You’re probably thinking, “what do cannibals and doughnuts have in common?” Hmmm…well, read on to find out!
At the age of 28 years old, Melzar (my grandfather) and his best friend, Julius Jackson, joined the Merchant Marines as cooks. Melzar and Julius did not know how to cook, but they could read so that’s exactly what they did! Who can’t follow a recipe?
This job provided much-needed income and gave them a different perspective of the world. They traveled on the Agwi Prince and the Booneborough vessels during World War II, and were able to go beyond Mobile to places like London, New York, California, and New Guinea. Can you believe the manifest identified Melzar as 33 years old, 6 feet 2 inches tall, and 178 pounds. I’m sure he had a striking appearance!
When I mentioned this to my Mother, she stated that Melzar wrote to the family frequently while in the Merchant Marines, and by the time the family got the letters, they were full of holes. All letters sent home were being reviewed by the vessel Commander and any information he did not want to be released was literally cut out of the letter before sending!
When Melzar returned from the war, he could finally fill in some of the “holes” from the letters the family received. One story in particular sticks out for my Mother. Chappy and the crew arrived at several ports but one stood out among the rest. It was the port in New Guinea. The crewmen were told they could leave the ship, but the Commander wanted all to know there were cannibals on the island, and it was their responsibility to return safely and on time. The Commander stressed there would be no protection provided. Can you image how Melzar and Julius felt? What they must have been thinking? I bet it did not take long to decide to stay on the vessel at this port!
When Melzar (affectionately known as Chappy) returned home from the war, he decided to show off his skills from the Merchant Marines. What could he do that 10 and 12-year-old girls would like?
Why he could make doughnuts! The girls were really excited. Homemade doughnuts…! Well Chappy started to make the doughnuts as the girls watched. Once the dough was made, Daddy Chappy let it rise. “Are the doughnuts ready yet?” asked the girls.
“Not yet. The dough has to rise to make the doughnuts really light and fluffy” said Chappy. When the doughnuts rose for the second time, the girls saw Chappy pound them flat and start over again. In fact, he did this about three times. The girls wondered if the doughnuts would ever be ready.
When the girls looked around the kitchen, they noticed there was flour getting in unexpected places. The flour was on the counter, floors, walls, and all over Chappy! In fact, there was flour leading from the kitchen to the dinning room and even in the living room. For a moment, the girls thought, “Why so much flour…why so many pots and pans?” but no one asked out loud.
Inell (my grandmother) noticed this process seemed to be taking much longer than expected. Inell followed the flour trails into the kitchen and noticed the doughnuts were cooling and almost ready to eat. Inell said, “Chappy, what the heck? She hesitated for a moment. “Girls, since your Dad did all the cooking, you will do all the cleaning. Now get started! When you finish, you can have the doughnuts.” My Mother recalls fondly. Mother always ends her story by saying, “we never asked Daddy Chappy to make any more doughnuts!”
So now you know what cannibals and doughnuts have in common – the Merchant Marines!
Between the Dashes!