward the enemy and Dewey ordered the spacing between ships to 200 yards. The Spanish gun placements in Manila began their inaccurate fire on the fleet, and, like a gnat on an elephant’s back, it was duly ignored.

Where was Ensign Caldwell during the battle? Before the action began, he had asked and was given permission to temporarily put aside his duties as flag secretary. With his experience as a weapons officer, he served in command of one of the Olympia’s five-inch gun batteries.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take an active part in the little fight we have been through here. It would have been too noisy to attend to my regular duties in the office anyway. I was placed in command of four 5-inch guns and fought them throughout the engagement. My men were like a lot of wild and raving Indians and I fear I was not much better myself. A blacker, more weary man than I was when the engagement was over you seldom see. A battle is very exciting; that is, when you can win. It may look different to the other side. The Olympia led all through the fight and most of the enemy fire was directed at her. The most remarkable thing about it was that there was not a man killed or disabled and not a ship injured. return

 Views of Chapter 14  Let the Siege Begin  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Washington, May 7, 1898, 9 AM;

Harry Caldwell is all right. Congratulations. Tell Emilie!

This telegram was delivered to the offices of the Quincy Daily Herald sent from the nation’s capital by Harry’s long-time friend, Washington insider, and cousin, Jack Ralston. While immediately sending a messenger to Emilie’s home to make sure she had heard the news, the newspaper set the type declaring the news, just barely making the current edition. The messenger did not mention Emilie’s state of mind on hearing the news, though it could be imagined to be nothing short of utter joy and thanksgiving. When Harry next saw Jack over a year later, he asked his cousin how he could have possibly known at such an early date that Harry had weathered the battle at Manila Bay. Jack responded with a telling smile, I had a good friend in the navy department. It turned out that good friend was none other than Navy Secretary Long.

Commodore Dewey did not demand the surrender of Manila because he did not have the forces necessary to occupy the city. He sent a message to Spain’s Philippine Governor-General, Basilio Augustín y Dávila, warning him if another shot was fired on American ships, Manila would be destroyed. The message also stated that if his command was allowed to transmit messages via Manila’s telegraph cable to Hong Kong, the Spanish could do the same. The Governor-General quickly provided assurance the Spanish batteries would not open fire. Apparently, however, not understanding the commodore’s veiled threat, he refused American use of the cable; Dewey promptly ordered the cable cut. Let the siege begin.

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The Germans inexplicably had five warships present in the bay at one time, nearly equaling the tonnage and firepower of Dewey’s fleet. The German ship captains did not regularly allow the boarding protocol. The German officers and crews also had a bent for sidling up to the Spanish in Manila, and Dewey was, in general, angry with their bad behavior. A shot or two across the bow of a German ship, a bit of forceful diplomacy by Dewey, and the arrival of 3,500 U. S. Army troops in late June shortened the German attention span in the bay. The Germans flew, make that steamed, away; some vultures being more persistent than others...

At the same time Dewey reached the very top navy rank, Ensign Caldwell was nearly as happy to receive his promotion to Lieutenant-Junior Grade. Seven months before, the admiral had recommended such a promotion for his service during the May Day affair and it finally arrived. When one is used to living on pennies, a promotion providing nickels and an occasional dime is a big deal. Harry had a wide smile when the paymaster came around with his new pay. return

Views of Chapter 15  Scenic Way Home  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

For the first time in over a year the crew of the Olympia could speak with confidence about going home. Secretary Long had wisely taken the tack of giving the new American super hero as much latitude as he could in decision making. The admiral had politely cabled Long that the Olympia was ready to weigh anchor for home. For some odd reason, Long had replied by letter that added nearly three weeks to his approval of Dewey’s request. First stop, Hong Kong, where the Olympia will receive her peace time makeover, dull gray to bright white, and coal for her boilers; all in all, about two weeks at the Hong Kong shipyard spa.

We are actually on our way home. It is almost impossible to realize that we have at last left Manila for good and started on the journey to New York… we will dock the ship and get ready for the long trip across the Indian Ocean, through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic…

Over the centuries the English became adept at managing the various aspects of their far-flung empire. They were expert caterers to the wants and fantasies of the native populations in each of their colonies as long as little money changed hands. They were precise in every aspect of governance. These two reasons formed the basis for needing so few Englishmen to manage the affairs of so many around the world. In India, the ratio was placed at one hundred thousand English residents to three hundred million Indians.

The heat of the summer sun began to mellow as the Olympia made its way north across the Mediterranean to the Adriatic Sea. Destination, the beautiful and temperate seaport of Trieste, Austria. The admiral’s arrival in Trieste was greeted by the largest number of journalists and photographers yet seen in any of the previous ports. Harry attributed this to the fact that the closer the Olympia came to New York, and the farther it was from the tropics and the desert, the more agreeable was the climate and the scenery. In other words, the Mediterranean was more conducive for panderer’s of the news to have an interest in the admiral’s activities before he encountered the pièce de résistance in New York.

ellipsisDewey picture by Mauri

‘As for the battle’, the Admiral said turning to his private secretary,’ ask Mr. Caldwell, ‘he kept the record’, and promptly sat down, giving the spotlight to his young protégé. Harry had mastered his mentor’s lessons well. ‘I have learned under the tutorship of Admiral Dewey that silence is golden. I can only [tell you].., that he won the battle of Manila Bay...

Dewey arranged to satisfy the legions of those requesting a current photograph. He scheduled an engagement with Chevalier Mauri, the photographer of Italian royalty, to take his picture on the deck of his flagship...

Yesterday [August 28th] I went with the Admiral to Nice, which is only ten minutes by rail from here [Ville Franche] and we had a long drive and dinner there. This is a lovely country with a delightful climate… During our drive we passed the hotel at Cimiez, where the Queen of England [Queen Victoria] lives for a month or two every year. The French officials have treated us very politely but have not shown the cordiality we have received elsewhere. Their sympathy was all with the Spanish.

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The Olympia’s crew and her admiral prepared for departure to home shores on September 10. On their arrival, they would be the major attraction of perhaps the grandest celebration ever held in the nation’s largest city or, for that matter, on American soil. Personally, Dewey would never be able to comprehend how the country’s newest hero, who earned his fame halfway around the world, could be singled out for such recognition.

About their role at Manila Bay, the officers of the wardroom are very grateful, for they appreciate the intentions and the feelings of their fellow townsmen; but what they cannot understand is why anybody wants to make such a fuss about a few fellows who did what they were trained to do when they were told to do it. return

Views of Chapter 16  Glory Days  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Well, I have brought your boy back to you, said Admiral Dewey as he warmly greeted Emilie Caldwell on the deck of the Olympia.

Olympia arrived after her Atlantic crossing in the lower New York City harbor off Sandy Hook on the 26th of September, 1899. A month earlier, in anticipation of Harry’s homecoming, Emilie had traveled from Quincy to stay with her sister, Ida Morris, in Washington D. C. Two days before the ship was due to arrive, she and her sister rode the train to New York and took a room at the Waldorf Astoria.

The first action for Dewey’s arrival was for cannons, bells, and factory whistles in cities and towns all across the country to mark the event. He was early. From his quarters on the Olympia, he told a journalist:

I have not officially arrived in New York Bay as yet. In fact, I am not here and will not be here until I get here, or until the committee is ready to have me get here.

 

The official order of the celebration was the grand naval parade up the Hudson River followed by a fireworks spectacular on Friday the 29th. The next day there would be a presentation of New York’s gift to the admiral followed by a land parade...

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After dusk, the amount of powder used in the fireworks display, seemingly turning the Hudson to a volcanic waterway, far exceeded that used to sink the Spanish fleet at Manila. The incendiary display over the river was further accentuated by the searchlights randomly roaming the night sky and the electrified outline of Manhattan’s skyscrapers dressed in their finest for the celebration. On the Olympia, Harry and Emilie thoroughly enjoyed the nighttime gala. Her gasps of utter delight from her front row center view of the splendorous event brought a smile to her son’s face and quiet tears of satisfied joy to his eyes.

The March King, John Philip Sousa, led the Sousa Band at the head of the parade playing his newly written march, Hands Across the Sea. The admiral and New York Mayor Van Wyck followed Sousa’s band in the first of over forty nearly identical Victoria carriages each pulled by four sturdy bays. Lt. j.g. Caldwell and Lt. Brumby were in the fifth carriage

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Harry had known since shortly after Dewey first arrived in Washington that Mrs. Mildred McLean Hazen had accepted the admiral’s proposal of maHarry Caldwell 1899rriage. Lt. j.g. Caldwell had remained true to his silence is golden lesson, though he did not know about the admiral’s intentions for his deeper involvement in the event.

A marriage license was today issued to Admiral Dewey and Mrs. Mildred Hazen. The application for license was made by Lieutenant [j.g.] Harry H. Caldwell, U. S. N., Admiral Dewey’s secretary.

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The K Line train from Chicago pulled in to the Quincy train depot at a little after 10 a.m. on Thursday, November 23rd , 1899. A passenger on that train felt queasy about what he would encounter in the next few minutes. For the past two years, he had never failed in serving his commander who had deservedly achieved fame of unparalleled proportions. Now, it was his turn to receive some of that adulation and he found that difficult to face.

My dear friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kindness you have shown me in the city I call home. I am indeed grateful for your esteem and the gift you have presented me. I would rather consider your demonstration in my behalf as really a tribute to the great admiral under whom I served and the brave officers and men with whom I served in the Manila campaign.

The standing ovation and chorus of vocal sound that greeted Harry’s words shook the water glasses on the banquet tables. It did not subside until Harry motioned the appreciative gathering to be seated. Lt. j.g. Caldwell took his seat still in disbelief of the heart-felt honor he had just received. return

Views of Chapter 17  Under the Seas  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

An underwater boat? Of course, why not? For much of man’s recorded history, the notion of soaring above the earth like a bird and swimming beneath the ocean like a fish was an often recurring theme. Alexander the Great in 330 BC gazing from his glass bottom boat, da Vinci’s early 16th century renderings of an underwater vessel he called a ship to sink another ship, kept secret for fear of introducing a new deadly form of warfare. David Bushnell’s 1775 Turtle, built to attach gunpowder bombs to the hulls of blockading British ships in New York Harbor, failing because it could not penetrate the hull.

In Jules Verne’s 1870 epic fictional work, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Captain Nemo and his crew are whisked through the ocean by the Nautilus, driven by a new force.

There is a powerful agent, obedient, rapid, easy, which conforms to every use, and reigns supreme on board my vessel. Everything is done by means of it. It lights it, warms it, and is the soul of my mechanical apparatus. This agent is electricity… [It gives] life to the Nautilus.

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After Harry accompanied the Admiral and Mrs. Dewey on a congratulatory tour of the Midwest, he was detached to the Torpedo Station at Newport, RI in June 1900. This was the homeport of the navy’s newest vessel, Holland VI. Here, under the tutorage of Electric Boat Company’s Frank T. Cable, Harry spent the summer becoming familiar with every aspect of the boat and his role as the navy’s very first commissioned officer to be a submariner. Harry learned his new duty well because Cable knew the purpose and functioning of every one of the thousands of the submersible’s parts.

Harry Caldwell on the HolandOn the 12th of October, the U. S. S. Holland [SS1] was commissioned as the first submarine in the navy, and Lt. Caldwell, its first captain.

I put the Holland in commission this day at noon, and from now on am to be addressed as Commanding, U. S. S. Holland… I was not sorry to leave the Admiral’s [Dewey] staff, as I was tired of having nothing to do…The Admiral was very nice about my leaving… it would be better to carry on the Holland work, in which he [Dewey] is a great believer… I hope to do great things in the way of developing this new means of warfare, which I think will revolutionize naval methods.

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I had a long talk with Mr. Edison who told me everything about his new work. He is a most interesting man and I was more than glad to talk to the greatest inventor of the age… he began life as a peanut boy on a train and educated himself. He is only fifty-five years old, but looks seventy, and is so deaf I had to shout at the top of my lungs to him. He works incessantly and I was told that he had computed that on the ordinary basis of working ten hours a day, he had lived about 117 years, no wonder he looks so old.

The second was to convince congressional leaders that the manufacturer of the Holland boats, the Electric Boat Company, was without equal in the fledgling submarine industry. During the hearings, Harry pointed out:

If I had been with the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in charge of a submarine boat like the Holland, I can safely guarantee that I would have sunk an American ship every night.

That statement brought a smiling reply from a congressman, I’m glad you wasn’t!, he said, bringing loud laughter from the hearing room.

In November 1902, Harry’s two-year command of the Holland came to an end. During that time, his efforts, and those of his dedicated crew, navigated the uncharted waters of submarine use, soon to become an indispensable arm of naval warfare. return

Views of Chapter 18  Going Through the Emotions  -  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

This is the very worst duty I have ever had but I suppose it is good experience for me.

Admiral Dewey advised Harry it would be in his best career interests to leave submarine duty and learn the ins and outs of a bigger vessel, a battleship. The biggest and brightest ship leaving the Cramp’s Philadelphia shipyards at the end of December 1902 was the second battleship named for the great state of Maine.

Harry knew it took a special kind of leader to keep the crew steady and occupied during extended periods of inactivity. The Maine would prove not to be one of William Cramp and Sons Shipbuilding Company’s best efforts, requiring visit after visit to dry dock for structural repairs and modifications.

Another drawback to Lt. Caldwell’s assignment, as a weapons officer, was the seemingly endless days of target practice eventually wearing through Harry’s tough mental exterior. The repetitive nature of the work was a far cry from the excitement and adventure of Manila Bay, the far east, and slipping below the water for a stealthy approach to a torpedo target. With Dewey, Harry was in the know, fully aware of what was going on, and what was likely going to happen. The Maine assignment was leading to nowhere fast...

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The Mediterranean cruise during the summer of 1904 was the highlight of Lt. Caldwell’s tour of duty on the Maine. Roosevelt, much like the two preceding presidents, saw the show of U. S. naval might abroad as sort of a coercive tool in maintaining the respect of the European powers.

At every port we visit, the Admiral designates one ship to give an entertainment and it is our turn here… I am on the grub [food] committee and was ashore yesterday buying great quantities of things to eat. Among other things, we are using ninety chickens for salad and twelve hams for sandwiches…

This, compared to tea with the Emperor of Japan?

For another full year, Lt. Caldwell commanded batteries aboard the Maine for target practice and maneuvers from Guantanamo Bay to Boston. Harry began studying for promotion to Lt. Commander in December of 1905 and effective January 1, 1906 he was again promoted. With his new promotion, he would be assigned to shore duty somewhere. For now, he was on leave, and content to be with family in Minnesota and Iowa again. He would worry another day soon about his new assignment. return

Views of Chapter 19  To Battle a Demon - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Harry was hopeful his first assignment as a Lt. Commander would be back at the side of Admiral Dewey in Washington... Harry was ordered instead to the shipbuilding works of William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia reporting for duty, March 1, 1906. His assignment as assistant to the inspector of ordnance made perfect sense to the navy. Harry had recent experience as gunnery officer on a Cramp built ship and he had first-hand experience with the problems of smokeless gunpowder. Lt. Cdr. Caldwell, on the other hand, did not share the navy’s apparent sense of sensibility.

Philadelphia was not anywhere near the top of Harry’s list as a desirable place to live. It fell further down that list when his boarding house room was one of many pilfered by a thief. When finally caught, the criminal turned out to be the young man who worked as the house bellboy.

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In early December of 1907, Lt. Commander Caldwell reported as the navigation officer aboard the U. S. S. Milwaukee in San Francisco. The newly commissioned ship had completed a shakedown cruise for three months off the coast of California and Mexico earlier in the year. The duties of a navigation officer aboard ship are crucial to a vessel arriving at its destination safely and accurately. That is, provided the ship leaves port, which the Milwaukee did not do very frequently.

The idleness was not what Harry needed in the way of ship duty at this fragile point in his life and career. The letters to his mother became much less frequent and when they were received Emilie sensed growing despondency that finally caused alarm. Something needed to be done and very soon...

On his return to Puget Sound, December 10, 1908, he immediately checked himself in to the Naval Hospital in Bremerton; the admission note simply read to treatment. He returned to the Milwaukee on February 4, 1908 under the watchful eye of his commanding officer, C. C. Rodgers.

The actual circumstances surrounding the latest purported violation made little difference and Harry knew it. Were he to face a second court-martial, he would be summarily and dishonorably discharged after over twenty years in the faithful service of his country. By resigning he would avoid that action. As he scribbled his resignation on the telegrapher’s work sheet, he remembered the advice of his mother, or, find an occupation where you can once again be happy. return

Views of Chapter 20  A Fresh Start - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The navy had given Harry a ride around the world and then some. It still owed him one more free trip to his home of record in Quincy. In mid-July of 1909, Emilie met him at the Quincy train depot. Despite the trials and tribulations of the past few months her son had gained some weight, a twinkle had returned to his eye, and his sense of humor was on full display. Emilie could see a weight had seemingly lifted from his shoulders though he spoke with much sadness about how much he would miss the navy.

It is amazing how much faster bad news travels than its opposite and how much more attention it receives. Within days, a half-dozen different companies including one on foreign soil, had learned of Harry’s resignation, tracked his whereabouts, and sent him a telegram. Though the words differed, the messages were the same. How soon would it be possible to discuss job opportunities with him? One particularly clever telegram from his longtime friends Isaac Rice and Eli Frost with Electric Boat Company in New York drew his special attention.

Electric Boat Co.

11 Pine St., NY, NY

July 25, 1909

 

Harry,

We know you love NY [stop] If considering any other employment [stop!]

Rice & Frost

 

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A month later Harry was happily in New York working as an advisor and salesman for Electric Boat Company’s submarine division. For the next seven years, Harry consulted and traveled extensively in South and Central America, Europe, the Far East, and Russia sharing his valuable insight and experience with submarines and submarine warfare as Electric Boat’s key representative.

During his time at Electric Boat [EB], Harry became a good friend with another EB employee, Clarence Lyon Chester. Before joining the company, C. L., an Iowa native, was a photographer for National Geographic, made travel films for the Edison Company, and had recently co-authored a book about the Panama Canal. EB hired Chester to make films documenting the company’s successful ventures with submarine building both at home and abroad.

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A few months later C. L. asked Harry to join his new venture [silent film making] as business manager. Long-time navy veteran turned submarine salesman, Caldwell had no experience whatsoever in making silent films. However, he had a great deal in common with his good friend and he decided, based on an instinctive feeling, to take a chance in the intriguing and growing industry. This decision would eventually open many new and unexpected opportunities for Harry.

When the United States entered World War I in April of 1917, Lt. Commander Caldwell offered his services to the naval fleet reserve in New York. Accompanied by letters of recommendation from three admirals who were classmates at the naval academy, his request to serve was immediately accepted. On the 28th of May, Harry was assigned captain of the guard ship U. S. S. Amphitrite. The ship, an iron-hulled monitor class, was responsible for tending two submarine nets protecting New York’s lower and inner harbors from submarine attack and checking the credentials of all ships entering the harbor.

When his tour of navy duty ended, Harry rejoined Chester’s film production company in New York. C. L.’s vision of travel pictures became a popular draw to moviegoers rather than just a closer to get them to leave the theatre.

Another ingredient fueling the demand for his product was the fresh and highly entertaining approach to the text inserted throughout the film that described what the viewer was watching. Chester’s heretofore little known editor and writer responsible for that text was also a rising star. Harry had seen a couple of Chester’s new films and his first request on returning to Chester’s offices was to meet his title writer. Oh, Chester responded, my sleepy-eyed titler with a wide-awake creative mind. Follow me.

Harry followed C. L. down a maze of hallways to a small office with a neatly printed sign on the closed door that read, Disturb Me At Your Own Risk! C. L. knocked on the door and a stern voice inside responded, come in if you really must. Chester opened the door and the attractive woman seated in front of a typewriter nonchalantly looked at her two guests. The astonished look on Harry’s face drew a straight-faced response from the typist. What? Do I look like a two-headed monster or were you expecting to see a man? C. L. introduced Mrs. Katharine Hilliker to Harry. When he approached to shake her hand, Mrs. Hilliker told him her tired hand was not in the mood to be firmly shaken by a naval officer.  return

Views of Chapter 21  About Kit - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Getting to know Katharine Clark Prosser Hilliker’s long story is best approached by understanding how she came about acquiring her many names.

Katharine Kittie Clark was born April 25th, 1885 in Spokane, WA, then called Spokane Falls, in the Washington Territory. At the time of her birth, her parents, Frank T. and Katharine E. Sweeney Clark were telegraphers. Francis Theodore Clark, her father, the son of successful Scottish immigrants, had recently earned a divinity degree from Yale’s prestigious theology school. He was sent by the Congregational church as a home missionary to a new church in the Washington Territory. Rev. Clark and his new bride, Kate, traveled across the country by rail from their home in Franklin County, MA, arriving in Spokane Falls in the spring of 1881. By 1883, Rev. Clark fell short of meeting the church’s expectations and he left the ministry... Sometime before November of 1889, Kittie’s mother and father divorced.

Little Kittie soon had another name. On Thanksgiving eve, November 27th, 1889, James D. Prosser, M. D., and Mrs. Kate E. S. Clarke were married at the Willis House, a small hotel on Front Street, in Seattle, WA. It is unclear as to whether this was truly a match made in heaven or if Kitty’s mother was anxious to have a father for her young daughter or maybe both.

In June of 1891, Dr. Prosser made Mrs. Prosser a gift of a lot at Chestnut and Clinton he owned in a new subdivision being developed across the bay on Alameda Island. He had a house built on the lot.This picturesque spot was far from the din of the city and a perfect place to rear their young daughter and infant son. However, J. D. could still not devote much time or energy to that effort.

Less than a year later tragedy struck. On June 30th, 1892, Kittie and Don’s 34 year-old mother died suddenly at the Prosser’s new home in Alameda. Because of her sudden and unexplained passing, the Alameda coroner’s office decided to hold an inquest into the cause of her death. Three days later, it was reported that an autopsy showed Mrs. Katharine Prosser died of a heart valve disease. This had to be the lowest point in Kittie’s young life.

Thus began 7 year-old Kittie’s odyssey, going from one house to another, one city to another, and never being in one place long enough to call it a home. The only glimpse that Katharine provided about her formative years was from the time shortly after her mother died.

In looking back on my childhood, it always seemed to me that the most grievous hurts… were the small injustices which [my elders] never sifted and rectified. The first one that came my way had shocked me profoundly.

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Yet, with the unreasoning judgement of childhood, I cast overboard, then and there, my foolish belief in the all-out wisdom of the older generation. It was unfair to them and the beginning of many childish lonely attempts for me to find my way in life.  return

Views of Chapter 22  The Odyssey - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Either J. D. Prosser began to tire of his work in San Francisco or certain citizenry in the City by the Bay began to tire of him... Kittie joined her stepfather in his travels having a nannie or relatives by her side when he worked.

The Odyssey ellipsis

3 Phoenix, Arizona Territory, was not very kind to the doctor and his activities late in 1895.

Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 2. -- Dr. James D. Prosser, erstwhile of San Francisco, but lately founder, president, and staff of the Arizona Medical Institute of this city, has fled, leaving a small army of disappointed creditors. Dr. Prosser was a dapper little man who arrived here two months ago. He rented a suite of four rooms… which he richly furnished… he rented a house which he furnished in the same way.

 

Four days ago, however, Dr. Prosser sent his wife to Denver, borrowing the money… and thus beginning the Prosser exodus. Two days ago he sent his children to Los Angeles and last night himself fled. His creditors include every tradesman in the city and his… assets consist of a large collection of empty bottles.

 

With no known record of a new wife, it seems very strange a wife was sent to Denver while presumably Kittie and apparently Don went to Los Angeles. Some of the facts may have been garbled in discrediting the article’s subject or the doctor was throwing off the scent of baying creditor bloodhounds close on his heels.

 

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5 J. D. and Kittie ran out of American terra firma by the time they arrived on the Atlantic coast in Savannah, GA, in August of 1897. No doubt the doctor had gained knowledge and an appreciation of the city during his time in Charleston, SC. According to Katharine’s recollection, she was enrolled at school in the city while J. D. began a medical practice. Other than home schooling from nannies and relatives, at the ripe old age of 12, this was likely Kitties first exposure to formal public education.

 

In Savannah, Dr. Prosser faced the most serious trouble of his unsettling career. 

Charged with Criminal Operation on a Woman

Savannah, Ga., January 18, -- The trial of Dr. J. D. Prosser, on the charge of assault with the intent to murder, growing out of an alleged criminal operation on a woman named Mrs. Johanna Toehl, has been in progress in the superior court all day and most of the night. The interest in the case grows out of the fact that Dr. Prosser is antagonized by all the physicians of the city practically on account of the fact that he advertises. Two well-known physicians of the city appearing on the stand in behalf of the prosecution and the effort has been made to show that his practice was an improper one… The prosecution, strange to say, was not brought by the husband of the dead woman, who was the state’s first witness, but is in the shape of a special presentment by the grand jury, the name of the principal prosecutor unknown.

 

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10 A year after the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906, 21 year-old Katharine Clark Prosser moved north on her own to the Bay Area. Aware of the significant damage caused by the great earthquake and the massive rebuilding efforts that were underway, she bypassed the city to reach her destination across the bay. The small, one-room-fits-all apartment she rented at 1424 Franklin in Oakland, CA must have seemed like a palatial estate to Kate if, for no other reason, she had it all to herself. It would be safe to speculate further that after she had carefully placed all of her meager belongings just where she wanted them to be, she sat on the only comfortable chair she owned and cried uncontrolled tears of pure joy. Her way of celebrating her hard-earned independence and a sort of homecoming.

She had started her odyssey of 14 years just 5 miles from where she now sat, and at long last she had come full circle. Kate had never forgotten the name Kittie her mother so lovingly used. From that day forward, the now of age confident young woman encouraged her friends to call her Kit, in remembrance of her mother and as a proud badge of womanhood.   return

Views of Chapter 23  Mrs. Bill - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

 

To Kit’s unbridled delight, her new independence combined with years of building self-confidence made her the perfect model of a feminist...

 

In 1907 and 1908, Kit held a full-time job as a bookkeeper for two different business concerns. For the first time in her life, when she was not at work, she did as she darned well pleased. In 1909, she had her second brush with a newspaper as the society editor for the Berkeley Independent, a small newspaper published in Oakland’s neighboring college town of Berkeley. In a later resume about the work Kit did for the Independent she wrote:

 

… I did everything from proof-reading to interviewing celebrities. The financial return was so small that it has left no memory at all.

 

Kit finally reached near the top rung for a person with so little newspaper experience when she began working for the San Francisco Call. At the Call, she worked her way up a much higher ladder. She started as an art critic, book reviewer, editor of the Junior Call, a series of sponsored events for school-aged children, and finally as the assistant editor of the Sunday paper.

 

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Raymond Harris, a reporter with Kit at the Call was primarily responsible for helping her acquire her third surname, Hilliker. A good friend of Ray’s, Douglas Hagar Hilliker, called Bill by his friends, was an up and coming young freelance artist. In fact, Bill had started drawing from a very early age and the Call published one of his early works. Ray Harris took it on himself to be a matchmaker for his two good friends. On January 2nd, 1912, Bill and Kit were married in San Francisco’s First Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Clay and Larkin by the church’s popular English pastor Rev. Samuel Quickmire.

Though Kit was now married woman, the newspaper suggested she continue to use her pre-nuptial name for her Call articles. This would allow her fan base to continue to follow her every word.

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In February of 1915;

 

The body of Dr. J. D. Prosser… may not be recovered from its grave 65 feet down in the earth for two weeks. Prosser was buried alive when his well caved in while he was at work… Before the body can be rescued, a casing must be built to the bottom of the well and many tons of earth removed.

 

The body of J. D. Prosser… killed by a cave-in at his well at Otis [CA] was recovered from the well… he was buried immediately after the inquest.

Kit returned to San Francisco and she and Bill left for the bright lights and bustle of the country’s largest city, square on Manhattan Island. Both Hillikers wanted to see if they could find success in the really big time.

The couple rented their first apartment at 20 Gramercy Park with a subsidy provided by a Clark family member. Bill opened an art studio and soon began regularly producing art for the New York Sun. Meanwhile, Kit, armed with a stellar letter of recommendation from the Call, visited several offices before finding employment with the Universal Film Manufacturing Co., a 9-minute walk from their apartment. She spent her day reading and commenting on possible film stories and was soon promoted to an editor of considered film scenariBat Mastersonos...

The New York Morning Telegraph was billed as the greatest amusement and dramatic publication in the world, and it likely was. William Eugene Lewis, its president, was proud of the entertainment niche his paper found in the hearts and minds of New York’s less cerebral readers. In March of 1918, W. E. hired Kit to supervise the staff responsible for the motion picture supplement, editorial matter, and make-up, a position reporting directly to him. Sitting at the table of Lewis’ weekly staff meeting with Kit was Lewis’ long-time friend and head of sports reporting, William Barclay Masterson, more notably known as Bat Masterson. Masterson was none other than the wild west’s notorious real-life gunslinger, sidekick of Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, KS, and his drinking partner at the Long Branch Saloon.

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Kit noted in her interview with Chester he was cordial, polite, and likely a good cameraman. However, he was clearly clueless about how to make his work theatre ready. He explained how he had taken great care in staging his films to get just the right light and camera angles. Kit interrupted his spiel telling him in her opinion more than great photography was needed to keep the audience from dosing off. Her idea was to simply grab their attention and keep them guessing as to where the film was headed and how it would get there. And that, she concluded, was solely in the hands of a scenario writer, editor, and titler, and she could do all three! Chester did not understand exactly what Kit had in mind but he was impressed enough with her credentials, confidence, and enthusiasm to give her a chance. History was in the process of being made.   return

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Kit was amused by the parting words from Captain Caldwell and despite her best effort, she could not stop the smile that crept across her face. She wondered for a moment how the dashing naval officer had ever made the acquaintance of the slave-driving spend-thrift Chester. Oh well, she thought, everyone has a story, and eventually she would make a point of knowing his. For now, the typewriter keys begged her to return to the work at hand and Kit obliged.

Out of the navy again, Harry returned to work for Chester only after haggling with his new boss about his role with the company. He made a new circle of friends including the Harrises and the Hillikers. Even in her new working relationship with the Captain, Kit was still frustratingly unable to pry open his life story.

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PassionKit’s work on the Chester-Outing series had been noticed in New York and California motion picture circles. In August 1920, Samuel Roxy Rothafel, the owner of the then largest theatre in the world, opened just the year before, the Capitol in New York, contacted Kit. First National Pictures had purchased the U. S. syndication rights to the German film, Madame DuBarry, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Polish actress, Pola Negri. Rothafel wanted the spectacular film to premiere in the U. S. at the Capitol, though only after it had a major titling makeover. He hired Kit to do the work and renamed the picture, Passion.

Only five people, including Kit, knew why Harry was her escort to the premiere. Six weeks earlier, Kit finally acted on her more than year-long troubled marriage to Bill Hilliker. She filed a judgement for divorce on the 29th of October 1920, before Judge Giegerich at the Manhattan Court House. Kit first had a tear-filled meeting with Bill in early October explaining her feelings about their marriage in detail. Bill’s promise to be a better husband fell on deaf ears. After a year of soul searching, she had decided the course of action that, in her opinion, would be best for both of them. The lengthy meeting ended with a tender embrace and a promise that the two would remain best friends for life. A promise that was well-kept.

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Harry Caldwell fell head over heels for Katharine Hilliker. He loved her deeply and would do whatever he could to make her life what she wanted it to be. To that end, he asked her to marry him. His proposal was joyfully received with only one reservation. Did he mind terribly if professionally she remained Katharine Hilliker, so that her fans could follow her continuing work. On May 28, 1921, in Manhattan, Harry stood hand-in-hand with Katharine Clark Prosser Hilliker when, after lovingly putting a sizeable diamond ring on her finger, it was pronounced that Caldwell could now be added to the end of her list of names. A story, starring the Captain and Kit premiered, a love story of epic proportions with a cast of thousands, in full life color and vibrant sound.  return

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After a short honeymoon, the couple combined the neat and orderly belongings of the Captain with something a bit less than that of Kits, and their new life together began. Harry, needing work, returned as Chester’s company secretary in New York and Kit was off to Hollywood.

TheodoraKatharine Hilliker who has achieved the unique distinction of writing the best motion picture titles in the industry, has recently arrived at the Goldwyn studios in Culver City, Cal., where she will write titles for the famous Italian screen spectacle, ‘Theodora’. This picture came to America with no titles whatever on the film. … After seeing the picture, Mrs. Hilliker said it is undoubtedly the biggest spectacle ever filmed. She will remain at the Goldwyn studios for six weeks, during which time every detail in the titling and cutting… will be attended to.

Theodora premiered in October of 1921 at the Astor Theatre in New York. It was yet another opportunity for the Caldwells to enjoy dressing to the nines and ecstatically reading the rave titling reviews with a cup of coffee the next morning.

more nearly like an American film than any… picture we have seen [Theodora], which is the highest praise, as everyone knows that America is far ahead of any other country when it comes to making motion pictures. Of course, the titles by Katharine Hilliker had much to do with this. They are so simple that it seems strange more people cannot do them like that.

Oh, the sweet smell of success and tripping the light fantastic all the way to the bank!

Bright and early one morning, Kit posed to her husband that if two heads are better than one then three heads must be best. Harry’s quizzical look was followed by Kit’s news. Completely out of character, the 49 year-old rose and gleefully bounced up and down on the mattress like a child a fraction of his age, spilling his full cup of coffee all over the bed. When he came to rest he asked Kit if she was sure. As sure as I know I’ll be throwing up every morning skipper, confirming her announcement that she was with child. Thinking of how much busier his wife’s schedule would be in the upcoming months he wondered aloud how it would all work out. Ever the queen of desert dry subtle humor, Kit responded. I have no idea about you captain, but I would prefer for mine to work out in a bed at a quiet, out of the way hospital.

The Captain did whatever he thought would make Kit’s life as easy and comfortable as possible and she, in turn, did everything she could think of to stop him. On much more than one occasion she reminded him that a countless number of women had successfully conceived a child since the beginning of time and she figured her odds of adding one to that number were very good.

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Two weeks to the day before Kit’s thirty-seventh birthday, April 11th, 1922, Harry Handly Caldwell, Jr. joined the Caldwell family at Mercy Hospital in Hempstead, NY, that quiet and out-of-the-way hospital. Kit later wrote:

I am not a professional mother, nor even a good amateur. I am the dumbest of the dumb. A business girl from the time I finished school, and even after my marriage, I arrived at the door of maternity armed only with humility, an intense sense of responsibility, and the conviction that to be a good parent takes friendship of a very high order.

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For almost two full years, Harry and Kit, learned the teamwork necessary to make two as well-known as one. In the spring of 1925, Kit traveled to the west coast with Harry, Jr., leaving the Captain in New York. Kit joined newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pictures headed by Irving Thalberg and Louis Louie B. Mayer. She was paid on a by reel basis for editing and titling and stayed at the Hollywood Hotel, hiring a nannie for Harry, Jr. while she was working. The Captain missed Kit every minute, and she, he.  return

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The coast-to-coast love affair by letters and telegrams finally came to an end in July of 1925 when Kit got one for the team. She negotiated a contract with MGM. Harry was no doubt ecstatic about the contract and rejoining his wife and son in California. Kit, on the other hand, could not resist one last bare knuckles poke at MGM.

Ben HurOf course, that damned twenty-five dollar a week raise for each of us… still riles me beyond words, but… we can manage to worry along pretty well for $700 a week and… putting an end to this hellish separation.

Hilliker and Caldwell were MGM’s A-team for editing and titling and they were chosen to work on what MGM hoped would be the company’s signature movie. Started in Italy in 1923, then floundering for two years, the production of Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ, was moved to California in 1925. By the time the finished product premiered at the Cohan Theatre in New York, December 30th, 1925 it was, and remained, the most expensive silent picture ever made.

Of the $3.9 million spent on the picture, the Captain and Kit’s share of that cost was a not so staggering $13,000. Uncredited extras, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, and Myrna Loy were in the chariot race scenes. In total, the four soon-to-be super stars likely received a small fraction of the Hilliker-Caldwell amount. When you’re hot, you’re hot; hot being a term relative to your place in the motion picture industry food chain.

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By the time Harry and Kit finished The Torrent, The Boob, and were in the middle of working on The Scarlet Letter, they were tired and disillusioned. In their June 1926 departure letter, they told Thalberg they would be finished with MGM after the Letter... This gutsy move was done with no knowledge of where next the love birds would perch.

Not less than a week later Sol Wurtzel, the executive assistant for William Fox, owner of Fox Films, hired the couple at $800 a week.

Katherine Hilliker and H. H. Caldwell have been added to the Fox organization as supervising editors and personal aides to Sol M. Wurtzel, managing director of Fox West Coast Studios…

The year, 1927, would not see any letup in the fast and furious pace at Fox Picture’s production, fourteen pictures titled, and twice that number produced.

Sunrise

Seventh HeavenTwo of those pictures, based on industry and media acclaim, topped the Captain and Kit’s motion picture achievements. Frank Borzage’s Seventh Heaven, set in Paris near the end of WWI and German director Friedrich W. Murnau’s classic, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Both starred the diminutive and attractive 21 year-old rising star, Janet Gaynor. Though the six-foot-eleven Murnau strongly believed title cards took away from his cinema-graphic vision, he never forgot Harry and Kit’s role in bringing his film Faust from Germany to the attention of the American public a year earlier. The stern dictatorial Murnau developed a special relationship with the Caldwells...

The Captain and Kit’s successes at Fox in 1927 carried over to early 1928 at the fabulous new sum of $1,000 per week and fatigue was setting in. They had decided family rest and relaxation would soon be in order and they tackled one last film before implementing their plan.

Director John Ford, arguably filmdom’s best ever director, had a new film. The Caldwell’s enjoyed working with Ford earlier when he was an assistant director and they were not about ready to abandon their good friend. Four Sons was a story about a family torn apart by the advent of WWI. In the picture, the uncredited role of an army officer fell to a 21 year-old extra, John Wayne. Wayne worked in local film studios after a body surfing accident caused him to lose his USC football scholarship.   return

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We came back to Hollywood in the fall [of 1928] and lined up with Samuel Goldwyn of United Artists for two pictures on a new financial set-up. This time we charged $5,000 per picture on a four week time limit. In the event the producer held us beyond four weeks, we went on a straight salary of $1,500 a week.

Were the Captain and Kit aware of the probability that sound on film might popularly sweep over the American public? Or, since early talkies only used sound on a limited scale and very rarely for actor dialog, were they in the other camp. The camp that patiently waited for the novelty of sound to wear off and with it the fickle audience’s demand that silence be returned to the screen. It seemed for a while to be a coin toss.

Captain and Kit 1927In either event, the Caldwells signed a new $5,000 per film contract back with Fox in January of 1929, ending in August of that year. In May, Harry and Kit were among 270 others who paid $5 a plate to attend a private dinner in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Louie B. Mayer convinced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, AMPAS, to sponsor an event to honor the best films of 1927 and 1928, the very first academy awards ceremony. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks hosted the 15 minute presentations. Of the twelve awards given, Seventh Heaven was nominated for five and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, four.

 

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There was little doubt about the direction motion picture moguls wanted the motion picture industry to go; talkies it was going be.

In the industry there would also be staggering consequences for actors and titlers. The expression of an actor’s heavily painted eyes set the tone for a scene in silents. With sound, a scene’s success was based on the expression of voice in actor delivered dialogue accompanied by just the right music. A female actor, no matter how ravishing, who emitted squeaky high-pitched dialogue or the monotone grumbling from a however handsome leading man, were out-of-work.

Then, for the first time in our respective careers we showed softening of the brain. [The phrase, reality set-in, may have been closer to the truth.] For we picked that year [1929] of all others to try to crash a new game. We came back to New York in September, took a place on Long Island for six months and wrote a play [Yunnan] which failed to sell.

 

Meanwhile, Wall Street was taking a nose dive, which didn’t bother us particularly until we found the Hollywood door closed in our faces.

 

In 1930, the financial well had not yet run dry. Though if the Captain and Kit’s employment opportunities did not improve, the water level would continue to drop.

In a little over one year, the gravy train had gone from a non-stop express to success to something quite the opposite. It now made brief stops at small out of the way places with no clear sign of any destination in particular. The Captain and Kit were doing nearly everything in their power to make sure it did not derail all together. The clear priority for the future was to regain momentum toward any destination beneficial to the Harry Caldwell family; a goal shared at the time by literally millions of other American families.  return

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Harry knew from his navy days all about the doldrums. He, and for centuries before thousands upon thousands of other seamen and passengers on sailing vessels, had experienced them first hand. Sails are set full, yet there is not the slightest forward movement because there is not a breath of wind. Thus, the Captain and Kit began 1931 in New York.

Kit found work in Hollywood here, there, and anywhere she could find it. Her main project in the fall of 1931 was putting the finishing touches on the dialogue for a movie planned by Sol Lesser, Peck’s Bad Boy.

The decency and fairness in the year 1932 for the Captain and Kit became more a subject of dogged perseverance. In both New York and California, the letters delivered by the postmen on the swift completion of their appointed rounds fueled the couple’s energy to stay their uncertain course.

Finally, in June of 1932, the decent break that Harry was looking for. World Wide Pictures with corporate offices in New York agreed to hire the team as the executives in charge of stories, script, dialogue, and casting at $500 weekly. This was a management position not actually doing any of the work described. The Captain and Kit again arranged for Harry Jr.’s care and boarded a train at Grand Central taking them west again to the World Wide’s Metropolitan studios in Los Angeles. Would this bit of good fortune provide the ladder needed for climbing out of their present financial hole? It would not.

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Early in 1934, Harry decided to go to the nation’s capital where he still had contacts galore. Some of those contacts were admirals who were fellow classmates from his academy days. Others, friends he had made earlier during his frequent visits to the hallowed halls of the Army and Navy Club where the nation’s military decisions were really made. In early March, he gleefully reported job-hunting success gaining employment with the recently formed National Recovery Administration [NRA], the centerpiece of President Roosevelt’s new deal for the American people.

After receiving Johnson’s letter, the Captain and Kit made a repeated and thorough count of their assets. They came to the conclusion another Hollywood trip was just not in the cards, particularly since Johnson had kind of, sort of, and maybe mentioned the possibility of work.

No one could say Dad and Mom were not giving their best effort to stir up some wind for the family sails. Nineteen thirty-four came to an end with some forward progress, though not enough to promise landfall or a windfall any time soon.  return

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Since early childhood, both the Captain and Kit shared a common trait, the over achiever gene. It is the one conveniently located between failure is not an option and I’ll die with my boots on. That gene, coupled with the ever-present ten-ton elephant that followed them around since the advent of talkies, kept the full-court pressure on to find a job. Thankful they could both type, the letters rolled off their respective machines. They were dispatched to any of their gainfully employed friends who might know someone who knew someone with a job opportunity. For their really influential friends, a letter was sent just to let them know they were still among the living and thinking of them. Care was taken not to add the phrase in our darkest hour of need.

The WPA, the Works Progress Administration, had contracted the National Archives in Washington to investigate the possibility of producing motion pictures to support WPA programs. The Captain and Kit were back in the film business in the nation’s capital lending their knowledge as consultants on that project and several others.

For reasons only a seasoned politician might be able to fathom, the upcoming 1936 presidential election put a kibosh on their WPA jobs and they returned to NY. They could however now afford to make the rounds of local lenders, and retrieve various personal items given up earlier in exchange for loans.

The Captain and Kit decided to give playwriting another try. A three-act play they titled Little Stranger was the result of three intense months of writing in the fall of 1936... The play eventually caught the attention of New York’s very successful jack-of-all-theatrical trades, John Golden. Golden began negotiations with the playwrights to professionally produce their play... After a one-week run, Mr. Golden decided not to move the play to Broadway.

Mary Leonard Pritchett, the Captain and Kit’s theatrical agent, found interest for Little Stranger in London and all hands were at once called on deck to pursue that lead. That is, almost all hands were able to be on deck. Kit became aware of some health issues that needed to be immediately addressed.

Kit was released from the hospital in January 1938. Rather than adapting the play for London audiences in the busyness of the city, they moved their base of operations 100 miles east northeast of Manhattan. The quaint, quiet, and out-of-the-way Griswold House became their home away from home for play adapting. The cool breezes of Essex, CT, on the Connecticut River just a few miles inland from Block Island Sound, was an ideal place to work, and particularly suited Harry to a tee.

Of course, the Captain’s right in his element and believe me, he rates with these guys. They know all about the Holland, the Olympia, and the Amphitrite. I slink around like the dirty little landlubber that I am, but he’s right out of his shell…, sticking his chest out and rolling in his walk like a [battleship] in a heavy sea.

Merriment invaded the Caldwell household and their close circle of friends. All of them were sure that after several unsuccessful attempts, the Captain and Kit were at long last back in the spotlight. After twelve performances, despite the good reviews, the play went dark. The cycle of high-highs and low-lows was apparently unfairly destined to continue for our hero and heroine. However, for Harry, Kit noticed this low seemed to sink to a new level.

The letter the Captain received two weeks later from Jack Ford in response to an earlier request to help along the career of Mary Pritchett was, as usual, a morale booster.

Emerald Bay Yacht Club

Dear Skipper,

Received your note regarding Miss Pritchard. Please forgive me for dictating this letter but I am terribly busy. I am in the middle of a service picture, above all things, the story of Sub-chasers in the Mediterranean. (Note to Mrs. Caldwell: … Don’t let the Captain drink so much strong coffee. Mrs. Ford joins me in the best wishes to you and Mrs. Caldwell…

 

Harry laughed after looking over the letter and just had to share the history of the Emerald Bay Yacht Club with Kit of which Jack was listed as commodore. The club was a completely fictitious invention of their good friend. Its membership included only Ford’s close friends, such as actors John Wayne, Ward Bond, Johnny Weissmuller, and director Frank Borzage. They met periodically on Ford’s ketch, Araner, and drank, usually to excess. Harry was an honorary member, in absentia, known as the club’s only excessive black coffee drinker.

 

The only real physical ailment Harry could complain about was a bad cold accompanied by a cough he contracted in late October with the arrival of the first cold snap of the season. A cold he could not seem to shake.  return

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A week later Harry was admitted to the Brooklyn Naval Hospital being treated for pneumonia. He was expected to be released before the end of the year. However, he experienced a setback on Christmas Eve. Kit filled her days with trips to and from the hospital always hopeful that one day soon she and her husband would rejoin the human race. In late January of 1939, Bob Bachmann offered Kit his larger apartment at the Hotel des Artistes with the idea it would be a more hospitable place for the Captain to recuperate when he was released; she gratefully accepted.

Kit was in general a realist. However, when it came to troubling matters of the heart, she had learned to retreat to a soft comfortable protected place, viewing the events happening around her through a rose-colored lens. Letters she wrote to relatives and friends in March and April of 1939 concerning the Captain’s health, reflected that view of her present circumstance.

About a month later, April 10th, in a letter to Rol, Kit describes Harry’s condition and the situation surrounding the doctor taking care of him. It is sad to read her optimistic assessment of her husband’s obviously failing health.

… I am so utterly weary that I don’t know what I’m doing or saying half the time.

Kit wrote the saddest letter of her life to Rol on the 1st of May, 1939.

…. As I wrote you in my last letter, Harry seemed definitely on the mend. Dr. Peterson had assured us that unless something unforeseen intervened Harry could come home by the first of May.

In Kit’s opinion, that unforeseen intervention was the illness of Dr. Peterson and she sensed that Harry was upset by the Dr.’s necessary absence.

… I had felt for some time [Harry’s treatment] was one-third medicine and two-thirds Peterson… I think he hoped, as I did, that Dr. Peterson would be able to come in and out of his room again, even if he didn’t take up his actual duties…

Wednesday [April 26th] we went through the usual routine. I came over in the morning, read to him awhile and fed him his luncheon. Then in the afternoon I took him out in his wheeled chair for an hour. He greeted all of his friends…everyone had come to love him, patients and staff alike…and at the end of his ride he had the boys put him back to bed. He ate a fairly good dinner and we did our usual evening chores…I always bathed his face and hands and combed his hair. When I left he looked very tired, but said he’d be all right when he’d rested.

The next morning, [Thursday, April 27th] Dr. McArthur, Dr. Peterson’s successor, called me a few minutes after nine o’clock and said that Harry had taken a definite turn for the worse. I left immediately and reached the hospital a little before ten. I’m not sure he recognized me… he seemed quite irrational and was pleading for sleep…though later he put his hand over mine and held it in a tight clasp. They gave him a hypodermic shortly after I arrived and he went off into a deep sleep from which he never roused.

Kit ... describes why, despite their tremendous financial success in their silent movie career, they were thread bare in the 1930’s.

During our hectic Hollywood days when we were working at top speed, it was always our plan to salt away a fair amount of this world’s goods and then take life easier, get close to our families again, do the happy things that can be done with leisure and money. And I know that it was a bitter grievous thing for him when those plans went so dreadfully awry.

Bob Bachmann’s predictions came true. Kit did indeed recover plenty of lost ground. The companionship and love of Harry Jr., his family, their relatives, and their many good friends kept her spirits buoyed delightfully high in the current of her life for the next twenty-six years. Her final resting place was where she wanted to be, once again by the skipper’s side in Arlington National Cemetery. Where the trees are in leaf and the dogwoods bloom on a knoll overlooking the Potomac.  return

Arlington Cemetery