Paymaster Day was a blond, athletic, clean-cut young man, an Ensign
in the Supply Corps, one of the more or less normal people
aboard ship. He was consigned to the Supply Corps because he had a
really bad stuttering problem; that wouldnt do for a Line Officer.
He was responsible for payday, (which according to tradition, was
always done in cash) and for supplying provisions, and administration
of the Ships Office where he supervised two or three Yeomen (a Navy
term for secretaries).
Pay Day, as we called him, was a good golfer, sporting
a negative handicap; so when we put into port in Tsingtao, China,
he had to go golfing even though it was a cold November day with strictly
winter conditions on the course. I joined him, and at the Club House
we engaged a couple of Chinese kids as caddies. The caddies ranged
far ahead of us to better spot the balls in the winter turf.
On about the third hole, Pay Day hit a long drive which happened to
land on a frozen lake. The ball bounced from the surface far forward
where it hit his caddy in the chest. The caddy fell forward screaming,
clutching his chest.
Pay Day panicked; he ran the 200 yards to the caddy, found him lying
there moaning. He examined him a bit; of course the boy couldnt
speak English. So he scooped him up and ran him all the way back to
the Club House. When we arrived, Pay Day was so out of breath he couldnt
even stutter. The club foreman told me he thought the boy would appreciate
a nice tip and then he would probably be all right. Pay Day fished
out a $20 bill which really lit up that kids eyes. That $20
was the equivalent of four months earnings for him.
The incident reminded me of the pact the U.S. had at that time with
the Kuomingtang (the government of nationalist China). Each time a
Chinese was accidentally killed, such as being run over by a jeep,
the military had to pay the family $20,000, a princely sum for a Chinese
family. It was said that the only reason more Chinese did not throw
their children in front of moving vehicles was that few of them knew
about the arrangement.
That same morning I got another indication of how little life was
worth. Walking down the pier toward the city, I passed several little
houseboats where the Chinese were living and noticed, floating face
up in the foam, a human baby, abandoned or lost by someone.