"NOW HEAR THIS"
Subject: Reunion Prayers
Published: November 2002
By: Lou Wabnitz (Editor)
Looking forward to another, this time in Orlando, Florida, my 28th reunion.
Looking back, I think of all the pleasure these reunions have bought me and yes, some sadness.
My first reunion came about when June, my wife, saw in the American Legion Magazine that the runion of the USS Savannah was being held in Indianapolis, Indiana on September 1974.
I can’t begin to explain the feeling that came over me, a glow that I never before had experienced. I was a police officer then and had been since 1949. I went to my Lieutenant and asked if I could get off, on court time, for this occasion. After some begging, I was granted that weekend off, as an off duty officer took my place. I thought, will Rex Bayless, Walt Deloria, Ray Summers, Archie Wild, Farmer, Hazzard, Radulaski be there? All those questions were in my head as I pointed my auto toward Indianapolis. A shivering thought crossed my mind. God could some of them been killed in the war since I last saw them, in Philly, the war wasn’t over. I was transferred to the USS ALASKA, to put her in commission, and go through the Panama Canal for the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and my other engagements against the Japs.
Leaving the Savannah was like leaving home again, as I turned and looked at her for the last time, tears came to my eyes. She was like leaving my Mom and Dad.
Yes, I remember getting into the Navy in April 1942, training in the Great Lakes Naval Station for eight weeks. Getting a 30 day leave then going into the outgoing Unit at the Great Lakes. Being almost lost, “Wabnitz,” I watched my classmates all going to different ship and places, it was very sad, but good things did come about waiting.
I got my orders to report to Norfolk, Virginia and board the light cruiser USS Savannah who was birthed ther. I left the Great Lakes Station early September 1942 and arrived, via Cincinnati, by rail. I had a lay over about one hour at Cincinnati Railroad Station where Mom and Dad and my friends were there.
When I got to Norfolk, Virginai, I saw the Savannah birthed there. God, what a big ship she was, how could she ever float. The biggest boat I ever saw was the Island Queen that steamed up the Ohio River with passengers to the Coney Island Amusement Park.
I gazed out into the Bay, and a monster of a ship was anchored there. I learned it was the World War I battleship, the USS Texas.
I was assigned to the Third Division, but didn’t like it to well. I wrote a letter to Mr. Jim Pease, owner of the Pease Woodworking Company in Cincinnati asking him to send me a recommendation so I could get in the carpenter shop. I loved working with wood. A letter arrived 2 or 3 weeks later that I took to my Division Officer, and about 2 weeks later I was transferred to the Carpenter Shop where I was introduced to my life long shipmates. Archie Wild was 1st class C/M; Rex Bayless was 2/c; Walt DeLoria was 2/c; Ray Summers was 3/c; Hazzard was 2/c; Farmer was 2/c; Radulski was 3/c and I was a Striker. Archie said “Wabnitz, see that coffee pot, I never want to see it empty or cold” in a good natured way. Rex Bayless showed me around the shop and taught me things about my new duties. He was like a father to me, although he was then about twenty-five and I was seventeen years old. God, please let Rex be alive and be there at the reunion. When June and I entered the Hotel, standing in the lobby was Walt DeLoria, god, it was good to see him. He said “The Cincinnati Kid, I’ll be damned, what happened to your hair? I told you it would get like mine, when you laughed at me when I combed the few strands of hair I had.” We laughed as he led me to the Hospitality Room. Lo and behold there was Rex Bayless alive and looking very well. I hugged him almost as much as you would your mother, God my prayers were answered. Ray Summers wasn’t there but cam aboard 3 or 4 years later in St. Louis. Those were the happ and looking very well. I hugged him almost as much as you would your mother, God my prayers were answered. Ray Summers wasn’t there but cam aboard 3 or 4 years later in St. Louis. Those were the happy years of the reunion.
I said sad times also came, they are all gone now. I am the only one left at age 78. Oh, how I wish I could bring them back, if for only a day in the Carpenter Shop aboard the USS Savannah, but that is not possible. After learning of each ones death, I went off and cried, especially Rex Bayless. I never pick up a hand saw that I don’t hear Rex say, “Let it glide through the wood, don’t force it.” He showed me how to sharpen a had saw also. I have the U.S. Navy to thank for all those memories and help it gave me.
I got a 20% grade on my exam for the Police Department, without it I wouldn’t have made it. Fifty police officers were in the class and I was 42nd with my 20%.
Will I see these men again? Of course I will. The first I will look up after my family will be, Rex Bayless, Ray Summers and Walt DeLoria and Old Griff from the Shipfitter Shop.