San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter XVI.

WHEN I reached Folsome Street pier I stopped to admire a nice-looking steamer lying alongside of the wharf. While thus engaged I glanced up at the end of the pier and read: "Oceanic S. S. Co., for Honolulu, Auckland, and Sydney."

As I was out "prospecting,"anyway, the idea struck me that I would go aboard of this nice-looking ship and look around. I walked on down the wharf to the gangplank, and asked the quartermaster if the first officer was on board, and if I might go aboard to see him.

"Yes," said the quartermaster, "Mr. Hart is up forward there on the forecastle; go right aboard, sir."

This was more than I had expected. I had not asked the quartermaster what the first officer's name was for fear he would not let me go aboard. They are very particular about demanding of strangers to state their business before going aboard some ships, but this quartermaster was an exception; he not only let me go aboard without cross-questioning me, but he even volunteered to tell me the mate's name. With this piece of encouragement fora starter, I walked up to Mr. Hart, and, addressing him by name, proceeded to state my business.

"Mr. Hart," said I, "I am looking for a ship. Have you got a vacancy that I can fill?"

The first officer looked me over from head to foot before he replied. Then, in a tone of voice that was a cross between a foghorn and a German brass band, he answered by asking me several pointed questions.

"What sort of job d'yer want?" was the first question.

"I want to ship as quartermaster," said I, without appearing to notice his polished mode of speech.

"Whar did yer come from, and what ship was yer ever quartermaster on?"

"I was on the New York," said I, purposely omitting the City.

"How d'yer happen to be lookin' fer a job?"

"I've just got my discharge from the hospital, where I have been laid up for repairs," said I.

"Did yer have the smallpox?"

"Oh, no, sir!" said I, wondering if it would be safe to acknowledge that a little thing like a vaccination had knocked me out. "I didn't exactly have the smallpox; but I--"

"Oh, yes, I see," broke in Mr. Hart. "Never mind telling me nay more; I know all about you young fellows who run out to Japan and China"

"But let me explain," said I, "and I'll tell you what--"

"Explain be d---d! you can't tell me nothin' bout it, for I've been there myself, see? You're all right. Comedown to-morrow morning', and report for duty; I won't be here, but just report to the second officer, and tell him that I sent you." So saying, Mr. Hart began yelling out at some sailors up aloft, and I decided to let "well enough" alone,and go back uptown after my things.

I was so elated over getting a position so soon, that I left the ship without stopping to see what her name was. I went on uptown and told Pete McMahon, the good old boarding house keeper who kindly took care of my chest of clothes while I was at the hospital, that I had just secured a position on the Australia.

"Why, the Australia is over at the sugar refinery," said Mr. McMahon.

"No,"said I; "she is at Spreckels' dock, because I have just come from there."

Then Mr. McMahon got a copy of the Guide, and showed me that the Australia was at the sugar refinery, and that, therefore, I had shipped on the wrong steamer, or else I didn't know what ship I belonged on. At this point our discussion was brought to a close by the entrance of the captain of a "deep-water" ship who wanted a "deep-sea" cook. I took advantage of the opportunity and went and got a copy of the Examiner in order to find out from the advertising columns of that paper what ship I belonged on. Whenever I am uncertain about anything, I always consult the Examiner. Having been assured, on reading the advertisement of John D. Spreckels & Bros., that I belonged on the Mariposa instead of the Australia, I looked Mr. McMahon up, and asked him to "come in" and have a "steam beer" with me, and not to tell anybody that I didn't know the name of my own ship.

On the 24th of March, at 7 a. m., I reported duty to second officer John M. Bowen, on board the steamship Mariposa of the Oceanic Steamship Company. I had to look all over the ship for Mr. Bowen before I could find him. When finally I sighted him, I went up to him and said: "Allow me to report for duty, sir."

"Who told you to report to me?" asked Mr. Bowen.

Having informed him that Mr.Hart had shipped me the day before, he said he guessed it was all right, and that I would have to report to the chief quartermaster for further information.

I found the chief quartermaster, Mr. Dominick W. Carvin, up in the pilot house oiling the steering gear.

Dominick was a well informed man, and a thorough steamship sailor. What he did not know about utilizing "soft snaps" on board ship amounted to so very little that it would not be worth while to speak of it. He managed to while away the whole forenoon in explaining to me how to get along with Mr. Hart.

"You must not mind anything that Mr. Hart says to you"said Mr. Carvin, "because he is one of the best men that you ever sailed with. He is the best sailor in the company, and could have been captain long ago, had he only wanted the position, but he prefers to sail as mate as long as Hayward remains as captain."

At twelve o'clock Mr. Carvin took me out to lunch. No meals are served on board steamers while they are alongside the wharfs in San Francisco. The hash house keepers, along the water front, have regular contracts with all the large steamship companies to feed the crews of steamers at so much per meal. regular meal tickets are issued by those chop-house keepers to the officers and crews of ships in port. If a person does not use his meal ticket she can exchange them for drinks at any saloon along the water front, where a twenty-five cent meal ticket is accepted as legal tender, and is always good for a schooner of steam beer.*

[*Note: Members of the "Four Hundred"who still own these saloons, on the sly, may credit this to the account of free advertising.]

I was coming out of the Palace Hotel one day,subsequently, when I was stopped by a tramp who explained to me that he had "had nothing to eat since the Sunday before last," I had one of Mr. Mentz's meal tickets in my pocket, and I offered it to him, but he declined it on the ground that he did not wish to die just then.

On Sunday, the 8th of April, 1888,I sailed from San Francisco as quartermaster of the Mariposa.

The following is a list of the Mariposa's officers:

H. M. Hayward, commander ; F. W. Hart, first officer; J. M. Bowen, second officer; W. D. Watson, third officer; D. W. Carvin, J. Hernon, A. Linguist, and W. H. Chambliss, quartermasters' August Law,boatswain; Dr. Gilberson, surgeon; mr. Smith, purser; messrs. Wilson, Whitaker,Green, and Dean, engineers; Mr. Whitelaw, storekeeper.

On Sunday, the 15th,we arrived at Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, where we remained only a few hours, to land the passengers and mails. At half past two in the afternoon we got under way and proceeded on our course for the Somoan Islands.

On Sunday, the 22d, we called at Apia, Tutuilla. We did not go into the harbor, we merely stopped off West Point, where we were met by a little German sloop, which took the mail and passengers that we had for that place and brought a few passengers and a little mail off to us, after which we proceeded on our course for Auckland.

On Saturday, the 28th, at 2:30 a. m., we sighted the island called the Great Barrier,off the east coast of North Island.

At 4.50 we passed Needle Point; at 5.20, Moko Hino was abeam, and at twenty minutes past nine we were alongside the Union Steamship Company's wharf, at Auckland, New Zealand.

The arrival of a mail steamer from America is considered a great event in Auckland; nearly the entire population of the city turns out and goes down to the wharf just to see the ship. Men, women, and children by the hundreds swarm on board from the time the steamer reaches the wharf until she is ready to sail.

I rather like the people of New Zealand, from what I have seen of them. They have a certain free and friendly way about them that is charming, and, I think, highly agreeable to all thoroughbred Americans. Notwithstanding the fact that New Zealand is a British possession, the inhabitants seem to be quite as friendly to Americans as they are to the English.

At noon on Sunday, the 29th, we took our departure from Auckland, bound for Sydney, New South Wales. During the voyage from Auckland to Sydney I made what some soulless persons on board were unkind enough to term a "bad break." I came very near falling in love with a charming young lady who embarked in company with her father and mother at Auckland. Very fortunately for me, as I imagined at the time, Miss Anna Wilson's parents got seasick as soon as we passed the Three Kings, but the young lady proved to be a good sailor.

I was in charge of the gangway when the passengers came aboard at Auckland, and the old gentleman had spoken to me and introduced me to the ladies before the ship had left the wharf. Therefore, when I saw the fair daughter on deck alone, I felt that it was my duty to show her a little attention. She gave me a pleasant little smile of recognition as I walked toward where she stood holding on to the taffrail, and I lifted my cap in the most approved naval fashion, and offered her my arm for a promenade.* She accepted with that sweet, charming grace which is so characteristic of the well-bred lady of any civilized country.

All of this talk about young persons being able to acquire refined and courteous manners* without home training or the natural inheritance of certain gentle instincts from gentle mothers, is utter nonsense. Let me converse with a lady for fifteen minutes and I will come so near telling you what kind of parents and what sort of home training she has had, and what class of society she really belongs to, that you would have a pretty hard time finding any very serious mistakes in my humble opinions on this particular subject. You can tell the genuine from the counterfeit the very minute you hear the ring. Take the Mackay-Delmas-Quacknut-Mizner-Oelrichs-Fair-Flood-o'Brien-Catherwood-Greenway combination of "gentility" for example, and compare its style of "courtesy" and "politeness" with the unmistakable genuineness and real refinement of the Eddys, the Fritzes, the Hortons, the Halseys, the Rices, the Phillipses, the Admiral Skerretts, the Phelpses, the Belknaps, the Teresis, the Estees, the Dickinsons, the Grahams, the Buntings, the Stoneys, the Caseys of the army, or any others of that good and unpretentious class of old, reliable, home-loving citizens, and note the difference between the two elements.

[*Note: I had learned from Lieutenant Fechteler, Lieutenant Walling, and other society leaders of the Essex. It is a good idea to observe the customs of proper persons.]

The Meldas-Quack Nut Toad-Nellie Murphy-Addi(son) Mizner-Greenway Coterie of Friday Nighters "sizing up" a stranger.--Sketched at Santa Cruz, Cal., June,1893.

Miss Wilson was a native daughter of New Zealand; her parents, having gone there from England on their bridal tour, became so much attached to the beautiful city of Auckland and its hospitable people that they made it their home. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Anna, aged twenty and eighteen, respectively. Miss Elizabeth, the elder daughter, was visiting relatives in Sydney, and Mr. and Mrs.Wilson and Miss Anna were going over to join her there. That accounted for the presence of the party on board the Mariposa. The two old folds seldom left their bunks during the voyage. The motion of the ship interfered with their comfort to such an extent that I had Miss Anna almost entirely to myself whenever I was off duty during seasonable hours, say from six in the morning until ten at night.

Miss Anna was an early riser, and she would come right up to the pilot house the first thing every morning. It was against the officers of then navigation department on watch, but no one ever thought of such an absurd thing as prohibiting a nice young lady from bidding the officer of the deck and the quartermaster at the wheel "Good-morning," and asking the latter what time he would be off duty. My "tricks" of two hours each at the wheel never seemed half so long before as they did when I knew that Miss Anna was waiting for me. One day she expressed a desire to come into the pilot house and learn how to steer the ship. I told her to ask Mr. Bowen, the officer of the deck, and she did it in such a nice way that Mr. Bowen not only gave her the desired permission, but he told her that he was sorry he was not the quartermaster at the wheel so that he could give her the lesson himself.

Miss Anna never forgot her seasick mother and father for an instant; she always took good care to see that the steward and stewardess showed them the attention that sea-sick parents should have, and I, of course, showed Anna the attention that I thought she deserved.

Almost any two young persons thrown together under such circumstances would be liable to form some sort of an attachment, if anything of the nature of congeniality existed between them. Attachments of this kind sometimes result very happily for the interested parties; and then again circumstances conspire to bring bout results which occasionally make people regret seriously that they ever met. This case was an exception, for, instead of falling in love, and developing one of those never-speak-as we-pass-by acquaintances, Miss Anna and I became true friends for life.

But there is always an end to everything that man undertakes, and very few things ever have a more cruel ending than a pleasant ocean voyage.

Early on Tuesday morning, the 3d of May, we arrived in Sydney. We steamed right up alongside of the Union Steamship Company's wharf, at the foot of Market Street, and by eight o'clock the last passenger, including Miss Anna and her parents, had left the ship.

Source: Chambliss, William H. Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is. 1895: New York.  Library of Congress, "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900.


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