Elmore Ferris, Wesley Dreiling, and Claudia Dreiling

Recorded September 25, 2005 Archived September 25, 2005 41:04 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY000571


Grandson and daughter interview Grandfather about work, accidents, infections, and wife

Subject Log / Time Code

- 3:30: Meeting wife to be
- working boiler
- WWII ship to Ireland, torpedoed - he was not on it
- Most proud of Gal he married


  • Elmore Ferris
  • Wesley Dreiling
  • Claudia Dreiling

Recording Locations

MobileBooth West


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00:04 My name is Wesley dreiling. I'm 26 today September 26th were in Seattle at the Seattle Center and I'm here interviewing my grandfather.

00:15 My name is Claudia dreiling. I am 58 years old today is September 25th. This is Seattle Washington and I'm here with my son Wesley and with my father at Ferris.

00:31 My name is Elmer M. First. I am 88 years old. This is 25th of September and Seattle Center and I have my daughter and my grandson with me.

00:47 Okay, the first thing that I want to ask you in that I think about this all the time is you've seen so much in your life from just from the beginning of in a way back in the early nineteen hundreds to the way things are going on. Now. What do you think is the most amazing thing that you've seen?

01:09 In your lifetime, you mean not directly connected to me with the most amazing thing that you witnessed at the most amazing to me when you first saw that how did you feel? Well, I don't recall but I do remember thinking what happens to them if the return rocket don't go off.

01:45 Okay, the other thing that I really want to know because it's a story that I don't remember is how you make Grandma and what was going on in your life the light of my life. Well, I was 25 years old work in the shipyards 7 days a week.

02:07 10 hours a day and a friend of mine Bob brackney's so it's your birthday. Is this weekend? What are you going to do? I'm working. Well, why don't we take time off? I know a blond. It might be interested in going out with you at the time. I was engaged to another girl who was going to UCLA and I was living out at Seahurst in a Shack on the bulkhead. So anyway, we went out on my birthday and had a very good time and there's enough interest I call back.

02:49 That was a 14th of March.

02:52 1942 we were married on the 9th of May.

02:59 Six weeks I didn't have to what made you know that that was the right choice because you stayed married to

03:12 Love is something that is hard to explain to anyone. It's a feeling you have which I've had for 60 years now and I just knew when the time comes you'll know what did Grandma Farris pack in Connecticut have to say wrote to my mom that I was getting married in six weeks and she says well, you know, you're supposed to summer and winter on yet. Just don't marry them right off. So she came out after we had been married from well two-and-a-half 3 years. She came out and was very pleased with my selection and always thought I did a wonderful job. I know my dad was jealous he always

04:07 Just to say how can you find all the good-looking girls? Okay. And what else is on your oil company? I work for the union oil company is out of Wilmington, California. You want to know how I got started? Lv801 home. Connecticut and there was don't work start working the gas station for $7 a week. And we had the hurricane that tore the place fall apart. I got to work cleaning all outfits and stuff. And anyway come up to 1939 and a friend of mine up in Massachusetts call said hey Douglas is hiring out in Santa Monica. Let's go ice is fine. Come on down so he came down to the on the bus. I had a 35

05:07 Dodge Coupe paid for and we left Connecticut with $67 between us and drove across to Santa Monica course my folks sent extra food to Phoenix care packages canned stuff and things that my mom had made a general delivery and we got the Phoenix was too late to place was closed. So we had to go buy some hot dogs without the desert and got a Mesquite fire going and put that in the morning. It went and picked up our stuff and went on in the Santa Monica. You don't want all the details in there on that. Do you get in there? Well crossing the desert big movie at that time Foreign Legion crossing the desert. There's a set setting out there in the sand dunes.

06:04 So we pulled off and into the sand and went over and start picking up empty cartridges and get out of here. This is for bedding that got guards around the place. So we got back to the car and got in started. So I went right down to the running boards and they take a spray truck and spray it and it's just like a pavement but when it's dry, it's like marbles it goes right out from under your feet back East when we had the cold weather and ice and snow. We just let a little Tire auto a little air out of our tires and get really good traction course. They were small tires nose date.

06:55 So we're buried into the running boards get up on the highway hitchhiked down to a station guys eating his dinner when I get through I'll get you out. So we went back up. He's got an old Dodge to its older than the one I had he drives up there and hands each is of a shovel and he said dig out a round of wheels and under the running board and Digger wrap up in the front and then we'll get you out for sure. We're assuming he's going to tie on and pull it up.

07:27 So we do all the work and dig it out and he comes over and let's hear out of the tires till almost flat gets in and drives right out onto the highway $10 down the drain.

07:49 The lights draw the generator went out and lights dim down moon is shining. We just shut all the lights off and Drive By Moonlight with your car, and switch the lights on turn off get into San Diego new generator 12 bucks got into Santa Monica the next day. We had $2.67 between us. So I went down to the Douglas. We haven't been hiring. Where'd you hear that? You heard it back East that your iron over here. I don't know. Where do we need some money and I took the Dodge down to Honest John LA and sold it for $100 and

08:37 Seaman Jr. All Company Wilmington, so we took the streetcar red line down the Wilmington.

08:47 Hey Bill was a deckhand in the course of Black Gang, so.

08:52 He gets a ship and head right back. Atcha Pac in the New England and middle of winter. He's got no clothes. So I loaned them all of my Navy here turtleneck sweater coat everything mittens and he takes off and the guy says well, where's your papers? What are you applying for? I thought you said fireman job. Well, you got to have papers from the Coast Guard over where I get that. So you told me and I went back up the coast guard told him. I got to have papers to get the job. He says chill out this I filled it all out the gave my papers. I would back down a guy says will let guys sure going to be glad to see you. The guy is supposed to relieve him quit and he's been on that job for 42 hours still go out and relieve them to Brea was an old old anchor

09:52 From the first World War

09:55 Natural draft boilers and stuff real miserable

10:00 So I went to see what you got to do is a fireman never seen a boiler before I can read about them and stuff. But I had no idea. He showed me how to change the burners animal shelters in knock the carbon out in this everything that need to be done. And he took off. Bishop David I get it keep the boilers full of water keep the steam up to the pumps can work and all the stuff that goes anyway that led to several trips up and down the coast and so you were working their boilers the whole time. Well love for hours and 4 on Madoff now Apartments.

10:50 Then dies in spare time I go up to the next level in the engine run 4 cylinder steam reciprocating engine what you've got to stick your hand inside of the connecting rods the feel of the bearings make sure we got enough oil and not too hot and I watch the oiler work and I asked him to let me try it a try it a few times and

11:17 Course, I'm being paid $86 a month in my room and board Oilers $106 a month. So I go back up the coast guard take the test for oil or pass. It. Next thing I go out. What is an Oiler and San Diego up to Alaska up to British Columbia and down to Central America and to the canal and place it in the British. The war started 39 the British bought the ship of the ship was probably built for $125,000 before the first World War the British ordered 4 million that have which of course Uncle Sam P4 on lindley's.

12:11 And so we took it around took a load of case and head to Savannah Georgia and dumped it off. What up to the Navy Yard in Hoboken New Jersey put it in drive. The British try to get us to the crew that's on there that take it to as far as Ireland 10-day trip and her redo on the clean out all the tank making cargo hold fill them up with tanks guns all kinds of stuff to do for war and here were making $109 a month. They offer is $250 for a 10-day trip and they'll bring us back.

12:55 Oasis will when will you bring us back? Oh, we can't guarantee you that it all depends on Transportation so forth. So anyway, we turned them down and the white the two wipers are on that Murphy had ordered a new Ford Auto Detroit is going to pick it up there. So we went to my folks house in Manchester and he went out the Detroit picked up his car and came back. We drove cross-country time. We get back to Wilmington.

13:28 And reported in they had a report that the ship had been torpedoed 10 days out.

13:36 So you see your life changes different ways and you don't know why I had a motorcycle wreck in Washington's birthday 37. I was in the hospital listed in the Navy right out of high school right now in high school. How old are white?

14:14 Well that was in 30. So it I wasn't quite 19 years old yet is February and I was 19 and March and see what the boot camp in Newport Rhode Island the middle of winter.

14:29 And punishment for something for the recruits was a bucket of sand in each hand your hat on square and walk down the ramp to let floated.

14:41 Then you could come back.

14:43 Or several guys had to do it. I didn't real good interesting thing. You had to wear leggings or course in boot camp. So we had to go into Newport Washington's birthday for parades and stuff. Well, it's quite a walk from the boot camp in the town around to the cemeteries and we've had no time out and this guy pic.

15:12 It was carrying the flag and he told the chief uses. I got to go Chief. I just got a Fallout. What do you think you're wearing leggings for you says so he owned a course. It's warm and sloshing the steam is coming up and I don't but I took test while I was there and I was allowed to go to the service schools in Norfolk, Virginia. So I went home spend a month vacation and leave and went to Norfolk and went through The Machinist service school and did all the stuff. I'm supposed to end on top of it. I know what do you call it when you go to classes you don't get credit for it in the sheet metal shops.

16:07 I spent my spare time in there and and of course while I'm operating as a machine is some Machining a piece of cast iron and wearing safety goggles such as he had them but a chip bounced off of my forehead and in and hit the inside the glasses and pitted right in the middle of my pupil go started, you know, I dropped it, but it seemed all right, but few days later. I begin to lose vision cuz that thing is rusting in there and closing up the pupil. So I had to go to the infirmary and have that removed and I got a black patch over my eye and this is in November and my mom and my older sister came down to visit me. So here I got to go out with them with a patch over my they thought I was in horrible shape.

17:07 We left there on the 10th of December in the middle of all horrible. Storm went to Guantanamo Bay. Everybody was seasick.

17:17 And a little aside in there this old chief on the permanent ship Henderson troop transport a way to cure seasickness buy some of those pickles from drink the juice off it so I bought a jar of pickles when I drink the juice and he ate the pickles and probably even more but he got his pickle through the Panama Canal and then to San Diego.

17:50 My mom when she was young was a teacher at one of her teaching friends had move to California La Jolla. So she told me to look her up. I would up drove up the coast there and saw her.

18:08 She took me out for a ride all around through the Orange Groves lemon Groves Olive Groves and stuff. Oh boy. I love olives. On my midi jacket with the collar ties at the waist and on the buttoned-up pants is up.

18:26 Don't we stop? Can you get some of those Auto? Oh, yeah, that's alright. Go ahead.

18:38 You don't know what green olives are there black? Yeah, but boys just like heating element puckers up your mouth. You can't spit.

18:50 So I ate a couple that I threw the whole rest of works out but also another little side and a lemon trees have a beautiful Blossom and real fragrant and Amy said why don't you get some of those and send them to your mom. So I went and picked a few and we went to her house and she heated up a bunch of wax and we dip them in wax and put them in a box and send them to my mom and she put them in the oven or someplace melted the wax and head beautiful lemon blossoms. This has the smell back in Connecticut the middle of weather up to San Pedro and Medusa repair chip.

19:38 And or motorcycle

19:42 Washington's birthday of 37 another guy and I started up to Lake Arrowhead you got as far as San Bernardino and he had an aunt and uncle are we staying overnight there in the morning? He said while I'll stay here you go ahead. So I went up to San Bernardino which is up in the mountains a lots of snow.

20:05 Road has been plowed melted run across Frozen ice patches. No problem going second gear step on the gas close to cross step on the gas and heat it up in the lodge got a few postcards and send them took pictures got my motorcycle by now. It's almost noon and ice is gone. So I'm careful. I put it in 2nd gear and I go downhill real slow. I get down to the last hairpin curve probably four hundred feet above the valley floor and it's Washington's birthday solid line of traffic coming up with some guy with a Model A coupe is trying to pass them right on a hairpin curve with nothing but a slip up on my right.

20:56 I got no place to go. They didn't have guardrails in those days at a few big rocks along the side. 10 feet apart. But if I go between these cars, I'm off the cliff. What do you do course your mind works the same as any computer all is in a fraction of a second my best bet at slow speeds hit him Square you won't get hurt. So I hit that Ford Square in the door.

21:25 But hanging on one over the handlebars, I tore the grip off the left side busted on a bar one until my knee and Torn to Pieces and I fell down the road. So they took me over and leaving me up on this side. They're against one of the rocks and I took my camera and took pictures of the thing and I've got a compression cut like where you would have an appendix up against the thigh at the hip bone. I got cuts on my chin and I'm a mess and you finally about 3 they got in that what's up took me to County Charity Hospital the doctors there.

22:09 I won't touch you. I just put my leg in a splint call the ship told him to send out an ambulance. They wouldn't do it cuz he knows days in the 30s money was scarce guys are go out get drunk lose all their money. Call-in. I got to get home. I got to come in. Just then. I'll name it after so many of these way. They quit do they told my buddy? You got a car go pick him up if it's legit would pay you for it. Otherwise, you get it out of him though. It was legit. They got me in.

22:44 Relief Shoppers parked in the harbor that time hospital ship at 4 in the morning and I gave me shots for gangrene and tetanus and later in the day. They operated took the larger pieces of the knee cap drill them tie them together would still Court in those days. The only thing you had was mecuricome iodine alcohol is no antibiotics or pain is nothing of that sort of it all and then instead of putting it in traction, which is should have done.

23:25 They put it in the cast straight. Well infection came in and by the time it was enough pus and junk in there. I wouldn't out of my head. I don't I don't remember any of six weeks after I get in there.

23:44 But by that time the bus had started to rot the cast so then they took it off and buy them Lakers 2in outside the cast at the hip my toes are like balloons sticking out the bottom. So then they put me in traction and the put a couple been through it and hung it on pulleys in a way.

24:12 And then after that apparently the enough of the pus and pressure got out that I became conscious and they had a little tent over with lamps and keep it warm. It's gangrene set in any way.

24:29 So it was it so long. I don't remember how long they had two doctors a young one than old one and the young ones all four chopping it off. Cuz if you don't you're going to lose them they all it's getting up close to the hip. All black is a derby hat. The other old dog ate a little bit several times a day. They're taking run probes through it to see if I would holler anything and finally one day. I felt one. So we'll dock atoms that I think we're going to save it and we did so but they killed it. I got an inch thick of rotten Dead PlayStation.

25:10 All my bedding and everything they burned every day cuz they said you can't get the smell of rotten flesh out of the wedding and stuff. So every day it went to the incinerator. Anyway come into August up and around on crutches and they decide to send me back to the ship Well, normally I'd be working in the Machine Shop Macon Parts in or lay there something there which I could do with crutches. No problem. Somebody lost the light duty slip along the line and the chief had my name on the supply list. So when supplies came aboard I'm supposed to help all them down to the freezer can't do it to you.

25:58 All right, I'll put you on report for refusing Duty. You'll have to go to the captain's Mast though. That's what it'll have to be. So I you put me on report and I went and told the dock at the sickbay and you always says the only way you're going to get out of that is if I send you back to the hospital so they sent me back the hospital hospital kept me a couple of days and sent me to San Diego hospital and down there. They put me to work on the switchboard.

26:30 Well, there was a young kid in the ward. He'd had a cable reel fall off the overhead and broke his leg between the knee and a hip they said it and it healed kids up going out dancing. Took x-rays that was offset just a little bit. So we got to break that then reset it which they did and pinched a nerve the lake died the chopped it off above the knee. All this doctor wants to work on my knee and I'm working at the switchboard the graveyard shift hospital corpsman to come get that doctor out of the taxi get him to bed. He's Lockard and he's going to be operating at 9.

27:19 No way. I'm making I don't want no part of that. Well, if you don't let him work on you will have to give you a medical discharge which at the time I thought was horrible but turned out to be a good thing because then I'm 4f When The War comes along and I'm not drafted I could have been did some things turn out for the better.

27:42 So

27:45 So

27:48 You were in the Navy and then you went back to California you were on the oil rig, but at some point you were you became an electrician up here in Seattle with a girl by the name of Harriet Nelson. Her dad with Chief electrician is a Fox Studios. He originally had been superintendent of the Skinner and 30 shipyards in Seattle in the first world war will Todd's were instructed by the government to set up a new Shipyard for bills and destroyers plant a plant. They want Harry Nelson back up as electrical superintendent.

28:30 And they kept out of him and kept Adam and find it. They made the offer so good. He couldn't turn them down. So we decide to move up so he's got two cars. He said when you drive when I'm up for me sure I'll be glad to so we drove all that stuff up here. And I don't know you don't know what the old racetrack out at longacres but his dad had the house right across from the entrance on the land of racetrack was on the state horse racing commission paid him $3,600 a year lease on it. So that's the first place. I stayed was in the upstairs bedroom in that old farmhouse the hairy they bought him a house out south side or three tree point and we moved out there.

29:20 Oh, this is the part. You want to hear about 1 or start. Is there any way we finished building the yard just before the war started?

29:34 And I was the only electrician with

29:37 Seamanship knowledge on boats at that time so that all the rest of guys got laid off, except me and their

29:53 I was staying in the basement apartment of their house and one morning and we heard these Japanese talking about there's after the war they didn't have the Nets in the street yet. And it was all kinds of rumors of these two men Japanese Subs coming in and they were sending fire balloons into Oregon trying to burn a Woods out all that kind of stuff in a bit foggy or these voices out there 3 in the morning.

30:24 Harry I think Harry heard him first cuz he came. Woke me up and listen. Yeah, that that's got to be a job sub out there. You can just see a little umph off the beach. Oh God. We got all the neighbors were all behind the logs with guns and pistols and shotguns and you name it if those guys have got off of that boat. They were all dead. I'm sure but when the sun came up in the fog dissipated it was a standard oil Island tanker little tanker. They sent all around this island. Well, all the navigation lights are out. They were dead reckoning coming up from Tacoma. They thought they had gone past the three turn three tree Point light, which means they make a right turn as well and made a right turn right up on the beach where we were so they were lucky to have sworn it was Japanese.

31:24 Anybody there was sure it was all Jap sub. It pulled up on the beach got in my foot. So after working as an electrician in the subject you were you were working in construction all around who is playing over. Did you work on some of the buildings being built buildings downtown? Well, the old is American can building will you read that that we did the Arctic club? We did the Alaska build in the west and Wheeler and and post office building out at Sea-Tac in all over wherever the end of you and your good down job call if they say they got a job in order so and so you report

32:24 Ford if you're lying is your name is up, so I went from one to another and I was told that your last job was it was it up on 5th Avenue across from the theater. I just want to know once and for all what was one of your last jobs as an electrician in the city was out at Northgate one of those hamburger joint. I don't know what it was. Okay. Last question would be there. Is there a lot of time?

32:56 I thought it was interesting how once you told me that the plans that you received at the shipyard to do a ship weren't plans to begin with we had to make up for everything. We had to figure where all the equipment was figure what size wire would bring it in guys from back east in the middle western Farmers never seen the ship don't know anything about electricity. So then I had to teach school down at plant be everyday for a couple hours after my regular shift get them to know how to name the cables in a different parts of the ship stuff like that. So they were usable in all lights.

33:46 Hello an animal practically you had to tell him everything in it, but they did it to his prayer hands. Anyway, we had four ships built and out in service to a song before we got the latest Prince from the Bureau of ships and they were outdated. So and we're fighting with all the inspectors Auto Bremerton because the prince they got called for this and ship they're looking at is not the same thing. But that's what it was in those days. They hang out at Sea first. Well I Run To The Shack on the Bulkhead from a guy for $10 a month to pay them $120 for a year's lease. So we moved into that and you've seen the pictures of moving the refrigerator up to the place. We bought it with Skippy Moody.

34:46 Anyway, it's

34:48 There was a guy sitting on the beach and then you heat by heated by wood. Was it a little cottage that but the new place we bought way we completely rebuilt that day. I bought the 1943 home show demonstration house and knocked down hauled it out there and completely redid the house on the beach. So it totally enclosed and rewired the whole works.

35:23 You want to know about the the car with the dripping tar? I think my dad had a Ford.

35:35 I have no idea probably about 1928 and it was a prior to 1442 Hedges Street fenders.

35:46 Well for Hue work, they use a real course burlap for something at the silk Mills cir getting the silk out of the washer or something. Anyway, they used to so many and threw him out to Dad brought some home. My mom made new roof for the collapsible and saturated all that burlap with tarp, which is real nice kept the rain out until summer and the sun hit it and then we had tar dripping down his then we have to take the roof off the convertibles for if you take it off and it was a real head tersine lights on the back and

36:38 Acetylene lights in the front you put in the carbide and water in the water and it's so now you want my mom to drive I think so. Well, we did talk about that but I was thinking that you were really lucky and that you didn't go on that ship that was torpedoed and you didn't lose your leg, but there was another time that you had a problem with your leg when you are a boy with a hatchet. Was that the same way cuz your mom had a real hard time with that Disney had some trees taken out in the back. He wanted the stumps cut down to ground level. So I ordered for 25 cents. You going to pay me I went over there and sat down to start chopping with a hatchet bounce off of it slipped my knee my right knee just below the kneecap and of course got an infection, so I spent the whole summer on the dab.

37:38 With a leg puffed up with drains in it and stuff, but you had nothing to cure it in those days. You just had to live right off and the cylinder head that sort of stuff.

37:53 That's hard for your mom. But you guys don't realize it's what people put up with in the twenties in before when everything was horse-drawn. The ice man came. He brought a 60 lb chunk of ice on his back cut it to fit your refrigerator or icebox milk man came up with a way for wire basket with 12 bottles and it may be two of them on each and deposited the bottles on the back porch picked up the empties and he was generally early in the morning and the dark cold weather you'd go out there the cap on the bottle would be an inch and a half above with a cream had Frozen to pushed up a we get that and put a little vanilla and an additional we had ice cream and ready made.

38:53 Oh, well, yeah, my my mom's folks had the ice house for the community and Hills Town. They had a big pond Aid cut the ice with big saws my hand and horses drink it up a ramp put it in the ice house with sawdust and stuff. And that's kids. Of course, you're not supposed to open it in the summer only the elders or sweet sneak in there and chip off a little piece. I get caught at it. So we paid

39:31 I don't know if you have anything else you want to know.

39:39 What are welt what to do when my last questions here on the list? Is there any one thing that you the most proud of of your entire life? That's an easy one. Well, I tell you.

39:56 I miss her 11 years. I miss her like she was still here. I wish I was more in love with that. Gelatin. I am with myself and I love myself pretty good as you guys know what grandpa I think that's all the time we have. Thank you so much for coming all the way in to do the sent me. This means so much to me.

40:21 Sometime later, you could do more if we had a agenda. I tend to wander. I just started on something and it leads into something else. But God dang getting out of the Navy after I get up to my H&R. I realized it probably saved my life, but it's the time. My life was completely discombobulated with I'm not in labor 20 years like I had planned and you wouldn't admit mom.

40:58 Car made