HEY, JOE! Captain Farr…and the end of the war

"Intramuros, Manila, Philippiines, Just after the Battle for Manila 1945" by John Tewell
“Intramuros, Manila, Philippiines, Just after the Battle for Manila 1945” by John Tewell

Back in Manila from Pagsanjan, we stayed with various relatives on both sides of the Family. But the most memorable was when we finally got a place of our own. My Father’s friend, Tony Cui, a Cebuano, was able to find us a Quonset hut in San Andres Bukid, near Singalong. It was just that, a Quonset hut over some rice paddies. It was the funniest house we ever lived in. It  was tubular, just like what you would see when watching M*A*S*H* episodes. Ours was not on the ground like the army’s, but rested on eight posts, about two meters above ground. When you enter through the front door, one of only two, the other being in the rear of the house, you could see everything, beds and sofa and dining table and the kitchen. The only boarded area was the bathroom/toilet at the back.

We lived here for a little over a year, I think. From here we moved to San Juan, Quezon City, to a house in front of the town’s municipal hall. Here I attended first year high school at St. John’s Academy. The following year, I enrolled at the Ateneo in Guipit, Sampaloc, and started as a sophomore in Padre Faura. It was during our first weeks in San Juan, when schools were not yet opened, that I met Col. Kenneth H. Farr, then only a Captain.

Schools were not yet opened then, so I had time to spare. I usually went around Intramuros, the Walled City, which was then in ruins. At the entrance where the St. Augustine Church was, there was a US Army camp. Anyway, I remember I was sitting down on the curb after a long hike, when a jeep stopped and a tall, lanky GI got out and walked towards me, and greeted me with the familiar attention-getter of the times, HEY, JOE!

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An item about the Quartermaster Corps in the Caledonia Advertiser, November 12, 1942. In the column next to it, a Kenneth Farr appears in a list of Caledonia men in service at that time. Could this be the man who hired my grandpa to be his tent boy?

He asked me my name after giving me his, and asked if I would like to have lunch with him at that army camp outside the walls near the St. Augustine Church. I eagerly said I liked, and I boarded his Jeep, to the amusement of the black GI who was his driver. It turned out he commanded that camp, which was known as the 4419th Quartermaster Corps, US Army. It was a totally colored unit, the only whites being Capt. Farr and his two aides.

After lunch, Capt. Farr asked me if I would like to be driven home by him. I said I did, and off we went. We were in San Juan by 3PM. There he met the family, and we became good friends, getting in touch with each other even when the GIs left. I worked as his tent boy until schools opened. I was at camp weekdays, and Ken would drive me home Friday evenings, when he would have dinner with us. That is how he grew a fondness for mangoes, which my Mother would always serve him when he visited.

I stopped being Ken’s tent boy when schools opened. That school year, 1949, I started my very first day as an Atenean Sophomore. Our circumstances had by then improved. My Father was taken on by the DeWitt, Perkins, Ponce Enrile law firm as an associate. When the senior partner, DeWitt, died, he was made a junior partner, and the law firm then was renamed Perkins, Ponce Enrile, Contreras & Gomez.

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A paragraph mentioning my great-grandfather in a 2002 Philippine Daily Inquirer article about the law firm he joined after the war.

The 4419th quartermaster corps returned to the US. With that officially ended our war years.

The war may have ended, but the friendship between my grandpa and Col. Farr would last for decades. In later years, my grandparents would take my mom and aunts to the States to visit “Uncle Ken” and his family.

Next: Post-war: The dancing years

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