SHOVED OFF AT
HOBOKEN, N.J. – SEPT. 15, 1918.
ARRIVED IN HARBOR
BREST FRANCE – SEPT 27, 1918.
LAY AT ANCHOR 4 ½ DAYS
BACK IN N.Y. HARBOR OCT. 11, 1918
ON BOARD U.S.S. CALAMARES
According to information provided by the Naval Historical Center and NavSourceOnline, Calamares, a refrigerated cargo steamship, was built in 1913 at Belfast, Ireland. She was owned by the United Fruit Company. Acquired by the Army for World War I service, she was transferred to the Navy in April 1918 and placed in commission as USS Calamares (ID # 3662). She was used as a troop transport and made five voyages to France for this purpose. On October 11, 1918, she was assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, which used her to carry provisions from the U.S. to France on three more trips. October 11, 1918 was the very day that the sailor who carved this information reached N.Y. Harbor! Thus, we know that the voyage this sailor described was the last of the five voyages which had transported troops to France.
The photos of USS Calamares below are courtesy of the Naval Historical Center and Paul H. Silverstone. The one on top shows her at New York Navy Yard on June 28, 1918. In the photo on the bottom, a Navy Band plays on the dock of a French port as a group of sailors stand in formation with USS Calamares in the background. This photo is dated 1918. Perhaps “T.H.M.” is in this photo!
Calamares again returned to transport duty in March 1919 making five voyages which brought more than 10,000 U.S. service personnel home from Europe. The last of these trips was completed August 1919, and USS Calamares was decommissioned and returned to the United Fruit Company. In December 1941 Calamares was acquired again by the Navy for use during the Second World War. After being converted to a storeship she was commissioned in April 1943 as USS Calamares (AF-18). She was decommissioned in April 1946 and turned over to the Maritime Commission. She was sold for scrapping in December 1947.
I bought this wonderful piece of Americana on eBay. There was some work that had to be done so that the mandolin would be playable. My friend Paul Gorman Meadors, an excellent luthier, built a new ebony fretboard and a rosewood bridge, and put a spline inside the instrument, repairing a crack that extends up the entire back. He left the crack open at the top and bottom of the Gibson label so as not to obscure it. The result: a completely stable, perfect player! She is no Gibson A model, but she sounds full, with plenty of volume and plenty of bass, and is punchy, perky, and very well balanced. I am delighted with the sound—she sounds great for fiddle tunes and great for J.S. Bach (from whom I know only one piece!). All in all, I have a total of $463.00 invested in this instrument—a real steal as far as I’m concerned.
I love the mandolin and I love the story she tells. Every time I pick her up and play a tune I am reminded that I can enjoy musical instruments and so many other things only because of the freedom which has been secured through the great sacrifice of generations of our men and women in uniform—people like “T.H.M.” who once owned my Gibson Alrite.