Title: Arthur Forster [ESC 8]
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Title: Arthur Forster ESC 8
Series Title: Arthur Forster ESC 8
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Brooklyn Navy Yard 1914

I'm going to talk about something that happened in 1914. Now,
in 1914 that was about when the war was starting and we were having
trouble down in Vera Cruz. We sent some of our battleships down there

and some airplanes from the Naval Air Station at Pensacola. But I was
living in Brooklyn and I went down to see if I could get a job in the
Brooklyn Navy Yard as a pattern maker. I went down there and I was
told by the boss that they were not hiring any pattern makers just

at that time and they didn't see where they would be hiring any in
the inseeable future. But he said, Forster you're a young fellow,
why don't you make the Navy as your career. He says you could go
down there and get a job in the Navy. You could get in the Navy

as a pattern maker. You might have to go in at same other rate but
for pattern making duty. So he says you can go right over there to
that Constellation over there, that's the receiving ship. I went
over there to see if I could get anything in the line of a job in
the Navy and they sent me over to 23rd Street. They said this place
just closed. We're not going to use it as a receiving ship anymore.
You have to go over to 23rd Street in New York. They gave me the
address and I went over there. I saw a young fellow and he said,
pattern maker? He said we don't hire pattern makers for the Navy.
He said we put you on as second class machinist mates and we put
on your papers for pattern making duty. I said for pattern making
duty only? He said oh no. He said we just put on there that you're

a pattern maker and if they have any pattern making to do they'll
call on you. They know where to find you. Well, I didn't think
that was just exactly what I wanted and I left the station over there
in New York and thought I would try again at a different time.

Mr. Chaffin

There was an Edwin Chaffin. He was married to Annie Sweeney.
He was born in 1855 in Tennessee and his wife was born in Warrington,
Florida in 1862. They had seven children. That's all I'm going to
say about the family.

This Mr. Chaffin worked in the old Navy Yard. I believe he
was chief clerk and. he knew everybody that worked there. He seemed
to be friendly with everybody there; everybody knew him. All during
the time until he died in 1938 people would come to me and ask for
permission to go up to see Mr. Chaffin. They wanted to see him

about a verification of their time while they worked in the old i ,
Yard. Of course I would let them go and I believe he helped all of
the old Navy Yard employees to get their pensions by furnishing the
information that was not available otherwise.

I have said in the past that all the people that were working
in the shop when I went to work there, that is all the mechanics,
were old men, old Navy Yard men. All of these men were helped by
this Mr. Chaffin and I think he was a godsend to a good many of the

old people that worked at the Navy Yard. He died June 24, 1938. I
don't think there were many of the old Navy Yard employees living
that needed help after he died.

J. E. Taylor Brick Yard

Now in Pensacola I knew a man by the name of John E. Taylor. He
was the owner of the Taylor Brick Yard at Bratt, Florida. That's out
Palafox Highway. They had a big sales department on East Garden Street.
It took, in a way I guess, a couple square blocks. There were lots of
bricks piled up all over that place. A good many bricks had been there
a good many years. Well, I knew him and one day he came up to the
funeral home and this was, I think, sometime in probably 1924 or 1925.

I was sitting on the porch and he said Forster how about taking a ride
out to my place out at Bratt with me. He said we'll have something to
eat out there. I said well when do you want to go? He said how about
tomorrow. He said I want to take you out there. He said I got a lot
of stuff I want you to look at. He said I want you to give me some

advice, criticism or something. I said I would be glad to go vwth you.
So we made arrangements to go tomorrow, which was Saturday and he
said he would get the lunch. So that was fine. We went out to the
place on Palafox Street. I guess you would call it Palafox Highway.
Prom the top of the hill on out, way out, was not paved, there was no
pavement. It was just a dirt road and I mean it was in terrible shape.
It was a dry spell and everything was dry and dusty. When you drive
your car you put up a cloud of dust behind you and when you saw a car
coming your way, he put up a cloud of dust. Well, it was a terrible
ride up there. I guess it's about, I don't know how far it is, it's
probably 30 miles more or less up there. I would have to look at the
map to find out just how far it is. But, we finally got there. We
went into the brick yard; we looked around. They had one machine there
making brick. They were making this brick out of this red clay that
they get right out of the hills up in the neighborhood. They were
trucking it in, putting it through this machine and squeezing out

J. E. Taylor Brick Yard #2

blocks the size of bricks. They were stacking them up on boards and

they had thousands of them stacked all over. Some of them I guess you

would say were drying out. You could use that as a common word but

they speak of seasoning and other names that they have for them. But,

anyhow, there was lots of brick out there. And then they had five or
six, I'm not sure just which, of these big I guess they call them dry

kilns. They were loading these things with brick. They had one or two

of them fired up and they were getting some ready to fire and they had

some that were cooling off. So you could see brick in most any way you
wanted to see them. They were making thousands and thousands of brick.
I don't think they moved them out of the brick kiln until they were

ready to deliver them to the site where they were going to build the

Now this was a hot day and it was mighty dusty and windy. The kind

of day we get quite a few of in this part of the country. And there was,

as far as I know, nothing up there where we could get a good drink. We
could drink out of the spigot it was warm water just right out of the

ground. That's about the only thing they had on the whole place there

that you could drink. Well, we stayed around there looking around,
looking it over until it got to be about 2, 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the

afternoon and he finally said I think it's about time we were going
home. Now he had a Model Ti it was a Model T Ford and it was a pretty

old one. But anyhow that was what we had and what we used to go up there

and come back in. When we got about five miles the other side of Pensacola

or somewhere probably around Brent, he said lets stop the car and we'll

sit under a tree here and we'll have something to eat. Well I didn't

know what we were going to eat. I didn't know where it was. He didn't

J. E. Taylor Brick Yard #3

seem to have it with him. So he finally said to me, Porster reach in

the back there and get that bag on the seat there. I reached back and

I got a small bag and I handed it to him. There was a small package
of soda crackers in it, these Nabiscos, those kind of crackers. A

small pack of crackers and one small can of sardines. There were about

six sardines in the can. Now before he let me see what was in the bag
he kind of gave me a lecture and the lecture was on eating. He said

you know you should never eat a good big meal in the middle of the day-
time. You should never eat anything hearty. If you're going to eat

anything like that you should eat it in the morning or eat it at night
but never in the middle of the day. He said it makes you droggy in the

afternoon and at least you should never eat a whole lot of stuff in the
middle of the day it's not good for you. Then he opened up the bag

and he opened this one pack of crackers and he says will you have some
crackers? And he opened up the can of sardines and he says have a few

sardines. So I had a few of his crackers and a few of his sardines and
that was that lunch he was going to have for us. In other words, that

was the bait to get me to go up there I guess.
However, there wasn't a drink of water in the neighborhood. You

couldn't buy a drink of coca cola or anything like that. There just

wasn't anything up on the hill, nothing but a dirt road. Well, we

finally ate all the crackers and all the fish and I guess you would

say we were satisfied being we weren't suppose to eat a big mea2 in

the middle of the day. We finally got back to the funeral home and
he let me out but before letting me out he said, Forster I want you
to go up with me again sometime. He says I got a lot from your

J. E. Taylor Brick Yard #4

constructive criticism. He says I enjoyed it. He said it was worth
something to me and I want you to go again sometime. I promised him
I would but the time never came when I made the second trip with

J. E. Taylor to his brickyard at Bratt.

A few years later or I think it was about 1952 or 1933, when we
were having the depression, they were selling brick for $5 a thousand.
He delivered a thousand brick to my house for $5 and $2 for delivery
down to the Big Bayou from Brent. Now he couldn't afford to do that
but that was what they were getting at that time for brick. It was
just before this so-called IRA that was Roosevelt's pet. I didn't
happen to be home at the time this fellow left this thousand brick and

I wasn't in a position to pay him so he went off without being paid.
I owed him $7; he left a bill for $7. Now Eugene Taylor, that's the
only son of J. E. Taylor, came to my house two days after the bricks
were left there and he came to collect that $7. Now I always looked
upon the Taylor family and J. E. Taylor in particular as being among
the richest families in Pensacola. I don't know why it was necessary
for him to come down to get that $7 two days after the bricks were
delivered. He could have sent me a bill and I could have sent him a
check. But no, he came down for the money. So I gave him the money
and he went off.
Now over at that house, that's the house over at 217 Pou Station

Road, that's the house, the little house, it has a brick chimney and
it's bricked all around the foundation that was where I used that
thousand brick. There was a fellow that did the brick work for me,

he did it mighty cheap. He charged me $40 for putting up all that

foundation and that chimney that he put on that house. That was about

1932 or 1933 I believe. That's the story about the Taylor Brick Yard
and the bricks.

Concrete Ship #2

during the 1926 hurricane and I know at a later date it was towed from

there. They towed it down to Port Walton; it was on the south side of

Santa Rosa Sound.
Now just at the bridge up there at Fort Walton on the south side

there is a cove and this ship, this concrete ship, was put in that

cove. I understand it was used originally as a restaurant but it

then became a gambling joint. I don't know where it is now. I

haven't been up in that neighborhood in-a good many years so I don't

know. I did have one chance to visit this concrete ship while it was

part of the Pensacola Yacht Club regalia. I had a supper down there

with Doctor Carol Webb. I think it was his intention to get me in

there at that time as a member but I didn't join and I never was a

member of the Yacht Club.

Concrete Ship

Now this is a good one. Did you ever see a ship built out of

concrete? Now you would think a man would be crazy to talk about

building a ship out of concrete but we must of had some crazy people

in our Navy Department during World War I because they built quite a

few concrete ships. Now one of these ships managed to get to Pensacola.

The only one I've ever seen. It was quite a ship. It wasn't a small
one; it wasn't as big as the Liberty ship but it was a pretty good

size ship, more like a passenger ship than a freight ship. This

ship came in and tied up down at Palafox St. Wharf. That was the old
wharf and it was right after, shortly after, World War I. They loaded

it up with gasoline.. It was ready to go out but instead of going out,
it stayed there. It stayed tied up for quite some time. We would go

down there and everytime we went down near it, there were fewer men

on board. I don't know what they were doing with the men, whether

they were taking them off and transferring them or whether they were

jumping ship or what. Everytime we went there, there were fewer men

on board. However, in a short time we found out that this concrete

ship was sold to the Pensacola Yacht Club and the Pensacola Yacht Club
moved it up along side of the railroad bridge in Bayou Chico. That's

the little bayou down here and it stayed tied up there for quite some

time. Now they say, if you know who they are, that there is enough

gasoline on board to almost pay for the ship that is pay what the
Pensacola Yacht Club paid for the ship. Now I don't know whether that's
so or not but I heard it. They may have had to give the engines with
it, I don't know that either. However, this concrete ship was tied

up at the little bayou for a good many years. I know it was there

1916, Mr. Lake

I came here on May 15, 1916. I went to work the first morning and

I met my boss, he was a Chief Warrant Officer by the name of R. H. Lake

and he was an elderly man. He talked to me quite a bit during the day-,
time and looked over my tools. We talked about the class of work he had

to do and it all looked like very simple work to me and I as much told

him that. Well he seemed to be pleased because they were having trouble

getting a good pattern maker. During the day he asked me where I was
going to live; I told him I hadn't given it a thought yet, that I didn't

know that maybe I was only going to be here a few weeks and it didn't

make a whole lot of difference. I said it all depends on how I make
out how long I'll stay here. Well he said, I have a pretty large house,

I live on the Big Bayou that's on the way to town. I live right along

the water, you know that bridge you go over coming down here on the street

car. Well I live across from that, he says, I have a pretty nice house

there and if you want to I can let you have a room in that house and I
think you would like it there. He also told me there was a Mrs. Thrasher

that had a rooming house in the neighborhood and she run a regular
boarding house in Montgomery. She was only down there for the summer

.and I could board or eat over there. I thought that would be a pretty
good idea. So I went down there, looked the room over and I liked it
and he charged me $10 a month. for the room. It was a big room, in fact,

.it is the same room I'm sleeping in today and this is a long time since
1916. In fact it's almost 60 years, but I do have the same room. Of
course, Mr. Lake is not with us anymore. The house was owned by a Mr.

C. H. Dorr and he sold it to the family I married into.

Well getting back to living on the bayou, I had this room and I

was getting my meals. I saw this Mrs. Thrasher, she came to the door
and, of course, I asked her how much my meals would cost and she said

oh I guess about $5 a week, how is that.- I said that sounds alright

.1916, Mr. Lake #2

to me and I reached in my pocket to get the $5 and she said oh you wait
until you get paid if you're going to work for the Navy yard. I'll just

wait until you get paid and then you can pay me. Well I never had any-

body say just that to me in the past, I always had to have the money
on the barrelhead.

While I was working on the station, living at the Big Bayou and

riding to and from work everyday with this Mr. Lake. About six weeks

later or on July 5, and I think, I'm not sure, I think July 4 came on
a Sunday and it got very rainy, stormy and we were due at work the next
morning. It was raining hard and I got in the car with Mr. Lake and wei
started to the Navy yard, lots of rain, the road was all flooded but we'

managed to get down there and got over the bridge. The tide was high,
very high. He went up in the office to see what he could find about a
hurricane that he heard was due to come this way. He inquired around
and came back to the shop and he went to a group of these old men who
had been working on the station for a good many years. But all of these

men had been laid off in 1911 when they closed the Navy yard. 'hey were

all old navy yard employees and they were getting up in age. That's the
type of men that were working in the shop when I went there. I was the

youngest man there; I was only 26. Some of these men were up in their

50.'s and 60's. Well, he went to this group and he couldn't find any of
them that would assume the responsibility of taking care of the shop

during the hurricane. He just shook his head and left that group and

came oyer to me and he said, Forster, you've been here long enough.

You've beep here since May 15 and he says here it is July, a couple of

months or more. He says, you ought to know enough about this place to

1916, Mr. Lake #3

know what to do in case of a hurricane. If you don't know, you can ask

some of these old fellas, they know but none of them want the responsi-

bility and I'm going to give it to you. I'm going to put you in charge

so you do the best you can. He says just use good common sense and he
says I know you'll know how to do that. So I was the boss, I had no

chance to say no, he just said I was so I took charge. I went over to

the group and I said, did you hear what the old man told me. They all

said yes so I said alright, now I'm asking for information. I'm in
charge, you come to me and tell me what should be done and I'll be
responsible for having it done. So the fellas said, well we have to go

around and we have to get timber and not necessarily board up these
windows but we have to put chunks and pieces of 2 x 4's up there to
hold the window frames in and these big doors have to be something done
to them. They have to be braced up. We have to do the something down-

stairs and oh they found a lot of work to do and it was a good thing we

had about, I think, about a dozen men there. We spent all the morning
getting the place secured good and tight and before noon the lights went
out. So we didn't have any lights from say about noon time on. It got

around noon time, a fella says how are we going to get something to eat
in here at noon and for tonight. I said what do you suggest, I said I'm

open for suggestions. One fella said, well right over there next door is

a sailor's barracks and they have a dining room over there where we can
eat, get in line. I said they have, I didn't know it was over there. So

I went over there, went over there alone. I went in the place and luckily

I happened to meet a fella that I met in the Masonic Lodge a week or so

before that. He was the man in charge of all the sailors, he was a Chief

1916, Mr. Lake #4

Petty Officer. We got to talking and I told him I had about a dozen
men over next door that needed something to eat and I didn't know what
we were going to do about tonight supper, I said is there any way we
can sign a chit or get something to eat in advance of maybe paying for
it or something like that. He said,oh you won't have to do that, he

says I'll tell you what I'll do. He said you have these men come over
and he gave me the time. He said, now have them come over here in line
and stay in line and be quiet and then after all the sailors eat they
can get in line and help themselves. They can eat just the way the
sailors are eating. I thought that was fine. I went over and told
these fellas about it and told them how'they would have to behave them-
selves. We had a good dinner and later on he said come back for supper.
Do the something for supper and come back, and then he kind of looked
around and looked at the clock and he said come over here and he gave
me a certain time. So we were all over there, got in line again and
got supper. He treated us very good.
Then we went back to the shop, we planned on staying there, going
to spend the night there. I said we'll have no open lights. I don't
care what you say there will be no open lights. We won't have any type

of candles because candles are dangerous in a woodworking shop especially

a place that has:as much dust and dirt in it as this shop has. Well they
all agreed to that. We got sitting around not doing much, it started
getting dark and e could hear a lot of noise down below. The tide was

coming up; the tide was just about up even with the floor. Now all the
rats that were under the first floor and maybe come in from some other
buildings were all down on the first floor. You could see them down
there running around and sooner or later when the floor started to get

1916, Mr. Lake

wet down below they would start coming upstairs. Well there was just
too mapy of them so I took it upon myself, I said look I'm going back
to see that sailor over there, see if he can't put us up for the night.

I said how does that feel, oh that sounded good. So I went over there
and he said, yes I can put you up. Come on over here, he Says I'll put
you up and I'll give you breakfast. He said you just have to get up
at..a. certain time, he told us when for breakfast. That will be after
the enlisted men, you'll have to come after that. Well that was fine.

So we went over there, I guess we went over there about dark we got
over there and the rats were running around the place, there were lots
of them. You could expect a lot of them to be there. Well we spent
the night in the sailors barracks upstairs, they put us to bed. These

sailors didn't go to bed until about midnight, they sat up and they

played acey-ducey and shot craps and checkers and other games they
were playing. About midnight we managed to get to sleep, that is I did.
We were up early in the morning and dressed and waiting for a chance to
get downstairs and get in line to get breakfast. Well by morning the
tide had gone down somewhat and we could think about going home. Well
we had our breakfast, went back to the shop, hung around there for awhile
and an order came in from the Commandant's building and they wanted some
screens fixed. I said to the fellas, I said listen, let's not.hear this

order. That's an order not for us, we don't work for the department to
put up screens. That's done by the Public Works. I said let's not hear

that order. We don't know anything about it, forget about it. I didn't
feel like staying down there fixing a lot of screens for the Commandant's
house so we all shoved off. Some of us went by way of the road so they

1916, Mr. Lake #6

could get a rowboat to row across over there but I took a chance on
coming along the railroad tracks because I lived this way and I could
see my house when I got down quite a ways. I had to walk in water more

than waist deep in order to get to my house, that is following along
the railroad tracks. It was just that much high. he tracks had gone

out in some places. After awhile I managed to get home and when I got
home there was nobody there. 'Ohe house was locked up, closed up, the

water just about started to come into the room. It didn't flood the
floor but it wet the floor in places. My trunk, the same trunk I have
today, the trunk was on the floor when I left, under the bed, but when
I got back it was on the bed. Now this Mr. Lake probably on his way out
looked in my room and saw that the trunk was under the bed and I-guess
he just put it up on the bed to protect it. I had no damage at home at
all. This was one of those small storms but this is the storm that
wrecked all the airplanes and all the hangars that they had on the beach
down at the naval air station. They had 16 hangars and each hangar had

an airplane in it.
Now they had a storm cellar, a building called a storm cellar,
that was building 27, previous to being a storm cellar it was used as
a sort of a coal bin when the ships used to come in and get coal. But
it was pretty well cleaned out and they had a concrete floor in it and
it was safe enough to put the airplanes in. But they said this storm
came %:so fast there wasn't an airplane in this building but early in the
morning, they started saving what they could. Saving pontoons here and
fuselages'here and some of the wings. They were chopping them with aXes,
they were using hand saws and these big cutters so they could get the

1916, Mr. Lake #7

pieces of the airplanes and get them put away. All the engines, they
were all taken over to the engine department and they were all worked

on immediately and all the engines were saved. They managed to get
men to come in to go to work but none of my men were in that second
day working. UTey were all going -home because they had been there the
first day.
I have a picture of the beach showing it before and after, that

is showing the 16 tents that had the airplanes in them before the storm

and then what it looked like. after the storm. I have it in my book with
other papers and pictures.
Well in a few days we were getting settled and when it got around

to August 18 Mr. Lake came to me and said, Porster, I've been over

talking to those old fellas and none of those fellas want any responsi-
bility. They don't want to be right under an officer and he said I'm

going to make you Acting Leading Man. When the time comes to take the
examination for the job, if you come high why you get the job but you

have to be high. I said, well I'll take a chance on that. I'll be

Acting Leading Man and get some experience during that time.
The reason they were putting civilians in the shop as supervisors
was because they had had enlisted men in the shop and enlisted chief
petty officers, they were the supervisors, and the enlisted men had to

go to sea, their time was up. The regulations were then, put civilians

,in the shop and have civilian supervisors so I was acting Leading Man.

I think I said in the past that the first day I went down there
there was a colored woman came up the back stairs with a wash basket

full of good things to eat. She brought some pies, particularly potato
pie and some turnovers, cakes that she.made and some sandwiches. She
would bring it up on her head, get in the shop, set it down on the bench

and just sit there and people would come and buy everything that 'she
brought. Now I don't know just how long she lasted there. I forgot
about her, in other words she became a fixture and the fixture dis-

appeared. I don't know when she quit but she was there for quite some

Now right outside the main gate they had a small restaurant. It

was called Mooney's Restaurant. I think they had a counter with a few
swivel chairs and probably six or eight tables. Well I went in there
the first day and when Mr. Mooney saw me coming in he pointed to me and
he said Mr. Forster that's your place right over there. You can sit
over there with those gentlemen. Well I got looking around, I sat down,
I wondered how he knew my name but I found out. It seems that everybody
on the station knew there was a fella by the name of Porster coming from
New York and he was a pattern maker and they were expecting things out
of him. So he did get a little bit of publicity before he got there,
which I didn't know about. Anyhow I sat down at the table and there was

a fellow by the name of John Able, he was there. He was a policeman.
There *as a fellow by the name of Ben Seally, I think he was a joiner
but I think he worked for Public Works. And then there was a fellow
by-the name of Bingham and he worked-in the power house. I never knew
whether he was the boss of the power house or whether he was just one
of them but he was over there.

I didn't think much of the navy yard the first day I was there.
It was dirty and dusty, it was hot and I figured if I stayed there for
two weeks I would be lucky. Anyhow I managed to stay there for quite

some time.

Now going back to this fellow Mooney, he lost one leg under a
street car on the reservation and they called him "peg-leg Mooney."

He always stayed behind the counter and I never knew if he was one-

legged or teo-legged because I never saw him any other place but behind
the counter. Now the dinner we had at Mooney's this day, we had some

kind of meat. I don't know what it was, that is I forget. But I do
know that we had some beans, that is I thought they were beans, they

were black-eyed peas. I thought they were the damndest looking beans

I ever saw. And we had white squash which I had never seen before and
I had never eaten collard greens before. I managed to eat a good bit

of the dinner. I guess I was probably hungry but I ate it.

On the way out Mr. Mooney introduced himself and we shook hands

and he said Mr. Forster, he says, if you're going to eat over here every
day he said I would like to give you a ticket. I'll just give you the
ticket now and you can pay me wnen you get paid and I'll just punch off

your dinner. Now the tickets were about $2 and I think you could eat
about eight or ten dinners off that. 9hey were about 20 to 25 cents

apiece, I don't remember just what they were but not much. I didn't get
one of those tickets because I had an idea that I would be able to get
my luneh from this Mrs. Thrasher. That was that lady that was down on

the bayou'and there's where I got my lunch.

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