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When I first started the Weekly 150, it was originally planned to run to the end of the 2019 calendar year. After several humbling emails and letters of appreciation, it was extended another year and …
When I first started the Weekly 150, it was originally planned to run to the end of the 2019 calendar year. After several humbling emails and letters of appreciation, it was extended another year and then the next as long as our readers were enjoying the stories. So here we are going into the third year.
It has been an honor and privilege to write these articles. Let me say thank you for the emails and all the support I’ve received. I am humbled by the kind words and appreciation. With each passing week, the time needed to conduct research has increased making it difficult to turn the stories out at a weekly rate.
At some point in the near future, I am considering cutting the stories back to every other week. Mostly in regards to the time needed for research. To keep the stories coming, readers are encouraged to email me and/or provide information on suggested topics.
Picking up, as promised, from last week here is the story of Max Manley.
Max Carlton Manley was the last male of the Newton Manley line. Newton had ten children, eight of whom were male, but by 1925 Max was the last of that section of family lineage.
On May 3, 1925, Max was born to Rob and Virgie Miller Manley. The family lived on Como Road behind the hill where Max called home most of his adult life. Known for his sense of humor, he once said of being an only child, “They took a look at me and decided they didn’t want any more children. They put me on the back porch the first week to see if I was going to bark or something.”
When Max was seven or eight years old, his parents had their house moved across the road. In his youth, he worked on the family farm and attended school. His freshman year in high school he took a job at a grocery store, working on Saturdays starting early in the morning until late at night.
“We had to grind the coffee and all that stuff,” Max said. It was commonplace for customers to drop off their shopping list to be filled by the store clerks while going on to take care of other business or to just socialize. Once the order was ready, the clerk would place the order under the counter until the customer returned.
“I’d be so tired, my legs would be hurting. I’d hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep,” he recalled the long day’s work and then lengthy walk home.
“I worked all my life,” he declared, “I mean hard!” Growing up, his summers were spent behind a team of mules for his granddad and cousins. At the end of one season, his grandfather gave him a new bicycle.
“I had it a month and crashed it - tore it all to pieces. I was coming down through by Wrinkles toward the railroad and another was in front of me 15-20 feet; boy, we were flying! He went in front of Virgil Malone in a Ford Model-T and I couldn’t stop. I hit his front wheel and just folded up. It scared Virgil to death. He didn’t have any brakes on the Model-T and he got down to the flower shop before she could stop.”
Max left home at 17 and moved into the Virginia Hotel on Waldren Street. He began working for Argel and Sarah Finley at their ice cream parlor. After a few months, Max started work for Sarah’s father at Boaz Lumber (located where the city water department is now). Before long Sarah needed help and Max was asked to return. When her father insisted Max help his daughter out he was forced to leave the lumber shed. He managed the ice cream parlor by day and his roommate, Sam Sullivan, managed it in the evenings.
Somewhere in the mix, Max helped in the construction of the segregated portion of the barracks at Camp Tyson.
His senior year, he dropped out of high school and was drafted into the U.S. Navy. His three-year tour started at Fort Oglethorpe, then on to San Diego by train. He went through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi before missing his connection in Memphis. After a night, he went on to Oklahoma where “they put us on an old train just like a cattle car.”
Marking his distaste for the accommodations, “It had old straw back seats and went about 15 miles an hour. Over a week later, we ended up in San Diego with no bath and all we’d had to eat was what the Red Cross ladies had at the depots - just snack junk.”
After basic training, he attended machinist’s school before receiving orders to join the crew on the USS Hammondsport near Bougainville Island in the South Pacific (the Solomon Sea near Papua New Guinea). The ship was not much better than the train he rode from Oklahoma to San Diego.
“It was a nasty looking outfit - rusty! Oh, my God, I’ve never been so sick in my life; I thought, ‘We’re going to go over there and never see home no more’” he recalled from over a half-century ago of the trip.
Conditions improved as the crew worked on the ship and added a fresh coat of paint. Upon arrival, the ship was up to par as they received their orders. They were to transport supplies into and out of locations each time the Marines and Army took an island. Max started in the engine room keeping the three boilers fired. Later he was transferred to refrigeration and the evaporator department, where freshwater was made.
With the sweltering heat, the job was grueling but the ship was like a small city. Everything the 500-member crew needed down to a barber was available on-board. The doctor, in civilian life, was a pediatrician but soon learned to be a surgeon and general practitioner.
The ship was a merchant marine ship, so proclaimed by a bronze plaque that boasted its former route from New York City to Cuba. Railroad tracks on its four decks make it possible to haul 104 freight cars. In mobilization for war, the top deck was removed, and two huge cranes on the other either side of the ship loaded heavy equipment onto the quarterdeck. The ship carried airplanes, amphibious tanks, all types of equipment, mail, and men.
In the sailor’s quarters were wall-to-wall posters of pinup girls. Max, who played guitar, and other crewmen put together a “pretty good band” aboard the ship, though he said, “They didn’t care whether it was good or bad as long as we just had a racket going.”
A building/pavilion on one of the islands held by the Army offered a place for rest and recreation for the crew of the USS Hammondsport. Beer parties were thrown for the troops.
“Didn’t nobody get drunk,” Max said, “You couldn’t drink much of it, it was so nasty.”
Max describes an old church that stood in the distance from the shoreline. The church was in stark contrast to the poverty of the indigenous people with their yoked musk oxen and dusty terrain shaded by sparse palm trees. The building was extremely ornate with its arched ceiling providing cover to a room in religious icons in its insets along the wall. Gold and silver were inlaid from floor to ceiling.
Next week, I will continue the story of Max Manley as he finds love in near San Francisco.