Leave with the Levines
My next move was to an American Radar course in Brooklyn Navy yard, a US Naval Base adjoining New York. This was to acquaint me with American radar sets, which I would be dealing with in future. I was treated like a VIP and got a 'Present Arms' from the sentry guarding the entrance gate (he couldn't make out what rank I was with the gold badges). The Yankee Lieutenant who instructed me, took me out to lunch and was making for the wardroom of a new aircraft carrier in the harbour, I had to explain and settled for the Chief and PO's Mess. The food served up in the Navy Yard was delicious, and I soon got used to the continual piping of 'Now Hear This'.
Asbury Park Promenade, New Jersey
Back at Asbury Park I was given a new duty besides beach patrol. I had to sign for incoming parcels at the gates in a small hut, and as there were only two deliveries a day I wasn't overworked. At this time I found out that if any Rating had been in the USA for over 12 weeks he was entitled to 10 days leave. You had to apply at the Services Association offices. So with two other chaps, having decided beforehand that we wanted our leave in Atlantic City, I went along. Well, the Wren Officer (she was Betty Nuttall the British Tennis star) held her hands up in dismay, "You can't go there", she said, "Why?" we asked. "Because there are 12,000 American GI's training there, and they love a brawl".
So she fixed us up with an address at New Rochelle, about 15 miles out of New York. You had to have a pukka address to go to, because several men deserted over there, it was so easy in such a vast country. When the time came for our leave, we went to New York's Pennsylvania Railway Station for a train to New Rochelle as directed. There a middle-aged lady with a huge Lincoln car met us. "Press the button and the windows open". She was very nice and friendly and on the journey she stopped at a farm to buy large sheaves of corn on the cob, and introduced us to the farmer as 'my boys'.
Her name she told us was Mrs Gertrude Levine, and we finally stopped in the drive of her house, No! it was a mansion, a lovely place.
The three of us were each given an en-suite (a rarity in those days) and on each bed was a set of white civilian clothing, and we were asked to come down to dinner at 7pm. After refreshing ourselves we went into their spacious dining room.
We were introduced to Jack Levine her husband, who had a gammy leg, and their only daughter (15) who was obviously the apple of their eye. Before the meal was brought in by two black servants, Jack told us that the first course was corn on the cob, which we had never seen before. A very large dish of these yellow husks, piping hot and lots of butter.
It was explained that you could eat them side-to-side 'Typewriter Fashion' (they were about a foot long) or just up and down. He also told us that they usually ate four, but we found one very filling. The next course was lovely roast beef that was carved from a massive joint (everything is big in Yankee land!) and we all enjoyed a lovely meal. After which Jack Levine, whose stiff leg stopped his military call up, a quiet pleasant, man explained why he and his wife were providing luxury breaks for British sailors in their home. They were Jews and were horrified at the news of how the Nazis were ill-treating their race, but full of admiration for the fight the British were having, standing up alone against the German assault for so long until the American declaration of war. The Levines felt that in a small way by asking us into their home it was a sort of small recompense. He also said that they hoped we would enjoy the stay with his family and friends for a happy 10 days.
But he made one point clear. There was alcohol in the house, and we were welcome to it, but as his young daughter had her friends in for a party each evening, he hoped none of his guests would go over the limit. We all assured him that he could trust us, there was no need to worry.
The Levines were as good as their word and treated us right royally, outings in touring cars, picnics with their friends in the local mountains and beaches, with corn on the cob of course. In the evenings they threw parties (easy without the hardship of rationing) with iced melon and other goodies. As many as 30 people together with music etc. to entertain us. They also had a mini theatre in the garden, where their daughter and her friends put on little shows for us.
One day, Gertrude Levine asked us if we played golf. I was the only one, so off we went in the big Lincoln car to her posh golf club. We were met by a steward, who went to get her clubs and bring a spare set for her English friend, and we also had a caddie each!! As it turned out I didn't play too badly, and after 9 holes we adjourned to the luxury clubhouse for a full chicken lunch, and again at the end for drinks, a very enjoyable day indeed for me. The first Sunday we all went to church with their friends, and photos of us at church were sent to Doris who couldn't believe it. She also insisted on sending silk stockings when she heard they were no longer obtainable in Britain. It was as though they couldn't do enough for us.
Jack Levine told us that before the outbreak of war, they were threatened with kidnap for ransom of their daughter then aged 12, so they set off for a world tour, which had to be curtailed. The Levines were dollar millionaires; he had a factory and shops selling children's clothing. I was taken to see the factory in Gramercy, a suburb of New York. At our last evening we were all taken for a meal at a lovely restaurant overlooking an ice skating rink, near Central Park in New York, which I have seen on films many times.