During my time at school quite a few things happened: in 1924, we were at Wembley Stadium, London, for the "British Empire Exposition of 1924." A big attraction that year was the first showing of the Queens' doll house. For accommodation, we slept in tents, but I have no idea where. Most memorable was marching into Wembley Stadium with the band playing Sons of the Brave.
In 1924 or 25, the inspecting officer for Grand Day was the Duke of York, later King George VI. The only thing I remember about that was his speech, which thankfully was short, for he had a very bad stammer. We all felt sorry for him, but I understand he was pretty well cured of that when he became king. The year 1924 was also the year when the Royal Hibernian Military School, which had been moved in 1924 to Shorncliffe, Kent, was closed and those who wanted could joing the Duke of York's school. I think about 120 came, enough for two companies. Two barracks
were built for them. In 1928, I was a drunmer in the Toy Soldiers parade of the Toy Soldiers at the Army Navy and Air Force show at the Olympia. That lasted for three weeks. Each night a different V .I.P. would be in the Royal box, starting of course with the King and Queen. Then the Princes and Heads of the other countries. So as the old saying went we perfonned before all the crowned heads of countries of Europe. That is, if there were any crowned heads left. The Premier of France liked it so much that he invited us to France to perform for a week. [I have a program of the Olympia show I wrote to the headmaster in 1985 and asked him if it was possible that any programs were left, telling him I was one of the drunmers. He wrote back saying he found three copies and he sent one of them to me.] On Saturday mornings we had a full Kit inspection. All of our possessions in the kit were laid out on the bed, neatly folded with our second pair of boots laid out with the tops turned upside. The soles had to be shined. Why? Discipline I suppose, to make sure you didn't keep one pair for inspection. Each pair was laced differently; one pair laced straight across, the other crosswise.
In 1927 the school changed from companies to houses. B Co. became Wolfe House. I was the last B7 and the first Wolfe 7. Then I was transferred to D Co. and I was told C.S.M. Prescott had requested it. He was C.S.M. of Wellington, the signaling instructor. I became the chief signaler. Whatever it was it was good for me because Prescott made me L/Cpl. then Cpl. so I got a few more pennies. Our CSM in "B" Co. was Mr Arbuckle, who helped us put on concerts in the day room. Once in a while he would ask volunteers to perform. He played a flute and we would go into his office one at a time and he would play his flute. That's how we learned the songs I used to sing, silly songs such as "Pudding" and "Gooseberry tart'. I also learned to sing "Alexander's Ragtime Band", not that I was a good singer, I I did enjoy it and found it a lot of fun.
I left school on 1 August 1928 and I went into civvy Street. Aunt Nell had to write a letter explaining why I wasn't going into the army, the reason being that my Uncle Joe in America had booked me a passage to America. I didn't get to go to the USA, however, until June 1930 because, at that time, there was a quota system for which each applicant received a quote numer. When your number came up you went and not until, so for two years I worked for Singer Sewing Machine Co. in Sunderland, delivering machines. I landed in America 15 June 15 1930, in the middle of the Depression. Jobs were very hard to get, but luckily my uncle had friends and one of them, named Tom Mooney was just opening a restaurant in the Orange YMCA. He put me to work on the cream counter making ice cream sodas and sundaes and anything else that needed doing. I got $15.00 dollars a week. The rate then was 5 dollars to a pound note. I lived at the "Y", as it was 30 miles from Jersey City where my uncle lived. I paid seven dollars a week for a room and of course all my food was supplied, so I was doing OK. I worked there until 1934.
Then one Sunday when I was home, my uncle said, "How would you like to go around the world and get paid for it?" I said, "It sounds good, but how could I do that?" He said "I could get you a job on the dollar line. It was a steam ship line that takes passengers and freight around the world and you would be a steward. I said "That sounds good," So I was hired and we left Jersey City going to Boston, then back to Brooklyn and on to Havana, Cuba. We were there for two days, then we went through the Caribbean through the Panama Canal and up to Los Angeles where a friend and I got shore leave and went to Hollywood, but NO BIG DEAL! From there it was San Francisco, and next stop, Hawaii, but hold the phone. A strike is called and after a few days I am running out of money. So what to do? I decided to hitch hike back to Jersey City, three Thousand miles away! I find myself at a railroad where I get talking to a hobo and I tell him my plans. He says, I'd make better time riding the rails, but how do I do that, I ask? How do I get on and off those freight cars, He says, watch me and as freight was pulling into the yard, very slowly, Whitey ran along side a couple of steps, then pulled himself up. Then he got offand said, Getting on is easy, its getting off when you must be careful, always get offright foot first and be sure the train isn't going too fast. After a couple of tries, I got the hang of it. Whitey spoke with a trainman and found out where the next freight was going, then he told me to get off when it slowed down to go into the yard. I did just what Whitey told me and I gradually got more confidence. I can't remember the names of the towns I went through, which was seventy years ago
I know I crossed the Mojave Desert - I50 miles on top of a hot shot train of fruit and vegetables. I met another man who was traveling, with a roll of 25 blankets. We rode on an express passenger train between Gallup and Albuquerque, New Mexico, for about 120 miles. Sometimes, I would hitch hike. Then toward the end of my journey I rode into the freight yard in Pittsburgh, Pa. In an empty boxcar, there were about 10 of us, and as we started to jump off we saw a couple of bulls. (Railroad police), with drawn guns, so we started to go out the other side. The cops said, "There is a man over there also so we got down and were taken into the police station where we were given five days for trespassing. I didn't mind it because it was cold and snowing and I was hungry. After this comfortable stay, we were told a second offense would be 10 days. Because I still had a few hundred miles to go, I decided to hitch hike and got lucky. The first car picked me up and took me over the Allegheny Mountains to Philadelphia where the driver bought my lunch and gave me a dollar for supper. At that time, you could get a good meal for 50 cents. I found a hostel and spent the night there. So many people, like me, were traveling looking for work that the government had these hostels all over the country where you could get a bed for the night and coffee and doughnuts for breakfast. Now, I was near Jersey City, maybe 100 miles so I hitched-hiked that easily. I was greeted like the prodigal son. It was quite an experience. I also met a lot of very interesting people, but I wouldn't want to do it for a living.
During the next six years, until 1940, I had numerous jobs and then the war started in Europe and our government decided we ought to get ready and introduced the draft. I was in a dead -end job and I decided to volunteer to go in the first draft, thinking when I got out in a year more jobs might be open. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that!