Grandma’s Hands

November 23, 2009 at 9:25 pm (Family & Friends, Life & Death)

The family celebrated her birthday on “Denksgivink,” but she was born on the 23rd. Bill Withers is in my ear singing “Grandma’s Hands,” as I type. Happy Birthday, Rose Niss. I think of you every day. You would have enjoyed this collage, mostly of Phillip your great grandson [some of you at the bottom], on the wall of my abode  [had you lived to be 121, as we hoped/feared you would.

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Some Flowers, Skies, And Terrific Friends

November 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm (Family & Friends)

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Ralph Zig Tyko, Photographer Photographed…

October 17, 2009 at 6:22 pm (Family & Friends)

… by the pride of Nelson, British Colombia, David Hersh:



Here’s some I took of David:

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A Sunday With Mose Allison

October 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm (Family & Friends, Unzipped Thoughts)

Normally [ha!!] I reserve Sunday for Frank and Ella, together and/or with Basie.

Today I awoke cravin’ you… and Mose.

Check out this link, and you’ll hear why.



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Harold H. Niss

October 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm (Family & Friends)

… was a Merchant Marine hero during WWII.

Aside that he was a bit “noivus from da soivice,”as his mother and my grandmother Rose would say, Harold was a great uncle.

There weren’t many “children of the depression” who made it a priority in their lives to recreate and have fun. Unc did, and made sure I did.


Me Unc  with Rose and Phil Niss:


Here’s my mom, Vivian, and him in Florida:


Pictured bellow are his five nephews. Ralph Zig Tyko, Bruce Tyko, Andy, Jim, and Mike Niss.


I found this PDF, on the internet. No idea who put it together. It is copied bellow, unedited:







“We Made a Team and We Got the Job Done”

Building a huge fleet of Liberty ships was one thing, but finding the men, especially

trained officers, to sail them was another matter. People who had never seen a ship could be

trained to make the pieces which to build one, but once the ship was in the water, loaded with ten

thousand tons of cargo, and ordered half around the world, it took men with experience to get her

there. Without crews, the ships would have been absolutely useless. Supplying trained men for

the emergency fleet was a highly important but little appreciated achievement of World War II>

In 1940 the entire United States merchant marine, from ocean liners to towboats, included

some 65,000 men (and a few women). By June of 1943 this sea going force had increased to

85,000. A year later in numbered 175,000 and when the war ended in August, 1945 it had

reached a high of 250,000.

Who were these men? Where did they come from? How did they acquire the training

necessary to take the ship where they were going and bring them home again?

Wartime merchant seamen came from all parts of the United States and from some Allied

nations. Boys too young to be drafted joined the merchant marine. Men too old for the draft, or

who for one reason or another were not accepted by the armed forces, found in the merchant

marine an opportunity to take an active part in the war effort.

Some few men went to sea for what in those days was good pay and some did so to

escape military service, but these were not the overriding attractions for most wartime volunteers.

A man could make good pay in shipyards and war plants without any of the risks of seafaring.

And as for escaping the draft, many thousands of young men who were attracted to sea by

wartime recruiting posters had little if any concept of what life in the merchant marine was like –

or what pay or danger was involved.

Captain Hollie J. Tiedemann, superintendent of the St. Petersburg training station of the

U.S. Maritime Service, believed that relatively few of the thousands of boys who passed through

the government training schools were attracted by the promise of high wages. “Most of them,”

he said, “ came with a desire to have a part in the war. Money was a secondary consideration.

The many I had occasion to talk to had little idea when they arrived at the school just what the

pay would be. They had heard that the merchant marine was a good place to see action in a short

time and they were eager to get in it.”

Early in the war, ship sailed with a nucleus of old-timers among the crew, but later there

were so many new ships that there were not enough veterans to go around. Many new ships were

fortunate if they had a dozen men in the unlicensed crew who had more than a voyage or two

behind them.

An early Liberty would have a crew of seagoing men from the prewar merchant marine,

plus a handful of newcomers. The boatswain might be a tanned and brawny Dane; some of the

able seamen might be Norwegians or Swedes who had spent most of their lives in sail and steam.

The firemen were probably veterans of the old coal-burners; and oilers might be old-timers who

could squirt oil for a can into a thimble-sized oil cup with the engine doing 70 revolutions a

minute and never spill a drop. Cooks might have been Filipinos, wiry little men who traveled

together from ship to ship; spoke Tagalog, and gambled their earnings away at cards long before

the ship had reached it first port.

Such typical prewar merchant sailors knew no home but a ship – they were conscientious,

hard workers at sea and hard drinkers in port. The mace good shipmates, for they did their jobs

and expected others to do the same. They were the kind of men who went down with the

Catahoula,” the “Selma City,” the “Norlindo,” the “Afoundria,” the “Marore,” and a hundred

other ships in the early days of the war. It is an eternal tribute to the quality of these men, rough,

tough, and unpolished as they were, that ship never lacked crews or missed a sailing date in the

days when many of them had no guns or armed escorts to protect them

Such quality was highly diluted late in the war, of course. The merchant marine took in

thousands of men who had never seen a ship before they arrived at one of the Maritime Service

training centers for a quick course of indoctrination before shipping out. Some of them

newcomers who knew little about the job and cared less.

And, of course, there were the vociferous few seeking the fast buck; the kind for whom,

as the saying went, there were only three kind of time on board ship; sack time, coffee time, and


The ships kept sailing despite a critical shortage of key personnel, but it took almost

superhuman efforts on the part of the War Shipping Administration (WSA) to juggle crews.

Finding and training enough engineers, navigators and ship handlers was a far different

matter from filling he required unlicenced billets aboard a ship. Handling a ship in convoy,

especially in fog, dark of night, or evasive maneuvers; or taking it to a port halfway around the

world was not something that could be left to novices.

Crewing the ship was a joint effort by the various maritime unions, government and

steamship company hiring halls, and the government training schools, including the United

States Merchant Marine Academy and the state maritime academies operated by Maine,

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and California.

The War Shipping Administration conducted a nationwide recruiting drive in 1942 to

find former seaman who left the merchant marine for jobs on shore. More than 16,000 men with

prior experience returned to sea by November of 1942, a time when the shipping industry was

still experiencing heavy losses. In New York alone, 30,000 men applied for berths in a ten day

period. About 5,000 of these were immediately dispatched to waiting ships. A number of states

aided the recruiting program by allowing Civil Service employees to return to sea without loss of


The Maritime Service operated seven training ships, but their activities were considerably

curtailed by the dangers of wartime cruising. One of the ships, the “American Mariner,” an EC2

especially altered during construction to serve as a school ship, helped to give at least a modicum

of actual shipboard experience to thousands of men before they shipped out for the first time.

Built by the Bethlehem-Fairfield yard at Baltimore, she accommodated 400 trainees and a crew

of 132 and operated out of Staten Island, New York, making week-long trips to the protected

waters of Long Island Sound. After the war, she became a missile-tracking ship for the Army,

then was used as a bombing target in the Chesapeake Bay. Her hulk is still there.

The largest of the training establishments for unlicensed seamen was the one at

Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Occupying the site of a former amusement park, this

base was intended to process 30,000 men a year in short indoctrination courses. Other schools

were located at St. Petersburg, Florida, and at Avalon on Catalina Island off the Southern

California coast.

Officer training schools were established at Fort Trumbull, Connecticut, and Alameda,

California. There was an acute shortage of radio operators when the mass production of ships

commenced and schools to train them were located at Gallup’s Island in Boston harbor and at

Hoffman Island, New York. In addition there were emergency cadet officer schools at Pass

Christian, Mississippi, and San Mateo, California.

The WSA schools for unlicensed men and officers, plus upgrading and refresher courses,

turned out 270,000 graduates, including 10,000 officers from the U.S. Merchant Marine

Academy and the state maritime academies. The short courses for upgrading unlicensed men to

officer status produced 23,000 mates and engineers. Basic schools trained 155,000 men for

shipboard jobs. More than 7,500 radio officers were trained as well as 5,300 pursers, who also

served as pharmacist’s mates.


During the summer of 1943 there were times when as many as 600 deck officers had no

licenses, sailing on temporary emergency endorsements issued by the Coast Guard. There was

always a greater shortage of engine-room personnel, and at the same time, as many as 1,000

engineers had no licenses. Hundreds of seamen who had sufficient sea-time requirements but

lacked the official license were moved up into officer positions, and the ships went out, usually

on schedule.

Every possible scheme was tried to find qualified people. Employers were asked to

release men with prior sea experience, and veteran merchant seamen who had been drafted into

the armed forces were released for service in the merchant marine. Hundreds of men were added

to the merchant marine in this way. In addition, shore side employers were warned not to hire

merchant marine personnel who might come ashore looking for jobs, regardless of age or draft


The age limit for enlistment in the Maritime Service was lowered to 16 years in May,

1944, as a further expedient toward getting men. During the following week more than 7,000

adventure-minded youngsters volunteered at some 40 recruiting offices throughout the nation.

Percy P. Evans was 70 years old when he signed on as engineer for the “Joseph R.

Drake.” William Mallett had been chief engineer on the transport “America” in World War I; he

returned to sea in World War II as chief engineer of the “John Davenport.”

Otto Preussler, better known as “Lucky Uncle Otto,” had gone to sea in the Russo-

Japanese War and again in World War I; in World War II, he sailed as a cook on several Liberty

ships. James A. Logan, 76 years old when he signed on as a cook for the “Joshua Hendy,” had

49 years of sea service up until that time. Another old-timer, Henry Jones, went to sea in

England at the age of 14 during the Boer War and had been 40 years at sea when he signed on the

Abraham Lincoln” as second mate in 1944.

Among the many seamen lured to the convoy routes was Thomas Cavely, skipper of a

New York harbor ferryboat; his longest voyage in years had been between Sixty-ninth Street in

Brooklyn and St. George on Staten Island. Cavely shipped out as first mate on the “Waigstill

Avery” on a voyage in the Persian Gulf, and when the “Avery’s” captain died there, he took over

and brought the ship safely home, Cavely wasn’t a complete stranger to deep water, having

acquired a master’s license in the British merchant marine in World War I.

Along with the old graybeards, men of youthful years commanded many of the wartime

Libertys and proved themselves equal to any of the hardy young mariners who sailed in the

famous American clipper ships. William Travers, 22 years old, was captain of the “James Ford

Rhodes.” His brother, the first mate, was 21; the third mate was only 20.

Harold H. Niss, barely 24 when he took command of the “John W. Gates,” felt in

necessary “to assume all the bravado possible, especially as the first and second mates were sea

dogs in their sixties.” To temper his exaggerated self-confidence, he wore his cadet hat from the

New York State Maritime Academy. “It always confused the customs and immigration people.

The boarding officials always went to the third mate, only to be referred to the kid master at the

cadet’s hat.” But, as the kid master could proudly point out, he took the ship everywhere

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Not Just…

September 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm (Family & Friends)

… another pretty face.

jules 4

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RIP Irena Sendler

July 29, 2009 at 11:42 am (Family & Friends, Life & Death)

My dear friend, Julie, sent me this:

 Irena Sendler – who recently died at 98 years of age, was a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

    During WWII, Irena was given permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.  She had an ulterior motive.  Being German, Irena knew what the Nazi plan was for Jews.  

    Irena smuggled out infants in the bottom of a tool box she carried in the back of her truck.  She used a burlap sack for bigger children. 

    She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.  The soldiers wanted nothing to do with her dog.  The barking covered noises of the infants and children.

    Irena managed to smuggle out and save 2500 infants and children, before she was caught!  The Nazi’s broke both her legs and arms, and beat her severely.  

     Irena kept a record in a jar buried under a tree in her back yard of all the children she smuggled out of the ghetto.  

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Two Cities, Two Games…Two Happy Fans

July 7, 2009 at 9:51 pm (Baseball, Family & Friends)

Last week my friend Andrew Dosa and I set out for our annual baseball trip. First a day game in Oakland…


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… followed by a night game in Modesto for some great minor league ball. We watched futrue Texas Ranger Ryan Tatusko take a no-hitter into the ninth, only to have it broken up. His terrific effort earned him a one-hit shutout.

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Happiest Father’s Day Ever

June 21, 2009 at 10:52 pm (Family & Friends)

The Boy [Phillip Tyko], my son, our [Diane Satin] son is 19, and this is the first Father’s Day of his “adulthood.”

We hung out in his room today, he and I. His brow furrows when I ocasionally teer up with joy [carrying on the annoying tradition of his late ancestors], so I worked hard at burying my emotions, witout actually burying my emotions. Method acting at it’s finest. :-)

We talked as adults.

< He agreed to re-check out Zigisms, a page on this blog… this time not for the humour [precious little, anyway], but for what he may some day consider to be “sound advice.”

< I agreed to continue to work on my “empty nest syndrome,” an ongoing challange, and to be “less of a pain in the ass about ‘sound advice’.”

< We agreed that it was a terrific day.

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Phillip Tyko, Graduate

June 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm (Family & Friends)

Phillip Satin Tyko, pictured bellow…

phillip grsaduation

… is a High School Graduate. I’m proud he’s my son.

Here he is with the Baby Momma, Diane Satin.

Phillip and diane

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