Legacies Project Oral History: Ethan Stewart
Ethan Allen “Al” Stewart was born in 1926 in New Jersey. Midway through his undergraduate studies, Stewart worked for over two years as a junior engineer for the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, and then returned to MIT to complete his degree in mechanical engineering. He worked for Procter & Gamble and as an executive at Ford Saline and the Ford Research Center in Dearborn, MI. He and his wife Connie were married for over sixty years. He passed away on April 22, 2014.
Ethan Stewart was interviewed as part of an internship at Applied Safety and Ergonomics in Ann Arbor in 2008 as part of the Legacies Project.
- [00:00:09.19] ETHAN STEWART: Your toenails.
- [00:00:10.39] SPEAKER 1: Oh, actually, I need to redo these.
- [00:00:11.99] ETHAN STEWART: [LAUGHS]
- [00:00:13.26] SPEAKER 1: They're pretty-- chipping off right now. But it only takes me about five minutes or so. I do them about once a week. All right. Anyway, yes. First of all, we're going to have to cut that out. We're going to start with some demographic information just so we can sort the information we get about you. So please stay and spell your name.
- [00:00:35.38] ETHAN STEWART: Ethan Allen Stewart. Ethan is E-T-H-A-N. Allen is a A-L-L-E-N, and Stewart is S-T-E-W-A-R-T.
- [00:00:48.92] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is your birthday, including the year?
- [00:00:53.26] ETHAN STEWART: August 3, 1926.
- [00:00:56.62] SPEAKER 1: All right. How would you describe your race or ethnicity?
- [00:01:00.88] ETHAN STEWART: My base? Which--
- [00:01:01.76] SPEAKER 1: Your race or ethnicity.
- [00:01:04.60] ETHAN STEWART: Ethnicity. Anglo-Saxon.
- [00:01:08.68] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is your religious affiliation, if any?
- [00:01:12.89] ETHAN STEWART: I don't really have any.
- [00:01:14.31] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is the highest level of formal education that you've completed?
- [00:01:21.37] ETHAN STEWART: I completed a Bachelor of Science from MIT, and then I took courses leading to a Master's in nuclear engineering. But I never completed the thesis, so, basically, my highest on record is a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering.
- [00:01:36.64] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is your marital status?
- [00:01:41.23] ETHAN STEWART: Married. We're coming up on 60 years next month. [LAUGHS]
- [00:01:45.57] SPEAKER 1: Wow. How many children do you have?
- [00:01:49.51] ETHAN STEWART: Three.
- [00:01:51.24] SPEAKER 1: How about how many siblings?
- [00:01:52.51] ETHAN STEWART: Excuse me?
- [00:01:53.35] SPEAKER 1: How many siblings?
- [00:01:55.30] ETHAN STEWART: I'm an only child.
- [00:01:58.12] SPEAKER 1: What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
- [00:02:02.71] ETHAN STEWART: Mechanical engineering. I made that choice early in life, and I apparently-- educationally I was well suited for it. I was successful in it.
- [00:02:13.69] SPEAKER 1: OK. Well, we're going to start with the actual interview now. And the first part of this interview is about your childhood and school years so from the time you were born up until you graduated from school. So, first of all, where did you grow up, and what are your strongest memories of that place?
- [00:02:34.03] ETHAN STEWART: I have an unusual background. My father held a variety of jobs, so we traveled around New Jersey. And then we finally went to Brazil in 1938, and I got placed into a boarding school where two people besides me spoke English. So that gave me a crash course in Portuguese. We came back in 1941 from Brazil. My father had a three-year contract that fulfilled down there.
- [00:03:09.00] And at that point, the educational system in East Orange, New Jersey, which is where we had lived for many years, they didn't know what to do with me. They decided that if I had not gone to Brazil, I would be entering my junior year. So the deal they cut was we'll put you in the junior class. If you can't handle it, you bumped down. And if you can't handle that, you bump down. So that worked out pretty good.
- [00:03:38.09] SPEAKER 1: So what was your house like? You've probably had a lot of houses. But could you describe a couple that you remember?
- [00:03:44.40] ETHAN STEWART: Yeah, back in fourth through seventh grade, we lived in East Orange, New Jersey within walking distance of Colombian School. And the houses on the street were two family. One family occupied the first floor and another family occupied the second floor. We occupied the first floor. When we went to Brazil, the company had built a one-floor concrete block house special for my father and his family because he was chief engineer for the local power station that supplied power to the cement plant. So that was a nice place. It had nice terrazzo floors in it. No heating system required.
- [00:04:31.44] SPEAKER 1: [LAUGHS] I bet. So why did your family go to Brazil?
- [00:04:37.68] ETHAN STEWART: Why did--
- [00:04:38.70] SPEAKER 1: Why did your family go to Brazil?
- [00:04:46.27] ETHAN STEWART: My father looked around. He used to be working for the Continental Can Company. Ann I guess he decided he wanted to do something different. And so he looked around and finally came home one day and say he's been successful on being appointed to start up and run a small power plant that's being built to supply an existing cement mill. The government ran out of hydro-power capabilities, so they turned to the various manufacturing entities and said, you're going to have to generate your own power. So that was an ideal situation for my father. He held a chief marine license, and he also held the chief stationary engineers license. So he was-- in my book, he was an ideal candidate for that. So we packed up and went to Brazil for three years.
- [00:05:35.19] SPEAKER 1: Very cool. How many people lived in your house with you when you were growing up, and what was their relationship to you?
- [00:05:44.17] ETHAN STEWART: Well most of the time it was just my father, my mother, and me since I was an only child. My grandma, my maternal grandmother, used to come and spend a week or two with us, but it was not a full time thing. So, basically, I was the only child in the house.
- [00:06:01.80] SPEAKER 1: All right. What was your family like back then?
- [00:06:05.74] ETHAN STEWART: What was my family like back then? That's kind of a hard question to answer. My father had three brothers, one of whom was killed in an army bomber crash. And I was able to visit occasionally with my uncles. And I have one male nephew, no female nephews. So it was kind of a happy type thing.
- [00:06:35.55] SPEAKER 1: So I know your father worked for the can company and then also this plant in--
- [00:06:43.00] ETHAN STEWART: Well, the Continental Can Company in Jersey City, they had their own electrical generating plant. A small one. And my father landed the job of being a chief engineer of that. There couldn't have been more than four or five people in the day shift. And so--
- [00:07:03.20] SPEAKER 1: And then he also worked in Columbia. Was there any other work that he did?
- [00:07:09.00] ETHAN STEWART: In what period of my life?
- [00:07:10.78] SPEAKER 1: When you were a child.
- [00:07:13.96] ETHAN STEWART: No. I didn't have a paper route. I didn't have a lawnmower.
- [00:07:19.84] SPEAKER 1: Oh, no. That your father did.
- [00:07:21.19] ETHAN STEWART: That my father did? No, he stayed in the same type of work all his life. Eventually, he landed a job with Stone & Webster. And because of his extensive varied background, he was excellent in starting up new facilities. So he spent quite a few years-- wound up in Saudi Arabia for the American-Arabian Oil Company when they were building a power station there. He was over there about a year and a half.
- [00:07:50.16] And then later in life, he got a job was Stone & Webster and wound up doing basically the same thing. If they undertook a client design, request for a power station, then dad would be sent out to start it up and get the bugs out of it. He was very talented.
- [00:08:07.94] SPEAKER 1: How about your mother? Did she do any work outside of the house?
- [00:08:12.28] ETHAN STEWART: No. During the war years, she and a buddy of hers got a job on an assembly operation in East Orange, New Jersey. A lot of woman jobs opened up because of the shortage of men who were drafted.
- [00:08:31.59] SPEAKER 1: I see. How would you describe your relationship with your other family members?
- [00:08:41.24] ETHAN STEWART: Well, which family members?
- [00:08:43.95] SPEAKER 1: We'll just say the ones you lived with, your mom and your dad.
- [00:08:47.23] ETHAN STEWART: Excuse me?
- [00:08:47.90] SPEAKER 1: We'll just say the ones you lived with, your mom and your dad.
- [00:08:52.43] ETHAN STEWART: Well, my mother, basically, was my principal supporter, and educator, and guidance. Dad didn't interfere a lot in how I should be raised. One thing he did make clear, you will get a college education [LAUGHS] in your field of choice, which, for me, was mechanical engineering. Yeah, the biggest thing he did for me is foot the bill for tuition at MIT, which, at the time, was $300 a semester. Nowadays, you're looking at like $10,000 or $12,000 a semester.
- [00:09:34.44] SPEAKER 1: I'm about to go to Michigan State. You can tell me about it. [LAUGHS] Let's see. What was a typical day like when you were growing up?
- [00:09:44.12] ETHAN STEWART: It depends on the period in my life. When we lived in East Orange, and I was there like fourth through seventh grade, day time I could walk to school. The layout was that a four sided rectangle of houses had a park spot in the middle of it where there was a baseball game. There was a track, tennis court, stuff like that. So there was a lot of athletic opportunities. I played a little bit of tennis growing up. Never like Roger Federer. [LAUGHS]
- [00:10:22.58] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe the chores or duties that you had to do around the house?
- [00:10:27.35] ETHAN STEWART: Actually, I was never assigned any.
- [00:10:29.35] SPEAKER 1: Nice. What were your favorite things to do for fun?
- [00:10:39.88] ETHAN STEWART: That's a hard one to answer. It depends on the season. In the summertime, I liked to go up to the playground. They had to ring sets where you reach up and you go [INAUDIBLE] and work your way down. And that was a strength challenge. Before we went to Brazil, I could not reach the rings. The first one, I couldn't jump high enough on one. Then when we came back, I was able to reach up, which was a big accomplishment for me. I don't know whether that answers your question or not.
- [00:11:15.48] SPEAKER 1: That's fine. Do you remember any interesting fads or slang from when you were growing up?
- [00:11:25.25] ETHAN STEWART: Well, one was drop dead. [LAUGHS] That one sticks in memory. That's about the only one I can think of as slang lines.
- [00:11:35.76] SPEAKER 1: Like if something was cool-- you know, now we would say something is cool.
- [00:11:39.69] ETHAN STEWART: That was not in use in '38, '39.
- [00:11:42.67] SPEAKER 1: Was there a different word you would use instead of cool, or was that what drop dead was?
- [00:11:49.57] ETHAN STEWART: Drop dead is kind of a brush off expression. You know, if somebody is badgering or something. Oh, drop dead, will you? [LAUGHS] I guess that's the best answer I can give you.
- [00:12:00.91] SPEAKER 1: All right. What about clothes at the time? What did you guys wear?
- [00:12:06.41] ETHAN STEWART: Well a big fad at the time for boys was knickers. So we had the-- coming down here and then a little sock. Goose down winter gear with it's high thermal efficiency was not prevalent. But mostly it was wool. Wool sweaters. Galoshes, the buckle type, for snow were existent then. In the summertime, it was short pants, and a T-shirt of some type like what I'm wearing now.
- [00:12:43.82] SPEAKER 1: What about girls? Did girls wear dresses, or skirts, or what?
- [00:12:49.68] ETHAN STEWART: At that point in my life, I didn't pay much attention to girls. [LAUGHS] But thinking back, they mostly-- they wore dresses. I don't think I could ever remember a girl in long pants.
- [00:13:09.11] SPEAKER 1: Were there any special days, or events, or family traditions that you remember from growing up?
- [00:13:17.05] ETHAN STEWART: Well, I'm mentally running through the 4th of July, Labor Day. No, because there were no real close family members that lived an easy commuting distance. So a visit with a family member, like my maternal grandmother lived in Elmhurst, Long Island, that had to be a prearranged thing. I don't ever recall making like a one day Labor Day visit. I do remember there were several train changes and you wind up on the elevated railroad down in Long Island. You go underneath the Hudson River and you come up and its all elevated. I don't even know whether this stuff still exists.
- [00:14:08.23] SPEAKER 1: When you think back on your childhood and the years when you were in school, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time, and how did those impact to you?
- [00:14:23.89] ETHAN STEWART: I guess the biggest thing that impacted me is when I got shoved into a boarding school in Rio de Janeiro without knowing how to speak Portuguese. That, I'll never forget. School in the states was kind of a routine thing. I was apparently good at reading. I liked math, so I was good at that. English, I had trouble with. I guess that's about all that really sticks in my mind.
- [00:14:58.66] SPEAKER 1: All right. Well. moving on to the second chunk of questions now. And we're only going to go through the first part of that chunk because the rest of it we want to talk about with your wife. So this part of the interview will cover the time when you graduated from school up until when you got married.
- [00:15:20.02] ETHAN STEWART: When you say graduated from school-- grammar school, high school, college? Which school?
- [00:15:25.18] SPEAKER 1: We'll say high school or college. Whichever best fits the question you're answering.
- [00:15:31.80] ETHAN STEWART: Yeah, another school I went through was the Maritime Service Training Station in Sheepshead Bay, Long Island. So that's a school.
- [00:15:38.46] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Let's see. After you finished, we'll say, college, where did you live after you finished college?
- [00:15:48.37] ETHAN STEWART: While I was in college in the senior year, that's when companies come to the campus to interview. And interview that always fascinated me that ultimately resulted in the job offer was with the Procter & Gamble company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati surrounds a small, independent political enclave called Ivorydale after Ivory soap. So that's where we went. We weren't married at the time. And I started the job.
- [00:16:20.74] And then around the end of August, the final plans were for my wife, Connie, and I to get married. So they gave me enough time off to drive back to East Orange, New Jersey. And we got married in my-- Connie's parents' living room. [LAUGHS] And then we came out to Cincinnati where I, at the time, was living in a four-unit apartment, two bottoms and two tops. And I had one at the top. We lived there for a couple of years until we finally bought a house-- not a new house, a used house.
- [00:16:56.08] SPEAKER 1: So did you stay in Cincinnati for most of your working life, or did you move around a lot?
- [00:17:04.37] ETHAN STEWART: I'm trying to think how long we were there. It was finally recommended to me that my background in plant engineering would be very valuable to the Ford Sandusky plant. So one of the people I knew who had worked in the Sandusky plant arranged me for me to meet with the plant manager. He drove halfway down to Cincinnati, and I drove halfway up and we met. And he hired me on the spot.
- [00:17:36.54] So that got us from Cincinnati up to Sandusky. And we were there about 10 months, and I got called into the room one day and I was told that they're building a plant in Saline, Michigan, which is still there. And the job of plant engineer was mine if I wanted to take it. Yeah. Hell yeah, you know, it's a good deal. So that's what got us up into this area of the country. My wife came up ahead and scouted the school system and decided that we didn't want to get into Saline's school districts.
- [00:18:20.08] SPEAKER 1: All right. I'd like to hear a little bit more about your wife and about the time up until you got married. Where and when did you guys meet?
- [00:18:29.97] ETHAN STEWART: [LAUGHS] That's a good one. I had finished time in the Merchant Marine, which was a choice issue once the war was over. And the time still sticks in my memory. It was November of '47. And it was a semester break between me finishing my junior year and starting the senior year. So I was back in East Orange.
- [00:19:01.47] And one of my high school buddies called me up and he said, why don't we double date sometime? He had a car. And it was a unique situation in New Jersey. It is a series of hills that parallel the coast like this. So the strategy was that two couples get in the car. They drive over one hill and usually on the far side there's these drive-in places where they have a jukebox. And we were both-- the girl I was dating was over 21.
- [00:19:34.63] But the first time he called me up, I didn't know anybody. I had just gotten out of the Merchant Marine and spent 27 months. Yeah, I didn't know a single datable female. So my mother said, why don't you call Connie Gibbon? My mother had been a real buddy of Connie's mother. So I called up Connie Gibbon and asked her out in just a minute. [LAUGHS] I later found out that her answer was going to be no. But her mother was a good buddy of my mother said, you'd better go.
- [00:20:10.34] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:20:11.69] So that's what started it. And that was in November and, I think, yeah, we got married August 31 for '48.
- [00:20:23.57] SPEAKER 1: What was it like when you and Connie were dating?
- [00:20:27.68] ETHAN STEWART: Heaven.
- [00:20:28.52] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:20:30.83] That's a hard one to answer. We seemed very compatible, had the same goals in life. She was a good dancer. I guess that's the best I could say right now.
- [00:20:47.79] SPEAKER 1: Is that mostly what you guys would do together is go dancing? Or what else did you do?
- [00:20:52.54] ETHAN STEWART: Well, a big entertainment was I had a '47 Chevy that I bought with my Merchant Marine earnings. And so I had transportation. And we'd do the roadhouse bit. I had a buddy name Charles Frankhouser. We would double date with him. There was a lake in New Jersey called Parsippany, and it had a bunch of these little roadhouses around the outside of it. So Charlie Frankhouser, he supplied the transportation, and Connie and I were in the backseat necking.
- [00:21:23.59] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:21:26.06] SPEAKER 1: All right. Tell me about your engagement and your wedding.
- [00:21:33.50] ETHAN STEWART: I can't pinpoint the exact time when we mutually agreed that we would get married. Maybe that's a oversight I shouldn't admit to, but it's true. And I would guess-- we got married on August 31. I would guess, well, about March or April the discussion ended around getting married. We wanted to wait until I graduated from MIT, so I had a way to earn a living. I sure as hell wasn't going to go back to sea in the engine room of a ship. That's about it.
- [00:22:20.46] SPEAKER 1: Didn't you say that you guys got married in Connie's parents' living room?
- [00:22:24.99] ETHAN STEWART: Yeah. I have a photo of it. [LAUGHS]
- [00:22:28.68] SPEAKER 1: That's very interesting.
- [00:22:29.79] ETHAN STEWART: We initially were going to be married in the local Methodist Church that Connie's parents had been in for years. And my Merchant Marine time made me ineligible to be drafted. And that suddenly changed. I was fair game for the draft board, even though I had been out in the convoy system in the Atlantic, in the engine room, been up to Russia, down the west coast of South America.
- [00:23:07.19] So they were not drafting married men. They were drafting single men. So we decided, well, that was the time to get married. So that got me out of the draft. Then later, they started drafting married men. And at that point, we decided, well, we'd better have the first child. So we did.
- [00:23:33.22] SPEAKER 1: All right. Well, we're going to pause the interview here.
- [00:23:36.31] SPEAKER 2: Can I ask something while rolling?
- [00:23:40.48] SPEAKER 1: OK.
- [00:23:41.10] SPEAKER 2: Mr. Stewart, I want to get the chronology of this right. You started-- and for just eyeline purposes you can answer towards Lynette. You were in New Jersey. And then you, of course, were in Brazil. And you came back and finished up high school. And then went to MIT.
- [00:24:02.62] ETHAN STEWART: Correct.
- [00:24:04.06] SPEAKER 2: So before we start talking about your married life and beyond, could you tell us some more about your life at MIT and in the Merchant Marine and what the progression--
- [00:24:12.39] ETHAN STEWART: Well, the attendance at MIT was not continuous for the four years.
- [00:24:17.59] SPEAKER 2: OK. Take me through-- pace me through how that went, both time and place.
- [00:24:23.08] ETHAN STEWART: Let me stop and think. Yeah, oh, boy, I'm having trouble with that one. I graduated from high school in June of '43, and entered MIT in the fall of '43. And then I guess it was '44 when it-- at that point, I turned 18. '26 and 18 gets you up there. So that got me looking around about what to do rather than toting an [INAUDIBLE]. So I decided that I would go into the Merchant Marine at that point.
- [00:25:13.03] SPEAKER 2: And for people who don't know what the Merchant Marine was for, what you did, and how you got in, tell-- could you tell me a little bit about that time in the Merchant Marine? You said you--
- [00:25:23.67] [INTERPOSING VOICES]
- [00:25:24.11] ETHAN STEWART: In order to--
- [00:25:24.54] SPEAKER 2: --see the world.
- [00:25:25.11] ETHAN STEWART: In order to fight World War II successfully in the Pacific and the Atlantic, shipping capacity was very short supply, so the government undertook a massive building program. And they built 2,751 identical cargo carriers, which was a 1890 British design triple expansion reciprocating engine, 11 knots, which is about 12 miles an hour. You could pile 10,000 tons on the dock, stuff it in the Liberty ship, and go off with it. It carried enough fuel oil to run 26,000 miles, which is important for routes like San Francisco to Australia.
- [00:26:15.03] I only spent my time in the Atlantic on Liberty ships. So that's what got me into the Merchant Marine was I figured that I wanted-- I was going to get a degree in mechanical engineering. And what better experience then to go work in the engine room of a 1890s design ship? So I went through the Maritime Service Academy, qualified for engine training, came out as a-- certified as a fireman water tender.
- [00:26:47.43] You've got two boilers. You stand between them. There's four fires in each boiler. Good place to be in the wintertime. [LAUGHS] Lousy place to be in the summertime. So I made one trip as a fireman water tender then the most challenging job was oiling as big reciprocating engine where the low pressure piston was five feet in diameter. And the piston rod was like this. And you got an oil can. You develop a rhythm. So I did a tour as an oiler.
- [00:27:23.41] And then I took an exam for a junior engineer. And that allowed me to sail on ships that were not reciprocating power. People don't build reciprocating ships anymore. They build geared turbine ships. So that allowed me to get into the Victory ships. So I did two tours and two trips on Victory ships. And about that time I wasn't a draft eligible anymore, so I went back to MIT to finish. So there is a 27 months interruption between the junior-- the freshman, sophomore years and junior, senior years. That 27 months was spent in Maritime Service Training, shipboard duties, so on and so forth. Did that answer your question?
- [00:28:13.53] SPEAKER 2: Yeah, it does. It helps a lot. And also can you mention the routes and what you saw while you were on those ships a little bit? What routes did you take-- were you on?
- [00:28:23.03] ETHAN STEWART: Well, the first trip, it was a convoy leaving New York. It was a Liberty ship. It was the Thomas Sin Lee. Liberty ships were named after important people. I don't know what Thomas Sin Lee was important for. But at that time, New York Harbor was protected by an antisubmarine net. So they assemble all the ships in the lower bay and the Hudson River, and then they all file out. And a tugboat spreads the net open and everybody takes out.
- [00:28:56.00] And I recall that we left about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. And my mother knew because I told her what dock in the Hudson River, so she came and stood on the end of the dock waving. Excuse me. Let's see. Where was I? We're pulling out of New York Harbor. And the next morning you wake up. And I was on the 4:00 to 8:00 watch, so I'd get off at 8 o'clock in the morning, go into the mess room, get something to eat, then I can go out on deck to see where we were.
- [00:29:32.70] And I looked around. You could see the ships. You were in a convoy of about 30 ships in the convoy. Convoys all had numbers. And it's possible to look up the particular convoy that I was on, RW67. And I was able to pull up a sailing order on it, which showed where the Thomas Sim Lee was allocated. We were on the port side up in the front.
- [00:30:02.83] Interesting thing about that trip, is we pulled out of the convoy and the next morning I come up on deck and they say, well, the ship is breaking in two. I said, what do you mean? And it turns out that the Liberty ship hulls, depending on the quality of metal that they used in them, were prone to splitting. And the ships that were most prone to breaking were the welded hulls. A riveted hull when you get a crack in the plate, it will travel down to the hole that the rivets in. But it can't traverse the rivet and continue on down.
- [00:30:43.09] So the welded hull Liberty ships was the ones that would break. And about 150 of them actually broke in half. So there we were, one day out of New York, with a ship that had to turn around. And we went back to Halifax all alone in a big ocean. And there was a what they call a Destroyer escort. And it was out in front of us by a couple of miles. And I finally realized, it's not there to protect us. It's there to pick us up. So we went back to Halifax. We were there for about a week.
- [00:31:20.77] And a Liberty ship hull-- let's assume that the hull is yay deep from the main deck down to the bottom. It has an intermediate layer called a 'tween decks because it's between. So in order to re-weld the deck, they had to empty the 'tween decks. And that took a couple of days. They had to get the cargo booms going and lift all this stuff out. So they welded us up and then we caught-- apparently, they were running weekly convoys out of Halifax. So we joined a Halifax convoy. I don't know whether it was a week later or ten days later. And off we went heading for England.
- [00:32:01.87] Again, we came out of the engine room one morning. [LAUGHS] Guess what? This ship is breaking in the same spot that they welded in Halifax. But this time we were closer to England than we were to Halifax. So we went to the port of Gourock Rock. There's no world map here. But if you look at England, there's an island. And then there's an island over here called Scotland. And in the gap between the two landmasses, which was very safe from submarines, there was a port called Gourock. G-O-U-R-O-C-K.
- [00:32:39.34] That's where they staged the convoys that ultimately went around and [INAUDIBLE]. So we went into Gourock, and they repeated the process. And we finally made it to Murmansk. And then when they emptied the ship, the ship is riding real high in the water because there's no weight in the thing. So they'd fill the ballast tanks to get it to sink down in the water. And there's no danger then of the ship breaking if it's not heavily loaded.
- [00:33:06.31] So we made it back to Baltimore. And, at that point, at the end of each voyage, you have the right of signing on for the next voyage. It's all handled by the Coast Guard. Probably because in the old days ship owners would shanghai men in the land areas of ports. Guy would wake up in the morning, and he's out in some ship. So to prevent that, the Coast Guard has to witness the signing in. You go into the mess room. And there's a guy from the Coast Guard there, and you hand him your Coast Guard identification pass. And then you sign in his presence.
- [00:33:47.59] And what you're signing is a document that says that you will return to the United States within a year, which was nice. But your agreeing to leave the port and go to whatever port the ship is told to go to. But you will come back to the United States by the end of a year. So that was the Merchants Marine days.
- [00:34:17.94] SPEAKER 2: Fascinating. That's great. And then that's pseudo-military? That was to keep shipping lines open, right?
- [00:34:23.91] ETHAN STEWART: I missed that.
- [00:34:24.84] SPEAKER 2: Was that to keep the shipping lines open? Was that more for commerce than war, per se?
- [00:34:30.61] ETHAN STEWART: Yeah, these were all cargo ships. What do you mean? When you think of the immense amount of munitions and aircraft that had to be taken across the Atlantic-- you know, you didn't fly this stuff over like they do nowadays. They fly them into Saudi Arabia. It was all boat travel. It takes about 12 days from New York in a Liberty ship because a day's run is 220 nautical miles, and you're looking at close to 3,000.
- [00:35:09.10] SPEAKER 2: And do you have any recollections of-- where's MIT located again? What town is that in?
- [00:35:16.11] ETHAN STEWART: What's that?
- [00:35:16.62] SPEAKER 2: Where is MIT? It's in Massachusetts. What city is that? Cambridge?
- [00:35:19.51] ETHAN STEWART: It's across the Charles River from Boston in a town called Cambridge. There's a little red outhouse up the street called Harvard. [LAUGHS] It is a red brick building. Multiplicity of red brick building.
- [00:35:34.33] SPEAKER 2: And can you tell me a little bit about Cambridge at the time you were there? About MIT at the time you were there?
- [00:35:43.51] ETHAN STEWART: Well, I did two stints there.
- [00:35:44.89] SPEAKER 2: The two stints. Were they very different--
- [00:35:46.74] ETHAN STEWART: The first stint the army had a program called the army ASTP, army specialized training program. Basically, what the army did was put into uniform guys that were in college, and they could continue until the army ran short of manpower then they were jerked out. And that happened to some of the fraternity brothers.
- [00:36:11.98] The army specialized training occupied the civilian dorms, and the Navy took over the graduate house with their people. So to attend MIT, you either had to have the wherewithal to hire an apartment or you got rushed into a fraternity. So I got rushed into the SAE fraternity, which was right across the Charles River and was a 10 minute walk out of the house across to the classes. If I came home for lunch, I knew I had to leave about 10 minutes of one in order to get to a classroom on time.
- [00:36:50.24] SPEAKER 2: All right. Yeah. Thank you.
- [00:36:51.67] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, thank you. All right. So we got about 15 minutes until--
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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy - Alumnus
U.S. Merchant Marines
Ethan Allen Stewart
Connie Gibbon Stewart
Thomas Sim Lee
East Orange NJ
Rio de Janeiro Brazil