Ernie at Sea: Setting Sail

Continuing the story of Ernie Boyer’s participation in a humanitarian relief effort after World War II, here are his next four entries as a “seagoing cowboy”:

Tuesday, June 11, 1946 –

Got up at about 5:30 and packed.  Ate breakfast and went to Pier X.  Sam decided to wait for Bruce so that was one less.  We were told we would leave on the Wesley Barrett a liberty ship which took cattle to Danzig, Poland.  We reported back at 1:00 P.M. at which time we were injected for Tetnus and [examined] for V.D.  The Maritime Commissioner signed us on the ship and we then boarded a launch to the Wesley W. Barrett.  We started bedding stalls and really had to work hard.  Since we had missed ships supper and hadn’t eaten any supper we were really hungry.  All we had to eat was salmon and crackers.

Wednesday, June 12, 1946 –

They started loading the cattle on about 12:30 A.M. and finished about noon today.  I didn’t feel too good.  I think it was the fish and crackers.  We watered and hayed the animals.  We set sail for Poland about 7:30 P.M. and about 10:30 P.M. the boat began to rock.  Went to bed tired but not seasick.

Thursday, June 13, 1946 –

Got up at six which was our regular rising hour.  I began to feel dizzy and so did most of the fellows.  I didn’t do much work.  Sent my breakfast and dinner overboard.  I was alright laying down but when I tried to walk I would get dizzy again.  I was lucky though.  By the afternoon I was feeling O.K.  It [made] me feel better to laugh at the other fellows.  A good joke was when Prof. vomited his teeth overboard this afternoon.

Friday, June 14, 1946 –

Feeling good today.  Some of the fellows are still pretty sick.  It rained today which made it rather gloomy.  We were assigned regular places to work.  My place is hold 2 with Joe Brechbill, Bert Asper and Nevin Smith.  We had a fire Emergency Drill today.  Saw another ship.

Images and journal entries taken from a scrapbook of Boyer’s experience (catalog # 1000 0001 4085).

Part 1.

Ernie at Sea: Pierside

Back in July we unveiled the story that in the summer of 1946, seventeen-year-old Ernest Boyer, traveled to Poland by sea on the Wesley Barrett and helped deliver over 900 cattle to the war-stricken country.  At the time the blog post was written, we had only a letter Boyer wrote home to his family on June 11, 1946 and a notecard from the Brethren Service Committee thanking him for his assistance with their livestock project.

Last Friday, Sarah, a Boyer Archives work-study, was accessioning a box and came across a scrapbook entitled “Cattle Boat Trip to Poland.”  Jackpot! Ah, the joys of working in an archives – you never know what treasures await you in a box.

The scrapbook includes a day-by-day account of Ernie’s experience at sea and photos he snapped along the way.  Over the next few days, we will share his entries and offer a glimpse into the life of a “seagoing cowboy” after World War II. His notes have been transcribed and any spelling or grammar mistakes have been preserved for authenticity purposes.

Here are Ernie’s first four entries detailing the buildup before setting sail:

Friday, June 7, 1946 –

We left Lancaster, Penna about 8:00 A.M. and traveled by car to New Windsor, Md.  We were told to go from there to Newport News, Va. And be ready to sail in a few days.  Ate dinner at the Brethren Service Center and left about 2:30.  We hitch-hiked to Baltimore and took a ferry to Norfolk.  We traveled all night and arrived at our destination about 6:30 A.M.  We took the ferry with no reservations so I slept on an overstuffed chair.

Saturday, June 8, 1946 –

Arrived at Norfolk about 6:30 and took another ferry to Newport News and took a taxi to Pier X which is the UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] shipping dock.  There we were told to resort [?] Monday morning.  We went back into town and secured lodging at the Catholic Maritime Club.  The fellows in our group were as follows: Barry Paugstat, Joe Brechbill, Prof. Wolgemuth, Bruce Lehman, Sam Derr (?), Royce Saltzman, Bert Asper, Ellis Krieder, Jean Kerr, Bob Lehman, Clyde Solhenberger, Nevin Smith and Melvin Hess.  Booked the town over that afternoon.

Saturday, June 9, 1946 –

Went to church at a large Methodist church.  We were made to feel very strangely, the “Southern Hospitality.”  After loafing that afternoon we returned there for the evening service.  Shorty decided to leave the group and take a coal boat to Maine.  We were sorry to see him go but he was determined.

Sunday, June 10, 1946 –

Found out we were to leave Tuesday at 8:00 A.M.  This made me feel good since we were tired waiting.  We bought sport equipment to be used on the ship.  Spent the afternoon at the Lutheran Service Center reading and playing games.  Went to bed early.

Want to know what happens next?  Check back soon.

Images and journal entries taken from a scrapbook of Boyer’s experience (catalog # 1000 0001 4085).

Seagoing Cowboy

Two weeks ago we shared a quote from Ernest Boyer regarding the influence his grandfather had on him and his understanding of service.  The importance of service is very apparent through the many works of Dr. Boyer. For instance, the Carnegie Foundation’s publication, High School, suggested that American high schools incorporate a service unit that students must complete before they graduate and enter the “real world.”  In the mind of Boyer, community service was just as valuable a learning experience for high schoolers as efficient time in the classroom.  As it turns out, Boyer knew about the significance of service as a high school student firsthand.

On June 12, 1946, as a recent high school graduate, a young and vibrant Ernie Boyer left Newport News, Virginia on a ship called the Wesley Barrett bound for Poland.  Fighting in Europe had finally ended one year earlier, but the devastation left in the wake of the Second World War could not be mended overnight.  After World War II ended, European countries were desperate for aid – in any and all forms.  Countries around the world and renowned service organizations rose to the occasion and worked hard to help get an entire continent back on its feet.

One such form of aid was shipping livestock across the Atlantic to ensure that families living all throughout Europe had access to basic food. Providing a family with a cow rather than just a ration of milk, helped provide ongoing relief.  And after an event as destructive as World War II, that’s exactly the type of aid most Europeans needed.  This is still the premise of Heifer International today.  Of course, shipping livestock from one continent to another is no easy feat and requires volunteers willing to make the month-long trip with the animals.

Heifer International estimates that over 7,000 “cowboys” crossed the Atlantic Ocean with these shipments of animals, caring for them along the way. Ernie Boyer, at age 18, was one of them.  After becoming involved somehow with the Brethren Service Committee, a faith-based organization shipping livestock to Europe after the war, Boyer left for Poland.  In a letter to his family, dated June 11, 1946 (a day before his departure), Boyer wrote: “We are really lucky to get heifers because almost every boat leaving is taking horses.  Our supervisors said it would be at least an 8 week trip because we have a slow ship.”

It is probably not wrong to imagine that many young men signed up for this task because they sought a sense of adventure.  It gave them the chance to see more of the world, meet new people, and experience new things.  I’m sure Ernie Boyer was thrilled to have that opportunity.  One can also imagine, though, that despite the excitement, the joy of serving others in need and making a small but powerful impact had more of an effect on the young man than anything else – one that shaped his future career, beliefs, and energy – all because he chose to serve.

Check out the history page of Heifer International for more information about seagoing cowboys.