Ray Parker, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed [Edward D. and Sarah Ann (Stewart)] Parker, of east of Leon, who is serving on board the U.S.S. Utah, has written the following letter to his parents, telling of some of the things he is seeing in foreign countries:

U. S. S. Utah, Villifance, France
Nov. 27, 1913.

Dear Folks - I don't suppose I will say anything that will interest you. I had a seven days furlough, was all over Nice, Villifrance, Monica and Monte Carlo. This place is something like Colorado Springs, but the buildings are much finer and Monte Carlo is the most beautiful place here. It is on the seaside, the wall is called Suicide Wall and the garden is called Suicide also.

I saw a woman coming out of the casino crying. No one is allowed in there unless they have a bank account. I have not seen any eating houses here that do not serve liquor; the most of the saloons do not have a bar. The stuff is served n tables inside and outside. All the high class places have tables sitting on each side of the walk. The men and women all drink together. The bartenders are mostly ladies. There is very little smoke here.

I was ashore seven days. My clothing was not as dirty in that time as they would be in New York in one day.

Everything is about the same price here as in the U. S. I like the climate here but would rather live in old Decatur county.

There are a great many rich Americans and English over here. Met some people from California, was with them all afternoon in Nice. They went to visit our ship. I was detailed to show visitors through the ship today. I could not understand what they said to me and they did not know what I was telling them.

Will close. Write soon.

 Ray S. Parker, a well known Decatur County boy, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Parker, is on duty at Vera Cruz, Mexico. Some months ago we printed an interesting letter from Ray who as then in France with his battleship, and now he is down at Vera Cruz, being a seaman on board the U.S.S. Utah. He wrote the following letter to his parents, which we are permitted to publish:

Vera Cruz, May 10, 1914

Dear Folks at Home: We are now in the police station of Vera Cruz. We landed here the 21st of April, while bullet were whizzing over our heads and spatting in the water around our boats. As soon as we landed we marched up the street where the firing was the hottest, we then broke up into small parties and went into buildings and behind them, firing at anyone we could see in windows and on housetops. About six o'clock we broke into a big store room and slept there during the night. Four sentries were posted at the corners of the buildings with orders to halt everyone.

I captured a man who tried to pass my post, but he was turned loose. Several of our men were killed, and one man in my company was shot in the head but we think he will recover. Our men are searching all the houses for arms and ammunition. We have several hundred prisoners and are getting more all the time.

I feel just as safe here as I would on the streets of Leon. A bullet whizzed over my head this morning. I was standing in the street with my company when a bullet hit a foot or two over my head but that is nothing when you get used to it.

An ensign off the Utah is wearing a cap which was cut across the top by a bullet when we were landing, 3 inches lower would have caught him in the forehead.

We have taken charge of a big hotel. Our cooks bring over provisions off from our ship so we can eat there. Only one block from the station. I was shot at but not hit. I think the worst of it is over.

Ray S. Parker.
Seaman U. S. S. Utah.

Vera Cruz, May 10, 1914

Dear Folks - Just received your letter, dated 1st. Have written three letters this week but as you said to answer immediately will try and write something. we are going through the same routine as usual, except that twenty-five men from each battleship and ten men from each of the smaller ships are allowed liberty each day. I am still on the job as compartment cleaner. All I have to do today is to sweep up a couple of times. I never get orders any more concerning my work.

All the men whose enlistment expired on or before June 1st, were sent north on the Montana, and the men who were taken off the Utah, were each given a Mauser rifle. I think if there are enough guns to go around, each of us will get one.

Four of us with Ensign Foster went into a hotel just a block from where we were staying in the police station and found eight Mauser rifles, all loaded, some old uniforms, and over five hundred rounds of ammunition. The second night we were there, some officers were in an auto, just across from the police station and in front of the hotel. Some Mexican fired from the roof, and the bullet went through the fender of the auto. Several of our men fired at the roof and then searched the building, but could find no one.

The U. S. is getting all the revenue now from the custom house at Vera Cruz. The streets are being cleaned and sprinkled every day now. The men being paid $1,25 to $1.50 per day. The officers in charge are getting after the owners of dirty buildings and making them clean up. Most all the public buildings are very dirty on the inside. I think if the U. S. holds the city for any length of time there will be a greater improvement.

The weather is getting warmer here all the time. They say the weather will be very disagreeable before long. Hope we will not be here then. No one knows what we will do in the near future. And you will probably see by the papers what the U. S. battleships are doing before you hear from me.

Well will close for this time.

Ray S. Parker

U.S.S. Utah, Hampton Roads.
Sept. 4th, 1916

Dear Folks - At last the fleet has left Newport, R. I. We left Newport Aug. 30, and arrived in the Roads Sept. 1 and the ships commenced coaling according to their numbers. As soon as the colliers finish coaling one ship they go to the next and start coaling regardless of the time. We were fortunate as the collier came along side at noon and we were finished at 6 o'clock, having taken on 1111 tons.

Today is Labor Day and we are not working, at least I am not. We had chicken, stewed, for dinner, also sweet potatoes and apple pie. "Very Satisfactory."

There is only one complaint I have to make about the quality of the foodstuffs issued out to us and that is the beef. It isn't rotten, but seems to be overripe, or maybe too well cured, and has a woody taste. Not long ago the doctor inspected the ice box and condemned some of it to be thrown overboard. The paymaster would not consent to it and then the captain inspected. The meat went overboard and judging by the smell and looks an expert would not be needed to know what should be done.

There is where the commissary department's biggest graft comes in. Dealers are anxious to get doubtful stock off of their hands. As a special inducement to the buyer the selling agent makes a discount of some per cent. The buyer pays cash for the goods minus the discount, but the goods are listed at the original price on the bill, signed by the agent "Paid," and turned in at the paymaster's office. Of course I could not swear that is the way they do it but there is a graft some place.

We just took on a new supply of beef a week or so ago and it was doubtful goods. We get beef and potatoes three times a day and they are serving it out in the form of meat balls now. I would not be writing this now but the "navy" always takes such pains to inform everyone that everything we get is the best there is to be had and there is some kind of a prepared cereal breakfast food we get occasionally. It is of good quality and tastes good if it was prepared properly, but there are so many bugs in it that very few eat it as it takes too long to pick them out. As for milk we have a mixture of water and condensed milk, about 98 to 2, with plenty of sugar. I don't always tell the bad faults. Hope you are as well as I am.

R. S. Parker

Ray Parker returned last week from a stay of several weeks in North and South Dakota and Montana, and is now visiting at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Parker, in this city.

Transcriber's Note: During the Mexican Revolution, U.S. Forces occupied Vera Cruz from April 21 to November 23, 1914.Ray Parker was born in Leon on April 15, 1891. He died in 1942.
Source: Leon Reporter, Leon, Decatur County, Iowa. Transcriptions and note by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015
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