Bob Arnold became a Navy man just like his dad. His father served aboard the USS Langley, American’s first aircraft carrier, before World War II.
It was 1946 when Bob signed up at 17 to go to sea. His mother took him to the recruiter’s office and signed him in because he was under 18 years old.
“I went to boot camp at Bainbridge, Md. After boot camp I was sent to New Port, RI and went aboard my ship, the USS Massey (DD-778), a destroyer. I started out in the fire room as a fireman,” the 82-year-old former swabbie, who lives in Holiday Park, North Port, Fla. said.
“My two years in the service got better and better.
“One morning the chief had us fall out for muster. He wanted someone who would volunteer to take the place of the log room clerk who was getting out. After he asked a second day for a volunteer I went to see the guy who had the job and asked him about the position.
“He worked out of a little room, no bigger than a closet, with a desk, chair, file cabinet and typewriter. The clerk told me, ‘I have liberty every day we’re in port because I fill out the liberty cards and I don’t pull watch.’
“That sounded pretty good to me. When the chief asked for a volunteer the third day I stepped forward. After I took the job the other guys in the fire room chided me. They said I was sitting on my butt all day being clerk.
“I wasn’t asked if I could type when I took the clerk’s job. I was a two finger typist, but they didn’t care as long as I could get some words on the reports I had to fill out,” Arnold recalled.”
Most of the time he was aboard the Massey the ship was cruising the Atlantic and Pacific on goodwill tours.
“At times we would accompany an aircraft carrier on one of these tours. On occasion we sailed with the carrier USS Leyte. When we needed fuel we’d pull up beside the carrier and refuel. it was amazing to watch,” he said.
“When the carrier would launch its planes we’d sometimes act as the rescue vessel. If a pilot had to ditch his airplane someone from the Massey would go over the side and rescue the pilot,” he recalled. We’d get them on deck and send the pilots back to the carrier on a line that ran between our destroyer and the flattop.
“On our first big cruise we went across the Atlantic to Italy. I didn’t smoke, but when I went on liberty I Scotch taped two packs of cigarettes to my legs under my bell bottom pants to sell on the black-market. It’s the way we earned extra spending money while on leave,” Arnold said.
“When I got ashore I would exchange my packs of cigarettes for cash from a bunch of boys who were waiting with Italian money to pay us,” he said. “These kids were sharp. If you weren’t careful they would grab the money out of your hand and run.
“Liberty was fun. I saw a lot of sights. I saw a lot of things I don’t even remember now because it was a long time ago, ” he said. “The locals treated the Navy men very well. They knew we all had cigarettes to sell.”
One time when the Massey was in dry dock in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Arnold was walking pass a battleship and ran into a friend from home.
“I have a picture of myself and a neighbor friend of mine who I ran into while I was in port. I was walking down the dock past a battleship. I was in awe at its size. Our destroyer was like a rowboat compared to that battleship,” he said.
“I looked up and saw this fellow on the battleship looking down it me. It was ‘Stinky’ Lamb from my hometown of Agawa, Mass. He hollered at me and I hollered back. We made plans to meet on shore the next day.
“After a couple of drinks we walked by a tattoo parlor and we both decided to go in. I got a tattoo on my left shoulder of a heart and anchor with the word “MOM” inscribed on the heart,” Arnold said proudly as he rolled up his sleeve to show me.
“I don’t know, but I think ‘Stinky’ might have gotten his nickname inscribed on his arm. I guess that’s how most young sailors get their tattoos,” he said.
The Massey went to sea again and sailed for the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. We took another good will tour to Chili and Peru.
“This was a big experience for a country boy from a little New England country town who had never seen much of the world before he enlisted,” Arnold said.
“Back in the States in those days servicemen were treated very good by civilians. I’d belly up to a bar with my uniform on and order a beer and someone in the bar would pay for it,” Arnold said. “It was a good time to be a sailor.”
But two years of Navy life was all the he wanted. Ruth, his girlfriend of three years, was waiting for him when he got home.
“I was 14 years old when I first met her. We had been going together for three years when I went in the Navy. Here it is 62 years later and I’m still with her,” he said with a smile.
After he got out of the Navy in December 1947 he went to work as the manager of an ice cream store.
“Friendly Ice Cream chain in New England that was very popular. Two brothers opened their first store across the street from my home. That’s who I went to work for when I got out of the service,” Arnold said. “I worked for them as manager of one of their stores, for about seven years.”
“Then I opened my own ice cream store. We ended up with four stores before Ruth and I retired and moved to Florida.”
Two of his three children operate his ice cream stores today.
Some 30 years ago they purchased a mobile home in Holiday Park as a place to come each year for a couple of weeks during the winter. Seven years ago they retired and moved to North Port for good.
The couple’s three sons, Bob, Tom and Peter and their extended families all live up north. The Arnolds make an annual pilgrimage to Massachusetts to see relatives.
Name: Robert Barnes Arnold
D.O.B: 25 Jan. 1929
D.O.D: July 2016
Hometown: Agawa, Mass.
Current: North Port, Fla.
Entered Service: 28 Jan. 1946
Discharged: 1 Nov. 1947
Rank: Fireman 1st Class
Unit: USS Massey (DD-778)
Commendations: World War II Victory Medal
This story first appeared in the Charlotte Sun newspaper on Thursday, June 23, 2011 and is republished with permission.
Click here to view Arnold’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook.
Click here to search Veterans Records and to obtain information on retrieving lost commendations.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.
Robert Barnes Arnold
1929 – 2016
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Robert B. Arnold, a self-made man and past Potentate for the NH Shrine, passed away peacefully at the Douglas Jacobson Veterans Home in Port Charlotte, Fla. at 87 years young.
Dad was born in Springfield, Mass. on Jan. 25, 1929, to Donald and Calma Arnold. In 1945 at 17, he dropped out of school and with his parent’s approval joined the U.S. Navy. He served on the USS Massey, a destroyer escort and his tour took him to war torn Italy and the Mediterranean. They also crossed the equator to South America on another tour. Dad enjoyed USS Massey reunions later in his retirement years with other Navy men who also served tours on this ship.
Dad worked in the first Friendly Ice Cream shop on Boston Road in Springfield, Mass. for the Blake brothers before going into the Navy. After the service, he worked as a machinist and also as a delivery milkman. In those days, milk and other dairy products were delivered fresh to your home. In 1949, Dad married his sweetheart, Ruth Baer, daughter of Fritzie and Louise Baer. Fritzie was working for the Indian Motorcycle Company. With Dad’s mustering out money from the Navy, Fritzie sold Dad an Indian and when Mom and Dad were married, they both had motorcycles.
Mom and Dad were sweethearts in school. July 16th would have been their 67th wedding anniversary though Dad often mentioned that six years should be added on as they had met when they were 14.
Dad went into the management program at Friendly’s Ice Cream and in 1957 was given his own location in Worcester, Mass. as a manager. This was Friendly’s 35th location. His store was honored in 1956 for serving the 50 Millionth ice cream cone. Both Mom and Dad were very strong on family values and Dad had dinner with his family almost every night though often had to leave after dinner to go back to work at the restaurant. Friendly’s would always have an ice cream sale on Christmas, though the store was technically closed for the day, and Dad would have to go back to the restaurant for the sale after we opened our Christmas presents.
In 1964, Dad and Mom purchased the Weeks Family Restaurant in the Capitol Shopping Center in Concord where Sal’s Pizza is located today. In 1968, they opened a second location at one of New Hampshire’s first malls in Bedford. 1978 saw a third location in the Fort Eddy Shopping Plaza in Concord. A fourth location was opened in 1981 in Contoocook. In 1984, they purchased the Red Blazer Restaurant in Concord.
Weeks Family Restaurants hired many young people and for many of them, this was their first job. Dad nurtured these young people and was excited to learn of how successful many became later in life. One year alone, Dad issued almost 500 w-2s. Many families had numerous siblings, all working their way through high school and college at Weeks. Many met their future husbands and wives while working together at Weeks.
Dad was extremely proud that all three of his sons were in the restaurant business with him. As a lifelong Mason, he was also very proud when all three sons were ‘raised’ simultaneously as Masons with the Blazing Star Lodge in Concord. Dad was presented with his 60-year member award by the Blazing Star Masonic Lodge a few years ago.
Dad was an active Shriner and a member of their drum and bugle corp, marching in parades throughout the United States. The Shrine football game was always one of their premier events with the parade through Hanover. Dad was on the Bektash Temple Shrine Divan. In 1991, he became one of 50 Potentates in the United States where he represented all the Shriners in New Hampshire. All three of his sons served as his aides during his year as Potentate.
A lifelong golfer, Dad was a member of Concord Country Club where he had a hole in one on the 144 yard 16th in July 1986. He was also an avid skier and took numerous trips to the Alps in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Dad was also a sports car enthusiast and past president of the NH Sports Car Club where he raced both a Sunbeam Tiger and Lotus Elan.
Dad leaves behind his life-long sweetheart and wife of 67 years, Ruth Baer Arnold. His sons, Bobby and his wife, Heidi, Tom and his wife, Tootie and Peter and fiancée Kim Yarlott and a former daughter-in-law, Karen Arnold. Grandchildren, Ben Rice and his wife, Christine, Jeremy Rice and wife, Sarah Tye, Molly and husband, BJ Lanigan, Annie Arnold, Katie and husband, Tyler Lipp, Chris Arnold, Brittany and husband, Gregory Frank. Great-grandchildren, Brady and Vanessa Rice, Deegan and Norah Lanigan and many beloved nieces and nephews. Dad also leaves behind two sisters, Betty Daly of Laconia and Phyllis Crowley of Belmont; and three brothers-in-law, Thomas Baer of Manchester, Butch Baer of Monson, Mass. and James Baer of Concord. Dad was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Donald Arnold and sister, Dorothy Davis.
The Arnold Family wishes to thank all the staff at Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte for the excellent care they gave Dad in the past year. Thank you also for the excellent professionals at Tidewell Hospice.
Please visit kays-ponger.com to leave the family your thoughts, memories and condolences on the online guestbook. Kays-Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home, Venice Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
A celebration of Dad’s life will be held on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to: Shriners Hospitals for Children at support.shrinershospitals.org, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at alzfdn.org, Tidewell Hospice at tidewellhospice.org.