In the Southwest of this country
Near Silver City town
Among the cactus and the yucca
In the foothills of the mountains
Lived stalwart stately Victor
With his lovely wife Rowena,
A son, and their daughters.
Once captain in the Navy
Countless were the stories written
Bon voyage, courageous warrior
When Al Fick met Victor Moitoret for the first time, in the late 1950s, either at a convention or at an Amateur Printers Club meeting, the two Navy men talked over mutual experiences in the Pacific during World War II.
Not far into the conversation, Al told Vic, "I saw your ship get hit."
Al, a flight captain aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, had witnessed a Japanese dive-bomber swoop down over the USS Princeton, about a quarter mile away. The Princeton was an aircraft carrier, too, and Vic was serving as a navigator aboard.
"I had a clear vision," Al recalled. "The Princeton's guns were firing. The plane dropped down and the bomb was like a fly speck. It hit the deck and was spewing flames. There was a huge explosion."
The Princeton had to drop out of the formation of carriers in which it was sailing. "The crew went over the side after trying to save the ship," Al remembered.
This incident in 1944 was the second in which Vic had to "swim away" after a carrier was sinking. (The first was the USS Hornet.) Fortunately, he survived both and came back to mainland USA to marry Rowena Autry in 1945.
Al Fick had not been involved in amateur journalism until he joined the American Amateur Press Association in the early 1950s. A few years later, he joined the National. It was only then that he met Victor Moitoret, and they discovered they had been on adjacent vessels in that wartime battle.
The two became friends, and in later years the two families visited each other. The Ficks visited the Moitorets at their home in Silver City, New Mexico.
Part of the ritual of a stop there was signing an ajay table-cloth in which their names would be embroidered by Rowena Moitoret.
"They lived on a hill and had a garden with apple trees," Al said. "When we left, we took apples with us."
During their stay, Vic took the Ficks to see a branch of the state university where he was a member of the board of trustees. A shiny bronze plaque had just been erected on one of the buildings, and Vic was getting his first glimpse of it. To his dismay, he found that his name had been misspelled.
Following a National convention in Baltimore, he and Rowena gave Al and Alma Fick a personal tour of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, his alma mater. Al especially remembers going through Bancroft Hall and seeing the tomb of John Paul Jones under constant watch by a sailor.
"Vic loved the Navy," Al said. And he also loved the National. The first issue of his journal, The Victorian, was published shortly after his birth in 1919 by his father, Anthony Moitoret. And his publishing career continued through a series of additional titles over his lifetime.
From The Victorian no. 12, May 1945
"But how did you come to meet a girl in Texas?" they invariably inquire.
Well, you see, it's quite a story," is my answer. And it is quite a story. Here that story is told—and as you read, remember you are not reading a fairy tale—it happened just like this...
I. Topeka, Kansas, 1938
II. Annapolis, Maryland, 1938
The Naval Academy was a far more pleasant surrounding that second year for the boy from California. Gone were the hard days of being a plebe for an entire year and never ever finding all the answers to the questions that flowed in such an unending stream from all the upper classmen. A "youngster" didn't have to walk in the middle of the corridors and cut square corners and double-time up and down the "ladders." Life was definitely more fun...
III. Fort Pierre, South Dakota, 1938
Reverend John B. Schlarb found that copy of Cargo that he had marked upon first reading and sat down to write a letter to the Rowena Autry, age 15, who had written the poem in which he had detected rare feeling and no little talent. Here, he thought, was a likely prospect for the National Amateur Press Association—he was ever on the lookout for promising young writers to whom the nature of his fond hobby might be unknown and unsuspected. He'd drop her a line and send her a few sample papers...
IV. Cuthbert, Texas, 1938
Picking cotton (or "pulling bolls," as it is called in West Texas) is not easy work, bending low over the rows and stuffing white fluff into a nine foot sack that grows heavier with each forward step. But with her brother and her sisters working beside her and her Dad, too, it seemed more like a family affair than pure labor—and there was beauty to be found even here in the cotton field, if one had an eye for beauty, and a mind that could find words to put that beauty into writing—into singing poetry. No, there was never a lack of subjects for her poems, and now, just the day before, her first check had arrived, in the wake of a string of rejection slips—a check for three dollars from Cargo magazine for three of her poems. Already her dreams raced ahead of reality, and she tried to pierce the veil of the future and see herself established as a professional poet of wide renown. But meanwhile the cotton was waiting....
Rowena didn't quite understand the letter from the gentleman in South Dakota—how could people be interested in writing and publishing just for fun—as a hobby—without receiving any material reward for their efforts? No, she'd tell the gentleman that she was sorry, but she was not interested. At fifteen, she was already in her own eyes a professional....
Well, if he offered to pay her dues and to print one of her poems as the "credential" which he explained was necessary for joining this N.A.P.A., she certainly had nothing to lose, she reasoned—so she answered Rev. Schlarb's second letter by agreeing to become a member of his club....
V. Annapolis, Maryland, 1938
Leave periods for Uncle Sam's Midshipmen would not be so appreciated if they were not so infrequent. But Midshipman Vic Moitoret managed to devote a part of each leave to his hobby of amateur journalism—utilizing presses that belonged to friends in Philadelphia, Jersey City, Great Neck on Long Island, Elizabeth in New Jersey, and Seattle, Washington, to keep his hand in at setting type and feeding a press....
VI. Cuthbert, Texas, 1939
Even after a year of membership in the organization and after having received and glanced over the printed offerings of amateurs scattered across the nation, Rowena could see little point in the hobby. Besides, one of her poems had just been accepted for publication in the American magazine—she had come quite a way in her professional career in the space of a year. But her older sister, Viola, had found the amateur papers intriguing. "You've got to renew your membership, Rowena, so you'll still get these papers every month so that I can read them"....
VII. Cuthbert, Texas, 1940
Alice Womack was fascinated by the amount of mail that her favorite cousin, Rowena Autry, seemed to be receiving all the time from all kinds of people all over the country—all, it seemed, as a result of their having seen her poetry in amateur papers. These N.A.P.A. members were apparently quite avid correspondents. Maybe she could find someone among them with whom she might correspond, too. Would Rowena let her look through the membership list?....
VIII. Annapolis, Maryland, 1940
The Battalion Commander of the First Battalion of the Regiment of Midshipmen returned to his room after the dress parade, hung up his sword, and glanced at the table to see what the mail had brought. There was a letter from his mother in Seattle with news of home, and a postcard from Texas...from Colorado City...nice handwriting, but who in the world was Alice Womack, and how did she ever happen to get his address? She wanted to trade Texas tales for stories about the Naval Academy, she said—well, he'd no time to be writing to someone he'd never heard of in a town he'd never heard of in a state he'd never been in—too many other irons in the fire these days....
IX. Springfield, Ohio, April 11, 1942
Miss Willametta Turnepseed had been clever. She had written to the two sisters down in Cuthbert, Texas, individually, and asked each of them to write a sketch of the other without letting the other know that it was being done, and now both were published side by side in the Literary Newszette. That should surprise both Viola and Rowena....
X. Seattle, Washington, 1942
Those two sisters must be interesting people, thought Mrs. Dora Hepner Moitoret, as she put down the Literary Newszette—they have the freshness of the West in them, and the honesty of the wide open spaces. Maybe, too, they might have called back to her memories of her own young days on a farm in Ohio when she first began finding poetry around her. She must write to them....
XI. Somewhere in the South Pacific, 1942
Ensign Vic Moitoret, the Assistant Navigator of the new aircraft carrier Hornet, was in a fix. Every girl that he had ever known, even remotely, it seemed, was engaged or married—he was losing all contact with the feminine world of his contemporaries, and the idea did not suit him. He wanted to be getting mail from some girl back home, too, when mail call sounded. Yes, it was a desperate chance, he admitted to himself, but then the situation seemed to demand desperate action, and so he dug up the postcard from the unknown girl with the pretty handwriting from somewhere in Texas—he knew he had it somewhere in his "unanswered" file, and he wrote to her. Would she please include a snapshot when she answered?....
XII. Manzano Mountains, New Mexico, April, 1942
The two cousins, Rowena and Alice, were really enjoying their vacation. They always found enjoyment in the times they had together, regardless of the surroundings, but with these scenic Manzano Mountains for a backdrop, they were close to their own personal paradise. The pines, the peaks, the streams, the green wooded slopes, the trails—naturally, they took pictures to preserve the occasion indelibly to be recalled again and again in the future....
XIII. Off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Oct., 1942
The Hornet's days were busy ones, but there must always be time for living, too, in between the action-packed days of battle. Mail was irregular—there had been one interval of 42 days, six whole weeks, without the arrival aboard of a single letter for anyone—but then when it did come, it came in avalanches. The latest landslide brought the assistant navigator his share, but three items caught his eye and held his attention after the rest of the mail was disposed of: there was the packet of letters his mother had sent, as she was in the habit of doing—letters that she had received from people he knew, or from people who had mentioned him, or just letters that were interesting. By sending these all on to him she knew that she would thus double the amount of mail which might ordinarily be his lot to receive. This last collection had included a letter from some girl in Texas named Rowena Autry, who wrote to describe herself and her surroundings and to go into detail about a ramble she had taken in search of agarita berries. It was a nice letter—no, "nice" was too trite a word—it was a different letter—it almost breathed the freshness of pine woods and the smell of both dusty, dry arroyos and damp soil after rain. It must have been written by someone with an appreciation of the out of doors very much akin to his own. And, let's see, wasn't it that same Rowena Autry whose poem "Joy" had been printed in The Peer, Rev. Schlarb's paper, that had come, too, in this last mail in the monthly bundle of the National Amateur Press Association. It was the same person. And, too, here was the snapshot that Alice Womack had sent, as requested—a snapshot picturing, she said, herself with her cousin, Rowena Autry (the same one!), taken while they were enjoying an outing in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico. Since the snapshot was intended to show the surrounding scenery as much as the two girls in the center of the picture, one couldn't be too sure of just how the girls looked, it's true, but this Rowena appeared to be rather cute....
That night the lights burned late in the stateroom of the assistant navigator as he set himself to the task of writing to this Rowena Autry—not one letter, but three—each a separate and disparate missive. One began with a reference to having received the letter that she had written to his mother in Seattle. The second used her poem in the amateur paper as a point of mutual interest and built up on that motif. And the third centered upon the fact that he had just received a snapshot of her from her cousin and would welcome doubling the number of his feminine correspondents in Texas....
XIV. N.W. of the Santa Cruz Islands, Oct. 26, 1942
He had been in the water almost two and a half hours, now, after going over the side and down the knotted line from the hangar deck of his stricken home. It was near sunset and that last attack must have been the final one, so that soon the circling destroyers must again come in toward the listing hulk of the once proud Hornet to continue picking up survivors....
XV. Cuthbert, Texas, November, 1942
That there should be three letters in the mail box for her was certainly an unexpected event in the life of the fair Texas miss who walked down from the farmhouse that morning in her blue jeans and true Texas style boots—but that all three should be from one and the same person, and that person a stranger, and all postmarked the same day, was almost beyond belief. But she had held to the firm belief that a letter deserves an answer, and so she resolved that this fellow should have three answers. And she made good on that resolution and sent off the letters, one at a time, as she finished them. (She could have no knowledge that the U.S.S. Hornet to which she addressed the letters was now beneath the waves of the wide Pacific—that news was not released until a much later date)....
XVI. Camden, New Jersey, February, 1943
Mail addressed to Lieutenant Moitoret was directed to the office over the door of which was the neatly painted sign: "Navigator—U.S.S. PRINCETON" in the building which housed the pre-commissioning detail for the carrier which was near completion in the bays of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. And it was to this office that the mail clerk brought the stack of mail that had been readdressed by the Fleet Post Office in San Francisco—mail originally destined for the Hornet. And among those long-delayed letters were three from Cuthbert, Texas. She had answered all three of them! But that was already almost four months ago—she must have wondered why he had not had the courtesy to answer them—he'd better write immediately and tell her that he had just now received her replies....
XVII. Big Spring, Texas, February, 1943
The night foreman in the work order department at the Big Spring Army Air Force Bombardier School found time to write a letter. Rowena was busy, indeed, now, doing her part to aid the return of all the Victors from all over the world. But this night shift offered some spare quiet moments for letter writing. She must thank him for sending that book, Living High—it had touched a very responsive chord in her....
XVIII. Pacific Ocean, 1943
Tiny Baker Island's occupation, then a quick, hard strike at Tarawa, then down to the South Pacific to the old hunting grounds to smash at Buka and Bonis on Bougainville, to take part in the first carrier air strikes against the Jap stronghold of Rabaul, with a repeat performance less than a week later, then on to neutralize Nauru while the Marines landed at Tarawa—the Princeton's track lay all across the broad Pacific, but the mail followed and brought a fresh touch of Texas to the navigator with each coming. Then came December and the carrier touched home waters briefly for navy yard work, and the navigator spent his first Christmas at home in six years. He telegraphed Texas to invite her to Seattle for the holidays, but the answer came back that no Christmas leaves were granted to the civilian employees at the air base....
XIX. Big Spring, Texas, January, 1944
The girl in pigtails handed the repaired carburetor air duct to the flight sergeant and showed him where to sign the printed form. Out on the ramp she could see a C-47 discharging passengers—one of them was a naval officer— could it be...no, he was taller than that in his pictures. It seemed funny to feel that she knew him so well already without ever having met him face to face....
XX. Pacific Ocean, 1944
Wojte, Taroa, and Kwajalein, in the Marshalls, then Eniwetok, Palau, Hollandia in New Guinea, Truk, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Palau again, Mindanao in the Philippines, the Visayas, Luzon, Okinawa, Formosa, and then back to help MacArthur stage his return—the Princeton had few idle moments as the tempo of the war stepped up ever faster. Then on October 24, 1944, came the sudden attack off Luzon, the fires, the magazine explosion, and the wounded navigator was saying good-bye to another proud carrier....
XXI. Big Spring, Texas, December 9, 1944
The foreman of the work order department stayed home in bed that Saturday morning with a headache. She had missed very few days from work and those only when her absence was a necessity. She was still asleep when her younger sister, Katherine, who should have been at work in the sheet metal shop at the air base, came bursting in the door with the cry, "Get up, Vic's here!" And in a few minutes, leaving her time only to comb her hair, Vic was there—the long journey from the Philippines to Texas had taken lots longer than he had wanted—but he was here now, where he had yearned to be for so long....
XXII. Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dec. 31, 1944
There were few early birds up in Albuquerque at four o'clock in the morning to see the Red Mercury pause in front of a cafe while the navy lieutenant, driving through from Seattle, went in to get a cup of coffee to keep him going—he had not stopped at all during this past night. But the stop was brief—it was ten days already since he had left Big Spring, Texas, by air to fly home for Christmas, and already ten days seemed like an equal number of months. The Red Mercury left Albuquerque before the sun arrived....
XXIII. Big Spring, Texas, December 31, 1944
The sun was just sliding down over the western horizon—the flat western horizon of West Texas—when the car drew up to the house. "Happy New Year, Darling!"....
XXIV. Big Spring, Texas, January 1, 1945
It was such a beautiful day. The Texas sun had never seemed so bright—at least, not in January when one might just as well expect rain or even snow. It was the first day in a new year. It was the 25th wedding anniversary of Rowena's parents. All in all it was a wonderful day to be married. The county clerk was caught in his office, even though it was a holiday, and he should have been elsewhere—the man in the back of the jewelry store obligingly opened the side door and let them come in to choose two rings—what else could he do? And the pastor of the church was glad to take them into his parlor and ask them to stand together while he repeated the simple but meaningful words....
It was such a beautiful day!
From The Fossil, July 1961
As the son of a professional newspaper writer, it was almost inevitable that I should absorb the parental influence to the extent of working on the editorial side of school and Boy Scout publications, and this activity put me first into the fringe area of the printing world. But in addition to earning his living as a journalist, my father from his own boyhood had also found amateur journalism and hobby printing to be one more outlet for his creative talent with words. The hobby had been dormant to a great extent while four children were to be raised, but when I reached the age of fifteen and started showing similar interests, my father's own spark was rekindled, and one day an 8x12 Chandler & Price printing press, acquired secondhand, appeared in our basement at Oakland, California.
Yes, we had a press, but no type and no motor, yet we began printing anyway, almost immediately. All the copy for the first issue of The Encinal, official organ of the infant Oakland Amateur Press Club, was set by machine composition, and we managed to lock the Linotype slugs into the chase under my dad's guidance. Then, with one boy-power engaged in turning the flywheel by hand, we ran off 500 copies of an 8-page issue.
About the same time I signed up for the printing course available at my high school in addition to the journalism course. This was in my 10th grade class at high school, and beginning printers were given a diagram of the case lay and set to work standing each piece of type carefully and neatly on end in rows in the boxes, sorting out all wrong font letters, then learning the spacing material the same way. Quickly we progressed to setting type by hand, running the job presses, the paper cutter, and eventually the Intertype machines and the flatbed press used to produce our own school paper. This newspaper, the Piedmont Highlander, was somewhat unique for its class—published weekly and consisting generally of four pages, but quite often eight and sometimes even twelve or sixteen pages, of the same size as a regular newspaper. We sold advertising, had staff photographers, and our make-up was strongly patterned after the New York Herald Tribune, with conservative style in typography and balanced boxes, engravings, and two column heads as strong factors. As I moved up to associate editor, my printing training aided me in my jobs as principal proofreader and headline writer—and if my careful letter-counts on the bank heads and pyramid subheads didn't result in a fit, or if a new advertisement had to be squeezed in on page two after the galley proofs had been carefully fitted into the page dummies, it was a great benefit for me to be able to dash over to the Intertype myself and reset the troublesome overlong headline or to recompose the final paragraph of a story to shorten it to fit right at the machine's keyboard.
Meanwhile, the basement print shop at home continued to grow as type and rules and ornaments were added, and I earned quite a bit of pocket money doing stationery and tickets and odd jobs for friends in my spare time, in addition to continuing the amateur journal printing that was the center of interest for our home shop. A year at a university, four years at the Naval Academy, and then naval service during the war removed me from close contact with the hobby except on visits to other amateur print shops in several parts of the U.S. But with my first shore leave and my marriage to a Texas lass who shared the writing part of the amateur journalism hobby already, it was less than six months before we became the proud owners of our own 8x12 C&P press, acquired in Baltimore, Maryland in 1945. The press has since moved to Boston, to California, and to three different locations in Maryland. At present, during my current three-year tour in England, that same press stands under a heavy coat of grease in the basement of our home in Camp Springs, Maryland, awaiting our return to the U.S.A.
A travelling serviceman finds many obstacles in the way against following the printing craft as a hobby—yet there is one great advantage. His travels can bring him into contact with a large number of printers, and I have yet to visit another fellow printer's shop and talk printing with him without adding some further small bit of know-how to my continuing education.
Because you cared for those who moved about you
And offered them all care you could supply;
Because you lived an honest, upright man,
A model left behind to edify;
Because you loved your country deeply, truly,
A burning flame that would not, could not die;
Because you gave us these and more, we say:
"God bless you, Vic. Dear Vic, Good-bye, Good-bye."
—Your "Cuz" Louise Lincoln