Metuchen Edison History Features

Recollections of

Boyhood Days

In Old Metuchen


David Trumbull Marshall

Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930

(Second Edition)- (c) 1930


The Rescue of the Captain's Automobile.

During the fall of 1918 I was a captain in the Medical Corps of the U. S. Army and was stationed at Fort Wadsworth, N. Y. This fort is located on Staten Island, which lies between the Upper and Lower Bays of New York, on the west side of the Narrows. About all one sees of the fort as one passes through the Narrows on one's way to the Atlantic Ocean is a great beautiful round hill, rising about a hundred feet above the water. The slopes of this hill are sodded and in some places overgrown with low trees. Inside the very top of the hill there is an old fort made in the shape of an ellipse and further south there are several batteries of large guns of the disappearing type.

On the south shore of Staten Island and partly included in the fort reservation, there is a beach of fine brown sand washed by the salt water of the Lower Bay. A moderate surf washes the beach as the tide rises and falls. It is a good bathing beach, though at the time I was there the general public was denied access to the reservation. As the public was forbidden to trespass on the beach there had accumulated there an enormous quantity of driftwood. Some of this driftwood consisted of whole logs cut for making docks; long heavy planks; timber of every description and whole carloads of small boards and empty boxes and barrels.

One morning I and my Lieutenant Cheney, the dentist at my hospital; my son Leslie, aged 15, and one or two other officers were sitting around the large open fireplace in my quarters on "Officers Row" waiting the call for dinner. Our fire was made of driftwood gathered on our beach. The day before, while horseback riding on the beach, I had noticed an accumulation of pieces of wood made by sawing off the butt ends of piles, the waste from some nearby dock building. These pieces were about a foot in diameter and one or two feet long, just the thing for our open fire. I said to Lieutenant Cheney, "Come on, let's take my automobile and drive down to the beach before dinner and get a few of those pile ends for our fire." Four of us piled into my Stevens-Duryea and went to the beach, my son Leslie driving the car. The tide was dead low and the hard sand of the beach made an ideal road. We went along beautifully right near the water until we struck a place where a drain from the fort opened onto the beach.

There was a patch of quicksand and the car began to sink rapidly. We piled out as soon as possible, "all dressed up in our Sunday clothes." I stripped off my expensive uniform coat and my brand new puttees and worked like mad to jack up the car and get some planks under the wheels. There were plenty of planks and plenty of blocks, but as we were right on the edge of the surf and the tide was rising, we could not get all four wheels of the machine up at once before the last one up was washed out. The water was up to my knees and threatened every minute to swamp the carburetor. I had not noticed what had become of Lieutenant Cheney, but his absence was soon accounted for. Leslie sat at the engine, his feet in the water, and started and stopped the engine at my direction.

Just as I had about given up all hope I heard a cheer and on looking up saw a crowd of soldiers running down to the beach. The boys were having a baseball game on the parade ground just above, when Lieutenant Cheney came running up and announced that the Captain's machine was sinking into the water. Every man of the hundred or so came running down. They found a two-inch rope lying among the drift. The men fastened this immense rope to the machine and with Leslie at the engine they finally hauled the car up on dry land.



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Lasted updated 6/8/99 by Jim Halpin.