Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Hey pallies, likes this is likes just so so stellar.....a story 'bout a childhood pallie of our Dino's. From the Fort Wayne, Indiana weekly newspaper FROST ILLUSTRATED comes this story 'bout a man tagged Charles "Mo" Moses who grew up with our Dino in Steubenville. Reads how he and our great man shared a common passion for music and how they made music together. I draw your attention to the fact that Mr. Moses is black only to remind us pallies that from early on that our Dino was color blind when it came to bein' pallies.....just a little precursor to how our Dino befriended the Sam when he was disinvited from JFK's inaugrational ball. Pallies, can't tell you how much I loves to read these first hand accounts of others who walked the earth with our Dino... As usual if you wanna read this in it's original format, just clicks on the tagg of this Dinogram. Dinopsyched, DMP
World War II vet tells personal tale
FORT WAYNE—At 87-years-old, Charles “Mo” Moses has stories to tell—lots of stories to tell. With his razor sharp mind and “gift for gab,” he can go from a spellbinding tale about blacks in the military to an amusing anecdote about an entertainment legend in little more than a heartbeat. And, his tales have an alluring immediacy. They should have because, as he explains, he was there. To many, his stories are incredible, perhaps even incredulous to some, but Moses says, that’s his life.
Moses only recently arrived in Fort Wayne, having moved here from LaPorte, Ind., around Thanksgiving of last year at the urging of his grandson Michael Moses, who lives here, and his niece April of Delaware, who located him after he disappeared “by choice” after leaving Gary, Ind., some years ago.
“I got ‘separated’ from my family— moved to LaPorte an didn’t get a telephone,” said Moses, with a sly hint of a laugh in his voice. “Mike and my niece April in Delaware got on the Internet and somehow found me and came to LaPorte and moved me over here.”
Since moving here, he regularly goes out to breakfast with his grandson and spends hours telling him his fascinating life story—one he agreed to share in part with Frost Illustrated.
According to Mo Moses, his story starts nearly nine decades ago in Steubenville, Ohio, just 22 miles from Pittsburgh. Early in life, he had decided what he wanted his life path to be.
“What I wanted to be was a musician, really,” said Moses.
Initially, he said schools in the area didn’t offer much of what he was seeking. While they had lots of sports programs, arts were lacking. That is until he got into the fourth grade and the school started a music program. Moses and his school chum, Dino Crocetti, were overjoyed. Neither was big enough to really make it in sports, so they joined the music program.
“Dino and I got into it because we knew we’d never be football players,” said Moses.
By the time the two were in high school, Moses said they had formed a successful band that was playing dances in the area. Dino worked as the band’s male singer and Moses played his clarinet, something he would continue to do for some years.
“I loved that clarinet, Lord, have mercy,” said Moses.
In fact, he said he thought of making music a career, playing all through high school and two years at the University of Pittsburgh, but a fateful date in U.S. history—Dec. 7, 1941—cut short his plans. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drew the country into World War II and, despite the problems of racism in the nation, and drew many black men into the military.
Moses was one of those who went to serve his country, entering the U.S. Navy on July 23, 1942.
At the time, the U.S. military was still segregated. Although blacks were allowed to join the service, they were relegated to near servant roles. For example, blacks at the Great Lakes training center in Chicago where Moses said he was stationed were either in the band or served as cooks. Indeed, Moses said he served his time playing music there, but the world was changing.
A year earlier, the U.S. had begun the moves that established the famed Tuskegee Airmen, so blacks already were expanding their roles in the military. Moses said the same thing was just beginning to happen in the U.S. Navy. He said the president and others in the government had issued directives that blacks be allowed to serve in other posts in the Navy. Men with high school diplomas and at least some college—men like Moses—were chosen for posts other than cook and musician.
“At first, the white men didn’t think we could learn enough to be sailors, although we had colleges all over,” he said, naming places such as the Tuskegee Institute, Howard University and Wilberforce. “There was a battery of test we had to take that were mailed to us.”
Moses mailed his back and found out he had been accepted to be a part of that new military experiment.
“I was quite honored I was one of the first to be chosen,” he said.
“We had to go to service school at Great Lakes. I came out as a signalman, what they called a communications officer at the time,” said Moses.
Life, however, was far from idyllic. Moses said many whites still doubted blacks’ ability to perform more than service jobs in the military and expressed skepticism about black men’s ability during their training at Great Lakes. To him, that made little or no sense, especially in light of success of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Every accomplishment the black man makes seems to be a complete surprise to the white man,” said Moses. “The one thing about [our] history going into the Navy, they should have know, because the Tuskegee Airmen were already being trained and the records the Tuskegee Airmen set over there [in Europe], they should have know we could have been sailors.”
One thing that did surprise Moses was the housing he and other black seamen were assigned to at Great Lakes. He said the government built new housing there and he and other black servicemen thought they knew why.
“We blacks figured they’d move the whites from the old section and move them into the new section, but they didn’t,” he said.
Instead, the black sailors got the new housing. Some things, however, didn’t change.
“We were still trained separately,” explained Moses.
Still, he said the entire experience was well worth it—especially after he and his fellow black sailors finished training. They had an opportunity to parade through the black community and received a tremendous reception.
“Was the black community proud,” he said, beaming.
They also received another accolade on base during graduation.
“When we marched past the review stand, there was the president looking at us,” said Moses.
He said he eventually got to serve in the war effort on an unnamed destroyer, which Moses said was designated only by a number.
“It didn’t have a name, they made the ships so fast,” he said.
Out in the Pacific Theater, Moses said he saw the U.S. demonstrate clear superiority during the war. According to him, commanders already had explained that the Japanese war effort was being bankrupted and that they were using substandard materials in ships and planes. And, the Japanese were running out of supplies such as gasoline. Moses said he watched Japanese planes that had been given just enough fuel to make suicide runs at U.S. ships crash into the ocean before even reaching their target.
“We watched them sink right into the ocean,” he said.
Moses, for one, was glad when the war was over.
“It was a welcome day when they raised the white flag,” he said, adding that his ship was in Tokyo Bay the day the former combantants signed the peace treaty.
After returning to the states, he said he served for sometime as an ID clerk at a military installation in Michigan and lived there with his wife, whom he had met some years before at a USO show. Moses said she was from Maywood, Ill., which eventually led the couple back to the Chicago area for visits, but he said he wasn’t exactly happy with the housing opportunities there for black people at the time.
“When I got out of the service, there were no decent homes that black servicemen could buy,” said Moses.
During one of their family trips, the couple heard about new housing in Gary.
“They were building homes for black servicemen returning home,” he explained. “We stopped one Saturday to look a them. They were beautiful homes, so we bought a home. We lived in a section of Gary called Terry Town.”
Moses has plenty other stories to tell—including how he wanted to go back to music, but with a family, thought it better to do something else, how he finished college at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service in Gary; ended up working as a correctional lieutenant and administrator for Westville Correctional Center back when it was a maximum security prison for the criminally insane; got estranged from his family, and more. Oh yes, and he talks about how his old childhood friend Dino ended up changing his name and becoming known to the world as Dean Martin and how he only saw him one more time in life—toward the end of the war during a radio broadcast near the end of the war.
Moses is more than ready to share those tales with listeners, especially after being told on so many occasions that his life story is important history. Ever the wit, he finds amusement even in that fact.
“I lived this long to be history— how ’bout that?” he asked.