I found this excellent image on Deviant at the weekend and decided to write it.
This was the opportunity Harry Mallory had been waiting for his whole life. Since boyhood, he had dreamed of leaving. But travel had been for the visitors, not for him. Memories flooded back from his childhood spent on the fringes of Somerton House, a grand old mansion just outside of Charleston.
Of how the derelict mansion was rescued by hotelier Spencer Brabham. “New money,” many had sneered, but to the young Harry, it was money just the same. And Brabham had restored that dilapidated old duchess to her former elegance. His latest venture – a bolthole palace both for his retreat, and for wealthy guests to come to play.
It had brought work. During the restoration alone, Brabham had hired fifty locals, single-handedly providing a route out of that depression. And Harry quickly learned that rich people needed lots of fetching, and that even a whippersnapper like he was useful. The House became his second home. Harry’s easy humour made him popular with the guests, and from tips alone, he soon became his family’s main breadwinner.
He recalled the time Brabham had chartered the seaplane and had flown a few dozen of his cronies up from Savannah. Fascinated, Harry had never seen an airplane so close. He’d never travelled, and even Savannah seemed exotic to him! Big cities like Atlanta or Charlotte were on another planet.
Harry understood Brabham’s strategy, just to make them aware that the place existed – after that, the Big House could do its own talking, and as time passed, a steady stream of repeat visitors were relieved to see the familiar Somerton, and the smiling face of Harry.
His nostalgic thoughts were fractured by a scuffle, then, outside the dorm. He opened his eyes and glimpsed “White Sox” O’Dowd, an avid baseball fanatic from Chicago. Behind him was “Cal” McAllister, from Dog Company, the two jokers of the outfit.
“Hey, you guys, knock it off! Save all that excess energy for Adolf, yeah?”
Immediately subdued, White Sox grinned sheepishly, and Cal apologised, “Sorry, sarge”, and the men hastily retreated out of earshot.
“And don’t forget… ”, Harry called after them, “the briefing. 16:00. The Mess Hall. Don’t be late.” Harry wasn’t sure which of them answered “we won’t”, but it didn’t really matter.
It was an open secret that they would soon sail to England, the assault on mainland Europe. The rumour-mill had it that their departure was imminent. But maybe he’d learn more in a while?
With the dorm now still again, Harry slipped back to the Carolinas. He heard it all, in mouth-watering detail. These elite guests would talk about places the untravelled Harry could only dream about. Havana, Nairobi, Mombasa, Calcutta… and the seed was sown. One day, Harry, too, would visit these places.
Life, however, has a strange way of intervening. When his father died from tuberculosis, Harry’s income proved critical to his mom and sisters but served only to strengthen his bonds to the hotel.
And later, with Harry now grown and risen to Head Porter, he tied the knot with his childhood sweetheart, Marianne, when only he and his new bride knew that she was already three months pregnant. Brabham rewarded Harry’s loyalty, donating the couple’s wedding night at Somerton, followed by two night’s honeymoon at Brabham’s flagship establishment, up in New York City. It was the first time either Harry or Marianne had even left the state, but worth the two-day coach journey for them to see for themselves the wonders of Manhattan. For Harry, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience when he actually walked the iron bridge over to Brooklyn that frosty morning.
But over the next few years, two more daughters arrived, to follow Lucille, and Harry became more, not less, dependent on the Big House to support his own family. One day, Harry woke, a new father of three, very much anchored to his life.
Until Japan had attacked. Immediately after Roosevelt’s speech, Harry had enlisted. By then, he was older than most recruits, there were initial doubts, but the nature of his work had made him strong and fit. Supplemented by a pragmatic head on his shoulders, Harry was ideal sergeant material in the rapidly-expanding army.
Which had brought him here.
When buddy, and fellow sergeant Jack entered the dorm, Harry was jerked back to the present; instinctively, he glanced at his wristwatch: 3:45 PM.
“All set?”, Jack enquired, “rumour is, today’s the day”, and Harry began to prepare himself to learn his fate.
Forty minutes later, Harry gave a low whistle as he was dismissed. At last, he thought, this was it. This time, he would not only be visiting New York City, but the troop ship awaiting them, the USS Henry Mallory, would transport them all the way to the Old World itself, where they would at last be taking the fight back to Germany.
Ordered to make ready for departure the next day, Harry made one final resolution. When all this was over, he would find out about his famous namesake.
This story is entirely fictional, apart from the name. The USS Henry R. Mallory was indeed a troop ship which served in the Second World War. It was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic on 7th February 1943, en route from New York City to Liverpool, UK. The ship was carrying US Army, Navy and Marine personnel, over half of whom perished.
In real life, Henry R Mallory (1848 – 1919) was the founder and president of Mallory Lines, which grew to be the second-largest shipping company in the US, operating seventy vessels. According to the Harvard Business School, he was worth $47 million at his death, which I guess would have been a lot of money in those days. Peanuts now, of course.