The Longest Ride – Part III: Greek Odyssey in Kavalla

The seagoing cowboys on the S. S. Carroll Victory had some tense moments before putting their feet on dry land in Kavalla, Greece, in November 1946. Charlie Lord wrote to his wife, “A sudden squall struck us this morning and blew like fury, with rain. Our ship went off the course and we wandered through mine fields without knowing where the cleared channel was. Then the weather cleared and we came into this beautiful harbor about 8:31 A.M.”

Kavalla, Greece, November 18, 1946. © Charles Lord

“An ancient castle dominates the scene with a Roman viaduct crossing the narrow valley below. The rest of the wide-flung area of mountainside is covered with white and yellow square houses with rose-colored roofs, set one above the other, step like on the mountain side.” Fellow cowboy Maynard Garber noted in his diary, “Kavalla in Paul’s time was known as Neapolis. The castle was probably frequently visited by Paul during some of his missionary journeys.”

The Carroll Victory stayed six days in port at Kavalla, giving the cowboy crew plenty of time to explore the area and absorb its history. On their second day, Lord said, “The British army took the whole cattle crew to Philippi, just over the mountain in a transport truck this afternoon. We had a marvelous time, looking at the ruins of the ancient Roman city.”

Exploring the ruins of Philippi, November 20, 1946. © Charles Lord

Garber noted, “To some of the fellows, the place was just a pile of stones, but to most of us the place had some meaning. It was here that Paul on one of his missionary journeys built a church. As we walked around on the wide stone foundations we knew that it was here that Paul preached. We then had the privilege of seeing the prison where Paul was imprisoned for the night.”

Entrance to the prison where the Apostle Paul was held. © Charles Lord

The Carroll Victory cowboys had the joy of seeing some Heifer Project animals that had previously been distributed in villages around Kavalla. “In one home,” Lord said, “the woman gave up her room to the heifer, and she sleeps with the children.”

This woman slept with her children so her beloved gift from the Heifer Project could have her room. © Charles Lord

Five of the cowboys got a ride with a British army truck over the mountains one day to find a village of thatched huts. “Fog was very thick,” Lord said. “We started walking up a path away from the road. We went about the distance we thought it should be to the village though none of us had been there. Then we stopped debating what to do. The fog lifted and there was the village across a ravine.”

The thatched village near Kavalla, Greece, visited by seagoing cowboys, November 23, 1946. © Charles Lord

“It was like a picture from a storybook,” Lord said. “The people in their black woolen and fur clothing were carding wool, sewing clothing, and putting up the pole framework of another hut. The people were friendly if their dogs were not, and let us take all the pictures we wanted.”

Woman on right spinning wool in her thatched-hut village near Kavalla, Greece, November 23, 1946. © Charles Lord

“We came back over a very high mountain, saw lots of fortifications on the top . . . then ran down the mountain strate [sic] to supper. They threw a birthday party for the Chief Steward tonight. He asked me to take pictures for him. I did, figuring they may fit in my interracial story since captain and chief mate sat next to him at the table.”

Chief Steward of the S. S. Carroll Victory Ivory Dennis with the ship’s captain on the left and chief mate on the right. © Charles Lord

“The steward said it was best birthday party he’d ever had,” Lord told his wife. “Captain said he was glad to see cattlemen there, was sure we’d have a good trip.

“We have had a wonderful six days in Greece. We will probably spend 2 or 3 days in Haifa getting a boiler fixed, then on to Durban, S. Africa.”

~ to be continued

Once again, my thanks to Charles Lord for so graciously sharing his letters and photos with me.

The Longest Ride – Part II: Life on board from the US to Greece

Today’s post picks up the story of the November 4, 1946, trip of the S. S. Carroll Victory to Greece and South Africa. I’m exceedingly grateful to Charlie Lord for sharing with me and granting me permission to use the letters he wrote to his wife while on this trip as well as his marvelous photo collection documenting this voyage. The following vignettes show in part what life on board was like for these seagoing cowboys apart from caring for their 785 horses.

Nov. 5 – “It has been unusually rough for the first day out they say. The ship is rolling sidewise a lot and rocking endwise, each end goes up and down 8 or 10 feet with each rock. . . . It’s very unhandy to be trying to re-arrange things in a locker, and find yourself sliding back and forth on the floor and the locker door banging back and forth against your leg with every roll. Dishes banged in the pantry and kitchen with that one.”

In the stormy Atlantic Ocean, November 1946. © Charles Lord

Nov. 6 – “The sea continues quite rough. The crew battened every thing down today after a flying box slid off into a passageway and almost hit a cattleman. . . . Down in lower two [hold where Lord worked], it sounds like thunder as hundreds of hooves go one or two steps forward then back on each roll. . . . Several cattlemen are feeling under the weather. I hope to get a picture of a man at the rail tomorrow.”

Nov. 7 – “Del just told about his getting caught in the cable, swinging on the end of the cable clear out over the stalls and the ocean and coming back to crash his shoulder into a bale of hay.”

Pulling up hay from the lower hold on a rocking ship was dangerous work. © Charles Lord

Nov. 11 – near the Azores. “A strong wind is blowing and the ship is pitching from end to end, lengthwise. It feels queer to be climbing a ladder and have to use most of your strength to get two or three rungs then float up the next two. Walking you climb a hill then are practically thrown through space. A few men are getting seasick again. . . . Tonight I saw sparks in the water behind the ship. It is a phosphorescent result of the propeller or something. It looks like diamonds in the sea.”

Cowboy supervisor Jesse Roth at the top of the hold 2 ladder. © Charles Lord

Nov. 12 – “There is a notice up about a Mail Buoy at the Rock of Gibraltar, but I hear it is a hoax. If it isn’t I hope to send this letter there.”

Charlie Lord at the Rock of Gibraltar. Looking for the mail buoy? November 1946. © Charles Lord

Nov. 13 – “The Mail Buoy is an old marine joke. I’ll send this in Greece. . . . I did my washing today. Main trouble is that soot from the smokestack leaves soot on them while drying. . . . I showed my pictures to the Chief Steward of the ship, a Negro, and asked him if I could take pictures of his department sometime. He has 14 men under him, about half colored & half white. I’ll bet Ebony would like pictures of an interracial crew at sea, without any mention of cattle-boating. I’ve never seen any article on the subject. He was enthusiastic, promised 100% cooperation. He said if I could get the story where all the people would see it, realize mixed races can get along when living close together in cramped quarters for weeks or months, it would help him & the whole Negro race.”

Nov. 15 – “We are supposed to go to Kavalla. But about a thousand guerrillas are loose with arms in that territory so we may not go there. . . . We got clean linen [today]. We get it once a week. 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, 2 sheets, 1 pillow case, and clean bed spread every two weeks.”

Nov. 16 – “One of the things I dislike about this is the way most of the horses have colds or something, and have snotty noses. They often snort and cough & blow the mucous on a fellow when he is watering or feeding them. All in all, it’s a pretty easy job, though. The manure is beginning to smell now. It is getting warmer.”

Nov. 17 – nearing Kavalla. “We passed through a mine field and they sent all men up from the holds from 3:30 to 5:30 PM. We will pass through another in the morning and no one is to be in the holds below from 4 – 6 AM. We are due to reach Kavalla at about daybreak.”

Nov. 18 – “We arrived!”

Arriving in Kavalla, Greece, safe and sound November 18, 1946. © Charles Lord

Next post: Greek odyssey #1

Nanorta Goes to Greece – Part II

Today’s post continues the trip of “Nanorta” from farm to Greece and the seagoing cowboys who delivered her, as told through diary accounts of Jim Long and photos from his father’s movie footage and slides taken on the trip.

Seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Villanova Victory, July 1946. L to R, Rev. George Kimsey, Richard Lambert, Darwin Overholt, Arthur Houk, Frank Melick (back), Rev. Wilmer H. Long (front), Jim Long, Harry Herbert.

Most of the Victory ships used by UNRRA carried around 800 animals, requiring 32 seagoing cowboys for their care. The Villanova Victory, however, was one of a few ships that carried livestock on the top deck only, requiring only 8 cowboys.

Rev. Long takes care of “Nanorta,” a heifer sent by his church.

On the two-week trip from Newport News, Virginia, to Kavalla, Greece, the 198 Heifer Project cattle on board kept the cowboys busy with the usual tasks: feeding and watering the animals, tending to newborn calves, and pulling up hay and grain when supplies on deck ran low. And with two ministers in the crew, the cowboys had Sunday morning church services.

Getting hay ready to pull up top on the S. S. Villanova Victory, July 1946.

After a week at sea, Jim noted in his diary, “A freak wave hit the port side, breaking loose the gang way. Deck crew retrieved it. Soon after that a boiler broke down and the ship proceeded at half speed.” Within 24 hours, the boiler was fixed. “Everything else normal,” Jim notes. “The routine is starting to get on my nerves.”

Things became more interesting the next day, however, with the sighting of land and passing the Rock of Gibralter on the way into the Mediterranean Sea. Passing Algiers the next evening, Jim writes, “It was very beautiful with lights stretching for several miles.” On reaching Greece, he notes, “We saw many islands and a beautiful sunset.” And fifteen days after departing Newport News, the destination about 250 miles north of Athens came into sight. The small city of Kavalla (Neapolis of the Bible), on the northern end of the Aegean Sea, stretched out in front of them with the ancient world awaiting their exploration.

Kavalla, Greece, August 6, 1946.

Among the many sights the cowboys took in were the ancient part of Kavalla, the ruins of Phillipi, St. Paul’s jail cell, and the river where St. Paul baptized Lydia.

St. Paul’s jail cell near Philippi, Greece.

The ruins at Philippi.

After ten days in Kavalla, the Villanova Victory made a six-day stop in Piraeus, the port for Athens, to unload the rest of her cargo. This afforded the cowboys the opportunity to tour the Acropolis in Athens and the old and new city of Corinth. “Ancient Corinth has the finest ruins I saw yet,” Jim notes.

Touring the Acropolis.

The trip home included the finding of seven stowaways while sailing through the Mediterranean and an argument with the captain once the ship reached the Atlantic about cleaning the stalls. “We lost,” says Jim. “So we cleaned them up all day.”

The trip also included a rare death at sea. The ship’s Purser died of a heart attack while alone in his cabin and was “put on ice” in the “fish box,” Jim says. After receiving instructions from the Purser’s elderly mother, Jim’s father Rev. Long and the other minister in the crew were told the Purser would be buried at sea and they were to conduct the service. “The Purser’s body was slid down a board and slipped into the sea,” Jim notes. “He was sewed into a canvas bag with two 5″ shell cases and 100 pounds of cement.” A sad, but memorable, event, to be sure.

With the Heifer Project animals being sent to quarantine in Greece before going to their new owners, Jim and his father were unable to go with Nanorta to her new home. But a year after the trip, they received their thanks in a letter from Nanorta’s new owner, a war widow whose husband, along with 300 more Greeks, was killed by the Bulgarians on September 29, 1941.

“I write to thank you and express the joy of all of us,” she said. “Nanorta gives about 10 quarts of milk a day.” The Norristown Times Herald carried the story along with a photo Widow Kallipoi Kl. Karyanni sent with the letter.

Norristow Times Herald, July 31, 1947.

A fitting end to Nanorta’s journey.