S.S. Brazil

Memories & Photos

 

Post-War Memorial Library - Each of the three Good Neighbor vessels carries a memorial library, dedicated to the men of the armed forces who sent in her to meet the enemy and gave their lives.  Each of the three is named for a member of the Moore-McCormack staff who died in the war.

The First Class Library was named the "William Binder, Jr. Memorial Library" in honor of a Moore-McCormack employee who joined the Navy in 1941 and was killed during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.  Mr. Binder's picture occupied a prominent place in the library, along with a sterling silver plaque which read:  "To the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who went in this ship to meet the enemy in World War II and gave their lives that the ideals of their country might survive, this library is reverently dedicated."

Story and Photos by Dick Kraus,

Ship's Assistant Photographer - 1951

S.S. Brazil

This photo was taken of the S.S. Brazil by Dick Kraus, who at the time was the assistant to the ship's photographer.  He later became a Staff Photographer for the Long Island newspaper, "Newsday."  Read his account below.

I grew up in Hempstead, Long Island, which is a suburb of New York City. I had a great interest in photography and after graduating from Hempstead High School in June of 1950, I went to the New York School of Portrait and Commercial Photography in Manhattan.  I took one course in Black and White Commercial Photography and then another in Color.  I loved it.  The Korean War was on and as I was 18 years old, I had to register with the Draft Board. I had no exemption and the idea of sitting in an icy fox hole in Pusan, Korea did not appeal to me. I didn't mind serving my country, but if I could, I would have preferred returning to a clean bed at night. So, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. There would be a delay of several months before they would take me and I only hoped that the Navy got to me before the Army.

In the meantime, I was offered a one time position as assistant to the ship's photographer on the passenger liner S.S. Brazil of the Moore McCormack Steamship Company.  They ran cruises from New York to South America. I got the job through the photo school.  Before I could go, though, there were a few things that I had to do.

I had to get permission from the Draft Board and the Navy to leave the country. I had to purchase a 4 X 5 Speed Graphic Press Camera and I had to get a passport.  Those things done, I boarded the ship in February 1951 to begin an eight week adventure on the high seas and in exotic South American ports.

The ship's photographer met me and showed me to the photo shop and darkroom. Then heDick Kraus of the S.S. Brazil took me down passageways and down stairs and down more passageways and more stairs. I had no idea where we were but eventually we got to a large dormitory cabin that held about 70 double decked metal bunks. One of them was mine. This is where the non-seamen male members of the crew slept. The barbers, musicians, food staff, and the photographer and I were accommodated here. Not exactly First Class. More like Steerage. In fact, that's exactly what it was.  I found out much later that night when I finished my duties and made my way back to my bunk. It was about 3 AM and I was exhausted. I threw myself into the top bunk and fell right to sleep. I was awakened later by terrible vibrations coming from under the deck and horrible banging noises. "Iceberg!!!" I thought.  We must have hit an iceberg. It was winter and we were still in the North Atlantic. The tragedy of the Titanic filled my befuddled brain and I jumped out of bed, found the light switch and started looking for a life preserver.

"What the Hell do ya think you're doing?" grumbled my boss, upon whom I had stepped in my haste to climb down from the upper bunk.

"Iceberg!" I shouted. "Listen! We must have hit an iceberg," as I continued to search for a life jacket.

"Go back to sleep, idiot. There's no iceberg. This bunk is as far down in this ship as you can get. In fact, underneath the steel deck plate that you're standing on is the ship's screw (propeller) and we're hitting the large waves off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Every time the bow goes down the side of one of those swells, the screw comes out of the water and shakes like all Hell.  Now get back to bed.  You've got a full day ahead of you."

He assured me that the rest of the trip would be considerably smoother. And it was. Otherwise I might have had to rethink my plan to enlist in the Navy.

As we sailed south, the days grew balmy and the seas were smooth. I fell into the routine of my shipboard duties and made friends with other crew members. I would share a drink in the Tourist Class Bar with the female singer who was with the band. She was a couple of years older than I and had gone to Freeport High School, an old football rival of Hempstead High. And there were some Cadets from the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, who were my age. They were doing their time at sea as part of their curriculum. Unfortunately, the passenger list was made up of senior citizens, except for one girl my age. She was the granddaughter of a Mr. Bayer of Bayer Aspirin, and she wasn't interested in an assistant ship's photographer.

The ship called in at Bermuda, for a day. Then on to Bahia, Brazil, where my pocket was picked and my passport taken. S.S. BrazilThis created a lot of problems since one of my duties was to take shore excursions with the passengers and make photos of them with the local backgrounds in hopes of selling them prints. But, no passport, no going ashore in foreign lands. So, I was sworn in as a member of the regular shipís crew at a dollar a week and issued seaman's papers which enabled me to go ashore. When I returned home, I had a visit from the FBI and filled out voluminous reports about the loss of the passport.

After that, we spent a few days in Rio. What a colorful place that was. Then it was Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Juan and Evita Peron were running the country, but I never heard her sing, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." The last port of call before coming back to NY City was Trinidad. What a heady trip for an 18 year old kid. And, suddenly, the adventure was over.

 

Quering Family Memories -- S.S. Brazil, August-September 1956.  Walter W. and Jinny and their children, Walter C., Ginger, and Linda.

S.S. Brazil as seen from a "launch" returning from Trinidad.

Dinner at the Captain's Table.  Dad is second from the Captain's left and Mom is fifth from the Captain's left.  Just nine days out of New York and look at their tans!  Estev„o Czekus contacted us and mentioned his parents are also at the same table.  His mother, Donatella Czekus, is sitting between the Captain and Ginger's dad.  His father, Josef Czekus, with moustache, is second to the Captain's right.

Lifeboat Drill - Dad, Mom, Walt, Ginger, and Linda (in center of photo).  I don't know about the others but I wanted that vest OFF so I could get back to business at hand, collecting all the inner tubes on the ship.

Now that I have them, what do I do with them?

Linda (standing third from left), then Walt and me, both with legs straggling, sitting by poolside.

Dad dancing with professional dancer, Marlene Pekala, in his first Jitterbug Contest on Moore-McCormack Lines.  Dad won on every cruise we took.

Dancers line-up.  Dad is 5th from left with trophy in hand.  Professional dancers, Marlene and Mike Pekala, are to my Dad's left.  Nikki Biggs, another professional dancer, is also in the line-up (she is on the extreme left).  These professional dancers can also be seen in photos on the S.S. Argentina pages.

Taking a break from swimming and grabbing some lunch.  Nicholas Glabb (with back towards camera) and Walt are at the table on left.  Dad, Ginger (with back towards camera), and Linda are at the next table.

The three of us kids (Walt, Linda, and Ginger) in Leblon shortly after arriving in Rio.  Guess we quickly got over being frightened of the unknown.

 

Left to right:  C. Philip Braxton, Cruise Director, Nikki Biggs, Cruise Directress, John Hakmann, eventually becoming Head of Commissary, and Staff Captain Edward S. Davis.  (Courtesy of Sue Shreve.)

 

"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Eleanor Britton and Nikki Biggs with King Momo (Rio's official ruler during Carnival 1951).  (Courtesy of Cindy Richard, grand-niece of Nikki Biggs.)

John Hakmann is on far right.  (Courtesy of Sue Shreve.)

 

With the bow of the S.S. Brazil in the background, the group talking are with Standard Brands. The gentleman looking down at a pad is William Moscatelli who was Managing Director of Standard Brands do Brasil.  On the right-hand side with her back to the photographer is his wife, Martha.  Mr. Moscatelli received two Cruzeiros do Sul Awards, thereby giving him the title Comendador, Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul.   The award is the highest honor granted to foreigners by the Brasilian government.   (Courtesy of their daughter, Rita Moscatelli Sasek)

 

 

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