Voices From The Past ... Hurley, Wisconsin
Received from Gilbert Endrizzi August 2003
Many readers will recall that my father,
"Peno" Endrizzi, served as
Hurley's chief-of-police for many years
during Mayor Bonacci's administration.
Subsequent to that, he served for 8 years
as fire steward prior to moving to Wisconsin
Rapids where he resided until his
death in l996.
Following in the steps of his older brother Bill, he enlisted in the
Navy in 1916 and again in 1943, having served in both world wars ..
We are fortunate in having preserved on tape a couple of interviews
recorded when he was 80 years old. The first one follows:
"The Von Steuben, the Leviathan, the Kaiser Wilhelm, the Wilhelmina,
the Princess Irene, and the Friedrich der Grosse were all ships taken
over from Germany when war was declared in April of 1917. This
occurred in New York harbor. These ships were then used by the U.S.
for troop transport. Our ship, formerly Friedrich der Grosse, was
renamed the USS Huron. These ships were stripped and bunks were put in
all the available space. Where they used to put cargo, they put in
bunks set up in tiers, five and six high.
"Normal crew size when used for passenger service was somewhere around
a hundred. But for troop transport service, we had about 600 in the
crew. There's a lot of deck work, you know. I'm counting the
stewards, and the kitchen crew, etc. We carried a total complement of
from 3000 to 3500 for each crossing.
"I went into service in 1916. The Huron was my first ship after
leaving Great Lakes. In between I was furloughed, and I reported back
about 4 months later and they sent me to New York by way of
Minneapolis. There I boarded the Huron and stayed with her until after
the war when we brought troops back to the states. I made a total of
13 round trips on the Huron. Our destination in the states was
sometimes Newport News, Norfolk, or Brooklyn - mostly Brooklyn. Our
trips abroad were made mostly from Hoboken.
"Our convoys ranged from about 18 to 30 ships. I never travelled on
the Leviathan. Because of its speed, it travelled alone. The
Leviathan was close to l000 feet in length. It carried 10,000 men. We
always landed in France - never in England. Some did, but not ours.
We landed in Brest, St Lazaire, and Bordeau. Our trip time ranged from
11 to l3 days. The big ships made it in about 5 days. Besides
discharging our troops, we had to unload cargo and take on coal. We
were there about 6 days. Coming back, we didn't have much of a cargo
at all -- until the war ended. There were always a certain number of
hospital cases -- the sick and the wounded that we took back -- usually
about a hundred or a hundred and fifty.
"Everyone was housed below deck. During the storms the water would
sweep right across the decks. The ship would nose down into the water,
and the water would come up all the way over the whole top of the ship.
My position was helmsman. I was at the wheel steering the ship, under
the command of the officer of the deck.
"The best speed we could make was about l4 knots an hour, whereas the
Leviathan would make between 20 and 22 knots. We encountered
submarines but there was never a hit in our convoy. In one instance
the convoy that left a day ahead of us had one ship knocked off.
"On one occasion, about 3 or 4 days out of New York, we experienced a
collision. When that happened we were still able to turn around and
get into port in New York. Most of the crew on our ship was
transferred to other ships. But I was one that stayed. In two or
three weeks time we were ready to go out again.
"The ship that hit us was the sister ship Princess Irene. It struck us
in the bow. This happened during maneuvers and somebody got his
signals crossed. I was not at the helm, but on duty shortly after
that. We were working two hours on and six hours off. There were no
injuries. This happened during the day. The collision took a good
chunk out of the bow. It ripped a hole about l0 or l2 feet below the
water line. But the ship was compartmentalized and this prevented
water from entering the rest of the ship.
"Food was served on deck. We sailors ate at table in our mess hall,
but the troops would fill their mess kits from huge kettles and eat
standing up wherever they could. It was remarkable the way they were
all taken care of.
"Latrines were set up along the bow of the ship. They were constructed
out of 2 by 12/s. Just a regular trough. That's all it was. Water
would run through, and when the ship was heaving, you had one hell of a
time. That's when I was glad I wasn't a deckhand. That's when they
had to go to work.
"(My sister) Ida used to send me food. One time she sent a pie that
arrived just after we had left for France. It was there when we got
back. I don't know how it got by the mail that way. It was covered
with green mold.
"Pay was $36.00 a month. I'd send $25.00 to Pa.
"After the war the Leviathan was used as a receiving ship and I was
transferred to it for a short period. From there I was transferred to
New Orleans where I spent about 2 1/2 months. Then it was back to
Boston aboard the USS Florida and I still had about a year of service
left to go. From there we made a trip to the West Indies, Barbados and
Trinidad and Guantanamo. I got out in August of 1920."
I rediscovered some tapes of conversations with Dad about 30 years ago.
I typed them up an sent them on to the Miner in hopes they will print
same. Following is a transcript of second taped interview of
Dad dated about
"Jack Johnson was out making an exhibition tour; that was after he was
dethroned as (boxing) champion. He was a really good boxer and
fighter. He could do both -- box and fight. And Red Erspamer got up
and fought with Jack Johnson in Bonino's Hall. I think Otto (Erspamer)
and I put on a exhibition bout -- a preliminary to this fight. Jack
Johnson fought Red Erspamer and several other locals from Ironwood and
Hurley. He couldn't get any more big fights so he was making a tour
through the country and stopping at all the jerk-water towns and he was
scheduled to fight at Bonino's Hall this night.
"There was a fellow from Hurley -- he was one of the Secors and related
to Fa Secor's dad, Matt Secor, the old barber. The called him China
Mascot. He lived out on the west coast and when they were putting on a
boxing match at Bonino's Hall in Hurley, they got China Mascot all the
way from California to fight some known lightweight, or a
bantam-weight, And this was, oh golly, 1914 or 15, when we were just
kids, see -- maybe l3. And when we went up there and got into the
ring, you'd think it was grudge match the way we went after each other.
It ended up as a draw, but we pounded the hell out of each other.
"The China Mascot was a really good fighter, classified in the regular
fight ring. I can't recall who he fought at that time. It was a
10-round fight. They had some pretty good fights in those days. They
used pretty light-weight gloves in those days. I guess they were 4- or
6- ounce gloves. An when you were hit, it was just like a kick, for
"I had a couple of matches in the navy, but I didn't go too far. I
wound up in a battle royal, as I may have told you. There were 6 of us
in the ring -- three soldiers and three sailors, and I wound up the
winner. They asked for volunteers and I was sitting up on a beam
across the ring. We had these big beams that worked automatically to
lift the cargo. The ring was set up in the middle of the deck just
under one of these beams. I was up on top where I could see everything
and I was looking down at the proceedings there and they were asking
for volunteers. They needed one more guy and so, even without giving
it a thought, I jumped down, about 20 feet into the ring. I took off
my shirt and my blouse and they strapped the gloves on me and then the
three soldiers and three sailors were lined up on the side of the ring
and when the bell rang we all mingled together.
"This was while we were in troop transport. We were transporting
troops across to France. Roy Allen was there and he took a picture of
that and gol darn it, I don't know what became of that picture. The
only one I can remember is a man by the name of Terussi. He was a
pretty-good-size guy and he weighed about 175 pounds. Of course I went
in there at a hundred and thirty, thirty-five pounds. That was my
regular weight. And then there were these other fellows -- the 3
soldiers and the other sailor. I don;t know who he was but I know he
was a fireman, and he was a big strapping guy. One of the soldiers was
also a good-sized guy. The big soldier and the big sailor got together
and we assisted the sailor in getting after the big guy and so we got
him out of the way right away. Then the three of us went after the
other two soldiers. These soldiers were in and of course were bouncing
around. They had a hell of a time trying to catch ahold of me because
I'm skirting around and I was always hitting from the back. Finally
got rid of all three soldiers. So then there were just we three
"So, I looked at Terussi and I said "Listen, now. If you want to save
your hide, you better assist in getting rid of this big fellow, see."
So Gene started after him and I was in the back, pommelling him from
the back. He turned around to gouge at me and Terussi would come in --
he was a pretty good fighter, this Terucci -- and so finally, we didn't
have to knock him out, you know, just so long as you knocked him down.
That was the end of it, you see. So, finally we knocked him down. And
then Terucci and I wound it up and I had the better win and outlasted
him and he had to quit and so I got the hundred bucks. That's when I
made my trip over to Paris. And this John Backis -- he died just a
year ago, and oh how I wanted to go out and see him -- we made the trip
together to Paris. He was my buddy.
"This was on the USS Huron. The fight wasn't planned ahead of time,
but developed to provide entertainment. The boat was about 550 to 560
feet long. It was formerly the German ship Friedrich der Grosse ---
one of several ships we took over in New York harbour at the outbreak
of the war. The Princess Irene was a sister ship and she was in convoy
all the time. We travelled in a pack of between 15 to 25 ships. We
had some action, but never lost any ships. Submarines were sighted a
couple different times and we had destroyers along with us and when
we'd sight submarines we would spread out and the destroyers would make
a big round circle and they'd drop depth bombs. On two occasions we
saw the oil come up . We also saw stuff floating around after the
hits. We had 5-inch guns, and I was gun captain of one of these guns.
"We took over one of the Roosevelt brothers -- Quentin, I think it was.
We carried about 3500 men on each trip."