Through His Words: Day Six

28 Jan

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Six:

Thursday, July 21, 1938 
On board ship        
Chapter 6

Hello Darling,

This was a very busy day. Got up at 5:00 a.m. to see the sunrise. What a beautiful sight to behold, a great big ball of fire suddenly coming up out of nowhere with its rays reflected in the shimmering silver on the ocean. There is something fascinating about the ocean, what it is I do not know, but it brings a feeling of regret that soon we will be on land while at the same time wishing to get away from it (the ocean). 

I met Fr. Peoria on deck and we took a real workout together walking about two miles, then turned in, took a shower, and had breakfast later. Soon we were to see what is known as St. Vincent’s Light, a light house on the south tip of Portugal…

The 79 foot lighthouse was built in 1846 over the ruins of a 16th-century Franciscan convent. It is one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe overlooking one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Its lamps can be seen up to 37 miles away.


Photo: Wiki commons

then see the south coast of Portugal and Spain and the north coast of Africa.


The town of Tangier could be seen on the tip of Africa, then follows the African coast and by 9:00 p.m., looms the Rock of Gibraltar.  It is dark now and millions of lights from the city play on the water off the Straights of Gibraltar.

If you study the map, you can follow the ship’s course, heading east past Tangier (Tanger) through the Straights of Gibraltar en route to Naples; and if you close your eyes, you can just imagine the spectacle of lights dancing on the water that dark and beautiful night.

Powerful searchlights guide us to our location where we anchor and then a tender, another boat much smaller, comes up to ours to take off passengers getting off at Gibraltar. Battleships and submarines all around us – English, French, Italian and American. 

His last line, so calm, is amazing when you think of what was happening in the world in 1938. Tension between Germany and Czechoslovakia was growing; hostilities between China and Japan were raging; Hitler had sent his armed forces into Austria; and Italy, under Mussolini, had joined Germany and Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact.

Small boats come up to our boat selling all kinds of junk to the passengers. These vendors throw up to our deck a rope with a basket tied to the end. This basket contains the articles they are selling. You ask, “How much?” They say, “$2.00.” You offer .50c and you settle for a dollar or less.

Soon the ship is ready to move. The small boats row away and we continue on between the coasts of Spain and Africa, a beautiful sight. We go on following the African coast, avoiding the Spanish coast.

When I first saw my grandfather’s passport, one page was puzzling to me. On page 5, Limitations, the following was stamped in red:

This passport is not valid for travel in Spain.

photoWith a little research,  I learned that Americans were not permitted in Spain in 1936 as it was consumed by  war, The Spanish Civil War, which would end in 1939 with General Franco prevailing. Franco would go on to rule Spain for 36 years until his death in 1975.

It is starting to get warmer as we are going farther south. We now start to see other ships for the first time since we left NY; every type of boat. We are in the Mediterranean, blue waters, large fish in schools jumping out of the water. For the first time, I actually saw “flying fish” – they fly about 10-20 ft out of the water and keep on until their “wings” dry out and they fall in the water again.


According to the BBC – 2014, “Flying fish actually glide rather than truly fly. They launch themselves into the air by beating the tail very fast and spreading their pectoral fins to use as wings. There are 52 different species of flying fish which are found in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.”

We are now on our way to Naples, 1000 miles away, and will arrive about 1:30 p.m. Maude, I just can’t believe all this is an actuality; the whole thing seems like a dream. Last thing on the ship activities was in the swimming pool. They called it “A Night at the Lido.” Everybody came dressed in bathing suits or pajamas. There was dancing, races, and water sports with prizes for the winners. There was also a delicious buffet lunch, with wines and Champaign served, all for free.

The letters were dear to Maude. She missed her Al, but was happy for him. And as for the final onboard ship activity, A Night at the Lido, while Maude would have never attended in a bathing suit, or even pajamas, she would have never left the dance floor until the music stopped. Oh how she loved to dance!


At our wedding in 1987, Len, Maude, me, my Mom and Dad (Alex and Maude’s son) 
Maude, at 92, still loved to dance!

2:00 A.M. to bed.

 Always Al

To be continued.


2 Responses to “Through His Words: Day Six”

  1. Florence C. Connelly January 30, 2014 at 8:41 AM #

    Judy – this is such a great story ! thanks for sharing xoxo

    Florence C. Connelly


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