Letter from High Chimneys by Jack Rue
Jack Rue fakes it without his spectacles as he lost them on his last joke about the Priest leaving the house of ill repute where he had ministered to the poor working girls.
Letter from High Chimneys: Bars Going Broke Rue Stops Drinking – Part One
By Jack Rue
I have not had a drink for three months, three weeks, three days, three hours, three minutes and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6….ad-infinitium seconds. For those who have a drinking problem or are exposed to one who has –have patience, if possible. I drank for over fifty years. Socially at first and then I drank to get drunk! Bad news. Why did I quit?
I want longevity.
Disappointing and embarrassing my family and friends – two of my dearest friends – O. L.O. and K-K-K-ATIE, would just look at me when I was coming off a binge and burst out crying.
Making a complete fool of myself and I was darn good at it-probably the best, as I am in everything I do!!
One of Penny’s last requests-she asked Father Billy George to ask me to “Leave that damn bottle alone!” He wrote me a great letter to that effect.
My Dad was 92 when he died. Mother is 90 and still going strong. I shall spend Christmas with her in La Jolla, California. I go to Coronado and visit my Navy friends and come back to her inebriated. She told me to either stay sober or drunk as her attorney is tired of taking me out of her will and then putting me back in. She has a piece of change but won’t tell me how much-Mrs. Scrooge!
I had two seven-piece bands at the University of Michigan and was going to be an attorney. I kept my bands over the Thanksgiving holiday to play some joke.
I walked into my fraternity house and here it was – GREETINGS!! I was drafted. This is 1940 speaking.
I was educated to be a conscientious objector and pacifist! World War I was the “War to end all Wars!!” I had two uncles in it, and one was gassed in France but survived.
I am crushed! My friends said if you have to go, get a commission. I asked what and hell that is.
The ROTC boys said you are an officer and a gentleman (if you can.) I went to the ROTC, and they would not enlist me because I did not join as a freshman. I went to the Dean of Men, and he said you are automatically deferred until the spring of 1941. He said join the C.A.P. (Civilian Air Patrol) program here, and they may let you stay on. In 1940 we absolutely did not believe we would go to war. Did you know we did not declare war on Germany? Hitler declared war on us several days after Pearl Harbor. I am writing this December 7, 1988. Did you know I was born to a Japanese mother and a Jewish father and every December 7, I attack Pearl Schwartz!!
I took the flight physical for the C.A.P. and flunked the pulse and blood pressure part. I took it several times with the same results. Draft Dodgers were going on farms and defense plants to evade going in the Army.
When the spring term ended in 1941, I went to N.A.S. Grosse Ile and took the same physical with the same results. The doctor told me I was just too eager to pass it and gave me a deferment. I did not smoke, did not eat fried foods, did not drink coke, coffee, tea, and I always swam, played golf and tennis. I passed it the third time, and I was going to be a NAVAL AVIATOR (if I could fly). I had been on a plane once after a golf game. I think it was a big old Stimson – three-seater and we circled the field, and it cost either a quarter or fifty cents. Now I got orders to take my draft physical.
I had an Archie Bunker type friend who flunked it, and I asked how. He said to get a carton of cigarettes, and a gallon of wine, and stay up all night. I got the cigarettes, wine, and a beautiful girl and a motel room. I took my gal home in the early morn and reported at 7 a.m. for my draft physical.
They gave me the results to look at, and they had a couple of lines on the bottom asking if there was anything wrong, and I said high blood pressure. The doctor took me back in and said you have low blood pressure. If I would have just had the wine and cigarettes – but no- I had to have that girl, and I literally loved myself into exhaustion.
In fact, I was so weak; I almost went up with the window shade in the motel.
I am so smart I make myself sick and don’t you know they sent me my draft orders, and I was supposed to board a troop train the next week!! I called them, and they said we just want to make sure you’re going.
Three of us left Detroit, October 1941. All the mothers and sisters were crying. I guess the old man was glad to get rid of us and the tuition. My Dad was sending money for my dog that was going to the University of Michigan with me taking a speech course. Dad came out to see our expensive educated dog. I said I shot him as he kept telling about the affair you were having with our maid. Dad replied, “are you sure the S.O.B. is dead?”
The recruiting officer was a great P.R. man. They wanted us because of two years of college and ability to pass the rigorous physical. Much, much later in life I could not pass one as they could not get the urine out of my alcohol!! He said you will be gone six months. If you get your wings, you may apply for the regular Navy, or stay in as a reserve. Here is the BIGGIE – Naval Aviator marries money. You get those golden wings, and you will be like a movie star!! I’d like Jimmy Hoffa or Al Capone to put a contract on him (Pilots were trained to kill and be killed.)
I had a Ford convertible. We checked in N.A.S. New Orleans, October 14, 1941. Duke Allred of St. Mary’s City was head of supply and issued us our uniforms. I never let him forget it. I got my ten hours in and soloed, and they threw me in Lake Pontchartrain I made the Rotogravure in New Orleans Picayune. Hell – I wasn’t famous then!
We got liberty each weekend. Carter Chamberlin and I always rented a room at the Roosevelt Hotel, and all our buddies used it. We were seamen second class – $24 and 50% flight pay making a grand total of $36 per month. I asked Dear old Dad to buy me some uniforms and he said he thought the Navy provided uniforms. I replied that the Navy had some sentry dogs and I may teach one to talk. He wired me the money and asked me to stop blackmailing him. December 6, 1941 – Saturday night, Vaughn Monroe was in the main ballroom “Racing to the Moon.”
December 7, 1941, we were having Ramos Gin Fizzes Sunday afternoon, and the city police kept coming in walking to each table and saying all military report back to their stations. No one was allowed to wear uniforms off of military bases – married men only to and from work. We got back to base at 2100 that night. They issued us what arms they had, and we had four-hour watches on the perimeter of the base. No one knew what was going on. There were no pictures – just the radio “Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.” Hell- I thought Pearl Harbor was in Ohio. Then President Roosevelt declared war before Congress. Our nation was absolutely unprepared for this emotionally and militarily, especially if you were in the military. We had lawyers, professors, pre-dental and pre-med students, etc. in pre-flight training. Our education was interrupted to say nothing about our way of life and careers. We would look at each other and ask, “What ‘n Hell are you doing here?”
These teenagers were protesting carrying placards which read “CHANGE THE WORLD.” Their parents remarked ‘how are they going to change the world, when they don’t even change their underwear?’
Seeing as this was the season for invitations. Penny sent the following when we were living there.
The Rues are at home
In the afternoon until
Hope you are the same.
Jack and Penny
The ones that did not notice the “hope you are the same” called and asked which Sunday. We confused so many friends that we left the house open as it always was, stocked the bar, as it always was and left for the day. Penny had a great sense of humor. Several months before she died she asked why I was staying with her consistently. I replied, “If I were lying in that bed and you were sitting in this chair, you would do the same for me, wouldn’t you?”
She said, “Don’t try me!”
I would make a New Year’s Resolution, but I can’t think of any that I have not already broken! BAH HUMBUG
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