When I was in charge of the Navy’s Shore Patrol battalion in Farragut, Idaho in 1944 I received a call from my commanding officer. He wanted to scold me because I had given permission to some sailors to go on liberty to Spokane, only 50 miles from Farragut. Meantime, they decided to go to Seattle on the train. And the Shore Patrol picked them up. Consequently they were disciplined. Of course part of the disicpline involved asking them why they were there? The commander of the Security department called my commander. Commander Fitzgerald called me and was scolding me for giving these sailors a permit.
I told him, Well, I have permission to give 2% of my battalion, the people assigned, merit or emergency liberty. Those passes were good for 50 miles from the base. If they went beyond that, it seemed to me that that was their responsibility, not mine. I was within my rights. So he called the other commander up and told him off about putting one of his officers, me, on the spot.
About two weeks later it was the same routine. I was called to his office. This time he was very friendly. He offered me a cigarette. He told me, You know, I’ve got 400-600 people here who are supposed to be taking Shore Patrol instruction. They’re supposed to send a bunch of officers and enlisted men to train them. But none of them are here and I have to do something, so you’re going to go over to those barracks and start the Shore Patrol school.
I said, “Commander, what in the hell is that?”
And he said, “You’ll find out.”
The next thing I knew I was getting the shore patrol school started with some fine professionals, and regular recruits. We got them as our staff and we turned out 200 people every six weeks trained in Shore Patrol duties. Meantime the fellow who was running the brig got his orders to report to the Navy somewhere else. I was then chosen to be his successor to go over as Provost Marshall for the station. While I was there I oversaw the brig. We had some exciting times there. The people in the brig had it a lot easier than the people who were doing the training. Well, I changed all that. I got ‘em up at 6 o’clock in the morning for exercise just like they were over on the training fields. Soon I had cut the population of the brig down from about 100 to about 65 in a little over three weeks.
While I was there we had a big break out of the brig. We finally got some prisoners who were supposed to go to general court marshal. They were supposed to be incarcerated at the general brig at the Navy Station in Seattle. But they were given instructions to keep them there until their trial came up. One night they decided they didn’t want to go ahead with their trial and about eight of them broke out of the jail, the brig. We had a big manhunt all over the place. It was pretty exciting. .We had our whole security patrol searching the woods around the borders of the Naval station. We finally rounded up seven of them. But one guy we never did find. I guess he’s still loose somewhere in Idaho or Montana.
A friend of mine there by the name of Joe used to like Martinis. When he went hunting he shot quite a few ducks so they would invite us over to their house while he was cooking a duck. His favorite saying was, “You can never overcook a duck.” Which of course gave him plenty of time for a couple extra Martinis. We usually wound up having dinner at around 10 or 11 o’clock at night when he finally declared the duck cooked and Joe plastered.
While we were in Farragut, the officer’s club was the only place they could serve liquor by the drink. All of the clubs in town and at Hayden Lake were what they called “bottle clubs.” You would buy your bottle at the government store and leave it there and when you went into the bar and ordered a drink they would bring out your bottle and pour your drinks from your bottle, and just charge you for the mix and the service. As a consequence, liquor was rationed. You were only allowed so much a month. We got our ration. Of course, we weren’t using as much as we were allowed on the ration so we accumulated several bottles. We had them in the back of the car when we came back to California. I was kind of worried about going through the checkpoint at the border, but nothing happened there.
Gas rationing was also in effect. We were encouraged to ride the bus from our living quarters to the base. Usually we left about 7 o’clock in the morning and got home about 5:30 or 6 in the evening. There was an officer in charge of transportation. He was a Danish fellow. He encouraged everyone to take the bus. He said, “I ride the bus. You ride the bus. Save the gas.”
Farragut was a very bad place to be in the winter. A lot of the enlistees and apprentice seamen there came down with what was called “Cap Fever.” We were all ordered to take one aspirin a day at lunch. These were available at the officer’s club where we were having our meals. Nearly every week we would send a whole troop train of sailors who had come down with Cap Fever down to Riverside, the hospital down there, for training. The Indians used to call the area where Farragut was, Lake Ponderain, “Fever Valley.” I guess they knew what they were talking about.
At the end of 1943, into January 1944, the officers at Farragut were advised to send their families home. They were gearing up for the big push across the English Channel. Quite a few of the officers I worked with got orders in February and March and took off for Europe.
About the same time my wife was feeling ill. She had been working at the hospital and had to take some time off. They finally decided that she was pregnant. We decided that since I was subject to being ordered abroad that we should bring her home to California. So we bundled up everything we had in our 1938 Chevrolet coupe and headed for California. We drove as far as Grant’s Pass, Oregon the first day. Overnight a big snowstorm came up. We asked about the road conditions over the mountain to Crescent City and they said there was a lot of snow up there. They advised that we shouldn’t go.
But I didn’t want to go back the other way so we went ahead in spite of the warnings. We got through, but it was pretty scary. There were some heavy snow drifts. Luckily we didn’t have any incidents and made it over okay down the Coast and to Point Arena. We visited my mother, brothers Charlie, John and Joe, had dinner with them, and then went on to Menlo Park and Palo Alto where Mary was going to stay with her mother at 519 Cowper Street. I then took the train after a couple of days and went back to Farragut.
Back to Portland and then to Spokane to Couer d’Alene. I arrived back at the BOQ awaiting orders. They finally came in July of 1944. I was still at the brig in charge of the security department. We didn’t have any more escapes so it was rather routine there. The only problem was some of the chief petty officers kind of roughed the prisoners up a little bit. I had to keep them in line. My commanding officer used to inspect the security department. We were supposed to secure our inspections by 5 o’clock, but he was still out there stirring things up at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. One night he called me up at the Officer’s club while I was having dinner and said, “What are we going to do about” some chief. He said he did something wrong and that I should discipline him — right away. I said, “Well I think it can wait until Monday.”
A few months later we were expecting Mark to arrive and I kept wondering why I never heard anything. I had sent a telegram but it had been delivered to some other Scaramella in the area. I never did hear about it. Finally I called. I didn’t know about Mark being born until about a week after it happened. It was quite an exciting time. I was disappointed I wasn’t in on the news earlier.