Yes! I would have gladly traded places with my husband, below. But, it was impossible.
I was directed to a cabin two decks above the main deck, up one set of stairs, reasonable, and the second very steep. More like a sort of ladder. (You do recall my “condition”?) I was alone in the small cabin, with a porthole, a good thing.. Jim and I could have easily shared this space. It must have been against government regulations. The bathroom was “down the hall” for use of several cabins.. The most outstanding memory of that area was the awful stench that lingered in spite of being spotlessly clean. I would suck in a great breath, dash in, and, well, I never did take in enough breath. Every “head” aboard ever ship I’ve ever been on has the same odor–upchuck–it lingers.
Soon, the first meal aboard was served. The menu is engraved in my mind. Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. The long tables were prepared for us with white linen, United States Navy engraved (USN), silver, and a goblet at each place. We lined up cafeteria style, received a white plate with a pattern around the edge and a distinct naval emblem upon it and were thus served, returning to our assigned seat.
I was truly glad to be aboard this ship and on my way back stateside. But, from the moment my foot left the gangplank, there was a peculiar feeling amidships. Not lost on me were the open “barf bags” lined up along the center of that beautifully set table.
A French girl sat next to me. The food was most agreeable to her and she ate the American cuisine with gusto. I was having problems. I leaned on my left elbow, with my hand in a sort of salute, shading from view those bags before me. I was hungry and knew I had to eat and began working slowly, bite by bite.
My French neighbor rose from her seat, made her way out of the galley door just behind us. I heard her losing all of her supper over the side of the ship. She re-entered the room, took a place in line and had a plate refilled, sat down by me and began again to dine.
I did not care if I had to eat. I had to get out of there.
That night the ship pitched fore and aft in quite a normal way, I imagined. I could not stop it anyway, and it made me sicker by the minute. My feet fell with the rhythm of this movement, and then my head rocked backward upon the pillow with a “whomp, whomp, whomp.” I surely did not sleep much. I remained in bed the next morning.
The Navy steward cracked open my cabin door. This was a fellow who would never be tipped. He was there to see to my basic welfare, neither my entertainment nor pleasure.
“Mrs. McReynolds!” he began sternly. he must have known all of my conditions. “I know you do not feel well,” he said firmly, “But, you must get up and go to the mess and eat. You HAVE to get something in your stomach!” His firm pronouncement was neither a bit tender nor compassionate.
“But, if you do not,” his voice softened, “I will bring you black tea and soda crackers.” He closed the door quietly.