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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interview with Isiah Wilson, Jr.
Ike W: Could you say your name?
Isiah W: Isiah Wilson, Junior.
Ike W: Which of the armed forces did you belong?
Isiah W: The United States Navy.
Ike : What years were you enlisted in the U.S. Navy?
Isiah W: 1954 till 1965.
Ike W: Where were you originally located?
Isiah W: Camp Robert Small in Great Lakes, Illinois.
Ike W: What was it like?
Isiah W: It was a recruiting station, they call it boot camp. That is where I was
trained at. Recruiting/ Training wasn't easy.
Ike W: Was there any difference because of you skin color?
Isiah W: No, my unit was all black.
Ike W: After training where were you stationed?
Isiah W: Hastings, Nebraska at an ammunition depot.
Ike W: What was the first ship you were on?
Isiah W: Antietam, it was an Aircraft Carrier.
Ike W: Do you remember what year it was?
Isiah W: 1949.
Ike W: How often did you do tours on the Antietam?
Isiah W: Twice a year.
Ike W: How many years?
Isiah W: Four years.
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Ike W: Where did you go from there?
Isiah W: We were not on there year around, more like three months at a time.
Ike W: What other carriers were you on?
Isiah W: The Valley Forge.
Ike W: Any others?
Isiah W: Carriers or ships?
Ike W: Ships.
Isiah W: Ships I am trying to think of the name, the Valley Forge ... I am trying to
think what was the other one I was on another ship, the U.S.S. Little
Rock, that was not an aircraft carrier. It was a guided missile cruiser.
Ike W: When were you on that ship?
Isiah W: I was on there ...
Ike W: Or what tours did you do?
Isiah W: I was on the U.S.S. Little Rock in 1960, I think... Let me look it up. This
book is from the Little Rock.
Ike W: Where were you stationed?
Isiah W: Our home port was in Virginia ... What was the name? ... Our first home
port was Philadelphia.
Ike W: Where else were you stationed?
Isiah W: San Juan, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Baton Rouge, and ...
Ike W: In 1954 where were you at?
Isiah W: I was in Jacksonville, Florida.
Ike W: During what year did you work at the White House?
Isiah W: What year?
Ike W: Yes, what year?
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Isiah W: 1956 and 1957.
Ike W: So that was under the Eisenhower Administration?
Isiah W: Yes.
Ike W: Did anything strange happen while you worked at the White House?
Isiah W: No.
Ike W: What was your position at the White House?
Isiah W: I was assistant to the cook, the chef, they called it waiting in the chef.
Ike W: Did you take anything special from you experience at the White House?
Isiah W: No, it was the same routine as it was in the Navy. Preparing food was
similar except food was prepared more fancy and had to be more
[decorated], beautified, had to be more tasteful. Big decoration sand all
they had to have a ...
Ike W: To what countries have you been?
Isiah W: On what ship?
Ike W: The Little Rock.
Isiah W: We went everywhere on the Little Rock. Let's see, Gibraltar, Italy [Genoa],
Barcelona, Spain and France. What's the name of that city? I can't
remember that name ... France, the Carribbean.
Ike W: What was it like traveling to these places, anything interesting happen?
Isiah W: We went to Haiti, Jamaica, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro.
Ike W: How were you accepted in these countries?
Isiah W: Accepted?
Ike W: Yea.
Isiah W: They don't like Americans down there in the South America. The Spanish
were prejudice, they don't like Americans. At least they didn't like them
then, I don't know how they do now. But back then they didn't like
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Ike W: During all this time do you feel you received equal treatment as any other
Isiah W: Sailor, I was a sailor.
Ike W: Sailor, I'm sorry.
Isiah W: Yes, say sailor.
Ike W: Do you have any funny stories from any of the Navy stations?
Isiah W: I only have one funny story. We had a new executive officer. He came to
Jacksonville as a new executive officer. The officer came up to me one
afternoon and told me to sound the fire alarm. I asked him was it a fire?
He said no, he wanted to d a drill. He wanted to see how the fire
department would respond to me in a call of emergence. So I went and
sounded the alarm. The fire folk came and he told me to stand out there
and talk to them. And he told me when they got there, tell them the
executive officer told me to sound the fire alarm. So when they came I told
them, I don't know I think the one in charge personally. He looked at me
and said, where's the fire? I said the executive officer told me to sound the
fire alarm. He wanted to see how people worked and performed their
duties in the fire department. He got sort of angry. He said ain't no fire and
you sound the alarm. Who told you? We ain't got no new executive officer.
Then he say call the station security and have him arrested for make a
false fire alarm. So when I came back to the executive officer and told him
they said ain't no fire. [The] executive officer told me to go on back to the
duty station and he came told them he was the new executive officer and
for them to go back to their station. I guess they knew him 'cause when
they saw him they went back .. after that the next day and the next day
he told me to sound the fire alarm again. He wasn't satisfied with their
performance yesterday. So I sounded it again and I forgot about the chief.
The chief officer then came by and said somebody called him to come out.
He came out there and I was standing with the executive officer and the
executive officer asked him what did he want. He said I'm the chief-in-
charge and I want to know why you sounded that fire alarm. He said [the
executive officer] I'm the new executive officer, you gonna do you duty. It
was funny the way things were going. He told me to keep sounding it off
and I kept sounding it off. And the fire truck came one day and did what
they were supposed to do and the executive officer sat out there and
watched them. They looked upset which made it funny to me ... I'm a
look and see, can I find my orders. Anything else you want?
Ike W: That's basically it.
WWII-18: Wilson, Page 5 -
[Next section of the interview takes place during a following session the same day]
Ike W: Alright, how was the food preparation and the food different from the
Antietam, the Valley Forge and the White House?
Isiah W: There's a great difference I might add. The food at the White House had to
be prepared with great decoration. Holidays had to have holiday
decorations. There gad to be flowers, had to have candles, they had
servants to wait on tables.
Ike W: What kind of food did he like?
Isiah W: Who, the President?
Ike W: Yea.
Isiah W: He ate them big expensive steaks. They were big like two and half inches
Ike W: What were your duties as the assistant to the cook?
Isiah W: Well, he was a French Chef. I would make sure things were prepared in
order and made sure certain foods were prepared right.
Ike W: What were the meals like on the ships? What was the routine?
Isiah W: It was what you call it, it was very good meals on the ship were very good.
What you call that minerals, I forgot that I'm talking about the vitamins
and nutrients. The calories and all that had to be combined with the food.
You had special food on the ship some days, like Friday we would have
fish, I mean seafood. That is what everybody had to eat Friday seafood,
and on Thursday we had steak. On Sundays we would have baked turkey,
baked chicken, or naked ham. Sunday was a special day too. Sunday was
suppose to have big preparations and we had special meals on Sunday.
On Saturday's you may just have sandwiches or something like that. On
Wednesday we had Jewish day where we didn't prepare certain things.
Ike W: Yea, for them meat has to be Kosher.
No, they just don't eat meat. So we wouldn't have meat that day.