Book Bag​​​​​​: ‘Upper To’Gallants and Rusty Scuppers: Adventures of an Amateur Mariner’ by H. Peale Haldt Jr.

  • Harry Haldt III holds a copy of “Upper To’Gallants and Rusty Scuppers: Adventures of an Amateur Mariner” at a recent book signing. staff photo

  • Ann Reed Contributed photo

Published: 11/29/2019 9:53:16 AM

UPPER TO’GALLANTS AND RUSTY SCUPPERS: ADVENTURES OF AN AMATEUR MARINER

By H. Peale Haldt Jr.

Edited by Harry P. Haldt III

Haley's Antiques and Publishing

“The adventures of” are words worth their sea salt in the title of the late H. Peale Haldt Jr.’s 197-page memoir, edited and compiled by his son, Athol’s Harry P. Haldt III. Set at the brink of World War II, and recently published by Haley’s Antiques and Publishing in Athol, “Upper To’Gallants and Rusty Scuppers: Adventures of an Amateur Mariner” reels the reader in with its smooth, sometimes wry, conversational narrative — and then dangles that reader within inches of incidents of international intrigue and more that you won’t find in history books.

There are casual exchanges with royalty, a private Hollywood connection, a bedroom brush with a possible Nazi plot, colorful characters, a barrel’s worth of hilarity, and a famed privately-owned vessel so gargantuan that even a tiny old black and white photograph of it, dotted with humanity decipherable on deck, shivered this reviewer’s visceral timbers.

Additional photos and other faded printed effects, logbook entries, and fine drawings by Peale, accompany son Harry’s discovered treasure of latter-year-Peale’s engaging autobiographical writings. The cache of finds is associated with Peale’s experiences crewing on various ships and luxury liners during his Depression-era summers while attending high school and, later, Colgate University.

From the sublime to the sidesplittingly foolish: A reminiscent brand of un-neutralized youthful masculinity plays out, for the reader’s bug-eyed view, in global ship and shore scenes. Such scenes include a group skinny-dipping spectacle in foreign waters that takes flight, in what had begun with the best of intentions and bars of soap. Just as spectacular is Peale’s firsthand account of a pile-on bar brawl among Allied and Axis sailors in 1938 Germany.

“World War ll had started in that little secluded beer hall,” wrote Peale, some three-and-a-half decades later.

Then there was Sea Cloud, the world’s largest yacht, constructed by commission during the throes of the Depression by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, wife of the eponymous E.F. Hutton. And, not of lesser note in Peale’s story, there was their daughter, “Deenie” — later famously known as Dina Merrill, socialite and Hollywood actress — whom Peale had met while crewing on her family-hosted cruise.

Peale admitted in his writings of decades later that he’d fallen in love with Sea Cloud while working that cruise. But what about Deenie — with whom he’d carried on at least a correspondence for some time later?

Did her “Peale dearest” salutations and “Much love” closings amount to little more than the breezy hyperbole and social precocity of a comely schoolgirl of privilege? Their yearlong ink waltz, with its dips and turns and spins, replays before us in the form of a copious 19 letters — into which the reader can dive for answers. The letters, many of substantial length, are dashed off by the tall blonde Post-Hutton daughter with all the daring of a securely chaperoned butterfly.

“I talked to Mummy over the phone yesterday,” she writes to Peale, in a rare departure from her usual fare. “The general opinion is that there will be a war in Europe some time this spring.” The letter is dated January 30, 1939.

The once lost memoir — written by an adventurer in the latter season of his life, and brought to dutiful compilation by his son in a latter season of his own — could make a worthy landing at the armchair of any number of households this season.

The book costs $24.95 and is available locally from the author, the publisher Haley’s, and at Petersham Country Store, New Salem General Store and Trail Head Outfitters and General Store.

Copies are also available online at rustyscupperbooks.com​; amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Book signings have been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at 6 p.m. in Athol Public Library, and 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 at Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange.




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